Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy public holiday, Poland

Poland is a fiercely Catholic country and celebrates a number of feast days with a public holiday. And today we have unknowingly happened on one of those public holidays that is celebrating two events! The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wniebowzięcie Najświętszej Maryi Panny) and it is also the day of the Polish army (Dzień Wojska Polskiego), celebrating the battle of Warsaw in 1920.

We slept late as we did not get to bed until well after 1 am. In fact, I slept until 10 am and Michael who came to bed after 2, slept till 11 am. But we needed it - the last couple of days have indeed been very busy!

Once up, we realise that there is a huge crowd beginning to gather in the square. I decide to start work on the blog for yesterday - yes, Friday was an extremely tiring day for both of us! Anyhow, Michael decides to scrutinise the local cafes and eateries to determine which one we would patronise for breakfast...oops, that would be lunch?

While I'm working away at the blog, (including interludes of Scrabble,) the sombre tones of a lone Trumpeter breaks my concentration, and THEN the sound from a marching band? Michael comes back from his reconnoitre cursing as he had not taken the camera. Apparently, the marching band represented a 'Parade of the Colours' by the Polish armed forces. Each of the services was represented: Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Forces; and Michael assured me that they presented a most impressive sight. Later as we were leaving the hotel, we asked the Receptionist whether the parade is a regular occurrance? Our lass advised us that it is not, but today being a national celebration would have resulted in the military parade. Oh, well, what was it that Baden Powell once coined: "Be Prepared." (You'll understand that comment a little later)

As we were making our way towards the market square and lunch, we happen to come across a souvenir shop displaying Babushka dolls. In we go to survey the goods, and surprisingly the dolls are quite reasonably priced. After deliberating over the array of choices we settle on purchasing two dolls - one seven 'nester' for ourselves and a five 'nester' for our beautiful Bella! I think the shop proprietor was pleased as well - tourists who actually purchased substantial gifts? Hmm might go back in tomorrow for a few more smaller ones!

Satisfied with our purchases we continue into the market place where we chance upon a mini-tanker carrying local water. Now we feel the local Polish authorities - WODA DLA WARSZAWIE ('Water To Warsaw') - are encouraging the locals to drink more water? Well, that's exactly what they were doing, handing out free cups of water which was most refreshing.

So now for lunch... We settle on eating at the 'Restauracja Słowiańska' which faces into the market square from the other end. Dining al fresco we are looked after by the very efficient and pleasant Olga, originally from Russia and who tries to apologise for her near perfect English. "Did you learn in school?" I ask. "No,no - just here at work" was the reply. Smart lady!! Throughout our lunch she is run off her feet but always maintains a happy approach.

The restaurant menu is an entertainment in itself. We really enjoy reading it! On the front cover is written:
Specjalność szefa .....? Chef's special.....?
To, co wam drodzy Goście, najbardziej smakować. Smacznego All that you dear guests find the tastiest!
And then there are some of the dishes: Ruddy consomme from our neighbour's chicken ..., Pork neck according to Sopie the Gypsy Girl ..., Trout from a stream, a frying pan, and the plate ..., Fish board titled 'A Chap from the Manzurian Lakes' ... Isn't it great!
I suggest we have a light meal now and a more substantial dinner later. Michael states he is quite hungry and decides to go the whole hog now and something light later. So, lunch consisted of:
'Na dobry poczatek' ('For a good start'):
Śledź na dwa sposoby utopiony – w oleju I śmietanie (Herring drowned in two ways - in cream and in oil) - Michael
'Prezekgski ciepte najrozmaitsze' ('Misc. hot starters'):
„Polskie“ z cielęncina i grzybami pierog z okrasą ("Polish" with veal and wild mushrooms, dumplings with filling, pork crackling and fried onions') - Maria
'Kosz pieczywa' (Bread basket) - Both
'Drób, mięsa i ryby' ('Poultry/meat or fish')
Filet z sandacza na maśle z prażonymi migdatami (Pike-perch fillet in butter with roasted almonds) - Maria
Placki rozbój nika Rumcajsa z aromaty cznym gulaszem Madziara (Potato pancakes of Rumcajsa The Thief with aromatic Hungarian Goulash) - Michael
'Dodatki do naszych dán' ('Additions to our dishes'):
Kartofle z wody (Fried potatoes with herbs and garlic) - Both
Rozamaite warzywa z wody (Variety of boiled vegetables) - Both
Jabłecznik ze śmietaną i sosem truskawkowym (Apple pie with cream and strawberry sauce) - Michael
Ser tort ze śmietaną (Cheese cake with cream) - Maria
Ah yes, and Michael has Turkish coffee - REAL turkish coffee, the first since we have left home and he savours it.

Wow, what a fantastic meal, made all the better for it being true regional cuisine and Olga beams as we complement her and the Chef. You did a great job Olga, and we hope your employers realise your value. We pay our bill and say our goodbyes to Olga - not before we snap a photo of her for our blog although she was reluctant to do so!

Satisfyingly full after our lengthy lunch, it was delightful not only to take the meal but being able to take our time and enjoy observing the world walk by - and believe me there were sights. Some of them were:
- Dogs...and their owners of all shapes and sizes, but lots and lots of daschunds.
- 'Just Married' couples - lots of them! We counted eight weddings while we walked through the square and then sat over lunch (there are four churches in a 200 metre radius)
- A mermaid - yep, you read correctly! And a very dehydrated one at that.
- Couples dressed in expensive 'bikie' gear without bikes! (there's a Goon Show script in there somewhere....)

Ahh and yes, I now have the summer 2009 trend fashions for all you ladies back at home:
- Wedges
- Synthetic dresses (maybe the East could be setting a retro-trend for the West?)
- fancy thongs
- headscarves on babies and little girls
- sandals with socks for men (hmm, somehow can't see that one catching on!)
- wedding dresses like cream puffs or meringue (7/8)
- velour tracksuits
So Meredith and Carol and Kamala - dust off the old clothes - everything old is new again!!!

We venture back into the thosands of people in the Square and Michael goes to climb the Clock Tower to take some uplifting photos of Warsaw!

After our promenade we return to the hotel for a rest and the blog - well, I rest, and Michael decides to go for a walk uptown to see what's going on. As we enter the building, there are a couple of young chaps busking downstairs. James (saxaphone) and Gregory (trombone) say that their English names are easier for us! And they are very good. Both students, they say that this is an easier way to make some money than waiting on tables. As well as Information and Economics they also study music - keep it up guys, there may be better prospects with this! Both are keen to travel and out come the cards and the invites again!!

(Michael) I said farewell to Maria and set forth with hat and camera to rendezvous with my mate 'Nick'. Oh, that's 'Nick' as in Nicolaus Corpernicus, there is a monument in his honour in front of the Science Museum.

The afternoon is cooling off thankfully, although there are still literally thousands of people about. There are also ample Gypsies around as well, they just drive you insane as they constantly cajole you for cash. I suppose they have to make a living as well...? Anyhow, I join the crowd in a forward thrust as I make my way up town. Now, today is a Feast Day here in Poland, so there are displays everywhere commemorating past heroes and events. I preferred not to take photos, as I would have just spent my time photographing displays. However, I snapped a few picks of monuments honouring a couple of notarians: Adamowie Mickiewiczowi a noted spokesman for Warsaw, and of course Nicolaus Copernicus.

As I made my way up the main thoroughfare, most of the churches were open and conducting mass. Regrettably, I couldn't venture into any of them for peek as they were 'in service'. Passing the gates of the Warsaw University, I serpentined through the crawling mass of humanity and I suddenly stopped short. A changing of the guard was taking place, where in the hell the colour party were heading I had no idea. Albeit, it was a marvel to watch these professional soldiers....they didn't stop for anyone or anything they continued with purpose. The colour party just marched (no, barged) their way through the crowds; and marching in front of traffic causing the vehicular stream to come to a screeching halt! None of this nancy talk - "Make way for the Queens' Guards!"

After watching these fellows strutt their stuff I finally made my way to the monument of Mr Copernicus. What's so important about this cove, well, he was the first to propose the theory that the sun was at the centre of our galaxy and the earth revolved around it and not the other way round. A theologian, intellectual and astronomer; he also instructed his nation on monetary reform. He first proposed his theory of the galaxy in his book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (The Movement of the Heavenly Orbs), which was received with disdain. Copernicus proposed his theory during the time of Ptolemaic thought and when the Church ruled supreme - "Repent, are either for us or a Heretic." The monument is a most noble one with Copernicus' statue at the centre of an inlaid galaxy, in front of the Science Museum - regrettably the museum was closed.

After paying my respects to Nicolas, I made my way towards the Ogrod Saski (Saxon Gardens), where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located. Bloody hell, the number of people has swollen in last half hour, and winding my way through the living mass was exhausting.

I finally arrived at the square, Miejsce Piłsudskiego, where hundreds of people were gathered around the Unknown Soldier's tomb. Pushing my way through, (...that's how one gets around in Warsaw,) I gratefully reached the Tomb and just in time as there is the changing of the guard. The Tomb is quite impressive without being outlandish, altough I'm quite taken aback by the inconsideration by some people.

Leaving this rather poignant place I sauntered into the Saxon Gardens where there was live performances by traditional bands and a myriad of military displays. The military displays were purely historically based, from the Great War through to the Second World War. Well, this is the nation's national day for honouring their heroes. There was even one display depicting the Polish Air Force during the Great War; with a chap dressed in the uniform of the time instructing participants on how to spin the prop of an aeroplane - very cool.
There were people up and dancing to the traditional music - young and old. It was an overall event which I'm glad I witnessed. Anyhow, it was time I felt I should make tracks to the hotel. Well, at least after visiting the Barbican.

A great deal of expense has obviously gone into reconstructing portions of the old city walls - regardless it's been done in modern brick. The Barbican is an impressive piece of reconstruction which had been rendered as closely to original prints and drawings. Unfortunately, the Barbican's museum was closed as well, however, the throngs of people added to the atmosphere with portcullis to old town opened to one and all.

(OK, I'm back now) Our room has a number of quirky elements - in the windows hang cutouts of hands used to frame sight a view - and what views they frame across the Square. Behind the door in to the room is a life size cut-out of a Jack Russell Terrier - I think he is meant to be guarding our stuff, but all I can think when I see it, is a stupid joke that Michael once found so funny about a dog in a bar doing tricks! There is a faux crystal ball chandelier and crystals hang from the bedside lights. We are in a magnificent walnut inlay bed and have a huge and beautifully laid out bathroom (complete with bidet - that's coming in handy for the smalls!!)

And dinner tonight? Well after the lunch we had neither of us was really hungry, although I did get peckish later in the evening. All day we had watched people queueing to buy snacks at a window down below us, and so later I got a Zapiekanka z pieczarkami - this is a long thin bagette sliced in half down the length and then loaded with sliced mushrooms, then cheese. It is placed under a broiler until the cheese melts and then the whole thing topped with tomato sauce - surprisingly good! This is followed by a huge waffle on a cardboard square that is topped with whipped cream (unsweetened) and tinned fruit salad. Yu-um!

1 comment:

tromboner said...

I'm admiring your idea to travel in Europe through one year. Useful diary, nice adventure for you and people you meet (for instance me). What country is next after Poland?
Have a nice trip
Gregory (tromboner)