Monday, July 28, 2008

Views of Warsaw

This will be the last post (for a little while) as we sadly leave Warsaw on Thursday morning. We're heading to Adelaide after a couple of nights in Singapore. The packers came last Thursday and so our laptop (and hopefully all the rest of our possessions!) are somewhere between here and Australia.

Warsaw has been a wonderful experience, and for all the idiosyncracies of Poland and the Polish we've met some lovely people and been to some great places (some interesting, some beautiful and some extremely sad).

I'm sure we'll be back at some point in the future, not least as we'll have a daughter who will probably nag us to show her where she was born. It will be fascinating to see how the country goes forward, especially up to and after 2012 (the European Championships)

Anyway for now, here's a slideshow of some of the places around Warsaw. It's not a comprehensive record by any means but just a few shots I've taken during our time here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Audrey eating vegemite on toast!

Audrey enjoying her breakfast this morning!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jewish Cemetery

Audrey and I went along to the Jewish Cemetery this afternoon (Amy had to go and meet the President!). It’s long been on our list of places to see in Warsaw but it’s not that easy to get to by public transport (my feet now hurt from walking!). I thought we’d make a special effort though as we’ve only got just over a week left in town.

The cemetery was established in 1806 and spreads over a considerably large area of Warsaw with around 150,000 gravestones still surviving. Almost all of Poland’s 3 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during WWII meaning that relatives no longer survive to tend the graves of their families. This was followed by the Communists disregard for Jews after the War which means that much of the cemetery has gone uncared for over 40 years. Attention has been paid recently to reclaiming the cemetery from nature, but still a lot of it is overgrown by trees and undergrowth making for a rather sad monument to Jewish Warsaw.

Thousands of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were buried here in un-marked graves, but there are graves and tombs for some notable Jews including Adam Czerniakow chairman of the Judenrat (d. 1942), Janusz Korczak (d. 1944) and the inventor of Esperanto, Ludwik Zamenhof (d. 1917). Try and get along if you’re near the centre Warsaw and have a spare couple of hours.

The grave of Ludwik Zamenhof

Tim in Town

"Warsaw is weird!"

That's how Tim summed up his weekend with us after visiting from London for the weekend.

His observation came after we had both wandered around the city for much of Saturday night, while I tried in vain to find an appropriate hostelry or club to spend the evening. It's not as though Warsaw is devoid of clubs - there are loads of them - the monthly guides are full of new openings and pictures of cool looking venues, but I'm afraid after 11 months of Saturday nights at home, I didn't really know where to look for a good Saturday night out!

Instead, we ended up in a series of bars and pubs and mooched home at around 2am relatively unfulfilled as regards our (my?) desire for a disco!

Nevertheless it was great to catch up with Tim and swap stories. The two of us spent a sunny Saturday afternoon in the city, seeing the sights and then on Sunday we ate at Pub Lolek in Pole Mokotowskie. Pub Lolek is usually packed on a weekend, but the early rain on Sunday morning seemed to have put off the crowds that normally go there to enjoy their splendid barbecue.

By the time we reached the pub though the clouds had lifted and we had a nice time in their sunny beer garden.

Tim then had a disastorous time getting back to the UK as his Wizz Air flight was delayed by over 6 hours and then after a return journey back to our apartment and then back to the airport again for an 11.20pm flight (which should have left at 5pm) he was delayed again. Come to think of it, he may well still be at Etiuda airport now!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coffee Karma

A picture of Audrey in the very cool surrounds of Coffee Karma in pl. Zbawiciela (one of my favourite spots in Warsaw). It was taken after she'd enjoyed a fair amount of her dad's 'very-cherry' smoothie as well as eating most of his sandwich.

Dad meanwhile was left to chew through the remainder of the sweet potato and lentil mix that he'd made for Audrey's lunch, but which had been shunned as soon as the sandwich arrived.

Finger Food

A group of us went for dinner on Wednesday night to Foksal a nice street of restaurants in the centre of Warsaw. Our meal took over an hour to arrive, and when we complained we were told that the delay had occured because one of the cooks in the kitchen, had cut off his little finger (Ouch!).

"Waiter Waiter your finger’s in my soup"

"No it’s not sir, – that one belongs to the chef"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

John Mayall Bluesbreakers

John Mayall in Sala Kongresowa

I hadn't heard anything from John Mayall for a long long while. In fact I had my suspicions that he was probably dead. I was surprised therefore to see a poster advertising his concert at Sala Kongresowa in Warsaw and happily realised that he probably was not in a state of quietus after all.

I'm not a huge fan of his, but I had once owned, and liked, a couple of his (old) albums - one of which I now realise dated from 1966. The old guy that crept onto stage therefore was considerably older, greyer and more hunched than the guy that had once looked out at me from my LP record cover.

John Mayall was introduced to the crowd as the 'Godfather of British Blues' (he was born in Macclesfield) and played an industrious 90 minute set, variously moving between guitar, keyboards and the harmonica. I recognised a few of the tracks he played but the packed hall of Poles clearly new a lot more of them than me.

Along the way Mayall had learnt how to say the Polish word, "Dziękuję" (thank you) and used it with liberal abandon whenever he needed a cheer. It was a handy addition to his set and almost became like his own personal 'fire-alarm'. Whenever things quietened down John would break the quiet by saying the magic word "Dziękuję" and he'd get the crowd back on-side, cheering and clapping again.

He was joined on stage by Buddy Whittington who despite being the size of a house played a mean guitar and did a couple of very good solos of his own. They made an odd couple on stage, an old grey Englishman and a man-mountain American, weilding a red electric guitar. The strangeness was complemented by a light technician who left both of them in semi-darkness for long periods while the spotlight lit up some other empty area of the stage (perhaps it was to make things more Blues-ey?).

It wasn't the greatest concert I've ever been to, predominantly due to my ignorance of John Mayall's back catalogue (of 56 albums!!), but it was a good night out.

After listening to some of Mayall's incredible mouth organ solos, I've become even more determined to finally get to grips with Amy's harmonica! Look out for me soon, playing the Blues on a street corner near you...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Audrey on her way to Bumps and Babies

This is a picture of Audrey on her way to Bumps and Babies this morning. It was rather a long taxi journey, but she didn't seem to mind.

She cut her 7th tooth today!

We've got less than 3 weeks left in Warsaw now. It all feels slightly surreal to think we'll soon be leaving town!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Audrey on the Swings

As part of her busy Warsaw Mums and Tots schedule, Audrey paid a visit to Odynca Playground yesterday. It was the first time she'd been to a playground and Odynca is good (not least as they have a couple of lovely cafes nearby) but also have play equipment suitable for smaller children.

It was a nice sunny morning and we played on the swings, a see-saw and the slides. I'm not sure she enjoyed the experience or was just terrified by it - I'll leave you to decide from the video.....

Trevor's Mom and Dad pay another visit to Warsaw

Trevor's parents were in Warsaw for a few days visiting us before our departure for Australia.

It was lovely to see them, and for them to see Audrey not least as she has grown and developed a fair amount over the few weeks since June, when they last saw her.

During the last couple of weeks Audrey has become an expert crawler and loves trying to stand on her own. We shared quite a few funny moments watching her trying to climb up and balance on her own two feet before sitting down and promptly trying again.

While they were in town we visited the Uprising Museum and went to the top of the Palace of Science and Culture. We also took in the Sunday lunchtime Chopin concert at Łazienki - definitely recommended if you're in Warsaw and have never seen it.

We were both really sad to see them leave. It'll be a while until we're all together again and Audrey will have grown a fair amount more by then. I guess being parents has made us realise even more, the importance of having parents of your own.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Platini in Town

UEFA president Michel Platini came to Warsaw this week to see how preparations were going for the Euro 2012 tournament due to be held in Poland (and Ukraine). So far we've not seen much in the way of building work (Poland needs new roads, hotels and stadiums). Ukraine are in even more trouble

Platini issued a September deadline for the countries to show significant progress.

I do so hope that Poland make the deadlines for construction as it would be a great boost for the country. At the moment though it's hard to imagine this

becoming this