Well, I made it to Poland today. We arrived at Warsaw generally on time. It was mostly cloudy there when we arrived and there were some drops of rain on the plane windows. We eventually went through passport control and then another security checkpoint and then a bus took us out to our waiting puddle-jumper for the next flight, from Warsaw to Gdansk. I have not idea whether or not it left on time, I was not worried about that, just happy to be here.
Our flight to Gdansk was just under an hour. I had a window seat. At first when we took off I could see a bit of rural Warsaw, but then as we moved into the clouds it was cloudy. But after about 15 minutes or so, there were breaks in the clouds and I could see a fair part of the contryside. It is beautiful, and very green now as they’ve had lots of rain. Well, green and brown, brown where fields have been recently harvested. The roads are all small and winding with houses clumped here and there and fields extending out to the next road and it’s houses. There are occasional larger clumps, little villages. It’s very pretty. There are a fair number of forests as well.
We we arrived in Gdansk to partly cloudy skies though a bit chilly. I’m not sure what it was, but barely into the 60s I’d guess. Still it was better than forecasted and better than rain. We got our luggage rather quickly (yes, it all arrived from Chicago or the other places it came from, miraculously). Then we met our tour guide and the bus driver and headed into town.
The trip into town was very stop and go for quite a bit because of all the celebrations today. It is the 30 year anniversary of Lech Walesa and Solidarnosc signing the deal by which the Communists recognized their union and movement. Essentially, it really was the beginning of the end for Communism, but of course quite a few of you youngsters will not understand what that all means except from passionless history books. At any rate, traffic sucked! But eventually it cleared out. The ride to our hotel was about 30 minutes and we arrived around 2:10 local time.
Upon arrival, we were told we’d meet at 5 to get a walking tour, then have dinner together at 7:30. But two of us decided to take our own tour and so took off at 2:30, just enough time to open the suitcase and plug in my netbook to charge it!
We are only a block or two from the Market Square, which is really not square, but a very long rectangle. When we got there, we found two others from our group already enjoying a Zywiec, so we joined them for a bit. Then we headed out and just took a leisurely tour all around. We arrived back at the hotel in plenty of time to meet our group for the 5 PM walking tour. Cousins Pat and Sonja stayed back at the hotel during the first impromptu tour to rest, but confessed later that they ended up relzxing by playing some cards!
Our 5 PM tour was just a little tour. We learned a bit about amber and changed money at the Kantor. We also learned that what we saw on the market square is totally rebuilt as it was very much demolished in World War II. We saw a few pictures of that destruction. Eventually we ended up back at the hotel and had dinner.
Dinner was very nice. We started with some Krupnik–yumm! The dinner was buffet style. We all started with the Zurek and everyone agreed that it was very good. For fruits and vegetables there was a lettuce salad, some watermelon, some honeydew. There was herring which was very good and a few other things that I forget or didn’t know what they were. For main courses there was pork tenderloin with apples, pierogi (sauerkraut and mushroom), chicken in a creamy sauce, and salmon in a lemon cream sauce. Everything was very good. Of course, not having had much to eat all day made it taste all the better.
Now it is almost 9 in the evening here but feels like–well, I’m not sure. But at 3:20 AM our tour bus is leaving–for those of us who want to go, to attend a ceremony commemorating the start of World War II. It started at 5 AM so that’s when we’ll be there. The president of Poland and other high officials will be there. Chris has arranged to have a wreath laid–it contains poppies from the American Legions in US as well. He had some meeting with the mayor about that today. He does get around. So I am planning on going to that.
I took lots and lots of pictures today. The market area has an old town European feeling to it, added to by all the foreign languages being spoken there, and there were quite a few. Lots of places to eat too, and street vendors and a very busy place. It was a lot of fun. Tomorrow we will have a more formal tour with a tour guide who specializes in Gdansk, among the other things. I’m sure that will be a very full day, too.
The room at the hotel here is very nice, no complaints at all. It is quite modern in look and feel and furnishings, though seems a bit cold to me. I have the heat on but it’s not getting too warm too fast. Oh well, i can survive that. I stopped by the bar on my way to my room and got a bottle of Zywiec for 12 PLN (about $4)–highway robbery–but it sure tastes good. I am tired now as I’ve only had a few hours of light sleep on the plane.
Sonja and Pat are doing just fine as well. The did lots of visiting on the plane and played cards for a while. The both were on the 5 PM walking “light” tour tonight and both enjoyed their dinner a lot. I’m sure they’re tired like me and I know they did not sleep much on the plane if at all. But they’re young, they’ll recover too. More when I have it!