All Saint's Day, the 1st of November is a Public Holiday in Poland and is one that I have a lot of time for. Typically people visit cemeteries, share stories about the dead and light candles in little coloured glass jars that light up the cemetery at night and make for a wonderful spectacle. It's all too easy not to visit your relative's graveyards and this traditional holiday means it's harder to avoid.
Warsaw, like most big cities has several massive cemeteries rather than lots of little ones, due to the mass of dead bodies in a short period of time in WW2, they are more noticeable in Poland than most other places.
While we have some visits at smaller cemeteries to make, the one that houses the most of graves of my wife's family is Cmentarz Polnocny, located on the north-western suburbs between Bielany and Lomianki. All the cemeteries are serviced by temporary bus lines and this is usually the quickest way to get around because driving becomes a bit of a nightmare.
Some roads are blocked off and others take on temporary traffic rules, there is a heavy police presence on the road as they sometimes take control of directing traffic themselves. Despite the bus being a good option, many people, us included (somewhat stupidly in retrospect) opt to use their own car and therefore traffic is pretty heavy.
Having been making slow progress, our choice route had been blocked off and we found ourselves at a standstill, an ambulance flew past us and it was clear that there had been an event somewhere further up the road. My wife happened to have the map open on the correct page and I noticed that there was a little lane just the other side of the railway line, a distance that was about 6 car lengths, the cars either budged up or turned around and I soon had the chance to see what it was like.
It was bumpy, very bumpy and barely recognisable, the ground was made up of all kinds of odd materials and the bottom of the car constantly scraped a mixture of rocks, paint cans and whatever else was lying around. At one point I had made a slightly wrong turn and noticed in my mirror that another car had seemingly followed me, he'd taken the lead. Despite the road's worsening condition and the fact that both cars had the ground clearance of an earwig, we proceeded seemingly more confident now there were two of us smashing up our cars instead of one. Our adventure on wheels came to a close when the road disintegrated into a massive field of mud with grooves, almost a metre deep.
Seconds later, another car turned up, this time it was a big jeep and the driver egged us on to go for it but we turned him down, he sped up and soon got stuck in the muddy mess. The car that had accompanied us decided to turn back, while we parked in the field and started walking across it. The mud was extremely moist, my daughter, myself and the pram that I was half carrying, half ploughing the fields with were covered in mud. Some people really dress up to go to the cemetery, smart trousers, polished shoes, the lot, the more casual at least look clean.
We were going to turn up looking like we'd come out of the graves ourselves and the only consolation came when we strangely came across another family, who were in smarter clothes but clothes that were about to be covered in mud all the same.
By now, the jeep had made it a bit further through the field but seemed well and truly grounded and whilst the other family decided to persevere, we decided to go back to the main road, a wise decision because the road was empty when we got back and I think if we had continued, more disasters awaited and I would have found myself in the cemetery permanently, either through slipping or facing the wrath of my wife.