Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All around the world

I've apparently dropped off the face of the internet during the last month, for which I have no legitimate excuse. But perhaps my whirl wind travel schedule is at least an explaination.

To start from the beginning, Ellen came to Warsaw the week before Easter and stayed for the holiday. It was great to see her and to show her Warsaw. I think she liked it, which fills me with all sorts of Polish pride. We had one day in Warsaw before we went to Babcia's for Easter and then one more day right after Easter, so we really had to pack everything in, and I'm afraid that in my enthusiasm to show Ellen all the pretty and interesting places in the city I had an overly ambitious itinerary. Which we managed to accomplish with appropriate levels of exhaustion at the end of both days. I'm still not totally adept at using the trams and so there was A LOT of walking.

And now I bring you the Wonderful World of Warsaw, according to Ellen and Christina:
(most of these photos are Ellen's because my camera batteries weren't charged)

Here are some dashing young men in uniform dutifully guarding the tomb of the unkown soldier. Ellen has a thing for guys in uniform, so I'm pretty sure she has 45 other versions of this photo on her computer, but you get the idea. During the changing of the guards, the soldiers march down a large concrete square (which I should know the name of), and their shoes make an impressive tapping noise.

After that, we wandered into the old town, and on our way we thought we stopped the pope! But, Poland has more than one religious authority and so we made the acquaintance of this lovely cardinal.
Warsaw's Old Town (Stary Miasto) can't really compare to that of Krakow, because most of it was destoryed during WWII and rebuilt after the war. So, none of the buildings are more than 70 years old. The archictects were strict about rebuilding the city as accurately as possible though, so it's still a cool place.
We also czeched out the Warsaw University Library which I think is one of the most beautiful spots in Warsaw. It's a relatively new building and definitely tries to bring the outdoors inside as much as possible. There are lots of skylights, high cielings, and plants inside, and on the roof of the building there is a beautiful garden. As much as I pine for the Woodruff Library, I think the Warsaw University Library might give it a run for its money. Here's Ellen on our way up to the roof.

Instead of going back to my flat to collapse from exhaustion, at this point we rushed back, quickly packed, had a slight panic attack about missing our train, and headed to the main station for the 6 hour ride to Babcia's. While I was still in the midst of my panic attack my friend Patrycja from school saw us in the station, and as luck would have it was taking the same train to Olsztyn, a town on the way to Ketrzyn. Not only did Patrycja confirm that we were in fact about to board the correct train, but she also made a great travelling pal, and my panic attack subsided.

Once at Babcias, we changed our shoes for kapchi, donned our aprons and settled in for a long weekend of cooking at eating. I'm not sure it's possible to express exactly how much food we ate, because i would have previously thought this much food to be impossible. As an example, Babcia bought 6 cakes (not to mention a lot of candy) for the 2 of us to eat over 3 days. So we each essentially ate a cake a day...after really big meals.

The weather was quite ugly and Babcia predicted snow...and who would think it but the lady was right! On Easter Sunday and Monday we woke up to a winter wonderland. Bizarre, but beautiful. It warmed my cold Michiganian heart.

All of this alone makes for a pretty exciting week, but the fun just kept being had! On Thursday, Ellen and I packed our bags again and headed off to the beautiful city of Prague. For some reason, I thought the train ride was going to take 7 hours, but it definitely took 9, which was disappointing. On the train, Elle and I met a friendly French man (crazy!) who lived in Prague and told us some cool places to go to. However, despite our best note taking and navigating, it seems as though those places didn't exist. Which meant that we were in Prague, without a map, or having looked at a guide book, or anything like that. We decided to invest in a map that had lovely pictures and descriptions of the main tourist attractions, though that wasn't the end of our navigating troubles.

Getting lost in Prague isn't too much of a problem, though, because it's beautiful!

Since we were there right after Easter, the old market square was decked out for the season. I wish we had Easter trees in the States, too!

We took a tour of the Jewish quarter of Prague, which was fun, although our tour guide kind of hated women. We also made the brilliant decision to take the tour on Saturday, when everything was closed. The plus side was that we avoided the crowds, and we still managed to meet Kafka: