Saturday, September 20, 2008

Now, Vienna

Oh boy, so much to write and so little motivation! First, I should say that Warsaw ended much better than it began. Not that it got warm it didn't rain the second day and I was grateful for that.

So, basically, Warsaw was a tour of Jewish historical sites. One synagogue, one exhibit in a historical society, a couple of monuments, the last remaining piece of wall from the ghetto, a street with some buildings that survived WWII (and now stand empty) and the Jewish cemetary. It sounds like a lot and it was (it was actually even more than I've listed). The first day was the hardest because I spent a lot of time going in circles since I hadn't yet gained my bearings. Maybe I should have sprung for the 150 euro tour--at the least it would have been more efficient. (Despite my vaguely lost ways I was asked for directions, by Poles, three separate times. Do I look Polish?)

My first night was a drag--the people at the hostel were silent and I was cold. The second evening was better. I came home and took a little rest. When I got up, I talked to some people in the common area and later I met one of my roommates. I went out for dinner and ate some decent Vietnamese-esque food. The next day, I rose early and it wasn't raining. I brought my umbrella anyway but never had to use it. After a couple more Jewish sites, I went to the Warsaw Rising museum--no, not the Warswa Ghetto Uprising--which was all about the battle between the Polish Home Army and the Germans in 1944. The home army lost and the Germans leveled Warsaw in revenge--that's why the center of town is a completely rebuilt near-replica of pre-1944 Warsaw (also, to my mind, the least interesting part of town). After trying to find a Milk Bar (cheap Soviet legacy restaurant) for lunch, I settled on a much more upscale guidebook recommended place. I liked it! On my walk to the aforementioned reconstructed part of Warsaw, I found an actual Milk Bar. Bad timing! After a bunch more walking, I did return and had some "pancakes with cottage cheese, sugar and butter" aka blintzes (nice Jewish food!) for a late afternoon snack. Yum. Price was right (3 zloty? Less?), atmosphere non-existant.

In part of my walk around town, I decided to take a look at the Vistula river. A very large and busy road runs along the river and to get to the sidewalk on the riverside, you have to use underground passages. (Actually, you have to use underground street-crossings in town to get across some of the major roads.) I went down some stairs, crossed under the road, went up some stairs, then I went down some more stairs to get to the river. Whew.

I walked back to the hostel, stopping first for a hot cocoa and later for the blintzes. On the way back, I picked up a sandwhich (kebab like) and planned to eat it in the common kitchen. When I got there, I recognized a guy I'd said hello to in the morning and I said hello to him again. We sat together--he drank coffee and I finished my sandwich. He asked me lots of questions and I did a lot of talking. I asked him questions too--he's from New Zealand and several months in an indefinitely long journey that may end with working for a while in the UK. We really hit it off. Unlike me, he's traveling with a friend (I am so unusual in this respect!), who stopped by while we were chatting and mentioned getting beers. Eventually he came back and reported that he and another fellow bought some beers and were drinking them in the tv room. I was invited to join them--and I did.

Since I'm getting tired and I have to pay to use this computer, I'll shorthand the rest of the story. I hung out for the rest of the evening with this small group of guys. We went to a bar then to a club--and we danced! It was great fun and I may even see them (at least the Kiwis) again in Paris, eventually.

I left for Vienna yesterday and after a very long train ride, I arrived safely. The hostel I'm staying in is nice and clean and the people are friendly. It rained today but instead of going to museums, I walked around (with my umbrella!) and found cafes to sit in where I wrote and read. Not a bad day. Tomorrow--either more of the same or maybe one museum. The number to choose from is overwhelming! On Monday, I head back to Paris--I'm ready for "home."

Grateful for: new friends.

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