G is for GOD – In Warsaw, almost all of God’s real estate is Catholic. No big surprise there then. Walk in any direction for about 10 minutes and you should see a church. They’ll be the buildings that are too big for the situation they find themselves in. The modern ones come in a variety of architectural styles that could best be grouped under the category of “Oops my pencil slipped”. If you’re planning on going to church, book early to avoid disappointment. If you happen to be of some other persuasion, I’m sure you can find a place to visit but I wouldn’t expect you to have a big choice. The only one I’ve visited that was not Catholic is the big Russian Orthodox one in Praga, close to the Carrefour junction where we attended a wedding. I like the idea of standing up the whole time, saves you the embarrassment of dropping off and snoring mid service! G is also for GREY & GREEN. The two colours of Warsaw, six months each. Green from May to October, grey November to April. Broadly speaking.
H is for HERRING – the almighty śledź! These are definitely an acquired taste. Before coming to Poland I wouldn’t touch them with a very long bargepole but now I love them to death. They are served as cold fillets that have been soaked in oil and with a variety of “sauces” ranging from simple oil & onions to creamy yoghurt sauces. They are not usually rolled, as in the Scandinavian roll-mops. Common as an appetiser in many restaurants, particularly those with a Polish or Germanic twist but they also nearly always make an appearance on the table at home. Watch out though, if anyone suggests you try a pastry with a śledź inside, politely decline. They are disgusting! A good place to get a plate full of herring is the Kompania Piwna restaurant near the old town. Our daughter is bestest friends with the owner’s daughter, not that this has resulted in any discounts yet, but it is a good place to eat especially if you’re hungry as the portions are immense!
I is for Island 1 – Polandian’s very own ‘Island’ lives in Kraków. So for most people from Warsaw he would be a “jerk” who can’t get over the fact that Ziggy moved the capital from Kraków to Warsaw and keeps banging on about his university and town square and stuff. Fact is that Warsaw is where it’s at, unless you’re a tourist, or part of a British stag party. ;)
J is for JULY – July is the beginning of “holiday season” which lasts until September. People in Warsaw take their holiday season seriously. The hardest part of it is working out how you can keep your kids occupied and in the great outdoors for three months while you both still have to go to work. Yes, in the same way the children of Britain were evacuated during the war, the kids of Warsaw do this every year for three months. They are packed off to stay with little known relatives who live in the woods and then moved around the country’s ozone rich places until September comes and they can come back home and go to school. All very healthy stuff, you know. When I first arrived here, Warsaw would be a ghost town on any weekend during holiday season. I mean you had the place to yourself. Nowadays the pressure of the evolving rat-race means that it is a lot busier than back then, but it is still considerably quieter than other times. The weather is usually glorious with plenty of sunshine and temperatures up in the 20’s (often 30’s) for weeks on end. As the sun beats down relentlessly the housing blocks warm up and everyone goes in search of an electric fan and wonders why they haven’t installed A/C yet. J is also for JAZZ. Poles like jazz and are very good at playing it too. July & August is the regular time for the Warsaw open air jazz festival. Well worth a visit.
K is for KRZYŻY – famous for the completely unpronounceable Plac Trzech Krzyży (or Three Crosses Square) in Warsaw. British mouths were simply not made to say such words. It is a square I have found myself walking or driving across thousands of times as it is at the junction of so many places or directions I need to head in. Lots to do around here. If you enjoy skateboarding there’s a regular gang that hangs around outside the Sheraton. I even took a picture of them once (click for larger), I messed around with it in Photoshop.
More Warsaw stuff can be found at 20 east.