Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our Last Two Days

Once we got back to Warsaw, our schedule's were packed. My husband was teaching, and I was whisked about the countryside by my gracious and patient tour guides. On Thursday, we got to tour the home of Chopin, you know, the famous classical composer? It was so neat to walk the floor of his home, see hand-written birthday cards he wrote to his parents, all the while hearing his music played. We walked the beautiful grounds, and I could easily see how they would be an inspiration.
We went to the museum dedicated to the Warsaw Rising, where the citizens of Warsaw organized and fought off the Nazis. It almost worked, but they couldn't get enough outside help. I saw so many letters, photos and momentos belonging to these brave people. I wish things could have turned out differently for them, and I hope if the time comes for me to show that kind of courage, I'll be as up to it as they were. We went out for Kuba's favorite fast food- kebab. They have stands selling them everywhere. They have this huge amount of meat roasting on a spike. They keep shaving pieces off into a pita, with shredded cabbage and things, mix in a little special sauce, and voila' magic! It is really good, but I think my favorite is still the taco trucks we have here. You just can't beat the cilantro. Sorry, Kuba.
Then Anna took me to Wedel's, the most fantabulous chocolate shop in the world. I snagged a picture from the web, and a travel guide review:

Who could resist E. Wedel? The nationally famous chocolate company was founded in 1852. Now a part of Cadbury Schweppes, the traditions are carefully preserved...along with their beautiful building. Bombed during the war, of course the persistent Poles rebuilt the building. Wedel's recent renovations are exquisite, making the chocolate shop something you should not miss. You come here to drink hot chocolate at a little marble table in lush surroundings ... or to buy some of that absolutely amazing chocolate for a special gift...or when you just can't live another minute without a chocolate fix.
Wish I had the time to go back and linger at a window seat.
I had nice, thick hazelnut hot chocolate, and a taste of tiramasu. Ahhhhh.

The next morning, we were off to Wilanow, a palace belonging to the former kings of Poland. It was exquisite. My favorite part was the gallery of portraits. I LOVE looking into the faces of people who lived so long ago. Some of them were so skillfully done, you'd swear it was someone you just passed on the street. Kuba made a discovery about me during these museum excursions. I take just as long to get through one as his mom. Apparently, he and his dad are resigned to the fact that they'll be waiting hours for Anna after they're done with a museum. History and art are food for me, I just can't stand to leave any little fact or beautiful picture untasted.No cameras were allowed inside, but get a load of about half of the exterior! After the war, it became communist government property, and the family that used to live there is still around. They're trying to get it back, but with little chance of success.
We walked around the Old Town again, and this time I was in for a shock. Since I've been learning more about the city's history, something caught my eye that wouldn't have before. We were walking along a beautiful cobbled street, and I noticed that the wall beside me was unusually pitted. "Anna," I said, "These aren't bullet holes, are they?" She points to a sign, memorializing what had happened where I was standing.
She explained that this building had been a hospital, during the Warsaw Rising, and the Germans had taken 350 people from inside, and shot them against this wall. Now, there are plaques like this all over town. With 700,000 civilian casualties in this city alone, I'm beginning to get a whole different perspective on the magnitude of Sept. 11th.

As we walked briskly through a square (it was really cold) we saw a military procession. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time to see their new defense minister sworn in. It was neat to be able to see that.
By this time, we'd been walking for a while in the cold, and we needed a nice place to thaw. Anna really came to the rescue. She took us to the warmest, coziest, most hobbit-like teashop in the basement of an ancient building. We had the most fragrant fruit tea. The shop was lit with candles, with soft music playing, a young couple was playing a quiet game of scrabble a few tables away. My pictures don't do the feeling of this place justice, but here goes:

After this, there was just time to hit an art museum. By this time, poor selfless Kuba had been through more estrogen fueled activities than he could stand. He took some money and bailed on us, much to Anna's dismay. He was our interpreter! I assured her we'd be fine, and we were. There were marvelous exhibitions of altar art from the middle ages, fantastic altar carvings, pieta's, icons, and this incredible wood, leather and parchment manuscript from the 1500's.
Can you tell that the page to the left is a song? Sigh. There was more, a lot more, and we drank it in like nectar. It was beautiful. We picked up a very relieved Kuba, and we met the guys for an authentic Polish dinner. We talked, we laughed, we told funny stories about Kuba getting caught on the couch with....never mind.

They dropped us off at our hotel, and I tried to keep Lewis entertained while he packed. See, he's funny about the way things get packed, like I am about the way the dishwasher gets loaded. There's a right way to do things and a wrong way. Lewis holds the secrets to proper luggage packing, so I thrilled him with anecdotes about our day...until I fell asleep and he packed alone for another hour and a half. See why I didn't want to get in the way?
Kuba and his family picked us up and took us to the airport at the unholy hour of 4:45 in the morning, bless them. We said our goodbyes, and made plans to meet again soon. The men will see each other at a conference in February. Then Anna presented me with hand made truffles. Truffles! Can this woman get any nicer?

So now I'll skip to the end. We made it home, without our luggage, but at least we're here. Our children thrived under my parent's loving care, and I'm sure my parents are sleeping deeply and gratefully in their own beds tonight. I've been up for about 30 hours, and I'm feeling great, except that the world keeps tilting oddly to the side. I think it's finally time to call it a night.


Lee said...

YAY you are back! can't wait to hear all of the details. What an amazing trip.

Allison said...

Wow, I just keep saying that in my Anna looks like such a doll! I'm glad you're home....I'm teaching for Karen tomorrow....see you there! :) (Don't worry, I'll just nudge you if you start snoring!)

Home of the Muddy Kids said...

What a lot of fun! Aren't Mom and Dad just the most wonderful, patient, kind-hearted parents a person could ever hope for? See you in a few days!