Thursday, December 16, 2010

from Warsaw, one more time

I never knew that all squirrels were not red, just like most foxes are not red, or even orange, until I left Warsaw as a kid and traveled to New York. It was a shock to see a gray squirrel in Central Park!


I sit and listen to the music that the hotel has chosen to turn on in our room. It’s gentle music. Mostly classical (every once in a while they’ll play Chopin and I’ll say to my daughter – that’s Chopin! – and she’ll say – I know that, mom).


My sister tells me it’s my name day today (December 15). Weird. I have never in my life celebrated a name day.

We’re walking through Lazienki Park – she, her sons, my daughter and I. I've not had a return to Warsaw without a trip to Lazienki. Even though today, again, Warsaw is gripped by a blast of cold air, so that we cannot hesitate much. Must keep walking. Past a snow covered Chopin...



...through a park that is unusually empty. Except for the group of schoolchildren. Hearty Polish stock!



...and of course, past the birds – in and out of water.



...and the squirrels.

Most often I do not enter the Lazienki summer palace. But this time I’m liking the idea of pausing there, walking through the rooms, looking out at the park from within.


We resume our walk. Perhaps this is my most sentimental moment – leaving footprints on the snow covering the familiar alleys of the park. On this cold cold winter day.


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We have lunch at the modern alternative to the Bar Mleczny (remember the Milk Bar? It’s in yesterday’s post) – “Green Way.” It’s a chain of Polish vegetarian food (with emphasis on the vegetable as opposed to the starch) and it’s warm and filling. I have whole wheat nalesniki (blintzes) with spinach, my daughter has pierogi with vegetables, both are accompanied with the ubiquitous in Poland grated carrot. It’s good for your eyes, my grandmother used to say.

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And then we part ways. My sister and her sons will be returning to Sweden and England and of course, by the end of the week-end, my daughter and I will be back in the Midwest.

For now, we have work to do and so we pick up a few standard Polish bakery items...


...and head for our hotel. The long way. I tell her we cannot let the visit go by without one good look at the Palace of Culture. I like to see it because it is so unchanging, so solidly there, in the heart of Warsaw. Not that it’s especially beloved (quite the opposite in fact), but to me it’s smacks of Warsaw as I knew her. From days when Poland felt at once abandoned and isolated, oppressively regulated, yet in my very young eyes – exceptionally gentle and pretty. This was my city and I was loyal. Until I left. Funny how that works.

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And now it’s evening. My daughter and I visit my father again – to say good bye and to wish him well. He always has a last word to say, last message to deliver. We listen. And then we leave.

Our last evening in Poland is reserved for my loyal friends from university days. This time, they and their daughters (who are only a tad older than my daughters) are hosting a special holiday meal at a local restaurant. We are joined by three other good friends – some who have never met my daughter – and it is such a beautiful evening that, as usual, I get a tad weepy when it all ends.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the table, just before we all sit down. I have come to accept the fact that my generation of friends here cannot fully grasp why people blog, nor keep facebook pages. I don’t think I’ve made a dent in persuading them that for some, story blogging is an expression with just a wee bit of value. Especially for someone who, at a very young age, wrote in her own autograph book (remember those?) "I want to be a journalist," and later changed that to "I want to be a writer," and then, in the end, did neither. Funny how that... etc.

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It’s late. Friends drop us off at the hotel and they return to their homes and we will be returning to ours soon too.

But first, we have to rewind the trip back. Tomorrow (Thursday) we’ll be speeding back to Berlin.