Thursday, October 3, 2013


Today was our last day in this wonderful country.  In one way, I’m ready to leave, as we’re not finding Warsaw to be especially interesting.  But I’m definitely NOT ready to fly home tomorrow--I feel like I could keep going for another couple of weeks.   Usually by the 4 week mark, I’m worn out--but not this trip!  Reverse aging, possibly???

Today was a bit of a frustrating day in Warsaw.  We started our day with a loooong walk to a market David had read about on line. 

Along the way we passed this interesting clock in a park--it’s in the flowers!

And a bike coffee cart--this would be the PERFECT job for David! 

We found a BIG mall to cruise through, it was an intersting, modern design with very upscale stores. 

We didn't spend much time in the mall--those high-end designer stores are just not our style.  David did find a cool hat, though.

After our quick mall cruise-through we started walking toward the market--it was a fair hike! 

As we were walking along, we passed this building with very interesting graphics--Soviet soldiers as puppets!  

Soon we found the market--it was really several markets in 4 buildings.  There was a little bit of everything!

One of the market buildings--I think it used to be a bus or tram station.

These pickles and the sauerkraut looked good:

The produce was wonderful:

We found some romanesco--sure wish we'd found it earlier in the trip, we would have bought some for sure!

After an hour or so enjoying the market, we decided it was time to head for our second destination of the day--The Warsaw Uprising Museum.  It was another very long walk, and it was quite cold and windy.  We walked for many blocks through a construction area (building a new subway line).  

Tucked away behind a modern office building we came across this memorial to a Polish Sewer Worker, who hid and protected several Jews in the sewers under Warsaw.

The memorial shows hands reaching out of the sewer pipe--it's an odd effect.  Set in the bottom is a large Star of David.

We finally found the museum, bought our tickets and entered.  We were hungry, and VERY cold--it was cold and windy in Warsaw today.  We decided to go to the cafe first, have some lunch and warm up.  

After our quick lunch we went back to the beginning of the exhibit and watched a very informative movie, which was about 15 minutes long.  It gave a brief over-view of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.  

The uprising museum is a wonderful testament to the bravery and determination of the Polish "underground army"  fight to defeat Germany near the end of WWII.  While the Poles were "defeated" after a 6 week battle, they are true heroes of Poland.  To be clear, though--there is much controversy about the treatment of the Jews by the Poles during and after the war.  This was not, as far as we saw, addressed in the story told at The Uprising Museum.

We tried  to read and experience each display, but the massive crowds of school children, from upper grade school age to teens, made it impossible to see the exhibits or hear our audio guides.  We are, of course, pleased that the children are able to see this wonderful story, and learn the history of their parents and grandparents.  But we finally gave up, and decided to call it a day.

We agreed that we were NOT walking back to our apartment in the cold and wind, so we found a nearby taxi and hopped in for a nice, warm ride back to the area near our hotel. 

Our taxi driver was wonderful, pointing out several sights along the way and doing his best to describe them to us--what a lovely man!  We saw the small remaining part of the Ghetto wall, and he pointed out  what he said were "communist buildings".  These were very large, boxy and unattractive buildings built during Poland's Communist era, each individual apartment is only about 20 sq meters, and had shared bathrooms in the halls.  He said now most of the apartments are lived in by Vietnamese immigrants, as many as 5 to an apartment.

The other building he pointed out to us was this building, which now houses the Palace of Science and Culture.  He was most definitely not a fan of this post war Stalin "gift" to Warsaw!

After our impromptu guided tour of Warsaw we paid our driver, and included a hefty tip--what a nice man!

We walked the few blocks to our apartment, stopping along the way for a much needed mug of hot wine.  Gee--I hope we don't sound like we're developing a drinking problem!  Really,  they are a great way to warm up.......

Back at our apartment, we packed up and organized our suitcases--we have a VERY early 4 a.m. cab to the airport tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was just a short walk back the Bulldog Pub for an quick and easy meal of ribs for me, and a hamburger for David.  Did we I have one last mulled wine?  I'm not telling!

Most definitely early to bed for us--we have our alarms set for 2:45 tomorrow morning--ugh!

We have really enjoyed our visit to Poland.  Even though Warsaw has not been our favorite city, we have learned a lot about Poland's difficulties during and after WWII.  We are very impressed by their progress in the few short years since Communist rule.

Strong, courageous and determined--that's  Poland!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Tuesday in Warsaw was pretty much a "do nothing" kind of day for us.  We had picked out a few museums we wanted to visit, but Tuesday seems to be the day they are all closed!

So on to "Plan B"--we decided to walk along the Nowy Swiat, the main "shopping" street in Warsaw.
It was a fine day for strolling--a mostly sunny and crisp fall day.  We moseyed along, first down one side of the avenue, and then back up the other.  We stopped to look in a few windows, popping into just a few of the more interesting shops.  Didn't make a single purchase, but as usual we had fun looking.

We stopped for lunch at about 1:30, and after looking at several menus, we chose a Mexican restaurant.  Yup, nachos and pozole (Mexican soup) in Poland.  It was just marginally good, but at least it wasn't heavy Polish or Bavarian fare.

After lunch we continued on Nowy Swiat, and didn't find much of interest.  Here are just a few photos--I only took 10 pictures today!

Here's a couple of those "Guys with the weight of the world on their shoulders".  For some reason, these always fascinate me.  They are all just a little bit different.

As we were walking along, I spotted our flag--it's The United States Embassy in Warsaw.  It was fenced all the way around, concrete barriers, heavily guarded, with signs stating no photos, no cell phones, no weapons. (I was across the street when I took this photo, and hadn't seen the no photo sign).  
There was a small intercom button to push to speak with a guard.  I guess that's the sad reality of the world we live in today.

Right across from the embassy, there's a small park.  We noticed a nice statue--"Hey--that guy looks familiar"
President Ronald Reagan in Poland:

Later I "googled" Reagan statue in Warsaw.  In Poland,  Ronald Reagan is considered one of the great leaders of the 20th century.  He was a great supporter of the Solidarity movement, which effectively led to the end of Communist rule in Poland.  This statue was installed in 2011, with Lech Walesa giving the dedication speech.  Interesting!

And that was just about the most exciting thing we saw today!  We walked for miles and miles, through pretty tree lined streets in residential neighborhoods, along busy thoroughfares, and along Embassy Row.

 About 4:30 we decided it was time for a mulled wine.  We found a small cafe near our apartment, and ordered---or attempted to order.  The nice young waiter apologized for his lack of English, saying he only spoke Polish and Spanish, asking if I spoke Spanish.  I answered, "si, un poquito", and then we had a lovely conversation in Spanish!  I managed to communicate that we wanted hot wine, and soon we we relaxing with two warm mugs of deliciousness.   As we left, we thanked each other, and said our goodbyes in Spanish!

We went back to our apartment to relax and warm up for a couple of hours.  For dinner we had decided to eat at the nice Italian restaurant right here in our hotel--they have a wood-fired oven and the pizzas look delicious.  

Interestingly, when we returned to our apartment this afternoon there was a note informing us this restaurant would be closed tomorrow, as they were filming an episode of "Top Chef"--cool!  Of course, David wondered if Padma was going to be there!

It was very busy and lively at 7 pm, but we managed to get a table for two right away.  I think if we'd waited another 5 minutes, we would have been out of luck!

David ordered a pizza-fresh buffalo mozzarella, salami picante and fresh basil--it was delicious.  I ordered what I thought was ravioli in browned butter sage sauce, but I was surprised!  It was actually raviolo--which means ONE ravioli.  But, oh my--what a raviolo!  It was about the size of half an orange, stuffed with house-made ricotta cheese with a (runny) egg yolk inside,  It was served in the most wonderful browned butter, and the sage was fried crisp.  It was heavenly!  It was also so rich I couldn't quite finish it.  Add a couple of glasses of great wine, merlot for David and a Sangiovese for me, and it was the perfect meal.  Sorry to say--I forgot to take pictures!

We also shared a dessert; we had noticed almost everyone was having the same dessert-- a pudding like creation served in a small glass.  I had actually read some reviews before we went down tonight, and everyone raved about this dessert--a rich custard topped with salted caramel and chocolate.
Our verdict?  Just so-so.  But the rest of the meal was so delicious that we didn't care!

And---the grand total for dinner in a fairly "swanky" restaurant: a pizza, an entree, two glasses of wine and dessert? Less than $30!!  Dining in Poland is quite a bargain.

A quick elevator trip up 3 floors, and now we're relaxing and talking about our lazy day in Warsaw.  It certainly wasn't an exciting day, but we enjoyed every minute of it!

 Sadly, tomorrow is our last day of the trip, and I'M NOT READY TO GO HOME!  Usually by this time in our month long trips, I'm exhausted and ready to go home, but for some reason this time I feel like I could go for another month!

But, all good things must come to an end............

Tomorrow in Warsaw:  A market in the morning, and then a visit to The Warsaw Uprising Museum.  And maybe a couple of stops for mulled wine along the way!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Of course, we got you a shot glass from Poland,  you know traditions are VERY important in the Lund family!

And here's the picture to prove it.............

Yes, those are my hands lovingly holding (and paying for!) your shot glass.  But just who do you think your Dad was looking at when he snapped this photo?  Made me laugh out loud, but your Dad might have been a little embarrassed!  Busted!

Hugs from Poland,
Mom and Dad


We were up early today--5 AM!  We had a quick cup of coffee, and them left our lovely little apartment.  Our taxi was waiting for us right on time, and it was only 15 minutes or so to the main station.  We were able to board the train a few minutes earlier than usual, which was nice.  Usually it's a mad-house!  We settled into our assigned seats, which were in a small enclosed 6 seat compartment.  We shared the compartment with a family of 3 other travelers--I think they were speaking Italian--it definitely wasn't Polish.

David, all settled in for the ride:

After about a half an hour or so, we went to the dining car for breakfast.  We both ordered scrambled eggs, toast and a cappuccino--it was certainly better than airplane food!

Soon we were rolling into Warsaw's main station.  David, bless his heart, wrangled both heavy suitcases off the train, as well as up and down the many stairs out of the station.  I've been singing The Rolling Stones "Beast of Burden" in my head!  

I had printed out a map of the route to our hotel, and we found it without much trouble.  It was a bit further than we expected, but we survived!

Once again, we are very happy with our little apartment:

Please note the name of our hotel!!

 Small kitchen as we walk in:

Comfy bed:

Nice sitting area:

Spacious bathroom:

By the time we unpacked a bit it was about 12:30, so we hit the streets to look for a lunch spot.  We weren't too choosy, picking about the first restaurant we came to! We shared a small pizza with spinach, feta cheese and parma ham, it was very tasty.

We thought we'd check out the Old Town Square area, so we walked to the nearest Metro stop. 

Along the way--interesting contrast of the old and the new.  The "old' building was built during the communist era, in the 1950's.

We got off at the closest Metro station to Old Town, but still had quite a long walk.  So far, we have found Warsaw to be unremarkable, from an architectural standpoint.  Warsaw has the sad distinction of being the city "most destroyed by any war in history".  

In reading about Warsaw's history, I came across this Wikipedia entry.  Once again, chilling and absolutely unimaginable:

The planned destruction of Warsaw refers to the largely realised plans by Nazi Germany to raze the city. The plan was put into full motion after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The uprising had infuriated German leaders who now wanted to make an example of the city, which they had long before selected for a major reconstruction as part of their plans to Germanise Eastern Europe:
The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation.
SS chief Heinrich Himmler, October 17, SS officers' conference[1]
Warsaw has to be pacified, that is, razed to the ground.
Adolf Hitler, 1944[2]
Already before the uprising Germans knew Warsaw would soon fall into Allied hands in a matter of few months at most, yet unprecedented resources were diverted to the destruction of the city. This illogical decision have tied up considerable amount of soldiers and equipment much needed on the Eastern Front and on the newly opened Western Front after D-Day landing. With incredible devotion Germans have destroyed 80%-90% of the buildings and an immense part of the cultural heritage was deliberately demolished, burned to the ground, or stolen. Until today more than half of antique and museum objects consisting of Polish heritage, stolen by Germans in 1944, have never returned to Poland (many are well-known to be kept in modern German museums, some are even put as exhibits). After the war, extensive work was put into rebuilding the city according to pre-war plans and historical documents. As most of Poland, the city was rebuilt without any German help whatsoever (unlike Stalingrad and many other cities, where German forced labour was immensely used during and after the war as part of war reparations). 

Here is a photo of the square after it's destruction in WWII.   85% of the city of Warsaw was destroyed by German troops.

After the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the Polish people undertook a meticulous restoration of the Market Square, using original plans, drawings and photographs.  They accomplished this in just 5 years.  

Market Square today: (they are currently restoring the center of the square, installing new pavers)

As we walked around the square, we initially were both a bit "put off" by the new buildings.  (although I'm almost embarrassed to admit that now)   After talking about it a bit, we realized that the rebuilding of the square is actually a wonderful testament to the great strength, pride and determination of the Polish people.  After our brief time here and in Krakow,  I absolutely have a new found respect and admiration for Poland.

We left the square and walked around the pretty lanes along the reconstructed old city wall.

Nice view from the upper wall:

 We walked along the wall, and through an old (rebuilt) guard tower and entrance gate on the wall.

I spotted this on the side of a building--made me smile!

We popped into a church for a quick look:

We stopped in a small restaurant for a much needed warming mug of mulled wine.  As we relaxed and sipped our wine, we talked about our impressions of Warsaw, so far.  Of course, it doesn't have the same original, ancient charm of Krakow, but we do appreciate what they have accomplished in the years after the war, and also in the short years since the communist rule.  I think the Poles are tough and determined people!  

We decided we'd head back to the hotel and warm up before going to dinner.  We "wimped" out and took a cab--it was cold, way too far to walk to the Metro, and we just didn't want to fight the mobs of commuters during rush hour.  It was $5 very well spent!

After the taxi dropped us off near our apartment, we found a good size grocery store and bought a few supplies for breakfast the next couple of days, then went back to relax for an hour or so.  For dinner we decided to stay close to "home", and chose a "The Bull Dog Pub and Steakhouse", and each had the ribs and fries--they were quite tasty!  Did I mention we are sooooo over Polish food? 

Early to bed for us--it's been a long travel day, especially since David woke up at 2:30 am this morning in Krakow!

Tomorrow in Warsaw:  Not sure yet, most likely a museum visit, and maybe some shopping!

Monday, September 30, 2013


Well, we were 0 for 2 today!

Our plan for the morning was to check out a flea/antique market near our apartment.  We walked over that way, easily finding the market--lots of people!  It was not the most interesting market---mostly old clothes and household items, so we just made a quick walk through and left.

We walked a different route home, and found the "New" Jewish Cemetery, founded in 1800.  During the Nazi invasion of Krakow the cemetery was closed.  The headstones and slabs were used as construction material and to pave a road to the Plaszow concentration camp.  The bones were left uncovered and scattered.  The camp was restored soon after the war, many of the headstones were recovered from the camp site.

I continue to be saddened, shocked and horrified by the inhumanity of the German Nazi's towards the Jews and Poles.  It is an unfathomable disrespect of human life.

A walk through the cemetery:

A touching tribute to a family lost:

We made our way back to our apartment, and spent a couple of hours packing and organizing.  We have an early departure tomorrow--so we need to be ready to go!

The other activity we had planned for today was the Beer Festival, which was just a few blocks from our apartment.  We thought we'd have lunch there, and try a few new beers.  We walked over, and it didn't look too busy.........

We walked into the main building, and we were the only ones there!  It was about 1 pm, so we thought maybe we were a little early.  We decided to order a sampler of their 5 beers, and look at a lunch menu.  We weren't overly impressed with their beer, and nothing on the menu caught our eye.  We talked about coming back later to catch the music, but couldn't find a schedule of events.  We asked the young lady who served us what time the festival started, and she said ----tomorrow!  Hmmmmmmm--I was pretty sure the sign said 9/29/2013.  We walked out into the courtyard to look at the sign, and sure enough--it said 9/29.  Something lost in translation, I guess!   Like I said--our batting average is pretty dismal today!

We strolled around a few block area looking for a likely lunch spot, and chose a small restaurant on a side street.  It was quite charming and very busy with locals out for Sunday lunch!

We shared a small sandwich and an order of spinach and goat cheese pierogis--which were delicious.  We also tried these little goodies--prunes wrapped in bacon, with dill sauce.  Mmmmmmm, good!

After our yummy lunch, we walked toward the river and across a pedestrian bridge.

Interesting new building under construction.  Love how they are saving the old buildings!

We didn't see anything of much interest on the other side of the river, so we walked back towards our apartment, stopping along the way for a mug of mulled wine--it's pretty chilly today.

We stopped to visit the Remuh Cemetery ("Old" Jewish Cemetery), which is located right across the square from our apartment.  As we walked in the the small courtyard entrance, we noticed several memorial plaques on the walls.  This one caught my attention--88 members of one family lost in the Holocaust.

The Remuh Cemetery was established in 1535, and used until 1800, when the "New" Jewish Cemetery was opened. 

Information from Wikipedia:
During the German occupation of Poland, the Nazis destroyed the cemetery tearing down the walls and hauling away tombstones to be used as paving stones in the camps, or selling them for profit. The tombstone of the Remah (Rabbi Moses Isserles) is one of the few that remained intact. The cemetery has undergone a series of post-war restorations. As is common in contemporary Poland, all tombstones unearthed as paving stones have been returned and re-erected, although they represent a small fraction of the monuments that once stood in the cemetery

The Remuh Cemetery today:

The Remuh Cemetery is next to The Remuh Synagogue, founded around the same time as the cemetery.  It was rebuilt in the 1800's, and the interior was looted and all but destroyed by the Nazis.  It was restored to it's present form in 1957.

The very tiny Remuh Synagogue is the only active synagogue in Krakow today.  

After our time at the Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery, we relaxed a bit until dinner time.  As we are most definitely tired of Polish, Czech and German food, we decided we'd like to return to our favorite restaurant right in our neighborhood, Portofino.  We had a lovely meal, each choosing a different pasta dish, and they were both delicious.  Of course, we finished our evening with one last mulled wine!
We said goodbye to our favorite waitress, and enjoyed one last evening stroll through those pretty narrow streets back to our apartment.

Goodnight from Krakow, one of my favorite places ever!

Tomorrow:  We have an 8:00 am train to Warsaw, about a 3 hour trip from Krakow.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


We didn't have a lot planned for today, we just wandered around.  Our favorite kind of day.

We started with a quick trip back over to Plac Nowy, as there is supposed to be a flea market with a few antiques on Saturday mornings.  We didn't see much difference from week days, but we did poke through a few stalls, but found nothing of great interest.  Lots of communist era military medals, etc.

David had read about a church that sounded interesting, so we meandered in that direction.  We enjoyed being a bit off the tourist route.

We came to a lovely looking church--Gothic design.  We decided to pop in for a look, but the doors were locked.  Just as we were walking away, a priest unlocked the doors and invited us in.

 The Church of St Catherine

The Church Of St. Catherine is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Krakow.  It was founded in 1363, but was never fully completed as planned--the facade and two front tower were never built. The interior has been restored several times after floods, earthquakes and fires.  The lovely Gothic "bones"  remain unchanged, and the beautiful altar piece from the 1600's is being restored.   There are also original Gothic murals, and some interesting tombs.

One of the many Gothic murals in the cloister area.  This is the first crucifixion portrayal I remember seeing which includes other men being crucified. 

Interesting tombs--don't know who, though!

The only stained glass window in St Catherine's:

We were also able to visit the 15th century Gothic cellars, where there was a conveniently located gift shop, small cafe and a WC!  But really, it was very interesting.

On the corner of the street next to the church there is an old bell tower building containing a small shop selling religious articles associated with St. Rita.  According the the sign outside, St. Rita is the Patroness of Difficult and Impossible Cases.  Of course, David is convinced that she must be my very own personal Saint!  And yes, I now have a small St. Rita statue.

My personal patron Saint:

After leaving St. Catherine's, we walked along a narrow street bordered by a 12th century wall surrounding St. Michael's Church and Pauline Monastery.

Church of St Michael the Archangel and St Stanislaus:

 Statue dedicated to Pope John Paul II

The interior was actually very small, almost cramped feeling. It was given a very Baroque remodel in the 1700's

Yet another memorial and dedication to Pope John Paul II inside the church:

Below the church are the Crypts of the Meritorious, containing tombs of famous Polish writers, composers, artists and scientists. The crypts were added to the church in 1880.

We wandered some more, and saw an interesting shop window with carved wooden animals and angels.  I had to take a look, and left with a lovely carved angel holding a heart.  She's wonderful!

And look what else I saw--a reminder of my dear friend Donna's two lovely daughters, Janna and SaraBeth:

And then--these reminded me of Dear Bren.  They must have moose in Poland?

After all that wandering (miles!) we were hungry, and decided we'd head towards the Food Market Square for some more pork and sauerkraut.  Yesterday we were tired of it, but it sounded good today.

Some pretty buildings along the way:

This booth at the food market is always busy, and for good reason!

Smoked boneless ham hock with more of those yummy mushrooms:

David's grilled sausage and red cabbage--tasty:

The view from our lunch table:  wonderful!

After our lunch we cruised the vendors in the market.  There are a couple of ladies selling beautiful tatting.  They tat while they sit and chat--man, do their fingers fly!  Deb--you now have a Polish tatted snowflake, made by this lovely lady:

For our favorite neighbor boy, Nathan--you CANNOT hit your sister over the head with this!  It's to hang on your wall next to your scary mask from China!  Of course, we have a special surprise for Miss Hailey, too. We have two of the SWEETEST neighbor kids ever!

Each time we are at the food market, we look at this dessert--today we decided to give it a try.  They are filled with goat cheese, and topped with jam.  They were gross, and we spit it right out--ick.  At little too "goat-ish" for me!  But they looked soooo good...........

There's been different entertainment on the stage for each of our visits to the market.  These were just the cutest little girls singing and dancing:

After we finished our shopping in the market, we roamed around some streets south of the market.  We saw this lovely building, a theatre built in the late 1800's.

The Juliusz Slawacki Theater:

 We liked the copper dome:

The faces all around the dome were funny:

By now it was late afternoon, and we'd been walking all day!  We decided we'd head back to our apartment and relax for a couple of hours before dinner.  We took a new route through one of the pretty parks:

For dinner we chose to have Italian again, this time at the lovely Portofino Bistro, where they make that "bests ever" mulled wine.  It's just around the corner from our apartment, and the same nice waitress welcomed us, and asked if we were there for our nightly hot wine!  We enjoyed a lovely dinner of two pasta dishes--both were absolutely delicious, with my pasta with pesto being just a bit better.  The friendly and warm service here is outstanding, too.

David's gnocci with Gorgonzola sauce:

And yes, I enjoyed a hot mulled wine--just to warm me of for the walk home, of course!

Another wonderful day in Krakow,  I'm going to miss this place.

Tomorrow in Krakow:  Sadly, it's our last day in this lovely city.  We have plans for a morning antique and flea market, and then there's the beer festival!