Oh, Poland. The land of people with misguided but good intentions and beautiful (beautiful!) men. Our first stop was in Warsaw, and from the way that my Polish friends completely talked it down, I was expecting a city full of Soviet concrete apartment complexes, grey skies, and smothering smog. But when we actually arrived into the city at the crack of dawn, I was pleasantly surprised — Warsaw is just another big city, and a rather pretty one at that. There are much uglier cities out there (Detroit, anyone?).
Old Town Warsaw
Unfortunately, when we landed in Warsaw, we realized that we weren’t really able to communicate with anyone. Up until then, we had gotten by with Russian or English in the Baltics. And in St. Petersburg, while my Russian is still pretty piss poor, at least I can understand a purple-haired* babushka when asking for directions. But Polish, to the Russian acclimated ear, sounds like that Charlie Brown teacher, albeit a little less jarring and womp-womp sounding.
Chopin's heart is lying somewhere in this pillar. Creepily awesome.
Two distinct memories i have of Warsaw are the Warsaw Uprising Museum and Marc, the man from the Netherlands traveling around Eastern Europe on a moped. I use the word moped very, very loosely. From the picture he showed us, it looked like a bicycle circa 1970 with a battery haphazardly rigged to it. To each his own. The Warsaw Uprising Museum was, again, depressing but enlightening. One of the downsides about learning history is that you become desensitized statistics. Oh, a million people died in this genocide, a hundred thousand people died in that battle, etc. People fade into numbers, and numbers are quickly forgotten. The reason why I mention this is because the museum had this morbidly graphic temporary exhibit on Katyn — they recreated the forest, complete with dirt grounds and an earthy smell. And as you’re walking through the exhibit, a gunshot goes off every 30 seconds. To be cliche, they were quite successful in bringing the history to life.
That night we decided to share stories with Marc, the Moped man from the Netherlands, over a bottle of vodka. To put it gently, it was cheap vodka. To put it honestly, it was crude rubbing alcohol. Nevertheless, the vodka flowed, tongues became loose, and interesting stories were told, although to be quite honest, I don’t quite remember everything we talked about.
The next morning, bleary-eyed with rotting stomachs, we left for Krakow at 6 am. No one should ever be awake at 6 am.
A pillow fight!! In the center.
Krakow, from my brief impression, is like that fun college buddy that you like to only go out to parties and bars with. Krakow is a city I could get close with, but only after a couple of drinks. A place that I could awkwardly and soberly mingle with during the day, maybe share a couple of laughs, but a place that is infinitely better at night time. Drinking buddy personifications aside, I also enjoyed Krakow, although a bit less than Warsaw. Tourists roved around in droves, widely swinging their arms as they walked with expensive cameras dangling from their necks. I really dislike tourists.
While we were in Krakow, we went to Auschwitz, which made the Katyn exhibit look cheerful and lively in comparison. It also very appropriately rained while we were there.
All in all, I miss Poland and I want to go back. Our time there was well spent but far too short.
A pope vending machine. It sold pope coins. If you wanted to know, the exchange rate is $2 to the pope coin.
*There is a good majority of Eastern European grandmothers that sport light purple or blue hair colors. Why? I honestly don’t know and I can’t even begin to hypothesize.