Warsaw surprised us. Most travel guides dismiss Poland’s capital as worth only about a day’s visit. After all, the Germans systematically destroyed the city, then Stalin came in and finished it off in that grand socialist style. The Stare Miasto is a recreation, much like Frankfurt, as well. But for history buffs, architecture fans, and foodies, Warsaw is worth more than the weekend we allotted.
Driving to Warsaw was not the most photo-inspirational road trip we’ve enjoyed. “Poland” doesn’t translate to “Land of Fields” for nothing!
…alongside Stalin’s “Gift to Poland” of the former Palace of Justice. Composed of 40 million bricks, it looms over the city like the watchful Big Brother it was intended to be.
The streets were alive our first night in town, filled with people SHOPPING and, as we, eating delicious Polish fare.
The following morning, 8 May, we and practically every Warsawian high schooler visited the Warsaw Rising Museum, the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
What remains of the Warsaw Royal Castle.
Armbands of the various resistance groups donated to the museum.
This handwritten plan to defend the Poniatowski Bridge was discovered hidden in a blotter by family members returning to their home after deportation.
Our principal reason for being in Poland was to attend Anna Grace’s Track & Field tournament, hosted by ASWarsaw. Most American Schools lie on the outskirts of the city, where the land was available back when the schools were constructed. ASW is no exception, and its embarrassingly oversized modern campus dominates the relatively empty landscape at the city’s border.
There is even a gated American community adjacent to the school. I’ll bet the deliveries of “America” from amazon.com have no trouble passing through.
Perhaps even more disturbing than Little America was the two-lane McDonald’s just outside the “border.” I have no problems with McDonald’s, but a two-lane drive-through?
8 May also happens to be our wedding anniversary, and we anticipated a lovely dinner of ASW Booster Burgers while cheering on our favorite Lady Knight. Absurdly the school was not operating boosters! Over 120 athletes out in the Warsaw hinterlands and with no food until the mass-produced plates of “ready spaghetti” at the end of the day’s events! As the high jump competition stretched into the evening, you guessed it, we toasted 22 years of wedded bliss with a couple of Big Macs and Americanske Fritske. But it was totally worth it to watch Anna Grace out jump 18 competitors to claim the championship. The power of the pony tail.
On Saturday we had a little time before Anna Grace competed in her other two events, the 100m sprint and the 4x100m relay. (She and her team fared well, but did not medal in either.) Driving around Warsaw we spied all sorts of interesting sights.
The lunch options were decidedly better, but when in Poland I opted to indulge in a few favorite dishes from my childhood, like herrings with a creamy apple and cabbage slaw.
We had about an hour to wander just a few of the 500 lanes of Targowisko Bakalarska, Warsaw’s daily market for everything from food to flowers to items of dubious origin. If only I’d had a day to explore…
Poles love their flowers (there is a fresh bouquet almost every week in my house), even the silk variety. Hundreds of vendors were selling the prettiest of spring’s bounty.
Something for everyone…
The aromas drifting through the food lanes were heavenly.
Armenian Kebabs, only €2,50; a pork cutlet sandwich, a bargain at €1,25.
Manicures in Vienna are expensive; in Warsaw, practically every little nail salon in the market was filled with ladies enjoying the €3,75 treat.
We left Warsaw after Anna Grace’s events, the plan being to overnight and pottery shop in Bolaslawiec before returning to Vienna on Sunday. Many of Poland’s autostradas have bus stops!
In the more rural areas, shrines to Mary were decorated brightly for Mother’s Day.
Sunday morning saw an early start (thanks to Polish roosters), with a brief detour to the little border village of Gorelec. Way back in 2002 Tony and I tacked on a driving tour of the former East Germany following a conference in Dresden, to include Leipzig, Meissen, Bautzen, and a memorable night in a boutique inn across the border in Görlitz (Germany). While wandering the town before dinner that evening we happened upon the footbridge that connected the two cities. Walking across, we were stopped halfway for a passport check. When the border officer saw our passports he remarked enthusiastically, “America!” and even today the memory of his enthusiasm makes us smile.
To our happiness, the foot bridge was still there, though all modern (and safe) now. No passport checks anymore, however.
Once at home, a big greeting by our Champion High Jumper. Lady Knights placed 2nd; Gentlemen Knights placed 3rd; and AISV took 1st Place overall. Way to go, Knights!