We flew into Poland and met up with Victoria, our guide/interpreter for the city. I know all about the Polish jokes. They’re not true. Victoria is an example, speaking English, Polish, Czech, and Bulgarian. She is in the process of learning French…I’m such a piker.
Victoria took us to the old city of Warsaw.
During World War II, the Germans had bombed it, reducing it to rubble (and those were the big parts). Unlike the city of Minsk, where they replaced everything with what I called the Concrete Bunker Style of Architecture, the Polish people did something remarkable (again, the jokes just aren’t warranted). They collected all the old photographs people had, interviewed the survivors in the city (especially the older residents), found blueprints and plans, and then rebuilt the city to its original splendor (that’s splendour to my international friends). It is one of the most beautiful, cleanest cities I have ever visited.
In the center of the town there is a square that contains a series of restaurant's, tables and the like. You sit down in the section related to the restaurant of your choice.
We sat down and Brad gave me some helpful advice on ordering internationally (Note: this will work pretty much wherever you are). I said to the waiter, "I am only in the country for one day, so I need you to bring me whatever the very best thing is at this restaurant. Don't even tell me what it is. Just bring out what you thing makes this restaurant and this country special." Brad said, "I'll take whatever the second-best thing is." We tried to get Ryan to get the third thing was, but he was insistent upon ordering. He ordered the trout.
Our meals came out: I got a deboned half duck, cooked to perfection, with a sliced peach and a berry sauce on it, served with potato fritters. Amazing. I shared with Brad who got a goose leg, with a glaze and fresh vegetables. Ryan got the trout. With, as is common in international dining, the tail on. And the head. Ryan was a little freaked out. Now I'm not one to say, "I told you so"....but "I told you so."
[Interesting side note: When I got back from Belarus, I was going through my Inbox and found THIS QUIZ,called Don't Gross Out The World. It's a few questions to find out what you know about International Ettiquette when it comes to eating. One of the questions was specifically about eating fish in Poland. I'll let you take the quiz rather than spoil it. Good luck.]
We walked through the city, which feels a lot more like a town, actually. Friendly people, CLEAN streets, beautiful architecture. One of the more interesting buildings we saw was the Cultural Palace. During the Soviet era, Stalin gave the people of Poland a gift. This building:
It is the tallest building in the entire city of Warsaw. While it was called a gift, it was really a reminder to the Polish people that they were under Stalin’s control, under the domination of the Soviet Union, and this reminder was given so that people across the entire capital could see it. Victoria explained it was to serve as an eternal reminder of Stalin’s superiority. I asked, Uh…yeah. Where is he now.” Victoria smiled, knowingly.
This is what it looked like to us:
Not so impressive, really. The cool thing is that they’ve turned it into a museum, and you can go to the top and look over the entire city. It’s just as beautiful a city from the top as from the bottom.
We went back to the hotel and spent the night thinking about what tomorrow would bring: Minsk, K., Pastors Mike and Galina. As beautiful as the city is, we are all anxious to start the REAL legs of our journey: K. Church and Belinichi. I slept like a baby…