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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Farewell to Warsaw

Awwwwwww. Yeah, we really enjoyed Warsaw, and what little else we saw of Poland. I can't imagine we'd ever go back, just because of our age and limited income, but never say never, I guess. It's a beautiful, friendly country. The landscape is mostly rural and in the summer, at least, reminds me of Missouri and Iowa; anyway the greener, hillier parts of the Midwest. The people, with exceptions (nasty men on trains) are very nice, and as for children, we only saw a few on Corpus Christi. None of them were American, and none of them bothered us. Good job, Polish parents! As far as the unpleasant children we encountered in the concentration camp (for God's sake!) they were not Polish. And their parents are idiots.

By nasty men on trains I mean they just don't make any room for you to pass, unless you get very physical with them. I'm not sure what the cultural issue may be there, but I am quite capable of throwing a block. But although those two or three incidents stand out, they are remarkable for their infrequency. There are nasty men (and women, and children) everywhere. Poland has fewer than most. One of our guides told us that the primary reasons for Polish tourism are: ancestry, culture and history such as the Holocaust. There are actually tours of all the major camps and other sites in Europe. So that's one way and one reason to see Poland, although anyone with a smattering of common sense and languages can do it independently, as we did. Oh, and Cracow at Christmas is supposed to be wonderful, but bring long underwear.

Because we had no real timetable, we didn't get up until noon or so. Packed and stored our luggage in the hotel and took a taxi to what we thought was the Holocaust Memorial. Well, it actually was one, but not the one we wanted. However, when we told the driver "Stare Miasto" (Old Town) instead, we ended up right in front of the Heroes of the Ghetto Uprising statue anyway, which is what we had been looking for.

It's very large and spread out. No one picture can capture all of it.

And in this case, the bit of blurriness gives a feeling of motion, which is appropriate for these figures, who had to move urgently, coming up from the sewers, and then escaping again. Unfortunately the uprising was crushed, but it took the Nazis by surprise and cost them a lot of resources. They never did finish their purge before they had to run from the Red Army.

It was another alternately sunny and rainy day, and when it started raining near the statue, we looked for a restaurant and found this one. We thought it was so cute and oldy-worldy. Not to say that it wasn't, but later we found out it was part of a chain. It figures, right? But the food was terrific. Clog your arteries right up, and much better than the best fast food we have here. Just what Americans need: fatter asses.

So after we ate a hugely substantial meal (this matters later) we began walking through the Stare Miasto. It's a lot like Cracow's Old Town, because when we were looking at pictures of both places, Joyce couldn't tell them apart until I told her I didn't see any big black head lying on its side in Warsaw. So that's how we knew which ones were Cracow.

There was an amber shop on every block, so Joyce finally got what she was looking for, and I found a small carved rabbit, and we won't see this stuff again until Christmas. We also bought postcards and magnets and looked at things we didn't buy, such as these slippers which were very much like the ones Joyce's mom, Wanda, used to make. It made me feel bad that this thoroughly Polish woman never went to her ancestral land, but she embodied every good thing there is about Poland.

And here's the amber shop. In middle of the window, you can see a whopping piece of amber about the size of a dining room chair cushion. The best amber has "stuff" in it, and since it's resin, it doesn't weigh very much. Well, we thought it was interesting!

More walking, more picture-taking, a coffee chop (a Polish "Starbucks") and a Chopin concert outdoors. That was a nice surprise.

We popped out of the Old Town right near our hotel, and went to the bar for juice this time, and just hung around until it was time to go to the train station. And even now, I wish I had had more time in Warsaw. And everyplace we went. It's probably just a mind trick, but I feel more like I "belong" in Europe. After all, we are not indigenous to North America, we actually are Europeans. Maybe we should spend more time there. As soon as they build the North Atlantic Bridge, I'll look into it.


  1. Amber? I didn't know there were amber pits in Poland.

  2. All around the Baltic, apparently.