It was an early start to our travel day. The flight is scheduled for ten in the morning but we had to get to the airport first and that takes roughly an hour. Rome had planted a seed in our consciousness and our hearts. It’s ancient streets and dramatic architecture will for ever live in our memories but we have new places to see. With sleep still in our eyes we rolled out our suitcases to head to this new destination.
It is a relatively easy route to take. Walk to the train station and then one train for a stop to transfer to another train that will take us to the airport. This is our first flight together. We have taken many other forms of transport together already. With all the tourism that happens here it is an easy process. We checked in our luggage and sat down to have a coffee in anticipation of our impending flight. It’s the final leg of our journey around Europe. We are going to Warsaw the Polish Capital it’s a two and a half hour flight.
The flight was meant to be a productive one where I commit some of the things we saw and did into the continuing story. It didn’t happen I ended up sleeping the whole time. We both passed out for a long while. I think it was the delay in taking off that started my descent into unconsciousness. The air inside the cabin stifled the effects of all the caffeine I consumed. I must say it was a good nap.
Landing, disembarking and getting our luggage took no time at all. The difficult part came when we were trying to figure out which ticket machine to use and which train to take. Eventually it was all figured out. Everything at the airport and in transport has multiple languages including English. The confusion comes with all the variety of services that are available by multiple providers. At least that was my initial impression after getting off the plane and looking at the signage. In the end there is only one train that leaves from one of two platforms. You’d think that knowing the language would help.
The airport and the train itself are new. The quiet and comfort of the ride allowed us to get a first look at the surroundings. It looks much different from all the cities we have been to. There is a lot more color but also just as much graffiti along the tracks. I recognize the style of buildings from some subconscious memory from my past. Maybe as well it comes from some recent exposure to my parentland. This is the capital of Poland and because of that and because of the flat topography of this area things are spread out but they are also fairly densely populated.
Once we got to the Central Station we needed to transfer to a tram. We could have just as easily taken a bus but trams hold some fascination with me. As we walked towards the stop we had our first exposure to the living, breathing, teaming city that is Warsaw. This city was basically destroyed during the Second World War as the resistance to Nazi occupation fought valiantly to defeat the enemy. The Red Army that gathered on the opposite banks of the city didn’t come to help instead they watched as the city was slowly destroyed. The Nazis were especially brutal against the population killing an estimated 250000 civilians. Most of what remained after the war was over was just a shell of the former splendor of the city.
The oracle that I have been relying on for information to get us to our hostel was wrong. The tram didn’t take the turn that it was supposed to. Having realized this we got off at the appropriate stop in order to walk the rest of the way. We aren’t that far from our lodging. We are staying in the Old City or Stare Miasto. This is one of the first places that the Nazi’s destroyed during the resistance. Today the area is continuing to be restored and is a designated UNESCO site of important cultural heritage. It is meant to propagate the history of what happened here as well as restoring the area to its former glory.
Chrl was captivated by the splendor of the old parts of the city. The buildings have a different look to them. There is a lot more color and a different way of decorating the facades. We were rolling along looking for the hostel. There was no obvious sign with the name of the actual business. The oracle pointed us to a place but we walked right by it. What’s more it appeared that we were on the wrong street. What’s the address? The information isn’t immediately available. The connection to the cloud picked a wrong time to break down. We rely on connectivity quite a bit. When it’s gone it’s bad news. Luckily there is a back up.
As I found the address in the app housing all my reservations and compared it to where we were it was really close. Just two doors down that way. From the exterior it looks like all the other buildings in the area. I walked up to the door and found a sign explaining that I should log into the network available here and check my email for the instructions on how to get in. There is no reception to show us in. Sure enough the email was there and it had all the codes allowing us to enter. This is the first time I’ve been to a place like this. It’s one thing to have a code it’s quite another for the code to be emailed like this. We climbed to the third floor and found our space.
The room was small but very cute and vey well laid out. We discovered that we have a little kitchenette. We can make breakfast for ourselves! The first thing on our agenda is to do some laundry and hang it so that it has time to dry. “We probably should have done this in Rome” we said to ourselves. There just wasn’t time to do it or the motivation. We also washed ourselves off from our journey in order to feel fresh as we explored the city. The bathroom/watercloset/shower enclosure was great but the pidly little shower head didn’t match the rest of the decor. It’s a nice space for us to spend the next forty hours coming and going from here.
The central square of the old city is not far from us. This square is surrounded by buildings that represented all the different guilds that conducted business in the city. These trade guilds helped shape trade and the buildings they were housed in were decorated to reflect the particular guild that they represented. It was and is a beautiful part of the city. In the bright sun the area looked quite beautiful but now as the sun was setting it was dark in the twilight. Light from all the artificial lights gave it a festive feel.
We were hungry and we decided to eat in one of the many restaurants available to us in the square. Almost everything is in English and Polish here. This historic old square is popular with tourists. In fact it is important to visit here while in Warsaw in order to understand a bit about the history of Poland and its people. As one will learn when reading all the various information signs dotted everywhere, rebuilding this area was an important part of dealing with the trauma of the Second World War. Our meal, the taste and presentation of it rekindled some nostalgia of my mom’s cooking. It reminded me of my family. I’m glad that I’ve brought Chrl here to experience this country.
We walked around the area to stretch our legs from all the sitting we have done on this journey. We walked along a few roads letting the oracle guide us to the Palace of Arts and Sciences. This building was a gift from the USSR and for a long time it was a loathed building because of what it represented in the eyes of the people. Today its architectural style and prominence has grown and it contrasts nicely with the new skyscrapers that have sprung up all around it. The goal is to take a nice photo of it in the night sky.
We passed along various different buildings including the Presidential palace as well as various different theatres and churches. We got an opportunity to pass by the Tomb of the Unknown Soilder. This memorial monument is what remains of a palace that once stood here. It is guarded twenty-four hours a day by two members of the army. The flame of the memorial was lit sometime after the Second World War but the monument began after the First World War with a plaque placed somewhere in the structure to commemorate the unknown fallen soldiers that perished during that conflict. Since then earth from different battle fields that Polish soilders fought on has been added in urns that stand inside there. Dignitaries from various different countries that visit lay wreaths there. It is a simple and dignified place that allows people who visit to pay their respects.
Behind the monument is a park with various statues that symbolically represent different seasons and scholastic disciplines. I was teaching Chrl how to pronounce the different words and what they meant. We will be back the next day to photograph them in daylight. Right now we took inspiration from the couples around us snuggling on park benches along our walk to hold each other close. Our destination wasn’t that far away.
The Palace of Arts and Science was lit up in a colorful way. From our vantage point as we apploached it it looked nice enough to photograph. By now we were getting tired and as the photos were being taken we discussed getting back. Since we have a kitchen we can cook breakfast for ourselves. We were going to find a shop to buy some provisions to do that on our way back. I let my intuition guide me and we proceeded to follow a round about path in search for the right place to buy these provisions. With a suggestion from one of the cashiers we found just the right place. Laden with these provisions we got back to the hostel and passed out.
The next morning I woke and made some coffee and proceeded to update this blog. The sun rose and people began to wake as I wrote. We are in a quiet area of the city just behind the old square. The big tree and the solid steps were a nice setting to write. Chrl slept in as much as she needed. We were only going to do a cursory walk around the city and buy our tickets to Kraków. The itinerary was a buch of “let’s see if we cans.” By the time we ate and got ready it was noonish and we set off to the train station that was indicated as the one from which we should take the train from the next day. We took a bus and walked the rest of the way instead of transferring to the other one that would have taken us to the station.
The walk was a straight path along a street that had a mixture of residential, commercial, and institutional structures. Some of the buildings were post war structures and others were more recent. It gave us a sense of what the city grew into as the rebuilding took place. Walls of many buildings were tagged with various different words and symbols. Some buildings were in need of a facelift while others aged well. As we continued along we passed by different institutes and I translated what they were as best as I could. We passed through a park And I saw an abandoned structure behind it that looked like it would be fascinating to explore if we had time and we were better prepared. Soon we neared the station and the bus that we would have waited for was parked at the terminus.
The station has a long underground tunnel that connects to the different platforms or perons as they call them here. After we bought the tickets we decided to have a snack and explored the tunnels further. The tunnel lead to a bus depot where many long distance busses originate or terminate as they head back and forth to all the different villages and municipalities that surround this city. It is the low cost of travel that keep these operators in business. It’s always interesting to watch the different people that pass through these places.
We caught a train back to the centre of the city and from there caught another tram close to our hostel. We were going to try to find a statue of Lady Justice that was supposed to be on one of the buildings on a particular street and to try to see the place where we saw a sign talking about the Polish Constitution that was signed in 1791. We started at one end of Miodowa Street that had the Supreme Court of Poland building. This was a modern structure that incorporated columns into its design. Surely Lady Justice would be there somewhere. She wasn’t but there was a monument dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising that I talked about earlier. It was a moving monument in terms of eliciting a response to the shapes of the expressions the statues contained. The Archive with the constitution was not far but to our dismay the guard said that there was no display to visit just the info on the poster that described the history and importance of this document. It was the first such democratic constitution in Europe preceding the next one by about a hundred years. Europe was still ruled by monarchs and elites with no say in any decision by common citizens. Poland was trying to assert its independence against the dominant powers of the time that carved its territory between them. This didn’t work out.
Dissapointed by this we continued down the street in search of Lady Justice eventually coming to the end of the road with no luck. The encyclopedia in the cloud didn’t have the right info or we didn’t spot it. We were now close to the park with all the interpretive statues of the different disciplines. I proceeded to photograph each one of them as we chatted about our impressions of how well they represented what they sought to represent. Winter always seems to be a man. A theme we have come across before even if the other seasons were female. Not always but a point that struck us as odd when we noticed it earlier on our journey.
The park itself is charming with its ponds and fountains. We saw a little hill with a building on it that Chrl said would be a great place for people to make out. It was occupied by couples or small groups at various locations around the round hill. We sat on a bench for a while somewhere further along the path appreciating where we were as well as being together. We contined on and found a cafe to sit at close to one of the squares close to our hostel. As we sat there we decided to go to the top of the observation tower in front of us. From the bottom it looked like a great place to observe our surroundings. The entrance is cheap but there is no elevator to take you to the top. Just leg power. The couple ahead of us were panting by the time we got got the top. The view was worth the climb. An almost three hundred and sixty degree view of the city greeted us. The juxtaposition of the old buildings with their red ceramic roofs always elicits a smile with its charm. From up here we could see the setting sun as well as the breakdancers below performing for the crowd drowning out the young preacher further away.
Chrl has been carrying her collection of post cards and the post office was close to us. It was in a corner building adjacent to the old square. It looked like an old office with period wooden framing everywhere to complement the old architecture. We ended up buying eighteen stamps to attach to the postcards. Chrl made sure all the addresses were correct. After that we decided to have dinner at a perogi-eria located nearby within a small alleyway. We were close to being done for the day. It was time to go back to the hostel pack and get a good nights sleep.