Sunday, 28 August 2016

Warsaw, from guests’ perspective

Skipped last week’s piece of blogging to look after my family (aunt, cousin and his wife) from Jelenia Góra who came for a few days to Warsaw. Heedless of political correctness, I confess living under one (especially one’s own) roof with a few people you meet once in two or three years is a nuisance. Yet, we all endured it without major clashes and their visit egged me on sightseeing trips through Warsaw and around I would not take in such number without third-party incentive.

They arrived on Saturday (over a week ago) before noon by Pendolino. For no apparent reason they chose to go by train, though door-to-door journey is shorter and less costly (for an equivalent of three adult ticket from Jelenia Góra to Warsaw they could buy petrol to come to Warsaw and drive back home.

On Saturday, after unpacking and lunch we set off to Prażmów where several of our common ancestors are buried. We visited their graves, burnt candles and I took the opportunity to discover areas of cemetery I had never ventured into, despite dropping in on there twice or three times a year. To the right, one of such places, a plaque commemorating local insurgents who fought in January Uprising.

On Sunday morning the relatives refused to sit back on a terrace and relax, so I had to take them for a longer stroll to Piaseczno. We inspected the reconstruction of ul. Wojska Polskiego. The scope of works is anything but overwhelming. The street will not be widened, but new asphalt will be laid, new pavements and parking spots built, two new pedestrian crossings marked out.

The major gain for local residents will be the newly built intersection with ul. Sikorskiego, which used to be a cul-de-sac since 2000. The new link might spare local car-ridden residents around one kilometre of detour. Note the florist’s and delicatessen grocery on the left side of my snap. The two facilities have not changed by a bit since 20 years (I lived a stone’s throw to this spot until 2005), resisting competition from posh flower shops and Lidl and Kaufland shops opened nearby in early 2000s.

On Sunday afternoon we paid a visit to Warsaw Uprising Museum. This was my second trip to that establishment this year, so I served as a guide. The museum, as each public one is proscribed to open its doors free of charge once week. Here the day when visitors do not need to buy tickets is Sunday, hence a long queue to the entrance. The wait, fortunately, did not take long and after some 20 minutes we crossed the door of the building. After an hour and a half, as we were leaving, rain was pouring down heavily. Bang went plans of ambling around the new residential and commercial developments of Wola district.

On Monday and Tuesday I escaped to work (refused to take the whole week off and put my patience to such test, imagine my grin when I was driving off bound to be away from home for eleven hours) so my mother took care of the guests, showing them nooks and crannies linked to our family’s history in Piaseczno and on Tuesday they went to Warsaw to Królikarnia Park, Łazienki Park and to Palace of Culture’s observation deck.

On Wednesday morning we headed for Polish Jews’ Museum. The probably most magnificent museum in Warsaw was opened over three years ago, on 70th anniversary of the Ghetto Uprising outbreak. The exhibition strikes with modernity and gives visitors the chance not just to familiarise with the history of Jews on the territory of Poland (not sparing the shameful pieces of it), but also acquaints them with Jews’ culture and religion.

Walking quite carefully through the exhibition took us more than two hours and if I can hint those interested in visiting the museum (definitely worthwhile), go through the first part of the exhibition, until the end of eighteenth century faster and than slow down, since as you move towards the present, the story gets more appealing.

Having left the museum, we strolled around the very centre of the capital to let the relatives see the recently built skyscrapers (in Warsaw’s terms building having more than 20 storeys) – Q22, Warsaw Spire and Cosmopolitan.

After the lunch the family were tired enough to stay in, while I took a bike for a short trip around the neighbour- hood. In Nowa Iwiczna, next to the station, pavement south of ul. Krasickiego was under construction. Dwellers of roadside houses were overseeing workers to ensure driveways to their properties were assembled properly (i.e. without curbs and not too slippery).

Little was going on close the station in Nowa Iwiczna. The level crossing has been opened, target tracks have been laid therein, yet the old island platform remained nearly intact and the place seemed to be lagging behind in terms of work progress, compared to other sections of W-wa Okęcie – Piaseczno modernised section.

Further north, in Jeziorki, tarmac has been ripped off ul. Karczunkow- ska and literally nothing was going on. As I turned up there, it was just before 4 p.m. so I expected to observe construction crews bustling about. Instead, the only humans at the scene were two men next to gatekeeper’s hut, staring at the desolated place. Besides, not a living soul in sight. Closure of the level crossing is an inconvenience for locals therefore swift pace of works should be ensured to minimise it.

In Dawidy, rail-wise, same progress of works as one station south. However here the level crossing has been revamped, yet gates have not been put up. Passengers can use one new platform next to newly-laid track used currently by trains running in both directions. The northbound track has been ripped and no signs of further course of works could be witnessed.

Cycling home along ul. Baletowa I spotted a ZTM bus, operating a newly launched 737 service. Inhabitants of this part of Zielony Ursynów had been waiting for a bus connection to town for 20 years and had greeted the first bus a few days earlier with ribbon-cutting, bread and salt. Must ul. Karczunkowska have been closed to bring those people closer to civilisation and relieve them from dependence on cars and rarely running trains which do not reach Ursynów or Mokotów?

On Thursday morning we set off to take a walk through Krakowskie Przedmieście. My mother and aunt visited interiors of all churches by the street, then we strolled around Plac Zamkowy. End of August is still a height of holiday season, so majority of people around (just like in Polin Museum) were foreigners.

Then guests took us to a café in Old Town Square to enjoy “home-made” ice-cream. While waiting for my portion, I snapped a bird, plucking and pecking flower petals. Then, I accidentally caught the fellow flying away, shooed by a waiter.

While heading towards the castle to turn right in the direction of the Unkown Soldier’s Tomb and Ogród Saski, I took a picture of the National Stadium. The sport arena looks splendid, unlike my photo which rather resembles an advertisement of Skoda Fabia (I somehow failed to notice the car, whose driver probably did not give a damn about traffic restrictions).

On Thursday afternoon we took the last trip to Konstancin Jeziorna. The place, which I used to pop in on often as a child, has undergone a huge change since I last visited the sanatoria park in spring 2013 (documented visit in 2011). The most dilapidated area near Jeziorka river has been marvellously revitalised, since three years ago where the pavement lies you could see a narrow trampled path, and wild shrubs were overgrowing it on both sides. The old sanatoria building was demolished to give way to a spa facility.

Hugonówka café, opened in 2014, is now the main cultural house in Konstancin, serving both as eatery and as scene of theatre and open-air cinema. Compared to how badly it looked in 2013, the stride made here brings out joy. Konstancin now is one of excellent weekend trip destinations for Varsovians!

On Friday early morning another Pendolino took my cousin and his wife home, while my aunt took a bus to Legionowo to visit her another cousin. The remaining household members could finally have a sigh of relief and after a solid cleaning up could enjoy a slightly longer weekend. Today around noon I set off to the airport to pick up my acquaintance from Germany who played host to me and my friend during holidays in 2005. I promised her to drive her to Wólka cemetery to visit her daughter’s grave, then we are about to eat out and her another daughter should take her home.

The weather these days is truly summer-like, yet +30C heat this time is absolutely tolerable for me. Cool nights and brisk mornings help air out interiors which give shelter from the heat in the afternoons, while the very air is dry and breeze takes the edge off heat. Long-term forecasts predict such weather is to continue until the end of first decade of September and may they prove accurate!

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