Holy Week in Italy, Easter in Poland (Indie Travel Day 7 – Celebrate)

Holy Week in Italy, Easter in Poland (Indie Travel Day 7 – Celebrate)

Bootsnall prompt: Joining in a local festival, holiday or special event is a great way to learn more about a local culture. Share the story of a celebration that meant something to you on your travels.

I’m not a very religious person. I was baptized as a child and have been to a fair number of church services, but I wouldn’t call myself more than curious about most religious practice. However, I’ve always enjoyed Easter. It’s a beautiful time of year and a beautiful holiday. It’s a good time to celebrate spring and I like the not-necessarily-church-related-traditions of painting Easter eggs and eating chocolate bunnies. I’ve often been traveling over Easter. Even as a child, Easter didn’t necessarily mean staying home for a big family celebration – one year we went camping and the Easter Bunny left us baskets at the foot of our bunk beds in the rustic cabin my parents had rented.

In 2008, I particularly enjoyed experiencing Easter abroad. My brother and I went to Belgium in February and because Easter was in March that year the chocolate shops were already filled with bunnies and eggs. We bought bags of tiny chocolate Easter eggs filled with everything from raspberry to marzipan.

By Holy Week we were back in Florence, Italy (where we were living that spring) and two of my college friends were visiting from the U.S. They arrived in Rome the weekend before Easter and wound up at Palm Sunday service at St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Square was packed with people by the time we arrived (we arrived in mid-service as we didn’t know it would be going on). There was a long line to get through metal detectors for access to the Square proper so we stood just beyoned the tall, wide columns that ring the piazza to listen to mass. We spotted Pope Benedict XVI from afar and got a better view of the service from the video screens throughout the area.

On Holy Thursday, my friends were still in town and we spent much of the day tasting wine and olive oil in the Chianti region on a small group tour. At the end of the day, we had our very friendly guide drop us off in Piazzale Michelangelo instead of in Florence proper. We went to the Church of San Miniato to hear the monks chanting and performing Holy Thursday mass. It was incredibly beautiful. My friend Jess, who is Catholic, understood most of the service and snagged a seat in the back to attend the whole service. Cathy and I watched part of it and then sat on the steps outside the church where we could still hear the monks chanting but also watched as twilight descended over Florence.

 

My friends left on Friday and then my brother and I began our spring break adventures the following day. We traveled to Bergamo and ate rabbit with polenta. In the morning we flew to Poland. When we arrived at the bus station in Krakow (where our shuttle from the Katowice airport dropped us, we found that nothing was running from the station as it was Easter Sunday. We splurged on a taxi to the hostel and then set out to explore the Easter Market.

 

We drank mulled wine. I bought a hand-knit purple and yellow hat. We admired the hand-painted Easter eggs and took lots of photographs.

 

 

 

In the evening, we returned for a hearty Easter dinner of sausages and potatoes with sweet dumplings for dessert.

 

And as I’ve been writing, I remembered that I do seem to travel a lot during Lent or around Easter. When my boyfriend Kevin and I were in Ireland this spring for Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as Pancake Tuesday because of a tradition in which families make pancakes the day before Lent. It was traditionally done to use up any milk and eggs or other items not consumed during Lent that would spoil before the end of the forty day period. Kevin and I indulged in this tradition with a pancake brunch in Ennis. I had apple cinnamon and Kevin had blueberry.

 

Since I don’t  have any of my own Easter traditions right now, I love learning about those of other people and other cultures. What are your Easter, Holy Week, Mardi Gras, or Lenten traditions?

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