Sunday, July 02, 2017

weekend in Warsaw, continued

The pace of my morning is slow. Not because I'm tired after yesterday's sprint through the city, but because the weather is iffy, with rain clouds hovering overhead. There's no reason to rush.

Breakfast is, well, predictable: oatmeal with the usual trimmings. But I don't make my own coffee. I didn't want to waste milk for this very short stay here and so instead, I go downstairs to the cool people coffee shop and they make me a cappuccino, which I carry upstairs with me. (It does strike me that the cost of the cappuccino is more than a carton of milk would have been, but at least I'm not wasting stuff and am supporting a small local business.)


I look outside. My living room faces a little side street, which is nice, though the building across the street is very close to me. It's one that hasn't undergone needed renovations. There are still quite a number in Warsaw that need an upgrade, but of course one must ask - who's to pay for it? Certainly not the people who live there, whose funds are likely to be terribly limited. (I do want to tell the residents not to step out on the balcony -- it looks very crumbly.)


In mid morning, my nephew, the one who has visited me in Madison, stops by. He hasn't seen the apartment yet and since he has an architectural bent, I'm especially eager for him to take a look.


It also gives us a chance to catch up. I nearly always have some ideas of future projects in my head and I am curious about what he thinks of them, so we while away a good hour sipping tea and chatting.

It strikes me though that if it hasn't rained yet, it's not likely to rain now, so we may as well take a walk and of course, the draw right now is the river.

My nephew tells me that Warsaw is unique among European capitals because the river here flows naturally, without the constructed banks that channel the waters in cities such as London or Paris. Here, the sandy banks with river grasses and willows and poplars provide fantastic habitats for birds. Too, the periodic flooding reshapes the sand banks and provides a healthy environment for newer growth.


We turn toward the newly opened segment of the river walk. The beach baskets are here...


As are the various attractions for young ones. (Did I tell you that Polish children wear caps every time the temps dip below beach weather?)


It's a lovely place to spend an hour or two, especially if, like me, you live in the riverside neighborhood.


As we turn in toward the city, we check out the park that abuts the university library...


And we make our way up to the roof of the library because in this season, the plantings here are especially attractive.

And then we part ways. My nephew heads north for a meetup with his brother and I head home. But I take my time getting there. The sun is coming out in little spurts and my sweater is off once more. I walk through the park behind the Music School and study a bench which has on it one of those invitations to take a selfie with Chopin.  You press a button and his music fills the air. A selfie? Okay!


One more sidestep, to Nowy Swiat, where I pick up a bunch of flowers for tonight.



And now it really is time to go home and focus, both on packing up my case for tomorrow's wickedly early departure and on getting myself ready for tonight's dinner meeting with my Warsaw friends.

Evening with friends. It's both serious and ridiculously playful. You get to be good at both when you've known each other for many decades. We've practiced well! (We discover that the longest friendship is between the two in our group who knew each other for 52 years. I came in second as I am friends with someone there for 51 years. The rest are pretty huddled close behind.)

The dinner is at a friend's who at the moment lives just outside the city.  I hitch a ride over and this wonderful thing happens: the weather turns on us. From very iffy to okay to -- by the time we drive up -- quite lovely! The party immediately moves outdoors to the wonderful pergola....


Out comes the food (everyone helps, though I must admit, the women in our midst are the great cooks -- oh, I may get push back on that last statement, but I hold to it! I think all my Polish meals have been prepared by the women in this group!).

(Helping bring out the food...)


And I love the meal, because our hostess prepared something that's very traditional here, but she gave modern twists to it: for example, the duck breast had been fabulously marinated, the red cabbage had the distinct scent of balsamic.


Dessert of sorbets and fruits... (Our hostess is the one plating the ice creams.)



And lots of wonderful back and forth. Here's the serious:


And here's the enormously touching (thanks, to whoever took this shot with my camera! I really do love it when you add to the story in this way!)...


We leave with gifts from our hostess. Exquisite books of photography completed by her incredibly talented son in his lifetime.  I cannot imagine a more beautiful and meaningful gift.

And then it grows very late. We have been at it for seven hours and still, the talk continues...


Oh, but it's time to go!

And still it continues...


Until someone tells this joke -- you know the difference between an English person and a Pole? An English person leaves without saying good bye, and a Pole says good bye without leaving.

We laugh hard and then talk and hug and kiss some more until it is so close to midnight that I have to be the one to nudge us to the door. My flight leaves in a few hours!

And it does. Just after dawn, I'll be making several connections to get myself to Parma.

My next post should be from Italy.