Let’s do this!
So I got up at 5.30am to catch the train to the airport, and my flight was supposed to leave at 8.00. As it happened, I was rushed and couldn’t figure out which ticket was the cheapest (and I didn’t leave enough change to get one anyway), so I ended up cheating the good people at Munich Verkehrsgesellschaft and riding the 30 minutes from the edge of my zone to the aiport without a ticket. I paid for this by going into some kind of early-morning paranoia and freaking out during the entire ride whenever anyone got on the train, or moved, or turned his head toward me, etc. THAT’S THE GUY. THAT MUST BE THE GUY. I’ve heard they sometimes use plainclothes security to check. They haven’t checked for my ticket once in the two months I’ve been here, riding Munich transit, but it’s going to happen THIS MORNING! I was literally sweating.
Thankfully nothing happened, and I got onto my plane with minimal confusion (I seem to have gotten comfortable enough with being around German signage and German speakers that I sort of forgot that I still can’t respond normally to muttered one-word commands given by security people). But I got through with minor confusion — and the only real shock happened at my layover in vienna, when I almost lost my iPod in the security check, and had to ask people to look for it. Thankfully they found it, but I felt like an idiot. I never have trouble flying! It must have been the language thing.
Okayyyy, boring anecdotes, but I’d been saving them up to tell you all, so. With that out of the way:
I landed at around 2pm (on Friday) and met Anka, who was hosting me! We went back to her (friend’s) apartment where she began feeding me traditional Polish foods, an activity we would continue for the following 48 hours.
Here is an artsy picture from the apartment.
And here is the outside. Usually I hate this Soviet block-style architecture but since I was in Warsaw it made me feel like I was in The Decalogue, so I was excited in a nerdy way. (As usual.)
So as soon as I’d gotten some food and drink in me, we started off to the Old Town…
St Anne’s, you know who on the front.
Beautiful Baroque and Rococo interior — it’s similar to what you find in Munich, but still distinctive and different!
I think the chandeliers make a huge difference.
The ceiling… picture didn’t come out that great…
The painting on the side altar is a portrait of St Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan friar who was sent to Auschwitz for hiding Jews, where he volunteered to die in place of a stranger.
You can climb up the old bell-tower and see some cool views:
This is the Royal Palace Square — the Market Square is just a bit further back, but by the time we got there it was dark… but hang on, I’m not done.
The royal palace, on the right.
Look at my panorama skills.
I never made it to that Gothic church across the river — gotta come back another time!
And the back of St Anne’s.
Beautiful, huh?? While we were looking out over the city, Anka started telling me about the history of the city, especially during WWII, when Warsaw was occupied by the Germans. The city was bombed during the initial siege in 1939, but when the people rose up against the Nazis in 1944 — and eventually lost — the whole city was razed in retribution. So everything that you can see of the Old Town, basically, and really most of everything I saw while I was there, has been restored or rebuilt since the end of the war. You can get an idea of what it looked like:
Well, we went back down, and the food-eating continued as I had some smoked cheese, delicious borscht soup, dumplings, red wine, and ice cream (separately but in that order)… also, at least compared to food prices in Munich, it was all EXTREMELY well-priced. I got a little happier every time I bought something.
Onward! I think this was before we ate.
We explored St John’s Archcathedral.
A big rococo altarpiece for someone’s relics — now I forget whose.
The west end of the nave.
And then into the crypt!
It was bigger than I expected! this is only a small part.
Some of the oldest, most unassuming remains are the most interesting…
Anka was telling me which belonged to whom, when she could, but I can’t really place them now…
This one was marked (I think) “the Gothic crypt,” and has therefore been around quite a long time…
Aaand back up out into the Market Square.
Here is a basilisk/dragon/monster! There’s a legend about it.
And a mermaid — there’s also a legend about her. Anka told me all of them, and I would repeat them, but I might get them wrong… comment if you want to hear (Heidi) and I’ll try!
And we walked around parts of the old walls of the barbican that have been rebuilt.
I’ll leave you there for now, because this is already huge, and get back to you soon with PART TWO!