I was last in Warsaw about four years ago. I was making my way through several European countries and agreed to meet Mum and Dad there on my way home. They had also been travelling, though through different countries. It was my first trip to Poland. Mum and Dad hadn’t been particularly impressed by Poland on their first visit and I had wanted to change their opinion. We did loads of fun things and had an awesome time in Krakow, but I still ended up feeling like Warsaw wasn’t open to the world. Yet.
What would I think this time?
From what I’d seen on social media in the long lead-up to this trip, Warsaw had made great strides. In fact, it now had way cooler looking stuff going on than Perth (though, you know my conflicted feelings about Perth by now). Throwing away any notions from the last trip and being here completely on my own agenda, I couldn’t wait to explore every inch of the city and find out.
My cousins from Wales also arrived in Warsaw yesterday, though missing luggage has put them behind the 8-ball and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to catch up with them. Today I’ll hopefully get that chance.
The sun rises early for my first morning in Warsaw. My apartment is a small studio, basically one room with a bathroom and a loft. Two beautiful large windows open out to a courtyard housing nothing much except noisy people in the early hours of the morning.
Wanting Warsaw to myself for a little while, I walk to the Old Town. The cafes and shops are yet to open, apart from the couple of Carrefourre Express stores hiding in the quiet. The heat has already rolled in for the day and the sky is right blue. There are only a few people out and about. It’s hard to believe this is a city that was rebuilt almost from scratch over 70 years ago.
The weather in Warsaw is humid – just like a Perth summer in fact. And it doesn’t take me long to realise I have not packed appropriately. I mean, I knew it would be summer and I was hoping it would be nice and warm, but a conversation with someone prior to leaving got me second guessing and I packed thinking ‘oh it won’t be THAT hot’. So, with little budget available for an extra travel wardrobe, I leave the Old Town and head to Marszalkowska Street to carefully select some clothes which are a bit more suitable to this heatwave. I find a cool pair of cotton pants and am flicking through a rack of t-shirts when I hear ‘do you think this dress suits me?’. I turn to see my cousin Chris, holding up a colourful summer dress to himself. His daughter Katherine, who I’ve not met before (but recognise from Facebook photos) comes up not far behind him, then Chris’ wife Sharon wanders over too. The four of us catch up quickly – I haven’t seen Chris and Sharon since my trip to Wales just before my trip to Poland, and head back to our shopping, agreeing to catch up later for a glass of wine at Cafe Sloik not far away.
Cafe Sloik is filled with colourful jars. It’s an interesting choice of name. Officially, it means jar. But it’s also slang for a person from a small town that works or studies in Warsaw and leads most of their social life in their hometown. The name is derived from the jars of cooked food which the stereotypical słoik brings back to Warsaw from their hometown to save money. Scanning the menu for the cheapest items, I wish I had bought a meal from home! Not that Poland is expensive, because it’s not, but my budget was based on eating at my apartment as much as possible. I settle on carpaccio and a negroni and enjoy both.
A couple drinks under our belt, it’s time to head to Wieslaw and Dorotka’s for dinner – our first official family dinner. I haven’t seen them since my last (and first) visit to Warsaw four years ago. Dorotka is Dad’s cousin and mother to Paula, Zuzanna and Maja. Paula and Maja are already there, along with Paula’s baby son Marcel, and Stan who is related by marriage to Chris’s mother. Broken Polish-English conversations abound but between us we have a great old time.
We enjoy an array of delicious dishes thanks to Wieslaw’s cooking prowess and there are plenty of drinks, hallmarks of Polish hospitality. Plans are made to meet again in the next day or so. It feels great to be here surrounded by the other side of my family, which I have not yet had the luxury of getting to know in depth. I hope this trip will be filled with chances to do just that.