Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Warsaw days, cont'd

It's raining outside. This is predictable, yet a bit unfortunate because no one wants to walk long miles in the rain. So I'm thinking that perhaps I should come up with a more clever idea for my last full day in Warsaw.

I needn't have worried. The day runs away from me. A late breakfast at home...


... segues into a meeting and a second breakfast with my architect-designer extraordinaire, the wonderful Karolina, who reworked my apartment to be what it is today.


Karolina is one of those rare people whom you meet in a professional capacity but who morphs easily and completely into the category of very good friend (despite our age difference: I am older than her mother, though granted, her mother was young when her kids were born). The kind of friend where a multi-hour second breakfast meeting slips by quickly.


A lovely start to the day. Afterwards, I step outside in what is now mid afternoon. Were it a sunny day, we'd be nearing the hour of sunset.


I meander toward my home, passing several groups of young children.


This is not surprising. Excursions, I'm told, are very common for school kids. And, too, there is a candy making factory close to where I live. Many of the groups head straight for this land of sweets. (I have to think that in the U.S., teachers would not be in a hurry to take classes to places where the kids can spike a sugar high, but then, maybe these kids are capable of showing some restraint.)

Right next door, there is a place called the Labour Cafe...


...and I spy in their display case a sour cherry meringue cake (baked on the premises by cooks who honestly look like you'd want them for grandmothers). In Polish, it's called a beza -- there is no dough involved, just meringue, mascarpone and whipped cream and in this case, the wonderful Polish sour cherry. Talk about a sugar rush! Still, quite perfect for the Tamka (that's the name of my street) get together this evening.


I drop off the cake at home, but then head out again and now it is both dark and raining. And I'm just a few hours shy of the time my friends are to drop by for supper and photo sharing. Time to hop on the bus to speed things up a bit. I'm going to my favorite glass and ceramics store. Most of the stuff there is not special and not expensive, but if you have a need for a specific glass or dish - you'll find it there. I'm looking for a few tumblers that will serve as Scotch glasses, because lo! I found a Lagavulin scotch whisky at the supermarket yesterday and memories of the isle of Islay came flooding back! I didn't go to Islay this summer and I wont go next summer either, but the Scottish island is still sacred in my catalogue of solo travels and I bought the bottle, thinking it would be memorable to combine the social gathering with the introduction of Islay's most smokey peaty drink to my friends. So I look now for suitable glasses, which is tough, because in Poland, Islay whiskey is not uppermost in anyone's mind.

I'm not fussy. I find something that is beautiful and made in Poland and because this is Poland, the prices are as always fantastic to an American pocket book ($2 per exquisite glass).

I write all this because it's one of those moments when many memories collide. And they continue to collide as I rush to the bus stop with my purchase. I pass the lesser park and glance inside. I gathered chestnuts here as a little kid... Right now, it's wet, dark, quiet, and very beautiful...


... and now I am waiting for the bus at the very stop where I waited when I lived in this neighborhood and made my way daily to the university. (The bus numbers are the same! The demise of Communism upended many things in Warsaw, but it did not rename the older bus routes in the city.)

And when I look up, I see the old apartment building where I once lived. My deceased dad's girlfriend lives there now, but the place is dark tonight.


It's raining again. Well, I have to tough it out. I still need a trip to the green grocer for garlic and lemon and baby spinach. And a trip to the Italian deli for cheese. And the corner shop for paper towels. Am I finally a local, or what???

And now I am home. Right now, this apartment building feels more like home than any other place in Warsaw. Mine is the blue window. Blue from the Christmas lights...


When I came up with the supper idea, I knew I could not do a full dinner, what with little time at the forefront and even less time to clean up after, as tomorrow morning I must catch the bus to the airport. But it struck me that I could offer to build a supper around a take out from the newest place less than a block from my home here: a "shrimp house." Indeed, they call themselves the very first shrimp house in all of Poland and I don't think that's hyperbole.


Poland, of course, is not a place where you'll find shrimp. When I asked the very enthusiastic sales person where the shrimp come from, he said -- honestly, Amsterdam. But I'm thinking Vietnam before that. It's a long journey!

I order many portions of garlic shrimp and many more of curry shrimp. Add a large salad with veggies thrown in it, and you have yourself a fine supper.

My sister helps and by the time the doorbell rings, I am ready!


One guest comes with an additional salad made of beets, which makes my sister very happy as she is nearly a complete vegetarian...


(They discuss the ingredients...)


And now comes one of those beautiful times when all feels right with the world. Sharing a meal with friends does that to you.


And as always, there is a lot of light banter -- of the type where we voice our opinions on whether the English language offers words or even the concept of pre- travel angst. They almost can't believe that it does not, but I assure them that it is familiar to Swedes (resfeber) and Germans (reisefieber) but completely unknown to Americans.

But mainly we eat and laugh and toward the end of the night, look at photos from the honeymoon trip of our summer newlyweds.

I have a flight tomorrow, true, but these guys face their own early morning work and family obligations (indeed, my sister had to dash off to be fresh and ready to hop onto her next project bright and early). And so it's time to wrap it up. A time release group selfie!


I have a kitchen to clean up but not really, because my sister said a million times -- leave it alone, I'll do it tomorrow or the next day. I cleaned it anyway, but with her message in my head. Knowing that I did not have to do it,  made it pleasant and, well, kind of special.

Special: definitely life piled a lot into this week for some of us. That we came together anyway speaks to the power of our grand friendship. I love you, take care. Words that rang back to me in the hallway as they made their way out.

Tomorrow, I'll be in Paris.