Thursday, August 24, 2017

home away from home

My Warsaw apartment is just a little over a half hour's brisk walk to my childhood Warsaw home and just a little under a half hour's saunter to my teenage home. Perhaps it's not surprising then that nearly every time I am in the city, I happen to pass by at least one and often both of those buildings.

I've moved around enough in my life that I have a rather mobile conception of home, but some places, such as those two Warsaw apartments (too, the house where my girls grew up and now of course the farmhouse) remain firmly lodged in my heart as real homes, the ones that come with memories -- many of them grand, some quite ordinary, in the way that some days can be quite ordinary, but still fine because they make up such a big chunk of life...

My current apartment in Warsaw is more and more getting to feel like home rather than a place I pass through every now and again. The other day I bought a coffee cup for it: bigger than espresso, smaller than cappuccino. Just the way I like it!  You don't do that for a place that isn't home!

Breakfast, at my new Warsaw home (with new and very perfect coffee cup)...


Did I mention that the weather here has turned suddenly beautiful? As if in competition for my love (oh, but I love you both! Just differently...), it reminded me that Warsaw can be as brilliant and effervescent as Paris.


I have an internet issue to take care of at the provider's office and this is the beginning of what will turn out to be a very long walk indeed. If you follow along and if you have done so in the past, you'll begin to recognize some of these streets!

This one, for sure. How grand it looks on an August morning!


(A Polish food truck: a few sandwiches and then the traditional doughnuts and cheesecakes.)


I nearly always walk past this Square of Three Crosses...


And from there, it's just a hop skip to Park Ujazdowski -- what I often call the "Lesser Park," only because the other one, the bigger one is beyond grand.


The lesser park is rather empty today. Summer vacation continues in Poland until the end of the month. The kids are in the country. Others are at work. Not all, not all, but enough to make this a very quiet place today.


Errand done, I'm walking now to meet my sister at Lazienki -- the grand park, the park of all parks. We're to run into each other in front of Chopin himself. And again, I take seriously the sign that says -- "take a selfie with Chopin!" I do it on a time release.


My sister and I do a very circuitous walk through the park.

First pause -- at the Orangerie, home to one of the park's three royal theaters... (Oops! I appear to be on a selfie binge!)


Now coming up on the back of the Summer Palace...


... through quiet alleys...


... with the classic view of the Summer Palace before us (trying not to disturb the pair of lovers, remembering my own time of being in the throes of adolescent love, in this park, getting a thrill from just holding hands)...


... a park that offers beauty, grand communal spaces, but also privacy...


... for love, and now -- for reflection...


Yes, small wonder that I return to this park again and again.

We're hungry. We have our favorite coffee shops in this neighborhood and we check them out, one by one, settling in the end on old reliable MiTo -- a half a block from my childhood home! Coincidence?

It's a bookish place and it invites a thought or two on how our attitudes towards books, toward reading matter, have changed. (For instance, quite recently, I've come back to French murder mysteries. Is it a return to the exquisite feeling of wanting to reach the end of the story line, even as it's dreadful to reach the end, because it signals finality?)


Revived, we continue our walk. Toward the Old Town... (cafes are bringing back the traditional sling back chairs...)


...And down the incline, toward the riverwalk, where the seating arrangements are even more interesting.


It's not terribly hot, but the splash pad here remains popular. Oh, a few come equipped with a swimsuit.


But most kids just make do...


The adults? For them, it's all about taking it easy... (Unlike Paris, this riverside "beach" remains open all summer long.)


And now it's evening. My newest friends -- my incredible architect/designer (who is fully responsible for everything that's good about my apartment's interior) and her (also architect) husband are, along with their youngest child, meeting me for a dinner by the river. And so I am back on the riverwalk -- it's a mere 7 minute stroll from my apartment! How good is that!

As I wait for them, I see animated groups of people, decked out in red and white. It's momentarily confusing -- these are the colors of the Badger teams back home! Wisconsin colors! Where am I??


I'm by the river in Warsaw, near a bridge that leads to the stadium where there will be a game tonight. No, not Badger football. Rather, a match between Poland and the Serbs (I think.) In, of all things, volley ball.


No rowdy drunken crowds here. Just young people, heading out to root for the home team.

For us, it's dinner time. There are many, many indoor and outdoor places to choose from. I let my friends pick a spot. Italian! With excellent , fresh and honest pizza for us all.


The sun has set as we stroll back. The bridge, the one that we always used to cross to head up north to my grandparents' village home -- shines in bright and ever changing colors. Like the bridge spanning the Bosphorus in Istanbul, only different. (Or, aren't we all pretty much the same?)


A beautiful evening in Warsaw, Poland. All it needs is all my crew of beloveds from the other side of the ocean here with me and it would be pretty darn perfect.