Though I had a great time visiting with my friends on the mainland, I am glad to be roving the world again. My temporary home for the next three months is Warsaw, Poland. I chose Warsaw mainly because it looked like a very walkable city. The places I was considering all met with my two major requirements; low cost of living and moderate weather.
I found an AirBnb, which met my needs cost wise, at 24 USD per night. It is about half the size of the apartments I lived in in Ecuador and Mexico. The good thing about it is that there is less of it to clean. This apartment doesn’t come with weekly maid service like the one in Mexico. Oh, I will miss Rosa.
Last year before I had to cut my traveling budget down by half, had planned on spending 90 days traveling in the Schengen Union. I was going to spend a few days in each of the most interesting cities, which I had never traveled to before. I posted this plan on Facebook, before I cut back my Facebook activity to a bare minimum.
Gina, who was one of my facebook friends, suggested that I get in touch with her when I came through Poland. Gina and I went to the same high school, though we didn’t know each other. She was several years behind me in school. I was fascinated to learn of another Canton escapee. I was eager to hear her story of how she managed to land in Poland.
When my fiances went south and I had review my travel budget, I realized that transportation costs were the largest part of my projected expenses. So I decided to pick one of the Schengen Union countries, and spend my whole 90 days there. I still wanted to meet Gina, so I looked into cities in Poland. I had it narrowed down to three, but decided on Warsaw, because it was Gina’s home.
I figured that it would be a big benefit to have someone who was familiar with the area to help me find my way around. I never knew how much spanish I spoke until I began to study polish. It seems that most people I have meet here speak some if not a lot of english. The biggest problem I have had so far is not being able to read labels when I am shopping.
My flight was out of Houston International to Chicago. My friend in Texas couldn’t drive me to the airport that day, so I took a Lyft. I lucked into having a very interesting conversationalist for my driver. The traffic wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, so I had quite a while to wait before my flight.
Using my Priority Pass I had lunch at Landry’s, then went to a Lounge for drinks. I drank water with my meal of Mahi Mahi stuffed with crab, keeping my bill low. I had a beer, a glass of wine, and a gin and tonic at the lounge. No, mixing drinks doesn’t bother me. All told,with a good tip to my waitress at Landry’s, I was out less than 12 USD for my preflight fueling.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful. My seatmate was a very interesting young man, who was traveling to see his girlfriend. When the pilot announced that the temperature in Chicago was 49 degrees fahrenheit, the young man turned to me and said, “I don’t have a coat!” After the plane landed he phoned his girlfriend and learned that she head brought a coat for him. She must be used to having visitors from the south.
My backpack is now light enough that I can draw it out of the overhead compartment onto my head and dash down the aisle and wait until I am free of the plane to put it on. The layover in Chicago was anything but uneventful. As I exited the plane, I pulled out my next boarding pass and noted that I had 40 minutes before my next flight started boarding. I decided to go straight to my next gate.
I saw that my next flight was in terminal 5, so I started walking, following the signs. I walked and walked, until the signs disappeared. I stopped a young man who was dressed as an airport worker. He told me that he was going there and for me to follow him. When be got outside the terminal the bus was just about to leave the curb.
Boy and I ever glad that I am a minimalist traveler. I ran, keeping up with him, in spite of his being so young and fit. Even so, the driver slammed the door in my face right after he hoped on. Lucky she noticed me and opened it back up again. I went to the back of the bus and stood next to him so that he could tell me when to get off.
I had no idea that terminal five is practically a seperate airport, quite distant from the other terminals. Some people on the internet estimate the distance as five miles! Since it is in another building, I had go through security again. There was no TSA pre check line in this terminal. I don’t remember having this much hassle at O’Hare before. I am going to really think hard about flying through O’Hare internationally again. If I am forced to, I will make sure I have a long, long layover.
There was a huge crowd trying to get through security. I watched my watch as the minutes slipped by. The TSA workers were a really cabby group. They looked down right overwhelmed by the rush of passengers. I had just about resigned myself to missing my flight, when suddenly the line started moving. I made it to my flight just as they began boarding.
I intentionally booked a seat near the back restroom and the back exit. This didn’t work out, as part way through the flight, that restroom went out of service. My seatmate and I talked for a while about how bad O’Hare had become over the last few years.
I had planned on grabbing something to eat between flights, but of course didn’t have time. I was glad to find out that SAS airlines gives everyone a bottle of water at the beginning of the flight and serves good food. There was a choice of beef stew or fish. I was so far back in the plane that there was nothing but beef stew left. That was okay. I scarfed it down.
Though I enjoyed talking to my seat mate I was worried that he would keep talking. Lucky he started watching a movie, and I was able to put my Buff neck gaiter over my eyes and put in my earbuds. The neck gaiter works very well as a sleep mask, adding to its other uses. It was the first time I used it that way on a plane. I will stop carrying a sleep mask on my travels from now on.
I listened to a podcast, which is about android. I really don’t care about the android operating system, but I like the voices of the hosts. They lull me to sleep since the words themself are of no interest. I dozed on and off until breakfast was served. I ate all my breakfast, before I realized that I should have put the packets of cheese in my bag to eat later. After all, when I arrived in the last two countries I survived on airplane snacks until I could go shopping.
I dashed off the airplane, again thankful that I could move fast with my light bags to the nearest restroom. There was a very long line. After waiting for a while, without the line moving, I decided that I could make it to the lounge so I continued walking. The next restroom down was empty. I chided myself for not following my own rule of never stopping at the first restroom after deplaning.
Despite the dozing, I was exhausted in Copenhagen. I found the nearest lounge to my gate and had something to eat. After a couple of drinks I was afraid that I would fall asleep and miss my flight, so I set an alarm on my watch and started drinking coffee. I didn’t fall asleep.
Off all my flights, the last one was the worst. Though it was short. The woman next to me was fussing over her lap baby for the whole flight. The only thing I could think of is that I normally get colds any time I am around babies. When the plane landed the woman stayed seated, keeping me trapped. I was fuming. What if I had a plane to catch? Finally she stood up and moved to the row in front of us, so I could get by.
Once free of the rush of passengers, this time I went to a more distant restroom, before looking for an ATM. The smallest amount I could draw from the ATM was 1000 złoty. I was afraid that I might be remembering the exchange rate wrong. So after getting my 1000 złoty, I went to the tote board at the money exchange and determined that it was about 270 USD, which was close enough to what I wanted to have.
I was far too exhausted to take the bus to my airbnb, so I headed to the cab stand in front of the terminal. I was directed to take the second cab in line. The driver was a dower looking old gentleman in the finest suit I have ever seen a driver wear, even limo drivers. I showed him a screen on my phone that had the address to my airbnb. He never spoke, but drove off.
I called up the address in Google maps and made sure he was driving to the right address. I had studied the map of this neighborhood so much that I had no doubt that I had the address right. He was making the shortest route to the apartment. The traffic was heavy, but an occasional check, showed that we were making steady progress to my goal.
The fair was 50 złoty, or less than 14 USD. I had to show the address to a couple of different people on the street before I found the right door. It wasn’t long before the owner showed up carrying a bag of snacks, tea, water, and soda for me. (I didn’t need the airplane snacks after all.)
We talked way too long, so by the time he had left, I was beyond exhausted. It wasn’t just the flight from the US, and the time changes, it was the whole month before as I traveled halfway around the world, visiting friends and getting things done. I ate some of the snacks and went to sleep and slept for 12 hours. I got up and breakfasts on polish cookies and tea, before heading over to the convenience store a block away to buy a few things.
Coming back, I made myself a sandwich, before hopping into bed to read. I was in contact with Gina. She invited me to a few events, but I had to beg off since I was just too tired. That night I slept only 10 hours. I was glad when I got up to have the coffee I had bought the day before. I breakfasted on scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, and a bread roll. I I continued to stay in touch with Gina the whole day, but I was really too tired to meet up with her. I lounged around the next day, catching up on this blog.
Finally on the 14th, I was beginning to feel more human. I looked on a website to find the sites I should be thinking about seeing in Warsaw, and decided that I would walk over to the Mermaid Statue and back. That would give me a nice walk and also give me an idea about the city.
The sidewalks are wide and for the most part empty in my new temporary neighborhood. I picked out this city while I was still getting used to the crowded sidewalks in Guanajuato. Now that I am here, I am missing the bustle of Mexico. I guess by the time I get to Uruguay I will be missing the uncluttered silence of this place.
The weather was warm enough to be comfortable in just a hoodie and a light down jacket. Very close to the apartment is a park, which when seen on Google maps looks like a sword. My path took me down the blade of the sword to the hilt. The Hilt is formed by a circular part of the park in the middle of a roundabout.
In a yard of a nearby building I saw some flowers growing. I was so excited to see these harbingers of spring that I had to take the photo above even though I was too far away.
When I saw some tulips growing I carefully took the photo above, but as I went on I realized that the whole city was covered in beautiful spring flowers.
After I passed through the near park I found that my pathway passed through several other parks. They were all well maintained. The was no trash, nor homeless encampments, not even in the path that passed under the train tracks. I was in the middle of one of these parks when I realized that something I had eaten that morning hadn’t agreed with me, and I began to search for a restroom. I spotted a porta potty. I was desperate and decided that I had to use it.
I was surprised; it was sparkling clean and had tissue. Later I spotted these porta potties all over the city. I won’t hesitate to use one again. It is such a good idea. If one were to get vandalized, they would just swap it out, not like in Kakaako Park were the vandalized toilets are just locked up until they get around to fixing them, whenever the funds can be found.
As I walked toward old town, I was still seeing few people. Finally people began appearing. Most of them were carrying palm fronds. I had forgotten that it was Palm Sunday, and during the morning everyone was in church.
After taking a few photos of the mermaid, I headed back home on a different path, which would take me past the big shopping mall. I wanted to go shopping at the big grocery store, to get things I hadn’t bought at the convenience store the first time I went shopping. On my way, I saw a thin woman carrying a tutu under one arm. I thought, she must be taking it home for her daughter. When I got closer, I saw that she was carrying adult size toe shoes in a clear bag, and had what seemed to be two dancing costumes over her other arm.
I found the mall, but finding the grocery store in the mall was a little harder. I have been told that the mall is the largest one in Europe. I can believe it. Eventually I did find the grocery and was totally overwhelmed. Its size was in keeping with the mall. I wandered around getting really stressed out over the crowds shopping. It was as if the people I had been expecting on the street were all in this one store.
Eventually I loaded up a handbasket. I was pretty sure that I had bought vinegar, oregano, tarragon, butter, cheese, crackers, and cooked sausages. I was on better ground when it came to some other things and vegetables, though I did buy a kohlrabi thinking it was a fennel bulb.
I was so glad to get out of that store and walk home. I later learned that it was a big shopping day, as the store is only open on two sundays a month. I will have to make sure I don’t go there except at midweek.
As soon as I got home I got a message from Gina informing of when she would be getting out of evening church services and asking if I wanted to meet her in the old city. I put away my groceries and walked back to the old city again. I had texted her what I looked like, but later found out that she hadn’t taken that phone with her.
When I was nearly at the meeting place, I got another text telling me that services were just over and that she would be heading to the meeting place. I texted back that I was on my way. Actually I think I might have been walking past her church right at that moment because the bells started to chime.
Despite the fact we had never met before, we were able to pick our fellow American at the corner. We went for a walk before going to a pub for beer and soup. I just ordered what she ordered. That was a good move. The soup and the beer were both very good. After dinner we went for another walk, After I mentioned that I loved borscht, she took me to the restaurant, Radio Cafe, which had been her and her husband’s favorite.
It was a most delightful place. The owner, who was her dear friend, treated us like the most honored guest. I had a great time speaking with him while eating an excellent Borscht with lamb dumplings. I also had a plate of meat perogies. It was too much food and I took some perogies home.
It was past 2330 hours when we left the restaurant. Gina insisted that I take the tram home, even paying for my ticket to make sure I went via the tram. The station is confusing, so she walked me to the tram and saw me on. The ticket system was the same as in Paris, where you have to validate the ticket in a machine or face a fine if a conductor catches you riding with an unvalidated ticket.
As soon as I got to my seat, with my validated ticket, I pulled out my phone and realized that it had been playing music to the headphones in my pocket, the whole time I was with Gina. It still had 33 percent power left, so I knew it would be enough power to get me home. I opened up the Google map app to watch to make sure I didn’t miss my stop, I didn’t and got home very tired, and glad I took the tram home. I had ended up walking 12 miles during the course of the day.
It had been a fun day. Gina and I had talked a mile a minute the whole time we were together learning each other’s life stories. I am glad I came to Warsaw, rather than the small town I had picked out. Since I was having such a good time, I didn’t even think about taking any photos, until the sight of the building below caused me to stop.
Gina had ordered her perogies boiled then fried. I ordered my boiled. The next day I took the boiled perogies and pan fried them. They were quite good, and with a spinach salad, made a great dinner.