Cities / Towns Visited: 49
Countries Visited: 15
Steps Taken Today: 29,259
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,696,151
Our brief stay in Warsaw was almost at an end, but we still had the day to finish our exploration of this fascinating city. After checking out, and stashing our bags at the train station for later, we wandered to the old town. Moving out of the rather industrial feeling of the main CBD and into the quainter and somewhat shorter realm of the old town was rather refreshing. Strolling past the giant red, bronze spired royal palace which now houses an art exhibition, and through the main square filled with brightly coloured facades almost reminiscent of Nyhaven or Bryggen, we eventually found ourselves at the barbican, the old defensive gate from when this area was a walled city. It’s strong, red brick formation gave it the sense of being the younger brother of Malbork castle.
Deciding it would be best to eat before our long train ride in the evening, and acknowledging that dinner would most certainly not be consumed until some far off hour, we ducked into a restaurant just by our position which advertised having oven baked pierogi. Having already tried the more traditional boiled version the previous day, we ordered a couple of plates and tucked in. Not to say they weren’t delicious, but they were almost calzone-esque, as opposed to the classic dumpling. Satiated but not stuffed, we stopped to grab another lody, realising that this would become an obsession much like chimney cakes in the Czech republic, and in a spur of the moment thought process of ‘go big or go home’, we ordered the XXL version. Now this one was somewhat softer than the previous days, but the cone was much wider and the result certainly earn those two X’s; this bad boy had some weight behind it. Feeling like children once more we scurried off to sit under the statue in the square outside the palace and gorged on our treat whilst watching gypsy scam artists try and con school kids out of their signature and money for what I can only imagine is an entirely fictitious charity.
The weather began to turn as we waddled off towards the Saxon gardens, and just as we passed the uniformed military officers guarding the eternal flame on the parks edge, the heavens open and rain began to pelt down. Fat, cold droplets splashing us, and quickly tearing away any warmth the sun had bestowed on the city this morning. We ducked beneath the sprawling branches of the towering trees, yet alas this was to little avail, and within ten minutes or so we were thoroughly damp. By the time we reached the 20 minute mark we knew it was time to decide; do we make a run for our last destination or so we wait here in the hope that the shower eases up. Figuring we were already somewhat drenched, we legged it to a nearby bus shelter, before scurrying further until we reached our final stop just as the rain stopped; the Palace of Culture and Science. Stepping inside, and dabbing ourselves dry with my shirt as best we could, we bought our tickets and headed up to the observation deck.
Alighting the elevator we were delivered to a stunning view of the city. The weather may be dismal, but it seemed almost right when taking a moment to look out at the city and truly seeing the effects WWII had on this metropolis. Where most European capitals ooze history, with their pasts etched in every beautifully designed curve of their architecture, Warsaw has almost exclusively the cold hard lines of a concrete jungle built by communists in the financial black hole of post war eastern Europe. Behind that iron curtain their flattened city was given the necessities and very little else. There are but a few skyscrapers dotted amongst a ground cover of little boxes. That’s not to say there isn’t any beauty to be found. The few survivors of the destruction, and the spattering of parks reminds us that this city is still a home, and not merely a house.
With a little time to spare before our train we rested, and dried ever so slightly, on the lounge chairs rather randomly provided on this airy precipice, whilst watching the storm blow over. Eventually the time came and we hurried along onto our train to carry on to our next home; Wroclaw. To say I was excited was an understatement. We were not simply moving on to the next city, but we would be meeting up with my best friend her husband, who were just starting their honeymoon. Her husband was born in Poland, but moved to Australia as a child, thus this was part pilgrimage and part excuse to catch up.
As the train pulled into the station, my eyes scoured the platform for the person I had been missing the most since my departure from home. Reaching the top of the stairs running down to the underpass of the tracks I saw her at the bottom, and moments later she was at the top and we were yelling ‘Wifey!’ whilst barrelling towards each other in what can only be described as half hug, half spear tackle. There is nothing quite so very soul fulfilling as being reunited with one of your soul mates, and that’s what she is to me, my other ‘other half’, along with my partner obviously. Our matching tattoos say it all really; the co-ordinates of our meeting place, puzzle pieces which fit together, and the simple but important words ‘Here, Everywhere, Always.’
Giggling like school children we headed off to check into our Airbnb with friends in tow, gaggling about everything that had happened in the last three months since we’d been together previously, despite talking almost every day online. Once we’d dumped our bags, it was back into the city as the sun finally dipped below the horizon on the hunt for food at this late hour. With our knowledge of the options almost non existent, we simply headed to the town square, stopping to buy salted caramel filled doughnuts (which must be noted were fantastically soft, with the perfect amount of filling). Eventually we gave up looking for the perfect place and settled for a little dumpling bar which claimed to have pierogi along with other kinds of dumplings from around the world. When they came out though, it became clear that they were less pierogi and more ravioli. Not bad as such, just not quite what we had in mind.
With both parties exhausted from their respective travels, we wandered back past the spectacularly beautiful town hall and clock tower, and out of the square, before parting ways until the next day. Before long we were slipping into bed and I drifted happily to sleep in the knowledge that the next few days would be spent with my pseudo sister. In being so far away, I think I have come to fully appreciate the importance of true friends in my life. I’m not about talking fair weather friends, I’m talking about the kind of friends who become family, thick and thin friends, 3am help you bury a body kind of friends (not that I’ve ever needed that, but if I did, I know she’s got my back). I have never understood the idea that you must be loyal and all forgiving to your family just because they share blood with you. If people treat you poorly, especially on a consistent basis, they should be removed from your circle. Blood ties do not automatically give them immunity to the consequences of their choices, words, or actions. I have more people in my life who I do not share DNA with,who I would jump in front of a bullet for, before many of the people whom doctors would call my ‘family’. Unconditional kindness, love, empathy, forgiveness, loyalty, trust, reliability, honesty, and genuine contrition when they err; these things make a family, and these are the people we should surround ourselves with. These are the people who build you up and put you back together when you break; the people who make you better simply by being themselves, and who become better because of you. The people who fasten themselves to your hear not with the fickleness of strings but with titanium cables. Soul mates are not only romantic, you can find them in a family member, whether biological or not. And if you are lucky enough to ever find them, hold them dear, for they are the people who would only ever break your heart with their passing; they are missing pieces of your own personal puzzle.