Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poland - Guide #2

Saturday morning was with Monika and Saturday afternoon was with ...

Mariusz - Guide #2: Adventure Warsaw Website Where Mariusz Works

Mariusz, our 2nd Guide, was a cheeky character with a quick wit, strong opinions and deep knowledge of Warsaw's communist history. I did not let him bait me however I was tempted to spar with him. His grandfather worked in the Ministry of Agriculture for the Communist Party in Warsaw. Adventure Warsaw offers an "Off the Beaten Path Trip" in an original dark green Polish Van, the Nysa 522.

Off we went at 2:30pm in the afternoon!
Mariusz telling us about the Palace of Science and Culture. A French couple from Marseille was with us too.
There are many such alters with Mary and her lighted halo in courtyards all over Warsaw and most built during WWII as a literal place of worship while the Nazis occupied the city. Reminds me of Mexico which has similar structures everywhere you go.
The Morocco Embassy - notice the statue of Mary placed on upper part of building. 
Rough translation is that 9 Poles were shot by the people of Hitler on August 1, 1944 which is the day the Warsaw Uprising began. I asked about the word "Hitlerowcy" which Mariusz explained as the people of Hitler. I found it interesting that this memorial used the terminology Hitlerowcy versus the Germans or the Nazis. 
This street art has lots of symbolism. The Kotwica, Polish for anchor, symbol with "P" and "W" originally surfaced in 1942 with the Nazi resistance and came to represent "defiance against occupiers" which ultimately included resistance to the Communists as well.
Artist Julita Wojcik's Tezca is an artistic construction of a rainbow with plastic flowers representing LGBT rights. It is placed in Savior Square across from a Catholic Church and is quite controversial. It has been set on fire several times.
A park in Praga which is on the eastern bank of the Vistula River. Praga is a settlement inhabited by artists and such ... 
In Praga. What is it? You hang your rugs on it to beat them clean! 
Our tour included a high calorie dinner in a Polish Milk Bar. In Eastern- Bloc Poland this food was subsidized by the state. Large portions of regional cuisine (beets, wheat, cottage cheese & potato peirogi, potato pancakes, etc.) at bargain prices!  
Milk Bar server - the blue coat is iconic.
Final Stop ...
By 6pm, it was dusk and the French tourists had left early in a cab. We loaded up in the Polish Van with Mariusz. He drove to a dark street in Praga and parked. We exited while he left to get a key - what?!!? We stood there in this slightly scary spot awaiting the next move. Mariusz returned and unlocked a heavy metal door to a courtyard and locked it behind us - what ??!!#@! Two random men appeared to be wandering around the dark enclosed space. Then he unlocked a plain metal door to a sparse dimly lit hallway. Then he unlocked yet another door where we entered a corridor with flickering overhead lights and then ...
We saw this guy!
The final door led to this Communist Era Museum and Apartment. Mariusz started the record player over in the corner. It all felt slightly c r e e p y ... 
Then we embraced the moment (realizing we are not going to be chopped into bits - ha!) and started to appreciate all the glorious artifacts of a time bygone. 
TV Stand doubles as bar turntable. 
The chain went to a cup to get a drink.
Communist Russian Motor Bike!
Finally Vodka! One was thick and sweet and the other more abrupt down the throat. The Perfect Ending to our double tour Saturday in Warsaw! 
A phone booth of course - a budce telefonicznej.  All the Zs and Js missing in English are found in the Polish language.
This is a super fun tour with a few twists and turns, for sure.

Driver #1, Driver #2 and Guide #3 ... next post ...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poland - Guide #1

When in Poland with limited free time then schedule private tours and prepare for the adventure ...

Monika - Guide #1: Monica's Website

Monika met us Saturday morning at the hotel after arranging a meeting via email. I thought it was a car tour but it was actually a five hour walking tour. But I am definitely not complaining. It was a perfect way to be introduced to Warsaw. She showed us much of the Warsaw Ghetto (yesterday's post) but also much more.

COLORS ... Exhilarating ...
Rope shop established in 1863. 
Ropes of all kinds and colors made by hand.
Open market bustling with Saturday morning shoppers.
Smoked fish, pickled fish, saucy fish, ... 
Butcher ... no refrigeration or plastic wrap required.
Sausage, of course.
Mushrooms anyone?
Fall greens and root veggies ... beets are popular here!  
Spice heaven! I am coming home with some - ha!
Soldiers and Chopin and Churches ... much history to absorb ...
Tomb of the unknown soldier located in Pilsudski Square and is the only surviving part of  Saxon Palace which was blown up in WWII by the Germans. Poland suffered more deaths per capita than any other country during WWII.
Poland has a long, complicated history of wars and occupations. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honors soldiers back to the year 972. 
Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists (Visitants Church) was built in 1664-1761 with a Baroque facade. I had no idea that 85% of Poland is Catholic.
Inside Visitants Church and the organ where Chopin played at age 15 during mass.
Warsaw Uprising Monument unveiled in 1989. More than half of Warsaw's buildings were destroyed during the 63 days of fighting in 1944 in which the Germans defeated the Polish Resistance.  
Former palace that is now a beautiful park.
Public transportation? Of course, first ride on the Metro!
Sweet Monika Olesko - we so enjoyed our Saturday morning with this historian and artist.

Guide #2 - a character ... next post ...

Poland - A Saturday Morning in Warsaw Ghetto

New experiences in a new place. I have learned much already about Warsaw, Poland.
The day started with Cafe Latte, European (Bircher) muesli, fresh fruit, local cheeses and hearty bread. The foggy view out the window is the Place of Culture and Science which was a "gift from the Soviet People to the Polish nation" and was completed in 1955 during the Communist rule of Poland.

I could write a week of posts about Poland's Warsaw Ghetto. It felt surreal to learn about what was ...

Janusz Korczak (pen name Henryk Goldszmit) memorial. Korczak was a great proponent of children's rights and operated an orphanage as well as being a children's book author and pediatrician. 
Korczak along with 192 Jewish orphans perished at the German extermination camp Treblinka.
Prozna Street only standing street left of the Warsaw Ghetto which was leveled by Nazi forces in late WWII. 
Built in 1902, Nozyk Synagogue was used as warehouse by the Nazis thus saved from destruction. It was restored and reopened in 1983 as a place to worship.
Prozna Street: Restored side.
Prozna Street: Unrestored side.
On the wall of Prozna Street: I think "never again" beside "kindess and truth preserve the king."
On the wall of Prozna Street: Remember.
On the wall of Prozna Street: You Live.
On the wall of Prozna Street: Life.
Warsaw Ghetto memorial showing the shape of what once was.
Where the ghetto wall stood ...
The Story of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto.