I learned why this hostel was so inexpensive: no food or bevs provided.
That was ok, there was a breakfast only spot next door. Omelette time.
No jalapeno, no assortment of hot sauces on the table, just salt and pepper. Perhaps you could get some Hungarian paprika, but that was it.
I was seated facing the walkway so I had to make eye contact sometimes. If I was sipping coffee, I may nod my head to them, but not whilst eating.
Weird being on display while eating, like I need extra pressure to eat properly. I often drop a fork full of food or miss my mouth entirely with no audience.
Back at the hostel, I scoped their pamphlet rack for tours. I found a free one close that was starting soon.
I cannot recommend enough to go on a free walking tour if you are in a foreign city. You get a nice walk as well as local history. Just give them a tip for their time.
Look for the red umbrella ella ella ella. They were near a large statue of a bearded guy, King Sigismund III Vasa, which was the 1st thing we learned on our walk.
Soon we were near a bell inside a small square. Legend has it that if you walk around the bell 3x you get a wish.
We soon passed by Marie Curie’s laboratory, mermaid statue before being shown another square.
We looked left and right, nearly the entire city had been leveled in WWII, but they had architecture maps and completely rebuilt everything exactly as it was.
The old city was now one of the most sought after places to live. So much so that someone build out the air in a narrow alleyway and made it into a house. A space as narrow as a door slowly grew from a hallway into a small, livable area.
A fascinating part of the tour was about one of the gates into the city. Built at an angle that forced anyone entering to have to pass through a narrow alley, which is where they were assaulted by arrows.
This plan was great until you had to get back in and the city was fought over several times, each one using this gate to their advantage.
We went through the Jewish ghetto, an all too common place in most European cities. We paused at one of the last standing parts of the wall.
The KL Warschau was in the city and was used as a detention place as well as an elimination camp first starting with the Jews, then Polish resistance fighters.
We paused at some benches that our guide told us to sit down, enjoy some Chopin, which played as you sat.
“Nobody loves Chopin like the Polish, well except the French, they kept his body! Haha, but some brave Poles cut his heart out before they buried him. So his body is in France, but his heart returned to Poland,” our guide explained to the sounds of a Chopin sonata.
We were instructed to visit a church down the road where Chopin’s heart resides to this day. Read up on it here.
For the rest of my time in the city, every chance I could get I sat on a Chopin bench.
Dusk was falling so I walked the restaurant area in search of food options.
I don’t know what I thought everyone ate, but a lot did seem to be influenced by the US. Burgers, pizza, coffee shops, all seemed to be trying to emulate an US chain.
Then again, I was in the tourist side of town, so perhaps they were catering to us?
Dark clouds formed, soon it was pouring rain. I was still over a half mile from my hostel, I needed shelter, fast.
Fortunately I was near a beer hall so that’s where I holed up to wait out the rain.
It was a nice, old wooden hall with a long bar and many taps. It was a beer menu type place with lots of taps and bottles.
Since it was a weekday, there was hardly anyone there. The bartender did not seem too excited to even wait on me so talking to him was out. He was on his phone already anyway.
I sat down at a table and took off my wet hoodie. Rain pelted the windows, I was in for a while it seems.
Rain didn’t let up so no one else came in.
After a couple of hours it was merely sprinkling so I felt it best to head back to the hostel.
I got to a normally busy intersection, but due to the late hour, I saw no cars on this road.
I see the light favors the road and not me so I look both ways, other lights flashing, no cars, yet this one is on.
Why not cross? I thought as I put one foot in front of the other.
I was soon descended upon by 2 Polish army guys in green fatigues and black Berets. One holds an automatic weapon across his chest. Faster than I could perceive it, this guy could shoot me as close as we are to each other. He stands about 6’4″ and has a scowl on his face.
His partner to my right pulls out a pad of paper and begins talking in Polish. I shake my head left to right, no. “English?” I venture.
“Ah yes, English? Why did you cross the street?’ he asked.
“Because it was clear, no cars, I knew I would make it, ” I replied.
“Yes, but the lights were flashing, this is a prohibitive action. Do you realize I can and should take you in?” he said sternly.
I now had my hands up and stated I would pay any fines while apologizing to them.
I think they got pissed because I did it in front of them but I didn’t see them until it was too late, I was halfway. They were in the dark to my left and had to cross a street to stop me.
“Passport, papers please,” came the terse response.
He seemed surprised I was American and briefly glanced at my passport before handing it back to me.
“Yes so we are allies, Poland and the US. I thought you were British. They do that a lot when they are here. Illegally crossing the street and so on. So…we are all done here.” He said with a big grin, matched by his gun wielding friend.
I am still not sure if they were messing with me, taking a piss, having a go. Whatever their reasons, I was scared for sure.
We talked about the city, what I had seen. They seemed pleased I had been to Krakow, which is a nice city but, Warsaw that is best Polish city!
Jail for a simple offense like jaywalking is crazy but that’s how some places roll. I thought it as simple as I am adult and can handle my own safety.
I was also a visitor here, they didn’t have to let me into their country, for sure not for free. I was lucky.
A bit of a restless night but I did wind up falling asleep eventually.
Beer: Pale Blue Dot
Song: Frederic Chopin Prelude no. 15 ‘Raindrop’ op. 28