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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 52.2449, 21.0119
Today we traveled to Warsaw. Our day started off with an uneventful ride to the train station, helped a great deal by our driver who showed us where to go, to the point of taking us directly to the platform. We thought we had it made.
When our train pulled into the station, we boarded what we thought would be our car. It was full of people, many of whom were not thrilled to see us block their paths with our big bags. RailEurope sold us tickets that had no specific seat assignments. So, we were in a first class car but without assigned seats. Everytime we tried to take a seat we were pushed out by someone with a numbered ticket. We sought help from the snack car girls, then separated to get out of other people's way. Jake found a conductor on car #6 who sent him to car #2. As he bypassed the pilgrims back out on the platform, they were concerned he might be left behind. Then, Rich's bag with our stock of bottled water for the day broke open. All of this was taking place in a hallway full of people that was meant for
the passage of just one person at a time and was not exactly big bag friendly. Long story short, we finally found a place in car #2, but not without a modicum of stress. Finally, we were on our way to Warsaw, on the right train, and knew where to get off. Phew.
Once we knew we weren't going to be thrown off the train, we were able to enjoy the passage of the Polish countryside. It reminded us of the Midwest, but with smaller fields, rolling hills, and more trees. We had the window open and enjoyed the sun and a cool breeze.
Arriving in Warsaw, there was absolutely no drama as our driver was waiting for us with our names on a sign about 10 feet from where we exited the train. As we loaded our bags into his van, a quick glance around told us we were in a big city. Near to the train station was the last of Stalin's wedding cakes. Somehow his "gifts" followed the same path as our trip. Our driver was very clear that the people of Poland did not much appreciate Stalin's "gift" (paid for with Polish money) and had considered demolishing it
at one point. He filled us in on the history of Old Town Warsaw, which was completely reconstructed after suffering severe damage during WWII. The Germans specifically targeted the area following the Warsaw Uprising, while the Russians waited outside the city about 25km away waiting to collect their new Polish prize.
We checked into our rooms at the B&B Boutique which is a little different than the other places we've stayed. It is a large building with several small apartments on various floors that have been turned into guest rooms. Now, we are sitting in the common dining room. When we first arrived, one of our rooms led into the next through a door hidden by a tapestry. We have since discovered that there are separate entrances served by different stairwells. Our showers and bathrooms are kind of the same room, also, something like the bathrooms on RVs.
Our walk down the Royal Way, similar to Michigan Avenue in Chicago, led us to Warsaw's Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site. If we hadn't been told this area had been meticulously reconstructed in the early 1950s, we could have easily believed it was a step back centuries in time. We are still
curious how the communists allowed this to happen as it seems more about Polish national pride, something they wouldn't have seemed to favor. Lots to learn tomorrow.
Our big lunch was eaten at a German-style brauhaus, that featured the biggest pivas we had seen since Munich - 1 litre size. They served great Polish food.
As we walked down the Royal Way and into Old Town, we took lots of pictures of things that looked nice even though we weren't sure what they were. Rich and Jake had both left their Rick Steve's travel guides back at the B&B, and our map was only in Polish. "We'll add captions tomorrow," we said. We saw many churches, old buildings, statues, a gate and barbecan much like the one in Krakow, and two universities.
Jeannette and Barb met an interesting man named Edward Mizikowski, who helped them pronounce a name on a statue and then proceeded to pull out a handout about himself, pictured with some famous people we don't know. He posed for a picture in front of the statue and was very jovial and kind. Looking him up tonight, we see that he was a leader in the Solidarity movement and a
well known figure and poet in Poland. We will research him some more and are looking for someone back home who can translate his poetry better than Google. Any volunteers?
Tomorrow we are taking a guided tour of Warsaw and hope to see a museum that tells of the Warsaw uprising against the Germans as well as one about the reconstruction of Warsaw in the years following WWII.
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