Thursday, May 24, 2012


When Chuck decided that despite our aches and pains, a lot of which come with age, we might be able to manage another bike trip this spring with VBT, I jumped at the chance. We have done 5 trips with them in recent years and each one has been wonderful. Since they just added a new trip to Poland, never having been there, and knowing nothing about the country, we decided to sign up.
Arriving in Warsaw after a long flight from Newark , a change of planes and long layover in Munich, I was more exhausted than I have ever been after an overseas flight. We finally connected with our driver and rode through a rather unimpressive city to our hotel in “Old Town”, Hotel Le Regina.
It was modern, with a beautiful lobby and friendly help who spoke good English (Polish is a mystery to my language challenged mind).
The most welcome sight however was our room and we both took advantage of this clean soft white bed immediately. The weather was warm, unusually so, and upon wakening we decided on a light supper at the hotel restaurant sitting outside. I had a catfish pierogi with feta cheese & a unknown (to me) sauce that was unbelievably delicious. Chuck had a form of ragout that he said was equally delicious.
While we were sitting there a horse drawn carriage came by, the first of many we were to see in Stare Miasto (Old Town).
Before going back to bed we took a stroll into Old Town to admire the scenery and people,
The buildings and the churches,
And of course the shop windows.
It is amazing what could be done with horseshoes, if you had a skinny, strong neck.


Our first full day in Warsaw the weather was more what we expected, though a disappointment after the previous one.
We enjoyed a great breakfast at the hotel from the buffet, complete with eggs in several forms, scrambled, benedictine, accompanied with bacon, sausage, cheeses, fruit, salads -
And a large choice of cereals, breads and pastries. Just about anything one could imagine. On the excellent advise of the hotel we took a taxi to the "Uprisings Museum" - an experience which made us again appreciate our lives. Though I was a child during WWII, I really knew little about it, and nothing about Warsaw. We saw news reels when we went to the movies, had curfews and air raid drills in Philadelphia. At the Jersey Shore in the summer we had blackout lights and black curtains on the ocean side of our home, oil on the beach from ships sunk by German subs though that was few and far between, and we watched "dog fights" overhead as our fliers trained for combat overseas. We heard about Germany, London, Paris, Japan and the Pacific Islands, but nothing about Warsaw,the capital of Poland. Not until we visited the museum. On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and WWII began.
Upon entering the museum the first area encountered was for the children, and there were many there. There were ho horrifying photo as elsewhere in the museum (in fact the worst photos were shown in deep wells where I cold barely see over the rim). This area contained this statue of a little boy dressed as a soldier and children playing. The real story as we found out was very different. Children as young as 8 were used as mail carriers to run letters all over the bombed city after the Germans destroyed the post office. Many of them were killed.
Children tried to escape the Nazis any way they could.
After the first meeting of "the big three", Roosevelt Churchill, & Stalin, Poland weary of German occupation began the first uprising, expecting help from the allies. Unknown to Poland, and against Churchill's advice Stalin was given concessions about the border of Poland after the war - essentially giving a part of Poland (and other east block countries) to the USSR.
The people of Warsaw, against enormous odds with very few supplies built barricades using anything they could find and tried to retake their city bit by bit. Children dragged materials to help with these project.
In underground rooms and sewers men fashioned weapons to help with the fighting and though some of the allies air dropped food, war and medical supplies to aid the people of Warsaw, America did only once and most of the supplies landed in the hands of the Germans.
This was the Goliath, a remote controlled tracked vehicle, explosive payload transporter used against the insurgents.
Hitler was so enraged by the uprising that he told his troops to "annihilate the city until it was only a hole in the map of Europe". The Germans proceeded to do just that.
Before the war the city of Warsaw, the Capital of Poland and center of its culture had about 1,300,000 inhabitants. After WWII only about 1,000 starving souls lived in it rubble.
This display of the still camera used during this time fascinated me, even more so the many hours of movie film taken by brave war correspondents. The reels were secured and buried until years later after the war.


In the afternoon, exhausted from our 4 intense hours in the museum, we decided to walk back to old town. It was hard to comprehend that "old town" was not really and old town. While Warsaw itself was 86% destroyed by the Germans, Old town was completely leveled - 100%!! In rebuilding it they were faithful to the historic structures, even to making the houses lean slightly forward as the old ones had done.
Coming to the first square, music caught our attention and these two young people were dancing, a la "Dancing with the Stars", a favorite of ours back home.
This street of colorful buildings too deserved a photo.
I have always like old city walls, this one, rebuilt of course included.
Since it was a weekend, the streets were filled with people and children.
And though the tables in the central market were empty because of the rain and cool wind they were ready should there be a change in the weather.
It always amazes me how many American fast food restaurants had made it to cities in other parts of the world, Pizza Hut being no exception.
This plack in the street outside of one of the churches near the square tells its whole story.
In the center of the square stands this statue of a mermaid - the symbol of Warsaw.
While I was wandering around taking photos, Chuck was checking the nearby restaurants.
Choosing this one we had an exceptional light supper along with a couple who looked like newly weds. When I asked our waiter if they were bride and groom he confirmed that they were and we got into a discussion of marriage lengths - his 14 years, ours 55. Upon leaving he stopped us with 2 small glasses of honey vodka, a specialty of Poland produced in the southern mountains and supposed to grant happiness. We will be trying to purchase a bottle of this nectar of the gods the rest of our trip!!
Heading back to our hotel we were wished a farewell by this handsome knight - a happy end to our day!


On our 2nd full & last day in Warsaw we decided to walk down the Royal Way to Nowy Swiat (New Town).
We walked through the main square, again enjoying the colorful buildings.
From one of the bridges we could see the new National Stadium, the pride of Warsaw.
Continuing on, we passed the Presidential Palace.
I enjoyed the pansies in bloom everywhere.
In front of the University was a statue of Copernicus whom, as I remembered from college was the first scientist insisting that the sun was the center of our universe with the planets revolving around it. He was a Polish Astronomer and a true Renaissance man.
Walking back to the Royal Palace we saw photos of the palace after it was destroyed by the Germans in 1945.
And the way it appears now - an amazing reconstruction in a matter of 3 years.
This exquisite fireplace was only one of the many reconstructed throughout the palace.
The colors in this small anti-chamber I found very pleasing.
This throne in the colors of Poland was repeated in many of the rooms - each one more beautiful that the previous. But comfortable??
This clock, the world globe on the shoulders of Atlas was one of the treasures saved after this first bombing of the palace. It no longer runs but is stopped at the time of that fateful event. Later the whole palace was brought down by explosives placed in holes drilled into the base of the walls.
This beautiful reception room, of which I only show one alcove, was being set up for a concert that evening. How I would have loved to attend!!


Leaving Warsaw by bus, we were driven on a 2 1/2 hour ride through the Polish countryside to the town of Pulawy where we met our leaders and got our bikes.
Timothy adjusting Chuck's seat.
We rode our bikes on a brick bike path along the banks of the Vistula River, the largest river in Poland - it flows north to the Baltic Sea.
We rode past gardens and villages,
Trees filled with mistletoe,
And larger Estate.
We watched farmers putting up string for the fields of hops.
After our ride we were driven to our hotel, the Krol Kazimierz in Krazimierz Doley. It was an old granary converted into a very modern hotel.
Outside the entrance this multitude of tittle figures were climbing the pole.
Both inside and outside were whimsical animal figures made of stone and metal.
The reception area was large and modern with a huge chandelier.
The main area of the ground floor was huge with the dining room to the left, a modern bar, boats hanging from the ceiling and 2 floors of rooms above.