Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warsaw -- Krakow

A tourist has a job to do. What distinguishes the tourist occupation from any other job is that the emphasis is shifted from the production of goods, services, information or knowledge to the taking in of information, knowledge, goods and services. Not unlike what a student's job is. Or an academician's. Travel log documents the progress. To do a good job, a tourist must get up at the wee hours of dawn, eat a filling breakfast and start the day at an art or history museum, at a castle or a park, exploring the city by foot, climbing all the high places such as church towers and observation decks to take panoramic pictures, try her best to decipher foreign language descriptions of statues and building signs, study time-tables and maps to fill sightseeing schedules to the maximum, wear good shoes and layered clothing, drink a lot of water, try street foods where it's safe to do so, ask for help when in doubt, patronize local restaurants and partake of local specialties (even if they are called zapiekanka, which reminds her of her worst kindergarten nightmare), talk to as many people as possible, take lots of pictures, buy souvenirs.

If she dawdles around in the hotel until noon and then all the museums turn out to be closed because it's Monday, and the Chopin museum that was supposed to be open is under remont until 2010, she's clearly not doing her job right. There are extenuating circumstances. Blogging is not a bad reason to linger in the hotel. Lifting weights at the gym and taking a dip in a whirlpool are not inherently bad things to do while being a tourist. Ideally, however, everything not related to direct tourist responsibilities should be done at night, when the museums are closed, feet are bleeding, and stomachs near bursting. But if jet lag is making it tough to keep her eyes open through dinner and then wakes her up before 6 o'clock in the morning, well, rules are going to have to be relaxed, priorities adjusted, and precious morning hours sacrificed.

Most museums ARE closed in Warsaw on Mondays. But the museum of Warsaw Uprising is closed on Tuesdays. So yesterday, on Monday, we walked around the city center, drank some hot chocolate (kinda like Spanish hot chocolate -- thick and creamy), ate paczki (doughnuts) with rose jelly, had dinner at a Pierogarnia (where they serve pierogi and more), met up with our new friends Agata and Artur and drank more beer with them at a bar called Antikvariat (spelling?), which is decorated with old black and white photos of naked women and used books on gynecology and other subjects (a picture book of Australia, for example). And today we made an unsuccessful trek to the Warsaw Uprising Museum (closed on Tuesdays), and, for the lack of alternative ideas, headed to the train station and aimlessly meandered at the nearby mall for an hour and a half until it was time to go to Krakow. At the end, we almost missed our train, because there were three different trains departing for Krakow at about the same time, and we couldn't figure out the number of the track we had to be at. Dave blogs about this in greater detail.

Agata and Artur gave us a few recommendations on the things to do in Krakow. We started the exploration of this lovely medieval town from sampling the local vodkas (or wodka) at a place called Szambelan Sklep. Totally awesome and we really needed that. After that, wondered aimlessly around town until found more food. Systematic approach to eating can certainly camouflage a lot of imperfections in an average day of a stressed out tourist.

Agata and Artur also recomended the work of several Polish movie directors. I wonder what we'll be able to find on Netflix. Here's the list:

Agnieska Holland
Krzysztof Zanussi
Jan Jakub Kolski
Stanislaw Bareja (he made Soviet comedies)
Juliusz Machulski (whose movie Vabank from 1981 I might have seen back when).

Dave reminds me to note that Polish zapiekanka is an open faced melted cheese sandwich vs. Russian zap(i)ekanka which is a milk-based omelet. Both probably come from the root of the noun for "oven" and the verb for "to bake."


  1. Don't forget Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski!

  2. I personally love those lolling about the hotel mornings, in fact most of my travel is made up of them. It puts me in a way better frame of mind for facing those unforeseen Museum closures, or in my experience weird hours of opening, and it does open you up to really relishing eating and that is what it is about!

  3. Bree, right -- him, plus Andrzej Wajda.
    Theresa, I love that too :))