Visiting Grandma at the Polish Sanatorium

Family can be annoying. For example, your grandmother (Babcia) and her friend Nick arrange a month long stay in Poland which includes a stay at a sanatorium in Nowwheresville central Poland and then dental work (because such things are relatively cheap with the Canadian dollar) in Wherethehellisthat northern Poland. The glaring mistake in all these arrangements is that there is no time for visiting you, the number one grandson. At least, that is what my Babcia had done. But, Babcia is Babcia. I couldn’t stay angry with her and I was looking forward to seeing her when Martha and I left for Busko-Zdrój on Saturday.

History probably wasn’t kind to Busko-Zdrój. The central square is lined with low modern buildings. This usually means that something came from the east or from the west to get rid of the old buildings and to give rise to such an uninspiring view. There is, however, the beautiful tree-lined Mickiewicza street that runs south from the square to Zdrojowy (Spring Water) Park. At the back of the park is the sanatorium were Babcia and Nick were staying.

“Some ladies at the sanatorium said there was a bear in this park the other day,” Babcia said sceptically. It did seem a little nuts as this park had a fountain, tennis courts, an overpriced restaurant, a small church, manicured lawns and gardens in the summer and all the traffic from the sanatorium.

Babcia and Nick’s temporary home was a large faux-classical building complete with Corinthian columns. The design, I imagine, is supposed to invoke Roman baths. As soon as we entered the building we were reminded what this place was all about as our nostrils were hit with the smell of sulphur. Zdrój means “spring” and the spring waters from Busko are said to have amazing medicinal qualities. Not surprisingly, a health spa/treatment centre grew up around the spring which is said to treat “neurological, skin and blood circulation diseases.” There are also doctors, trained masseurs and masseuses and weight-rooms built in the 50’s, complete with machines that look like torture devices. It’s the leather buckles that do it. The Poles call this place a “sanatorium,” which in Polish retains the meaning of a place to treat diseases. The connotations of “loony bin” are absent.

We arrived just in time for dinner and as Martha and I walked into the large dining area, we realised that our demographic wasn’t represented very well. Not exactly like hanging at the old folks home, but I’d get a bunch of blank stares if I yelled, “Now just put your hands in the air! You know what comes next! Uh-huh!”

Dinner was typically Polish in size. Here, the big meal comes at lunch, which makes sense, but after a five-hour bus-ride Martha and I were hoping to chow. We didn’t need to worry though. Nick scavenged us a ton of bread and back that the room, Babcia had more cookies than we could handle.

The rest of the visit was great. Nick and Babcia taught us to play the card game called tysiące (thousand). Babcia then taught us how to cheat. We went for a long walk the next day. Both of “the old people” were enjoying their stay at the sanatorium. Some aches and pains have gone away. It was a good visit for everyone.

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