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5 Days, 5 Nights: Warsaw, Torun, Bydgoszcz, POLANDAuthor: PenelopeCorelli (More Trip Reviews by PenelopeCorelli)
Date of Trip: July 2009
Our relatives said they would take the train from Torun and meet us in Bydgoszcz. Finding the station took well over an hour, which we did not plan, but our patient relatives were waiting there when we finally arrived. Could have easily driven to Torun and halfway back in the time it took us to find the station. Of course, we had lots of "help". No fewer than seven people told us how to get there. We got a little closer each time. It turned out that the station was in the opposite direction from where we had been first directed, and only one and one-half miles from the hotel. We went on a family home tour, seeing several places where my father & my grandparents lived when they returned/escaped to Poland in the 1930's. We visited a couple of cemeteries, but didn't find my grandparents' graves, as others had been buried over them when the annual fees could not be paid. The old chapel was gone or built over, so the photos of it from the funerals weren't useful.
All old cities have an Old Town area, so we went to the old area in Bydgoszcz to look for somewhere to eat. Also did some shopping: Found a "Cepelia" shop -- carries folk art and handmade Polish items. Great prices on amber, as well as baskets, needlework, and some pottery. I bought amber earrings for my daughters & granddaughter. For a basket, an apron, a small needlework mat, and 5 pair of amber/silver earrings, I paid 179.80zl ($55.49). The earrings were around 30zl a pair (varied from 22-40zl). We also stopped at Empik Bookstore, quite large, lots of fun items as well as books. Many Audrey Hepburn things, which another daughter would like, and they weren't available in the US, but which weren't "Polish" enough to warrant taking up valuable packing space.
Returned to Hanna's home in Torun for tea, after a grocery stop for packages of Polish gingerbread -- which were worth the packing space! Back to Bydgoszcz for the night; returning to Warsaw the next day.
Sunday, July 5: Torun to Warsaw
After another wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we drove to Torun, picked up the ladies, & headed toward Warsaw by another route. As we neared Warsaw, we looked for my aunt's grave. We didn't find it before it started raining heavily, so hard that it became difficult to see the road ahead. July is the rainy season in Poland, but we'd been fortunate to have lovely weather up until this day. We consequently gave up the search.
I enjoyed seeing the road signs & took quite a few photos of them. A silhouette of a town indicated we were entering a village and needed to lower our speed. As we left the town limits, the same silhouette with a red line through it meant we could resume highway speed.
We had lunch at one of the Sphinx restaurants, a Polish chain with 96 locations all over Poland, 17 of them in Warsaw. Modern, good food, reasonably priced, large portions, Oriental & international menu. A trio of dipping sauces accompanied our meat, and there were several accompanying salads, as well as an assortment of breads. Dinner for five, including tip, was 125zl - $38.
We dropped Maria & Weronika off at their home and returned to the hotel. We all changed clothes for the evening mass in Old Town, where my cousins attended.
I contacted my facebook friend Magda who said she & her husband attend the same church and were married there. We arranged to meet at a coffee house near the church at 8pm. I don't remember the name, & although we took photos in the area, I do not know if any were photos of this church.
Needing a couple of items, I went to a couple of stores at Centrum Galleria -- the larger ones were open until 8pm on Sundays. Bought some costume jewelry, went to Empik bookstore & found tote bags to carry my Polish pottery onto the plane back to Barcelona. One of the bags features the 754-foot Joseph Stalin Memorial Palace of Culture and Science as a giant gorilla -- a bit of a joke. Many, if not most, Polish people in Warsaw loathe this structure. They call it the "Russian Gift" and say that the luckiest man in Warsaw is its caretaker who lives on the top floor -- because he is the only one who cannot see it.
We picked up our tour hosts again & went to the cafe to meet my facebook friend and her husband. It was a nice visit. We had coffee, tea, cookies, & Polish cheesecake. The milk for the tea is always served warm. We took a few evening photos of the church and one another, then went to the 9:30pm mass. There were lots of folding chairs in addition to the pews -- a lot of people attend this popular service, all in Polish, of course!
The next morning we had a flight to Barcelona, and my relatives wanted to send us off, so we arranged to meet at the hotel at 9:30am. As we were dropping them off, they invited us for tea, so we had another enjoyable visit. They own a Doberman, who cries when they leave him, likes people and hates other dogs. Although he went to obedience school as a puppy, it didn't last, so he wears a spiked collar and muzzle when going out for a walk so that he can be controlled if another dog is nearby!
Monday, July 6: Warsaw to Barcelona
In the morning we met our relatives at the hotel. I went to Centrum again with my daughter to find a belt. It wasn't cheap - $24 US -- leather is not cheap in Poland, apparently.
We arrived at the airport, took photos and said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts, then proceeded to the security checkpoint. There we found that we forgot to remove a bottle of water from my husband's carryon bag.
Then it started: for some reason, the 2 security persons at this counter started going through all the items -- did we look suspicious? We were two older Americans and a teenage girl!? The guy pulled out item after item, examining each one as if he was expecting to find contraband! In the bag we carried our electronic items -- things pertaining to the cell phone & camera, as well as a tiny book light -- hmm what is it? -- a luggage scale -- ooh, looks suspicious. The guy & woman behaved as though they had never seen these kinds of things -- they were expecting a weapon? Or a detonating device?
Finally I said a prayer under my breath (you never know what can happen here) and the two finally let us go. A far cry from security in other airports -- Barcelona, Switzerland -- those were even friendly! But these two were nasty -- I hope it's not representative of Polish security everywhere -- they acted like communist holdovers from the cold war era. Glad to be through the gate and on our way -- hope we don't have to deal with this next time we come. A disappointing end to an otherwise wonderful trip!
We had beautiful weather (except the final rainstorm), lots of great memories (other than the security check), and met some wonderful people. Can't wait to return!
We were the last ones on the plane back to Barcelona. Husband & daughter used the restroom, which was not close to our gate. When she came back alone, I knew he would still be waiting for her. So I sent her back to get her father & thus we were the last ones on the plane. Oops! Glad they waited!
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