Wednesday, October 26, 2016

from Poland

The sun comes up, visible from my bedroom window. (In winter, you'll see the usual city apartment buildings, but right now, you see trees, including the ever beautiful poplar.)


Oh! Clever mirrors in the bedroom!  Selfie time!


The shower is strong, the bed -- far better than ours at the farmhouse.

Breakfast. Oats from the mountains in southern Poland. Raspberries -- the old fashioned kind: they aren't industrial strength -- they turn into mush quickly and I have to get rid of a few from the pack. But they are intensely flavorful.

I pour honey from the raspberry flower. I make my coffee, I settle in for my morning meal.


In the few days that my American friends and I are in Poland, we will have two trips that will take us outside Warsaw. The first is set for today -- to Krakow. Barbara and Shmuel will stay there through tomorrow, but I'll catch the late train back tonight -- I have too many details to take care of here. Too, I think they'll manage the main sights just fine without me. Krakow is compact and obvious. Here's a list of things to look over, here's where you can eat, here's the castle. Have fun!

But a visit to Krakow has to include a visit to Kazimierz -- the old Jewish section that was once quite apart from Krakow, but now has been pulled into the city in the way that villages often are in modern times.

And this is where I think I can be helpful: traipsing around Kazimierz with my friends.

I leave my Warsaw apartment... Oh, this view of the street where I live is becoming so familiar!


I meet up with Barbara and Shmuel at 9.  We have our train tickets (purchased online back in the US). We walk to the Central train station.

Now, I have many feelings about this walk. We first move along the familiar Nowy Swiat -- they are staying a block or two away from this artery. They know it well.


But then we turn into Jerusalem Avenue. This becomes interesting. One huge reason why my friends have traveled to Poland at this ungodly time of the year is because this is when I am here and they would love for me to take them to the village where Shmuel's family lived until world events caused at least one or two to immigrate to Israel. And then all hell broke loose in Poland and nearly everyone else on one side of his family perished in the concentration camps.

Back now to Jerusalem Avenue: I've known it all my life and yet it was just a word. Jerusalem. It never struck me to ask -- why Jerusalem?

And I write this because I am such a child of Warsaw! I took it in, I loved it, I didn't really think about the details. I worried more if my boyfriend loved me and if my parents would ever lay down their arms against each other.

In many ways, this trip, with my visiting friends takes us, takes me in a new direction. True, Ed's family was Jewish and he, like Shmuel, is intensely interested in history, but the few times I came to Poland with Ed, I was so hell bent on showing him my city and my country, that I did not pay attention to much that I am noticing now.

We pass the Stalinist Palace of Culture and Science and for the first time my friends have a full view of this curious piece of architecture (in a morning fog).


(A man is selling the Polish doughnuts -- paczki -- at perhaps the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city.)


And then we are at the Central Station and I am so pleased to see it transformed! As little as three years ago it was a cold and bleak and an uncomfortable place to wait for trains that themselves were old and shabby.

Not anymore. This photo is remarkable because it is shot from the mezzanine, where there is a lovely waiting area.


The train itself is modern and comfortable and even in 2nd class you get a free beverage! (Smile)

Just a quick two photos of the approach to Krakow. From the flat terrain of Warsaw, we move into a different landscape.


(Cabbage fields and a church. So Polish!)


I chat idly with my friends on the train... I tell Barbara about the people I know and love here. She says -- they'll be so interested in catching up in the details of your life -- and I smile at that, because it's not really how it works. If I meet for coffee with one at a time, we catch up. But when all of us get together, it's all about story telling! The social dynamic is very different -- everyone vies for the floor to say something that will amuse or entertain or inform the rest. In group gatherings, the well being of the entirety matters more than satisfying any individual's need to share. (Though I suppose if someone insisted, everyone would listen with an open heart.)

And now we are in Krakow!


The most beautiful square...


(The horse and buggy rides are just one example of the highland influence on Krakow. The decorated horses tell us as much...)


And now our walk to Kazimierz. As always, I don't want to turn this into a tourist journal, so I'll just post a handful of photos with captions. (Too, it is late, I am going on several nights of too little sleep and things will NOT slow down in the next few days.)

(I first veer us toward the New Market Square: there are always stalls with food here. I ask one vendor of Polish sausage - may I take a photo? He laughs. Sure, but don't you think that Wawel -- the castle -- is more interesting than this?


Too, there are stalls with antiques and old world stuff. Shmuel asks me to ask the vendor -- where do you get the pieces you sell? The guy shrugs his shoulders. People bring it in... )


We visit several synagogues and I take a string of photos, but I'll just post one, of my favorite:


The old Jewish Cemetery is right behind it, but in all my visits here, it's been closed to the public. Not anymore. We wander inside.


Is the lackadaisical attitude toward nettle weeds intentional? The cemetery is more than 400 years old. Is it to remind us of the passage of time?

We spend a good number of minutes here...


And now I am hungry. There are a number of restaurants in the Jewish quarter offering Jewish cuisine, but I have two that I am fond of and we go to one of them  -- Klezmer. (In Poland restaurants open and they stay open until they close. None of this "eat your lunch between 12 and 2 or else go hungry." That's France. You want to eat at 4:15? Who are we to turn you away! I know, I know... it means that you do not need the vigilant chef to be there round the clock. Meaning, you do not need a vigilant chef. Meaning, the dishes are made in advance and the cook on call just has to follow simple instructions and get them to the table.)

I take a picture of my friends. Look like you like each other!  -- I tell them. We do like each other -- they retort.


(BTW, my beet root soup and the baked cabbage roll are excellent!)


And now it's time for me to leave my friends and slowly head back to the train station. I do pause: in an artsy shop that sells, among other things, hand sewn dolls. Don't you think Snowdrop would like this little red riding hood?


And then again, I pause in a wine store that sells... (hold on to your hat, hannah!) world class (so they tell me) Polish wine! I am so dubious. The clerk lets me sample three prize bottles of whites (I so prefer whites). Two pass my test with flying colors! I have an apartment, I can take them there. I can keep them until the day I need them.

I'm at the station now.  The train pull in. Why is one of the headlights off? I ask Ed later -- would this have mattered to the train engineer? Most likely no...


I'm home now. The apartment is so quiet! A lovely quiet with just a gentle sound of light traffic outside.


  1. Congratulations! You are in your beautifully renovated apartment. May it bring you happiness and be all you dreamed it could be.

  2. Ah, this post was just what I needed to get excited about my trip! I wish I could have stopped in Warsaw, too! My hope had been to take the train from Warsaw to Vilnius, but it's under construction. I'd love to see Poland that way.

    And as an aside, I adore Krakow. It's one of my favorite places to visit. The cemetery you showed was open to us when we were there nearly 20 years ago and had growth, though not that much. Enjoy your new apartment! I'll be on your side of the pond starting tomorrow!

  3. I just want to go everywhere you go....and return to your lovely new apartment. Does all the bother you went through make it more special? Having a little nest to come home to is the best...even for those of us who love the wandering life.

  4. So lovely. Every little detail. Good memories of our time there with you and freezing in the central station. What a beauty it is now.

  5. What a wonderful trip it was! And your photos do it more justice than our snapshots. (I hope you bought little red riding hood.)


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