Poland, Polish people, Manya Sklodovska*, polish sausage, Lech Walesa, death camps, Russian invasions, what else comes to mind when you say Poland? A visit to Warsaw should present us with some interesting things to see and do, right?
Just for starters, Fredric Chopin’s heart was taken from his body when he died, then buried in a church where it was recently exhumed for a secret checkup. It turns out in his final days in Paris, with Parisian women fawning all over him, that his heart be taken from his corpse, and sent back to his home country. Given Chopin’s popularity in his native Poland, the monument to his heart quickly became a rallying point for proud nationalists. During World War II, the Nazis, knowing the power the composer’s legacy held over the people, stole the heart (as well as outlawing playing his music). However, after the war they gave it back.
In fact the most modern biographical museum in Europe, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum offers a real treat not only to the fans of his music, but for anyone interested in the time period in which Chopin lived and created. The collections includes printed copies of his works, his correspondence and personal memorabilia, divided into 15 rooms, each creating a separate ‘mini-exhibit’.
Now here is something, the Museum of Life Under Communism, where I can watch old propaganda movies, go without cigarettes or sugar for months, and see the city form the back sea of an old Soviet van.
Warsaw is becoming well known for its wide range of vegan restaurants. They say everyone should go, vegan or not, just to see how fantastic it really is. The vegan burger at Chwast Food is said to be their best effort. Turns out they also love food trucks here, the very antithesis of vegan.
So skip the fancy restaurants and feel more like a local, and don’t miss the chance to eat French crepes, American burgers, Belgian frites or Polish zapiekanka in a cool location among cool people!
Here is another unusual suggestion: “Neons are an integral part of Warsaw, and even though a lot of them were retired to the Museum of Neons, new ones continue to populate the city’s streets. Their popularity dates back to the 1950s, when the Communist government ‘neonised’ Warsaw in an attempt to bring Western glamour to the streets and turn the city into the European capital of neons. Today these old-school signs have to compete with billboards and posters, but remain an interesting visual reminder of the city’s past.”
So, milk bars are still the tradition (opened in 1896) here. Milk bars, really more like cafeterias, are a great and cheap way to experience traditional Polish cuisine. Their low prices are guaranteed by government subsidies, while their dishes offer an authentic taste of times gone by, served up by staff working there since the previous political system. History and food in one hit – what’s not to love?
They say it is impossible to walk a couple of blocks in this city without passing a cake shop. Besides cake, they offer cheesecake, Polish doughnuts, and apple pie. They say it is yet another tradition.
Mike and I love the city markets. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Warsaw’s Old Town was completely rebuilt after World War II, based mostly on 18th century paintings by the Italian painter Canaletto. The heart of the area, guarded proudly by the Warsaw mermaid, is the Old Town Market Place with its restaurants and cafés. Also here are the Barbican and St. John’s Cathedral, as well as explore the picturesque winding streets.
So, many of my drinking pals are suggesting a vodka tour! So, how about a 3.5 hour tour, since Poland boasts of being one of the best manufacturers of vodka in the world. It is also a place which many imagine to be the country where people have a glass of vodka for breakfast, then one for lunch and another before going to bed. Is that all true? Are Polish vodkas really good? And does vodka have any flavor at all? How is it produced and can you make it at home? The vodka tour will answer all of my questions.
*Manya Sklodovska is none other than double Nobel prize winner, Madame Marie Sklodovska Curie, who had to leave her dear Poland for France, to get the education she needed (Sorbonne), and the facilities to do her research. Poland was under Russian rule, whereby even their language was forbidden. Little known to many, she was fluent in five languages: Polish, French, German, Russian, and English.
It should be interesting, particularly after all of the Polish jokes I have heard! So far, the city seems safe, clean, and friendly. Lots of people out and about on a Saturday. Best of all, infinitely fewer tourists here than Prague. But it is cold, and dreary. Beer and vodka are required!