Monday, September 21, 2009

Bye San Francisco, Hello Warsaw!

Our trip started Friday morning: after a full day of wrapping up projects at work, we went to see Green Day's 'broadway' musical American Idiot. It had no cohesive plot, no compelling characters, and the Green Day cover band was lackluster. Overall a subpar performance. Decided to stay up all night, as one does in these cases where you have a flight in the morning and haven't done packing of any kind. In the wee hours of the morning, there was plenty of quiet time to do two loads of laundry, pack, print out directions to hotels, charge devices -- fun things like that.

AA flight from SFO-JFK and LOT flight from JFK-Warsaw were uneventful. LOT is a great airline, the flight staff all seemed eager to help, the friendliness and low cost of Virgin America with the organization of Lufthansa. Food was fun Eastern European fare: beef stroganoff, salads with meats and cheeses, lots of bread and butter and jam, abundant wine and tea and black currant juice -- yum.

Just enough time to catch up on some TIVO, light reading (there have been a plethora of articles about The Beatles lately), and to take in the first two minutes of the Sandra Bullock / Ryan Reynolds feature film that LOT ran as a courtesy to help put everyone to sleep -- so thoughtful!

When landing in Warsaw, you get the distinct impression the people of Poland actually want you there. As opposed to landing in Russia (or the US), the Poles don't require a mountain of paperwork and passport control doesn't ask probing questions. While in the airport, taxi drivers will come up to you and whisper "looking for a taxi?" Based on how quiet and tenuous they are, it would seem it's illegal for taxi drivers to approach you in Poland (or they are all part-time drug dealers). However, once you say no, they suddenly perk up and make sure you know how awful the bus system is in Warsaw. I never met anyone less proud of their public transit system than these Varsovian taxi drivers. The bus was fairly easy to figure out and pretty soon we were off to the hotel in downtown Warsaw on the cusp of the Old Town and old New Jerusalem.

Walking around town, we quickly discovered how friendly and open people are here. Two minutes after leaving the hotel and officially becoming tourists, we were greeted by a friendly elderly gentleman whose son lives in Long Island. After we noted that the Chestnut tree fruit is curious and spikey-looking, he remarked that it's a shame these trees are so rare these days. It's a shame there are so few friendly people these days! In the US, it seems that whenever you meet a stranger who is nice and friendly, they often end up being a crazy talker and you can't shut them up. People are always talking about the differences between East Coasters and West Coasters in the US: they say a west coaster will greet you in the subway, while an East Coaster will keep their head down. The difference between those two coasts seems so minor when compared to the people we have met today. Strangers will offer you a taste of their lard sandwiches (hint: accept, it's tasty!) and miodowe (what better to wash down the lard sammich than with some honey beer [mead]!)

We continued walking and ended up taking in a free performance of Chopin in Lazienki Park. When you're tired and easing into being a city-hiking tourist, there's nothing better than sitting on the grass for an hour, reading the local newspaper, listening to a performance by the favorite local composer (especially when he happens to be Chopin).

After taking in the Palace on the Water ("literally built in the middle of a river" says Rick Steves) and the requisite ice cream creamery there, we headed up to Nowy Swiat to check out the area known for its eateries frequented by locals. But we found more, much more. There was a street food festival with everything from open-face garlic-butter sandwich with pickles -- to smoked Polish gouda with cranberry jam -- to sausage sticks (think slim jim but old world and without 'smoke-like flavor and pork-like byproduct'). This is where we made fast friends with Agata, Arturo, Martin, and Agnes, our new Polish comrades who share our love of mead and street food. Together we headed to the Indeks Klub (translates as Report Card Club) to sample typical Polish beer (Lech) and relax on the sand in Indeks' backyard city beach.

On the walk back to the hotel, we passed a store called Zepter that seems to specialize in irons connected to vacuum cleaners, ironing boards that double as step ladders, and coffee machines inspired by George Lucas. Why must you deprive Americans of the necessities in life? Why, Zepter, why???

No more tired
of being a contortionist due to lack of space
No more twisting
between impractical household tools
No more stressed
because you can’t immediately find the tool you need
No more exhausted
by household tools that hinder your housework

One note on the cost of things. While it's not quite as inexpensive as we had expected, we have so far spent only about $20 for bus fare, ice cream, obwarzanki sznurek (sweet cracker rings on a string), bottle of water, a sandwich, smoked gouda, a sausage, and many Polish beers -- not bad at all!!
PLEASE see Olga's blog for more exciting adventures:


theresa_hart said...

You are a good writer too! Is that how you guys met? I'm a friend of Olga's from Skidmore and I am enjoying the duel perspectives on your trip. Keep it coming. I like the photos. And I definitely will log on to that household accoutrements store!

Sara said...

Dave, I am starving after reading your posts. Loving the descriptions and living vicariously through you both...maybe someday Scott and I will be traveling again :)

Layla said...

Keep bloging; it is nice to virtually travel with you. :)

Anonymous said...

I NEED a Zepter!! All those things in one and looks good in the room!