Sleepover in Warsaw

Trip Start Jan 25, 2014
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Poland  , Central Poland,
Saturday, February 8, 2014

So I expected Poland in winter to be like Siberia. It was not. We had snow on the ground but it was not bitter cold at all (4deg during the day perhaps). We were told again that Eastern Europe is experiencing quite a warm winter. Thank goodness.    
  • We had a couple of nights ‘sleepover’ with Lucas and Daniel - a  well-travelled oncologist and lawyer in their thirties. Outside, their apartment is one of hundreds in an uninspiring set of tired Communist-built blocks, centred around a chirpy playground on the outskirts of Warsaw. On the inside, their tiny bedsit apartment was an explosion of colourful walls and flowering orchids. 
  • Unlike most European countries, the churches are not museums where you pay an entrance fee. They are full of real Poles going to mass. The Catholic Church has a strong place in Polish national identity; under German occupation it was a place of resistance for Poles. Many of the Priests and churches were active in supporting the Uprising against the Germans and countless other occupiers before that. Even if you’re not actively attending, as our hosts didn’t, you still have the Polish Catholic memorabilia around the house.  
  • I have to admit I found Warsaw a little depressing - and it wasn’t just the weather. Smiles in public were few and far between, though I suspect if we had some language skills we might have cracked the hard shells?! We were told that the consequences of Communism, Poles generally do not take individual responsibility to work together at a community level. For Daniel and Lucas this meant a lot of frustration getting individual apartment owners to actively come together to take care of the apartment building itself - hence they don’t get painted or cared for on the outside!  
  • I don’t think I quite appreciated the history of Poland - in that it has countlessly been taken over, shared out, written off the map, borders shifted, etc etc. by other powers. Daniel delivered impressive (and engaging!) historical monologues on Polish political history. I’m not sure the attitudes towards Jews, Russians (or rather, the Russian state) and Germans have really faded much over the generations. 
  • We did have fabulous Polish cuisine - cabbage-wrapped meat, stewed cabbage, and meat stew. Also vodka (chased by a plate of gerkhins). Similar to other countries, breakfast consists of bread, cheese and sliced ham (and in our case after arriving from our overnight bus, we had jelly cake baked by Daniel's mum. Not bad for 8am in the morning!)

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