New Year, forest, frozen lake…

It doesn’t matter what you do, a new one comes around like clockwork every 12 months so you might as well make the most of it while you can.

First order of the new year and last of the old one is to work out what you’re going to do for New Year’s Eve. I’ve found that of all the times of year when one really should do something, New Year’s Eve tends to be the most complicated. Many people tend to hedge their bets, not committing to anything until the last minute in the hope that something better than what’s already on offer (usually sitting around with friends or going to a naff party) will come up and surprise them. Let me tell you a secret, it never does, and by the time you realise it it’s too late to book anything else so you end up with that special New Year anti-climax. As soon as you understand this, it does take many years to sink in, you get into the habit of organising something early, which is exactly what we did this year.

Last year we took the lead and declared our house to be a party destination for all who were interested + kids. It went reasonably well apart from my several nervous breakdowns as the more energetic kids played pirates with swords right in front of our, then brand new, 46″ Bravia. This year we decided to get away and we booked a New Year Special with close friends based in an Agrotouristic place in Sasek Mały, about 170km North of Warsaw in the lake district:

We’ve been there a few times before and always enjoyed the hospitality, food, fresh air and activities but I must say that my patience is wearing thin with the rooms. The beds, with cheap wooden slats under the mattress, have a tendency to collapse under me (nothing to do with my 100 kilo of course!) and the bathrooms are made for people who don’t like washing very much. The heating is a little hit & miss, in-room facilities almost non existent and, well, generally, given that the prices are not cheap it really is time we regular guests started to see some of our cash reinvested into the rooms. If the rooms were more comfortable I could stay there for a week but as it is now I’m dying to get home after just a couple of nights. The arrangement this time was perfect with an ‘apartment’ shared between the two families with a bedroom each and a shared lounge but it still suffered from the aforementioned problems. Our bathroom this time actually set new records for unusability. The basin was about the size of a teacup and the whole room was set into an angled attic space such that standing up was impossible for me, especially in the shower. The toilet flush was very weak and the toilet itself wobbled from side to side as if about to roll over and die for being a part of such a shambles. Mind you, it was possible to sit on the toilet and wash your teeth in the cup-basin, that was nice. By the time I’d finished my morning ablutions in there it looked like one of the big fight scenes from a dwarf version of ‘Waterworld” had just finished filming. Anyway, I don’t want to go on moaning about the rooms, we enjoyed ourselves despite it all.

New Year’s Eve started at 19:00 with a torch-lit walk deep into the woods where a bonfire awaited us along with a choice of dodgy kiełbasa, bigos and chleb to eat and miodówka (a kind of honey vodka) to drink in shots. I say ‘dodgy’ because most of it reappeared later! Had there been a label on the miodowka bottle it would have said “Devil Brand Miodówka, brewed in Beelzebub’s own poison factory”. Most of the drink made a comeback performance later as well. The problem here was that our hosts kept sneaking up on us and insisting that we had a shot for this and a shot for that and a shot for one leg and shot for the other leg until I’d had enough of the stuff to satisfy a few centipedes. I had also been assured that the poison liquid would heal me from the nasty cold I’d brought with me from Warsaw so I quaffed it down with alacrity. That turned out to be a big mistake!

I’m not naming names but two of the four adults didn’t actually see midnight at all and would, in fact, have been found as frozen corpses in the woods the following morning had they not been helped back to the rooms in a hilarious parody of a Buster Keaton movie with people falling all over the place creating bruises that will only be felt the next day. One further adult, myself in truth, did see midnight but only because the fireworks woke me up from my frozen sleep in the rocking chair on the outside porch, the 20+ shots having eventually caught up with me. And so it was that from our group we had only one adult and two children representing us at the Bal Sylwestrowy and munching on the elephant-sized turkey that had been lovingly prepared. It later transpired that the one adult’s secret was to take the shots and then sneak behind trees and spit it out again! I must try that next time.

After a difficult night and a struggle in the bathroom we all found our way to the breakfast table and then out into the fresh air. I was just about awake enough to operate a video camera so here’s the first one, a panorama of the village:

We wandered around a bit getting cold, it was about -5C with some wind and snow. They had organised a kind of ‘hide & seek’ thing for the kids where they had to run through the woods collecting coloured ribbons and it was to culminate on the island in the middle of the lake. This would normally involve swimming but as the entire lake was frozen it made life a bit easier and you could just walk, or slide, across to the island instead. While the kids killed each other in the woods we made our way to the finishing point on the lake. Must be time for another video…..

The rest of the day passed without incident, I think, and I spent another night trying to sleep ‘gently’ so as not to annoy the Gods of collapsing beds. The following morning I improved my humour, if not my smell, by giving up on washing and ventured forth into a busy morning of ice-skating on the lake followed by a kulig (horse driven sleigh ride through the woods). This had been scheduled for the day we arrived but the snow had not been thick enough then. Thanks to a couple of days reasonable fall the kulig was back on and everyone climbed aboard to see if they could get even colder than they already were. Thankfully, the evil honey-liquid didn’t make a reappearance as a pretend way to warm people up or just encourage good cheer. I think by this point they had either run out of the stuff or everyone had had enough of it! Gosh, is there really time for a third video?

Having by now extracted all the fun one possibly could from three days in the snowy lakewoods we noshed on grits with sloppy meat and beetroot and then packed the bags and headed back to Warsaw.

Technical nonsense – I’ve processed these videos at a lower bit rate than usual to see if it improves the speed or ease of viewing in any way. Quality looks worse on my screen but is perhaps acceptable. How do they work for you guys??


21 thoughts on “New Year, forest, frozen lake…

  1. Looks like fun. We spent New Years in Szczyrk in the Beskidy range some years ago and had similar experiences. The snow definately adds to the enjoyment – not sure about the honey vodka from hell though!

    Video quality is reasonable on my computer – it looks a long walk to the island!

  2. Szczyrk is much better in Winter than mazurian lakes. Or the “holy cross” mountains which are closer to Warsaw than Sasek.

    New year in mazuria is pretty weird to be honest :D
    Mazurian lakes are nice between late May and early October…In winter they are cold and boring. But maybe stressed Warsawians need that.

  3. Looks like you guys had a fun New Year weekend. The “kulig” ride reminded me of a scene from a book I recently read. “Push Not the River”, by James Martin. A story of Poland. Loved the “koniecki” (?) and M looked like Laura from Dr Zhivago.

  4. sounds like fun, scatts ;) it seems to me that the mixture of the miodowka and your cold could kill. good that you came back in one piece, anyway ;))))

    and the New Year’s in Mazury is fun. walking on the frozen lake although risky (I am always too suspicious), gives mazurian lake another value.

    we spent it at home, watching dvd. this was first time, but truly speaking my choice -and to be honest don’t regret it.
    Sylwester is for me overrated!

  5. Videos are watchable but they only fill one third of the black presentation box on my machine. They appear in the top left hand corner of the box and all the rest is blank.

  6. spoke too soon. When I initially watched it was a full screen. I tried again after posting this and it is as island1 says small box inside the screen of what it should be but very good video playback.

  7. one more note…at the bottomw of the screen is a button to hit to watch full screen and it brought back the video to normal…..yee haa!!!

  8. Oh dearest video testers!

    Would you mind terribly playing the video that is in this post –

    ..and then tell me what the difference is between that one and the ones in this post? Apart from the content of course :-)

    They were processed in the same way but at different bit rates and I’m not sure what the difference is, if any!

    Maybe use Chris’ tip to click the full screen button…or not…as you wish.


  9. Okay, I watched the Christmas Carol vid and it did the same thing – just a miniature version in the top left corner. As Chris suggested, when I clicked to full screen it played in full screen and then, when I clicked out of full screen, it filled the entire black presentation box and played normally.

    Aneta said she watched it on her machine at work and it played fine. So that’s a lot of help then.

  10. Now there’s a strange thing. I first looked at the vids when you only had about 5 comments and at that time everything was normal – videos filled the alloted window. After Chris’s posting I went to relook and this time the films played in the t.l.h.c. of alloted area while after the ‘full screen/ normal size’ procedure the video occupied the alloted space.

    The new link, a video I’ve viewded before, also has the same idiosyncracy and I don’t recall it behaving that way originally.

    Any help?

  11. All very helpful (apart from Jamie and his silly Mac thingy). It seems the left hand corner buggering around whatsit applies to all videos but what about the quality of the picture? Any obvious difference – colours, clarity, detail – between the carol singing and the winter ones?

    Theoretically there should be as the carol singers is “better quality” but whether that translates into your viewing experience is another matter.


  12. Ok – quality in carol singing is better but not such that you notice a major difference in terms of viewing pleasure – but maybe it’s the subject matter/ lighting/ distance etc.

  13. The circs in agrotourism were quite well: basin, toilet. Naturally it could be hard for spoiled west people…
    I hate Silvester, especially fireworks. But this year it was OK. I had to accompany some britguy, but happily he was shy and listen to me with submission, ;-)so I needn’t to use my new knowledge in boxing! :D

  14. All videos work fine on my computer – the whole box is full and the quality is reasonable on all. The carol singing is slightly better quality, but that may be just due to the fact that you are making more effort at holding the camera steady!

    Seems to be computer dependant…

  15. Thanks all. I’m coming to the conclusion that a lot does depend on your computer. Good to know that there is not a large difference in quality but perhaps with different subjects it is hard to be sure. I might do a small experiment actually……..

  16. Scatts
    Have a great 2010… hopefully I will drop into Poland again at some point. Stay warm as you can for now.

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