Jo’s Monday walk : An adventure with Gilly

The raw energy of a city is compelling, even if a little intimidating.  Riding into Warsaw on the airport bus, my eyes were on stalks, collecting impressions on every side.  Such a bustling, modern city, the buildings twisting and turning to point to the blue sky overhead.  Anxiety was swept away by excitement.  I was here!  And I stepped from the bus into the warmth of Meg’s arms, those lovely eyes twinkling at me.  All angst was neatly deposited in Meg’s backpack- my tour guide for a day, found!

Turning from her momentarily, the beaming smile of Gilly reached me from across the square, as she descended the steps of the Palace of Culture and Science, arm in arm with her friend Lindy.  Gaggling like geese, we blindly followed Meg as she led us from the centre to a restaurant.  Puzzling over the menu, we laughed when the wicker basket of knifes and forks arrived, bearing chopsticks in an elegant green wrapper.  My efforts to eat my noodle laden broth produced more smiles, along with the slurps.  Two thirds of the way through our meal, a mighty crash of thunder and coin drops of rain pounded our table.  The wide, creamy umbrellas over the tables were scarcely adequate.  More merriment and we scrambled indoors.

In no time, the sun was blazing through the open windows again.  Meg was recovering from a heavy cold, and starting to wilt a little, having been tour guiding all day and shown the ladies lovely Stare Miasto in the morning.  Lindy was struggling too, which left me and Gilly to get up to mischief.  Arrangements were made for early next morning, and Meg deposited us at our hotel.  A swift cuppa, and it was time to hit the streets.  Already it was 6.30 on a warm Warsaw evening.  Fortunately, Gilly was not at all critical of my reckless tour guiding style.  Of course the bus would take us to the river!  And so it did, with just a little walking involved.

The road stretched ahead, seemingly endless, the traffic buzzing past, the architecture varied and interesting.  On the horizon we could see a stadium, which we knew to be on the other side of the river.  Praga was not advisable after dusk, I was informed, but reaching the river the greater challenge was to get down to the riverside.  With the agility of a monkey, Gilly swung around the barrier and scrambled along the bank, hand over hand along the railings.  I followed, more sedately, concerned for my pretty, navy city shoes.

Nobody seemed to notice, and I was immediately at home, with a young crowd blithely enjoying the throng of beach bars, deck chairs and food stalls.  Boats bobbed serenely, while overhead trams clanged past and bikes dominated the footpath.

Appetising smells beguiled my nose, but a drink seemed more pressingly urgent, in the sultry evening air.  Dusk was beginning to fall, the warmth felt heavy with insects and an awareness that we were far from home.  How to get back on the bridge presented something of a challenge, but I dared a few words of Polish and waved my arms at the bridge.  The two young men politely gestured to where the steps were hidden.  Gilly and I agreed that we would not have chanced it after dark.

What else?  Hop another bus to take us nearer to the centre, a little judicious food purchasing and a bit of naughty jay walking.  Subways can get tedious, can’t they?  But please don’t tell.  I’d hate to be in trouble with the authorities.  The bottle top on my cider didn’t look promising, but it did unscrew.  I had no spoon for the delicious yogurt though.  Collapsed in my room with just my diary for company, I really didn’t care.

I hope you enjoyed our adventure.  I really didn’t intend to post today, but realising that next Monday I will be on my way to the Algarve, and that I have a fine collection of your walks ready to share, I thought it best.  Meantime, I’ll be off to see my daughter in Nottingham on Thursday.  And yes, I did manage to get those tickets reprinted.  Thank you all for your concern.

Where will we find Lady Lee this week?

In the country

A treat or two in store, from lovely Sherri.  Anyone else get to the Bash?

Surprises, Diana’s Dresses and the Annual Blogger’s Bash 2018

A bargain ‘two for one’ from Anabel, and both just a short walk apart :

The Kelpies to the Falkirk Wheel

A glimpse of ‘that’ wedding and lots more food, from Jackie :

Beer Money

When Sue shows willing, you simply have to sit up and take notice :

A stroll around Chartwell

‘Join the fun!’ says Jesh.  You know you want to :

Rounding up May

Suzanne delights me with fossils, shells and a little Autumn gold :

A walk to Shelly Beach

The end of Autumn

Calvi and Honfleur- two of the most scenic of places, shared by Drake :

Backdrop but scene too

The sunny side

Remember my lovely rhododendrons?  Eunice has found me some more :

A quarry walk with a difference

And Carol turns up some interesting treasure of her own :

From Trash to Treasure

How do you think of New York?  Jane’s wonderful photos show us it’s calmer side :

Hudson River Ramble

And a wonderfully scenic hike with Cathy ends in tears, but don’t worry- she’s ok!

The Mt. Sanitas hike in Boulder, Colorado

Not too very sure when I’ll be posting again.  Life does seem a little hectic.  Meanwhile, enjoy the sunshine, thanks for your company, and I’ll visit you all as soon as I can.

Anticipation and angst

I can’t remember a trip when I was quite so angst-ridden.  I do angst very thoroughly, and most trips, unless it’s my beloved Algarve, as the date for departure approaches I lose sleep worrying over the ‘what ifs?’  In my head I’m a control freak, but reality is often far beyond my control.

Lake Czorsztyn in the Pieniny Mountains

I well remember being let loose by the Polish family in the Pieniny Mountains.  A trip river rafting in the Dunajec Gorge was in the offing, but where to catch the bus?  My other half always reads timetables meticulously and was unconvinced either that we were in the right place, or that the bus would turn up.  This despite a visit to Tourist Information to enquire.  ‘You’re the one who speaks Polish!’ he said, accusingly.  If only this were so!  The sun beat down, and we waited.  And waited.  Eventually a tiny minibus pulled to the curb, destination unknown.  We looked at each other.  This one?  Fortunately a good-hearted, English speaking couple had witnessed our confusion.  They were going hiking in the Gorge.  “Come on!  We’ll tell you where to get off.”  Huge relief and, ultimately, one of my best ever days in Poland.

But I digress.  What makes this particular trip so worrisome?  I had always known that I would return to Dad’s homeland one day, even though Dad was no longer with me.  The Polish family were so kind, and so accepting when we walked into their lives after all those years of absence.  Dad was welcomed with open arms.  Here I was, going back alone, and still without the benefit of Polish language, try as I might to make sense of it.

You might recall from My Call to Poland that I have elderly family.  The need to see them is pressing, but I want to cause the least possible inconvenience.  This means not flying into Kraków and expecting to be driven 3 and a half hours north to the family home, which is what always happened when Dad was alive.  A wild notion had occurred to me.  My lovely Australian friend, Meg, was back in Warsaw for 6 weeks.  This might be an opportunity to see her again, however briefly.  It all hinged on whether I could find transport from Warsaw to Bełchatów.  When Gilly leapt, with gay abandon, onto the scene, announcing she had booked 3 days in Warsaw and was going to see Meg, it was just the catalyst I needed.

A sequence of emails took place.  Kind Adam, in Kraków, declared that I was welcome in his home at any time.  Lovely Jadzia in Bełchatów said that my timing was perfect to celebrate her birthday with her.  Meg, more than generously, offered to put me up for the night on my arrival in Warsaw.  I didn’t contact Gilly,  hoping to surprise her.  Now all I had to do was pore over online timetables.  Endless timetables!  Until my head hurt.  It wasn’t simple, but finally I secured a prized bus ticket from a Russian company- the small print indecipherable.

And speaking of language, it was again time to seek out my ‘Colloquial Polish’.  I started a course at a local college about 10 years ago and purchased the required book.  The course was discontinued, due to funding, long before I reached the end of the book, but I did acquire a lasting friendship- another lady with a Polish Dad.  Each time I have visited Poland I have started the book again, with renewed enthusiasm.  Never have I reached the last page, but it has accompanied me proudly on each of my visits, and sat on the table as a declaration of intent.  This time it must stay home as I need to travel light.  A pocket dictionary will have to do.

Transferring from Bełchatów to Kraków is equally problematic.  The train service I relied on has changed providers and disappeared.  Buses go in random directions, sometimes taking as long as 13 hours.  I could reach the Pacific in less time.  Angst heightens.  Meantime, Gilly asks questions about my visit.  Nothing to do but confess and hope she won’t mind my gatecrashing her meeting with Meg.  Assuming I can find them in the teeming metropolis.

And just as I’m about to embark on this journey, I discover that I’ve lost the coach tickets to visit my daughter in Nottingham, scheduled just days after my return from Poland!  I can’t reprint them because I don’t have the ticket number.  Much hunting and an email to the coach company.  It can only get better?  By the time you read this I should know the answer.

Meantime I’m linking to Cathy’s Anticipation & Preparation: Spain and Portugal in 2013 on Wander.essence.  It holds many fond memories for me.

Six word Saturday

Shout it from the roof tops!

It’s June, and Becky’s back again with a brand new series of squares.  Knowing how much everyone enjoyed the last series, I can’t help but feel I’ll be missing out, but I’m off to Poland tomorrow.  Plac Zamkowy (Castle Square) in Warsaw will be my only contribution to Roof Squares for now, but I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on those roof tops.

No Monday walk next week, but I have a post scheduled for Thursday, when I hope to be on my way to Kraków with a fistful of happy memories.  Apologies if my responses are slow.  Till then, have a great weekend and don’t forget to share your Six Words with Debbie.

Sunday Post : Architecture

Architecture : what a huge subject that is!  It’s Jakesprinter’s theme for this weeks Sunday Post, and already I’m struggling!  I mean, how many of you know a song with “architecture” in the title?  The following will be a silent, contemplative post.

What does architecture do for us?  Shelters us, gives us a place to work, to be educated, to worship, to shop.  It enables us to cross from one shore to another.  It expresses both our practicality and our creativity.  Formidable, constantly moving on.  Old and new, both are capable of amazing me.

The battlements and reconstructed “old town” in Warsaw- both old and new

The prettiest of patios in Cordoba

The rooftops of Porto

Thatched housing in the north of Madeira

How about a nice place to work?

Wonderfully elaborate Town Hall in Wroclaw

Or to study?

University buildings- Wroclaw wins again!

Starting out at the “smiley” local school

Where would you prefer to worship?

The tiniest of Greek Island churches?

The cathedral in Porto

Or Wroclaw’s Ostrow Tumski- stunningly ornate!

Shopping- as important to some as religion.  There’s no lack of choice here either.

Lello’s amazing book store in Porto

A simple shop in the Polish suburbs

Or a trendy new shopping centre in Warsaw

I can’t choose between these bridges.  Tradition or modernity.  Can you?

The beautiful approach to Cordoba and the incomparable Mesquita

The Infinity Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees

It seems we are only limited by our imagination.  That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Jake.  I was sold from the very first time I saw the flying dragon logo.  Click on it, or any of the links to see his interpretation this week, and maybe join in yourself?

I’ve been amazed already by some of the entries this week:










W is for Warsaw

I do worry that maybe I’m being a bit too personal with my A-Z of Poland so I’m nipping right down to the foot of the alphabet to tell you about Warsaw, a place I don’t have an emotional connection to.  Some of you may know it much better than I do.  I was only there for one day, but what I saw was truly inspirational, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Not that I was sure of this when I emerged from Warsawa Centralna railway station into a honking, braking cacophony of traffic.  I looked across at the unmissable 231 towering metres of the Palace of Culture and Science, took a deep breath and plunged.  Once over on the green island that surrounds the museum, things didn’t seem so bad, but that impression wasn’t to last.

Museum of Culture and Science

Time was short and my priority was to see Stare Miasto, the old town, more than 80 percent of which had been deliberately razed to the ground during World War 2.  Some of the family were already inside the museum, cameras clicking.  The rooftop panorama from the 30th floor viewing deck appealed, but it was hot and busy so I decided to reconnoitre the surrounding area, looking for a bus stop which would take us to the Old Town.  Mistake!  With hindsight it would have been faster to walk, but that was never an option as Dad was with us, and he’s not so good on his legs.  He’d been determined to accompany us, despite knowing that it would be a tiring day.  Rightly enough, as he’d never seen his Polish capital in all his 80+ years.

Let’s just say that we hopped into taxis, but not before I had seen a little too much of modern Warsaw and taken plenty of wrong turnings.  Never mind, it all faded away as I gazed in awe at Plac Zamkowy, Castle Square, with its serene Royal Palace, barely believing that this was all reconstruction.  I said that I don’t have an emotional connection to this city but it would be impossible not to be moved by what transpired here.  Following almost total annihilation, in 30 years, working from paintings and old photographs, the Old Town was painstakingly resurrected in all its glorious colour.

Plac Zamkowy from St Anne’s Church roof

It was a grand setting in which to sit and admire this seat of Polish kings from 17th century onwards.  It opens for guided tours Tuesday till Sunday (free on Sundays).  http://www.warsawguide.com/royal_castle.html  Cafes and restaurants line this majestic space, not cheap by Polish standards, but you don’t have to pay for the view if you don’t want to.  You can grab an icecream and hitch up on a wall or the stone seating if you can find a space.  Dad, as so often, charmed his way in.

I had picked up a map at the Tourist Information office in the square and it seemed a good idea to get our bearings on board the mini tourist train.  The commentary was in Polish but it didn’t matter as it was difficult to hear whilst rattling over the cobbles.  The map was useful, especially when it came to strolling out of Plac Zamkovy, past St John’s Cathedral.  It was occupied by German tanks during the war and so badly damaged that only the Gothic exterior is original.  Kanonia, behind, has views of the endless River Vistula.

St John’s Cathedral


By the River Wisła (Vistula)

I was beguiled by Rynek Starego Miasta, Old Market Square, smaller and bustling, with Syrena, the mermaid statue, at its heart.  The buildings are beautifully patterned.  No.42, the Historical Museum of Warsaw, is where you can follow the entire story of the city’s heroic rebirth.  In Summer artists stalls and florists thrive in the space.  A circuit of the charismatic narrow streets will bring you to Ulica Podwale, where a bronze statue of a small boy in a gigantic helmet symbolises the children who fought alongside their parents in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Syrena, the mermaid, in Rynek Starego Miasta

The defensive walls of the Barbican lead back to Plac Zamkovy.  A final treat before leaving the square is to climb to the observation tower in St Anne’s Church, which amazingly withstood the surrounding devastation.  The views out across the Old Town and the river provide wonderful photographic opportunities.

The Barbican

River view from St Anne’s roof

Krakowskie Przedmiescie is the start of the 4km Royal Way and an elegant stroll to Łazienki Palace.  My husband designs gardens for a living and I was sure that he would be impressed by these.  Dad was tiring and we hopped a 180 bus directly to the palace gates.  Not far inside Dad was delighted to find an open air café where he could relax with herbata (tea) while we explored.  The palace was the Summer residence of Poland’s last monarch, King Stanislaw Poniatowski, and the park was awash with canals, pavilions and statuary.  We shared the green space with nimble red squirrels and gracious peacocks.  On Sunday afternoons in Summer, the Chopin Monument is a concert venue to showcase the composer, but we were surprised to find a rock band tuning up in a handsome stone amphitheatre.

Time was beginning to run out on us and we gratefully languished in a taxi back to the centre.  We rejoined the rest of the family and ate in the striking glass shopping complex, Złote Tarasy, close to the station.  I had the strong impression that this could be a shopper’s paradise.  I left Warsaw with the happy conviction that there was much more to see and do, after a totally memorable day.

Złote Tarasy

I should mention that I travelled to Warsaw by express train from Kraków, in the company of my step-brother Tony, wife Carole and step-sister Lynne, who had travelled all the way from Canada with husband George, so it was quite a family affair.

More of my Polish adventures can be found by clicking on the Polish eagle banner at the top of this post, and in the sidebar.  You can join in with Julie Dawn Fox’s Personal A-Z challenge from the link or the logo below.  And if you want a different take on life, Frizz at Flickr Comments welcomes all comers on his A-Z challenge too.