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!