Monday, January 16, 2017

in Warsaw

You know you're in town only briefly when on your first morning there, you wake up to an email message from Air France telling you it's time to check in for your departure.

It's true: I may have two nights here, but considering my late arrival yesterday and my predawn departure tomorrow, I barely have one Warsaw day.

And that day is spent mostly with an eye toward preparing dinner for tonight. Which means I spend a good bit of time lugging grocery bags and then hanging out in my apartment.

I've become quite familiar with my Warsaw home. Oh, not only my unit, but with the atmosphere, the sounds, the rhythms of the whole building (and, too, of the street outside). The life stories of its inhabitants are quite likely book material. The older man below me, who brings his world outside a bit by first hanging a map of the world on the stairwell wall, then putting up a Christmas tree not inside the house, but just out by his door. And last night, perhaps because he didn't have room in his wee apartment which he shares with his son and possibly with others, he hangs his pants and a few towels on the banister, presumably to dry. This morning the pants are gone but two quilts are there. Or the the woman upstairs who vacuums at strange hours. Or the tall gentleman living a few floors up who last night was carrying out his Christmas tree just as I was coming in. The tree had not one single needle left on it. Not one.

So I feel I know the place. At most times it's intensely quiet. At other times, some neighbor raises his voice (to be heard by a deafer co-inhabitant) and then I know they're not asleep yet. A peel of laughter and then all is quiet once more.

My morning begins at the Rue de Paris, a cafe just down the street from me.

(Here's my street: the haze tells it like it is. You can barely see the Palace of Culture. But unlike during the deep freeze last week, the air isn't heavy with pollution. I dare say it feels rather fine.)


I wanted a breakfast out and there I'm joined by my brilliant architect and now friend, Karolina.


It's a brief visit. I consult about a few things, she has picked up a few things and of course we exchange quick stories of what the past month has been like. Too, she gives me some food shopping suggestions.
Go to the Hala Mirowska on the other side of the Palace of Culture. They have the regular market stalls there but they also have an Asian shop where you can get good shrimp and, too some more unusual items.

I quickly add it to my list of places to check for various items on my grocery list.

The thing is -- I can just take the metro to my favorite supermarket and buy everything I need there. But at the last minute, I choose not to do that. Poland is a country where people still frequent the smaller neighborhood shops. The trip to the supermarket is a bigger deal, the smaller store or stand is for the every day. And so even as I walk back to my apartment, I begin to fill my list in the smaller places.

For example, peppers and onions at this neighborhood vegetable and fruit store that boasts many organic goods.


Bread next. There's a great bread bakery (to be distinguished, like in France, from the pastry store) just down the block. Poles aren't satisfied with just a handful of bread types. There are a dozen of dark bread varieties and a dozen more white loaves.


This time I choose a dense dark one with prunes for the liver pate I'll serve before dinner.

And then I visit a kitchen supply store. I don't need much in my Warsaw home, but there are recurring items that I see that I do need for my cooking here, especially since I have fallen into liking meal preparation for my Polish friends. A jumbo frying pan. A can opener. Essentials, no?

(The store is on the north end of the Palace. I'll give you a view of that. Looks much the same as the south end, no?)


I meet up with my sister there and together, somewhat loaded down already with kitchen things, we walk to Hala Mirowska, passing through a simple little park that provides the much needed vegetation in this very traffic heavy city center.


What impresses me about this market is that though there is an indoor section, most of the food stalls appear to be outdoors. And yes, it's January, but here they are -- vendors standing outside selling their goods. You see this throughout Poland. You'll never see this in Wisconsin or any other norther state.

(A blur of winter produce...)


(Stalls, inside and out.)


From there, loaded down indeed, we take the metro to the stop by the river. (A war memorial, a bridge that is the extension of my street, and the mermaid statue -- a symbol of this city.)


 And now it's a just a short walk to the neighborhood grocery store (for such staples as milk, butter, mineral water).

Oh, our bags are heavy. Not done yet! I tell my sister there's one more stop: at the Italian deli, where I pick up bottles of wine. Not one or two. More. It's impossible to tell how much we'll need. Left over bottles are easily stored in the closet. But oh, we are really burdened now!

One more stop, I promise, just one more!
I pick up some goat cheese at the deli. I need a different loaf of bread for that. Back to the bakery. (A grandma and a little boy are in line before me. Such a typical sight here.)


Finally! At home again. My sister retreats to her tasks and I am left with the very pleasant and oh so familiar task of chopping, cooking and organizing my kitchen for this evening.

All is (almost) ready. The gang arrives.

The next photos are of our evening together. Perhaps you wont be able to take away more from it than to recognize a few happy faces enjoying an evening meal. That's fine. The evening had all of that -- good friends, sharing good food. Here we all are, doing exactly what you'd expect us to do.

Yet for me, the evening was, well, all that I come back for again and again.

It's okay if dinner is still a few minutes away. We'll just talk...


Oh no you don't! Get to work and stir!


... and eat your predinner munchies!


Ha! I am so ready now for all of you! Dinner!!



Not that this is reason to let go of our various threads of conversation!


Most of us are serious amateur photographers and I'm not surprised when my camera is snatched by someone who begins to snap away.


That's okay. I snatch it right back.

Dessert... I take a pic of my friend, slicing her gift for us -- a home made apple cake...


And soon enough the meal is done and we've all lingered,  and now there is this uncomfortable truth: we need to disperse. Most have work tomorrow and, me, I have that predawn flight... Ooops, I've lost my camera again...


Hey, honestly, it's time to call it a night.


Day is done done done done done!


See you in March and yes, I'm glad it'll be March and not, say, April!


  1. I LOVE the pictures of you laughing and goofing off.

  2. I hope people continue to snatch your camera..we never get to see you so relaxed and happy.

  3. Albeit a short stop in Warsaw- it looks like you made absolutely the most of it and thoroughly enjoyed your time there. Enjoying all the moments.


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