Tuesday, January 08, 2008

from Warsaw: first steps

By late evening, the streets are nearly empty. True, it’s January. But it’s not a miserably cold January. And maybe we’re not hitting the tourist by-ways. (How many tourists are there in Warsaw at this time of year anyway?) Still, Warsaw feels quiet.

Oh, there was traffic, sure, a snarl of cars, especially at the periphery of the city, driving in from the airport. But now, as we set out for a quick evening walk across the Square of the Three Crosses, just outside of where we're staying, we encounter few others.

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Warsaw is like that: it can quickly become residential, with only the occasional small shop (sausages maybe?) squeezed in among rows of low rise apartment buildings.

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Is there a shopping heart to the city? Ed asks.

Is there? I have to think about that.

Yes and no. This is a city of neighborhoods. You return to your own to shop for foods, to drop off your shoes at the cobbler. The heart of the city is a magnet, but not for commerce so much as for its prettiness, its café life, its parks.

But there is no time for that tonight. After many delays and a missed connection, we are dead tired. We flew in at the darkening winter hour of three, pushing through the gray clouds of a January sky.

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After a quick first visit with my sister and her son, we make our way to Srodmiescie -- city center. My old neighborhood. The place where I learned to tie my shoe laces and stand in line for warm loaves of bread.

We stop at a local café-bakery...

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... and order a salad of greens, pickles, egg, tomato, beans and smoked highland sheep’s milk cheese.

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And, rather predictably, we end the first day with a pastry. We aren’t really hungry, but there are too few evenings here and I can’t pass it up – a bite of apple cake with baked meringue.

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