A weekend in Warsaw. To say the least I had my fair share of various things wrapped in dumpling. Plums, potatoes, rabbit, cheese, I had it all. I must say any country that has old ladies preparing food for the masses at mere Euro cents is doing something very, very right. Subsidized public kitchens--a wonderful holdover of Communism--serving up deliciously, old-lady homeade food since before any of us were born! Of course another reason this city was a win was the sheer fact that I could eat like a king, and not worry about the check. 130 zlotte? I'll pay for yours and mine. I have never been to a city where I spent a grocery budget in a weekend and did so much. Poland...you rock.
I should have known this was going to be an interesting trip when me and my wonderful fellow colleagues had the opportunity to stay in a room that was the bedazzled with glorious red drapes and paint, overseen by old pictures of Polish communist leaders, and of course, had a giant face of Lenin to wake you up in the morning. Nothing says Good Morning like that hat wearing, mustachio'd guy. Of course the smell of wet socks and shoes always does the trick too.....
Getting off of the train from the airport and Warsaw welcomed us as any city should, with pouring rain. Of course, during all my travels I have never gone on "holiday" and had inclement weather. Of course this trip I said, "You know Aaron, it won't be that chilly or rainy, just your coat will do." Well I took a huge chance because while it did indeed rain/snow/sleet/hail/get really windy while in Warsaw, the previous week was -17degree C...yea talk about a buzz kill there. So once I was told that, the rain really didn't seem all that bad, I mean you just get wet and pneumonia, at least you don't get frostbite and lose digits.
Usually before departing, I ferociously study the place I'm going. I dissect, plan, and pick out the most interesting restaurants. If my time is limited, I am going to target everything. This one was very nice, just came along, went with the flow, had an incredible Polish tour guide, and ate pierogi. It was amazing to see how this city, completely leveled after WWII has come back. The main thoroughfare, or Old Town, is a great replication of big white houses with small boulevards and lots of vodka laying about. Much like Brussels, there is a great mix of beautiful buildings and buildings that literally look like they were built with nothing but rectangular blocks. Ahhh the glory of Communist architecture, cement slabs with uniform windows and rectangular...so rectangular.
I knew Poland loves their man, John Paul II. I knew he was their "Captain America." However, I believe there are more statues and icons of him than the guy he is supposed to be supporting. Make a left, see a statue, walk down some steps, a picture of him on the street, want to look out your window? Too bad, he's taped to the window too. I mean I suppose this is like Brussels and its love affair with painting any part of a building that juts out onto the street. Instead of seeing a Holy Guy, you seeing Tin Tin. Comic book god or guy who talks to God....I guess being separated for 60 years and an annoying RyanAir flight will do that! Now for my American followers, RyanAir is, well, ask any European. It has cheap flights (I'm talking $40 one way to go across the continent), cheery service people who try to sell you everything every 5 minutes, making it impossible to do anything productive, such as sleep, or at times breath. No I don't want you cardboard sandwich, no I'd rather you not sell me coffee that is complimentary on every flight, and no, what is the point of a smokeless cigarette? (especially to someone who doesn't smoke anyways, this is a thing that I cannot grasp). Not only that, but everything is YELLOW and a version of the color blue that generally makes me sick. Yellow may be fine on a taxi, yellow may be fine on a pencil, but not emblazoned everywhere in such a tight place. I suppose if you are claustrophobic, do not fly RyanAir, but if you want to get somewhere cheap and fast, I suppose you have to buck up, sit through the gauntlet of stuff, and crank up the MP3 player.
Now I ate too much in Poland to have ONE favorite dish. Tubed meats, pickles, old lady soup, dumplings, duck, so I'll simply put three beautiful dishes that I found to be extraordinary. In no other locale have I eaten so well for so little money (mhmmm old lady zurek in the socialist canteen....) in such a short amount of time. My ratio of how much I ate to my time in Warsaw is probably at disgusting levels. And of course, any country that promotes beer is good. Just pilsners and lagers in Poland, pretty run-of-the-mill, but they come in generous portions, and just go great with the atmosphere and the fact that your breath smells of a Polish Pickle. Warsaw? Check. First trip across the Iron Curtain? Double Check. Didn't spend too much and had a fabulous time with some fabulous people? Triple Check. And with that, and a bumpy, blustery ride to Brussels, back to the land of chocolate and rain/sleet/snow how could this all happen in 1 block---I swear they said no precipitation today!