June 21, 2017

Day 1: Warsaw

On the summer solstice, I flew above the north Atlantic, midnight sun glowing outside the airplane window, illuminating the clouds below us in a suspension that melted from violet dusk into pink dawn without ever touching the dark shades in between.

It was a night without a star, except for that insistent sun. As I dipped in and out of a shallow sleep, I picked up my phone and iPad, puzzling at the hours that they displayed. When did they last connect to a signal? Was 11:37 the time in Minneapolis, in Toronto, or wherever we were? Where were we?

I did mundane things, like reading a novel and watching Bridget Jones’ Baby. I did remarkable things, like looking down at the shimmering islands of Denmark and trying to discern land from ocean from clouds from the shadows of clouds passing over.

This is why I insist on window seats.

What I didn’t do much of was sleep.

We arrived in Warsaw in a hazy dream state, and I began a series of small, challenging tasks: Asking a gate agent, in Polish, for wheelchair assistance for my mother. Fitting 6 bags and 3 people into a Skoda station wagon. Figuring out how to get said car into reverse (push down on the stick shift), out of a tiny parking garage, and along the narrow city streets to our hotel.

Our hotel, across the street from a 24-hour liquor shed.

When the hotel wouldn’t let us check in until noon, I said “That’s OK – We’ll go for a drive!” and I pointed the car in the direction of the tall buildings on the horizon. My mother marveled at the skyscrapers and shops that had changed the face of the city in the past 20 years. Warsaw isn’t her hometown, but she’s spent enough time there to recognize that she hardly knows it at all anymore.

Driving is a little scary, with the kilometers and the manual transmission and the bold bicyclists zooming across the city streets, but I can do it. That said, it felt great to park the car in the hotel garage (tiny, of course) and curl up for a midday nap. But not before Evie talked me into trying this restaurant she spotted at the airport, and again near our hotel, which she simply had to try.

It was a little different: high tech ordering kiosks, fried broccoli, Emmental cheese

Evie and I took an evening outing while my mother rested. With no plans, we hopped onto a train and rode it until Evie saw a neighborhood that looked nice.

Evie liked the look of this guy.

We walked through a park and a residential neighborhood dotted with tiny shops and 20-story apartment buildings with pots of geraniums on their balconies. We smiled at Polish toddlers and people walking small dogs. We ate Italian food in a sidewalk café. Evie found a 10 Zloty bill on the street, declared it lucky, and left it for our server because you have to pay good luck forward.

Italian pizza in Poland: highly recommend

Tomorrow, we’ll visit some tourist sites. We’ll eat something Polish. And we’ll gear up for the big adventure, the heart of our trip, the journey south to Krakow. Czesc, Polska. I can’t wait to get to know you better.

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