Winding down in Warsaw

This morning I’m sitting in Warsaw, and thrilled to be here except for the tiny little wish that I could have kept the weather I’ve gotten used to – I’ve been so lucky with sunny days and 30• heat for several weeks now – and it’s cold here!  Thankfully at least the sun is out.

In a few minutes my friends will be arriving to meet me and start another day of exploring the city.  Until then I’ll try to get a few of my thoughts written down here.

One of the countless beautiful buildings in Warsaw

One thing I love about travelling is how it challenges me to be a better person, by allowing my eyes to be opened to things I may have never otherwise thought of.  The other day was a perfect example:  I’ve been on the go for a while, and the wallet I’ve been using was already old and worn out.  It’s ripped and torn, and missing a zipper.  I grabbed my wallet at a cash register and ended up with coins fallingout and clattering all over the place.  As 3 people stooped to help me collect my money I made a comment in my embarrassment along the lines of how I needed to get rid of my gross ghetto wallet.  And instantly as I heard the words come out of my mouth I was horrified with myself, as I had JUST finished touring through a museum exhibit of the atrocities of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto… I can really be an insensitive ass sometimes….  It never occurred to me that the origins of the word are so awful; it was an adjective I used to sprinkle in my speech as a way of joking about anything I own that’s in less than perfect condition.   So that stops now. 

Speaking of the museum, anyone travelling through Warsaw should make a stop at the Warsaw Uprising Museum.  It’s full of detail and wildly interactive, if a little confusing to find the correct order of walking through the exhibits. I wonder if that was intentional… It IS commemorating a period in history full of chaos, after all…

At the Warsaw Uprising Museum


My friends that I mentioned at the beginning arrived, and this part of the post is being written more than a day later than the top of the page was.   (Thought I’d better explain that in case I start to confuse you with a mix of past and present tenses in my writing.)  So I introduce you to Jeff and Jeanette, two great goofballs and my official guides in Warsaw.  Who, by the way, seem to be very connected in the city – in the hours we were out we bumped into different people they knew four times, plus she still has family here.  Keep in mind there are over 2 million inhabitants so it’s not just some little village where everyone generally knows everyone else…  Jeff joked a couple times about how he could arrange for me to end up stranded somewhere so I’d have an interesting story to write about….  I’m just glad they chose to have their people stand down!!   Ha! 

During the two days I had in Warsaw, I think we did a pretty decent job of hitting the city highlights.  We ate a lot (and you already know my love affair with food!) walked in calm city parks, and ogled the architectural achievements of the city.  Oh plus we accidentally wandered into the middle of a political demonstration at night.  All of a sudden we were surrounded by a noisy crowd and the lights from tv news vans, and in the time it took us to get to the other side of the gathering the noise had become organized into a demanding chant – we took that as our cue to make a hasty exit before things got out of control.  

Back to the food again, where it’s so easy to get a sense of an area’s culture by seeing what may be unique, and being able to contrast that with tastes that are pretty much universally enjoyed.  I can’t picture a scenario that would have me choosing to eat raw beef at home, but in order to test out culture I dipped my raw hamburger in a raw egg too! It was kinda good, actually….  At least not awful when I got over the fear of eating it.  So far so good – no food poisoning!    And on the other side of the scale we have chocolate.  Lunch was at Warsaw’s original chocolatier, and cumulated in Chocolate Perogies! Delicious! 

This grin looked a little devious to me, so I didn’t take a bite until after I watched her eat it first! 

E. Wedel’s Chocolate
The palace on the label of Belvedere Vodka
Poland loves its churches

Winding down in Warsaw…. Definitely not physically since I was busy the entire time, but this is the end of my European jaunt.  I’ve had a blast exploring places I never expected to see, and am already looking forward to (hopefully) having a chance to come back, but it’s back to North America for me again now. 

A glimpse at Auschwitz

I’m stuck trying to figure out what to write about now, but it’s kinda the opposite of writer’s block. I have too much to say about everything I’ve experienced in the past few days and I don’t know where to start or how to weed it down to keep it interesting for you!   Do I go back and finish gushing about Budapest, or do I move on and try to catch up to my current events??!?  Dilemma….

Ok.  Current city stories it is. 

I have just finished almost 3 days in Kraków, Poland, and am feeling refreshed and energized again.   I decided to come here on the advice of a friend specifically to see Auschwitz.    And like I’ve said before of other monuments, this is both awful and awesome to experience.   Rather than regurgitate everything and risk losing you in a dusty history lesson I’ll just try to convey a few of my emotions.

Flowers laid at the entrance
Arriving by rail to the camp, most were optimistic it was only a temporary displacement
Suitcaes packed in a more hopeful time
Always surrounded by double fences, barbed and electric
Faces of concentration camp prisoners

3 levels of beds, often with 8 people living on every level. These barracks house 700-1000 people each
Cobwebs and reflections of history

We saw the gas chambers and furnaces that were used, viewed photos and read accounts of the ruthless way more than a million people were lead to their death.  I learned so much more from this day than I hadlearned from school and movies, and being here experiencing the emotional impact still in the air is exactly why I think everyone should try to see this once if possible. 

This day at the concentration camp museum was certainly the main event for my time in Kraków, but it wasn’t the only one.  I saw a salt mine that has been used for centuries, and witnessed the art and ingenuity that people are capable of.  I met some really great people and spent a couple days just seeing the sights of the town as we found them. 

Salt carvings deep within the salt mine

Next blog post is already late even before this one is officially posted…..    Stay tuned for what I see in Warsaw!