Day 21: Warsaw: Chopin’s city
The end of September can have varied weather at home so why wouldn’t that be the same thing for Warsaw right? Well, we can’t complain as we’ve had amazing weather this entire trip and today is the first day that we woke up to a cold, rainy and dreary day. I pulled out the umbrella and my husband even wore two sweatshirts and we were off to sightsee for one last day in Poland. Our local guide, Yolanda was a bit older than our other guides but was just as great and had a wonderful sense of humor as did all of the others as well. She took us first on the coach to Lazienki (pronounced Wazchenskee) park to see a scultpure of Frederic Chopin and hear some stories of his significance to the Polish people and at the same time she described leaders of Poland as mustache #1, 2 and 3 to help us all remember…ridiculous maybe, but it seems that they all had mustaches!
We went through the city on the coach as we passed the are of the Warsaw ghetto (former, as there are no more Jews living there and the wall is obviously down) and saw a monument to those of the ghetto uprising. We passed tons of buildings and embassies including the second oldest university in Poland from the 17th century (the first is in Krakow from the 13th century-boy, if those walls could talk) and a palm tree that was erected overnight in the center of the city which stands as a symbol of Krakow and a conversation piece for locals and tourists alike. We visited a memorial to the soldiers and citizens of the Warsaw uprising when they tried to fight the Germans for control of their city and as Yolanda explained it, the Russian troops sat on the other side of the Vistula River and just watched the event take place! Our tour ended in Old Town (as many of the others have too) but this old town was different. This square had been almost completely destroyed to rubble during the war and the citizens of Poland, who were few and far between as many were murdered by the Nazis rebuilt their town using drawings and pictures to make it look exactly as it had before the war. In the center stands a mermaid (who of course Yolanda says live in the Vistula River) and has a story. Apparently, there are more Polish people who live in Chicago than in Krakow and that many of the mermaids left after the war…including the one in Copenhagen who, again, according to Yolanda is Polish and is just sitting there waiting for someone to bring her perrogies and donuts. Seriously, had I known I would totally have brought some to her!
Adam, Sarah, Chantell, Mathew and I walked around for a bit. We went to Coffee Heaven for a quick hot drink and then to the old town to see a black and white movie about Poland before, during and after the occupation. Then we went back to the Warsaw uprising memorial, walked passed Madame Curie’s house (where she was born), had some lunch (more perrogies), shopped a bit and then headed back to Coffee Heaven to meet up with everyone. Adam left us in search of coffee and Warsaw’s best donuts and the rest of us hopped back on the coach and back to Lazienki Park to an 18th century palace where we were given a private Chopin piano concert by a pianist who teaches at the music school and has perfomed in many countries. She was amazing and the setting was remarkable…I mean really…who gets to do this kind of stuff!
We finished our concert, got some autographs with the artist and jumped back on the coach to get ready for our final night in Warsaw and on Contiki Eastern Roads. Yolanda shared some stories about Frederic Chopin and why he is buried in Paris but his heart is buried at Holy Cross church as a relic in Warsaw. We got back to the hotel and did a quick shower and change and headed to a restaurant called Browamarie which was downstairs in a bar/restaurant situation. We had dinner and stayed as some others were having a few drinks and we just wanted to hang out together for our last night as a group. Chantell, Sarah and I left about 10:30 and Mathew came home at about 11 something. We had a great night and an even more amazing trip. Now we were ready for one more Contiki style breakfast and then a 10 hour busride back to Berlin for our final drop off and goodbyes!