Friday, June 14, 2013

To Gdansk...the l-o-n-g way!

This week we headed up north for member and missionary business. The timing was perfect....we needed to be out of the mission home so it could be freshly painted and the drapes and rugs cleaned. 
As we were putting our bags in the car, we saw this! They had come to fix the sidewalk around the mission home and....
 ...more road work in the front of the house! They must know it is almost transfer week! Hopefully, it will all be in order when we return several days from now.
We needed to be in Gdansk, but we decided to take the long way there....through some of our favorite (and some new) villages we love in Poland.
 Our first stop was Zelwagi (Selbongen in German). This great little town houses the very first chapel built in Eastern Europe and Germany. Fredrick Fisher (from Selbongen) was introduced to the gospel in Berlin in 1920. He served a mission then returned to his home to preach the gospel there.
 This is the chapel that was built in 1929. It was built by members in 2 1/2 months.  Missionaries were removed from the area in 1937; but this Branch was not forgotten by church members. Immediately after the war, President Ezra Taft Benson (then an apostle) visited the Branch via jeep.
 Before WWII, church membership in Zelwagi was 200-250 members. This lake located across the street from the church was probably the site of many of these baptisms.
After WWII, Selbongen became part of Poland and it's name was changed to Zelwagi. The German saints were required to hold their services in Polish or cease to meet. In time, the Saints moved to Germany. The building was turned over to the Polish government became a sports hall then later (1971) was turned into a Catholic church...which is what it is today. There is still a strong, sweet spirit on the grounds of this structure.
 Being in Zelwagi, we decided to do a little exploring. We had heard that there was a very old, unkept cemetery in the area. After looking and looking and looking and asking and asking and asking (in Polish, of course!)......we found the 'trail' to the cemetery...
 ...and the sign...
...and the graves. This grassy hill located above a lake is full of old German graves...and I'm sure there are many German Saints who once belonged to the Selbongen/Zelwagi Branch resting there. 
Time to move on...
Mikolajki....a lakeside town that is full of boaters and great ice cream stands.
We were eating lunch at this restaurant on the dock. It was as entertaining as sitting at the Wahweap Marina at Lake Powell and 'people-watching'. Some things are the same all over the world. If you look closely, you can see that I basically ate lunch alone. Yes, that is President Nielson sitting on the park bench, on the phone...missing everything. But the problem was solved...and that is all that mattered!
Look what I discovered at the marina!!!!!!!  If we had another year in Poland, I would ask Physical Facilities for one of these for the mission home!  But it's ok....I can make 12 very small ice cubes a day...and it is sufficient!
This is the bridge at Mikolajki that takes you from the town to the marina. There were a 'few' locks on it...., we decided to add one of our own! This is a great little city and it was fun to relax for an hour or two.  Making our way up the countryside, we came to another lake city that has become my favorite...Ostroda.
Ostroda, we hear, is very popular with Polish people but virtually unknown to others outside the country. It is another beautiful city with some very cool a wake board course.  Our family would love this.  It is electrical and pulls you in a long rectangle course.   President loved this because the skiers cannot blame their "wipe-outs" on the driver of the boat...
 If we had the time to stay here (which I begged President to do), we would have stayed in this hotel.  A great view and swing.  But we have places to get to.
         We are getting closer and closer to Gdansk....
That means we are driving close to the world's largest brick castle (by surface area--52 acres--also!) Malbork Castle was built in 1406 and was home to the Teutonic Knights, a German Roman Catholic order of crusaders). It is made up of 3 separate castles and once housed 3000 knights (and their servants, of course) Built on the Nogat River, they collected river tolls from passing ships arriving from the Visla River to the Baltic Sea. They controlled a monopoly on the trade of amber. It is truly stunning! It takes around 3-4 hours to tour the castle. Last time (and the only time) we were here, President Nielson did it in 45 minutes! (Probably a tour record! This time he was able to stay for 1 hour and 15 minutes. He's getting better!
We have much to do, but it was nice to take a few hours out of our day to see the beautiful countryside of this beloved country!

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