08 November 2010

Night At the Museum

Merlin: This was our front yard in Ciechanowiec. We were staying in a "skansen" building on an old estate - a skansen is a collection of old buildings brought together to form a kind of museum. This one was famous, and was also a "Museum of Agriculture." They had rooms for rent in some of the buildings, and we stayed in an old, thatched roof house. It was pretty modern inside, but it was still fun.
Rebecca: We parked our car right outside our little house, at the urging of the groundskeeper with whom we shared a wholly incomprehensible exchange on the rainy, dark evening we arrived. It was hard to tell if we were doing the right thing and really hoped that a tour group wouldn't be taking pictures crouched down next to our New York license plates in the morning.
Merlin: There weren't any tour groups. It was very quiet, actually. When we called about the room, the guy who talked to us (Artur, the only person at the museum who spoke English) asked if we wanted to "see the museum."
Rebecca: We weren't exactly sure, at the time, why he would ask such an obvious question. When we awoke to find that we were definitely the only guests, possibly the only museum visitors and that a tour of the grounds would take two and a half hours (did we mention it was still raining?) we realized that Artur may have actually been trying to give us, and himself, an out.
Merlin: It was a very interesting tour, though, and Artur was a great guide.
Rebecca: His grandfather actually grew up on the property. His great-great grandfather was the groundskeeper in the estate's hay day.
Merlin: They have a great collection of old tractors and other farm machinery. Also, a collection of bee hives, old tombstones from jewish cemeteries, an apothecary garden, some Belgian man's donated antiques, a working water-powered grain mill and "the first and only collection of Easter eggs in Poland." This last collection seemed a little incongruous, but it was very neat. They have over 1,500 decorated eggs from all over the world. The penguin egg was Artur's favorite.
Rebecca: I believe he said it was also "the biggest Easter egg collection outside of Ukraine."
Merlin: They also have a lot of farm animals. This sheep "smokes," according to Artur. What he meant was that she would eat cigarettes given to her by the tour guides. Here she is, having a smoke.
Rebecca: There was another little guy, with horns, that Artur dubbed "a killer." Ever since we asked him what his favorite Easter egg was, he had begun to give far more personal commentary (which was fun). A bunch of ropes meant to block off visitors were thrown aside and we walked around a few dioramas, muddy shoes and all. After he let us sit in an old carriage "because no one will know" he confessed that they sit in it and drink beer all the time anyway.
Merlin: They were in the process of moving a barn from a neighboring town. They have about forty buildings at the skansen, dating from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.
Rebecca: When Merlin asked how they marked the pieces or remembered exactly how to reassemble the barn, Artur answered "They just remember. They have to." Truth be told, there didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to the piles and no visible markings, but I have to think their method is a little more complex than a big ole game of Lincoln Logs.
Merlin: Here's our house. Luckily, it had none of the mustiness or mannequins of the other buildings.
Rebecca: Or the plastic food.
Merlin: When we went into town for dinner we found six little markets - all selling the same things - and one place to eat. This was my food. We called it "pork cutlet a la zapiekanka."
Rebecca: It's really a shame that we didn't bring a camera the second night we ate here, because Merlin's "Ciechanowiec" style meat had a layer of shiny cornflakes stuck on top of it with cheese shellac. And I'm not talking about crumpled up cornflakes -whole ones. It was amazing.

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