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Buried treasure

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As “guest” pointed to in an earlier comment, the Wisła river has recently exposed a hoard of treasure laying on the river bed near Warsaw.

Water levels are at the lowest for some centuries, something I find surprising given the seemingly never ending rain and the problems many have, or were having, with waterlogged basements but anyway, the river at least is low. This has exposed areas of the bed that have remained hidden for ages and archeologists are exploring the rare bounty of treasure that has been found lying there for 350 years.

According to this article in the Telegraph, around 10 tons of material has been found. Sadly, none of it is gold doubloons, diamonds or anything handy like that. It is a collection of ornate stone and marble work, most likely stolen by the Swedes around 1655 and was on route to Gdansk for onward shipping to Sweden where someone intended to reconstruct a palace they had earlier deconstructed shortly after removing the head of the owner.

This was all part of the “Deluge” (potop szwedzki) where those plucky Swedes invaded Poland and made a real mess. The extent of their rampage covered cities like Gdansk, Torun, Poznan, Lublin (overlapping with the Russians of course), Warsaw and Krakow. They looted like professionals and took just about everything they could lay their hands on. The extent of the destruction they left behind was massive. Warsaw, then capital of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth was completely destroyed (wot, again?) and around 25% of the population was lost in four key provinces. And all we get in return is Abba? Hardly fair.

It will be interesting to read the results of the archeological works, especially if they can place the origin of the stones.

Meanwhile, the area is guarded by police to make sure nothing is stolen, again.

The Beautiful People

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Today Avon have their annual conference at the Sala Kongresowa and are celebrating 20 years in Poland. The streets are awash with high heeled ladies who are not strangers to the solarium or fashion shops. There is the sweet smell of success in the air as you would expect from a gathering of the fifth-largest beauty company and largest direct selling enterprise in the world. As of 2010, Avon had annual sales of $10.8 billion worldwide and 6.4 million representatives.

Twenty years means Avon started early in Poland, 1992, but that’s nothing compared to the 126 years that have elapsed since the business started in New York, then called The California Perfume Company. The late 1800’s were a good time for health, hygiene and products that were good for you, for example only ten years after Avon got started Colgate became the first toothpaste in a collapsible tube, introduced in 1896. In 1882 the company Nivea was founded. I’m sure there are many other examples.

These days, I find it quite encouraging to come across any business that has managed to survive and thrive for so long. A nice counter to the endlessly depressing smash & grab stories of banks and other firms clearly designed to get a few people rich and then disappear.

Personally, I have very vague memories of the “Avon Lady” calling on my mum way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and more recently I now have a member of my Polish family actually working for Avon at their factory in Garwolin, south of Warsaw.

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There one minute, gone the next!

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As our temporarily absent holiday reporter Decoy wrote a while back, there’s no knowing whether a new restaurant is going to stay open long enough to establish itself or not.

The picture is a shot from my office window down to the latest example of here-today-gone-tomorrowness in the culinary sector of Warsaw. The brown boarded up windows were, for perhaps a month or two at the most, the appetisingly titled “Cafe Bar Restauracyjny A P Foods”, located at the bottom of a block of flats opposite the PKiN on Emilii Plater.

Despite having a food court and numerous restaurants inside Zlote T as well as various options in the surrounding area, the workers here still find themselves short of options and are always keen to try out something new. Mainly what we are short of is good food for a sensible price. At the lunacy end of the spectrum you can spend about 35 zeds in Coffee Heaven for a nothing special sandwich, muffin and drink, while at the other end you can go to the “hole-in-the-wall cafe” and get rosół plus kotlet schabowy and all the bits for 12 zeds.

Asian food is slowly becoming more popular but all of the options inside ZT are going to set you back around 30 zeds or more, Thai Wok in the foodcourt being my favourite. The now boarded up place set out to provide a filling (gigantic in fact) portion of Asian food for less than 20 zeds and might well have proved to be very busy.

It’s a mystery as to what happened. It opened, we tried it out with noodle dishes and decided that whilst it could have been tastier it was pretty good value. A little eccentric perhaps. Obviously genuine Asian staff doing to cooking but with a manager/owner who looked a little out of place, more used to being seen exposing herself on Pudelek or having her life examined in Viva or Gala than wandering around a cheap cafe. We tried it once more when I went for the “7 litre – meal in a soup” option. Have to say I started to worry when the majority of pieces of meat in the soup were hard to pin down to a known species, certainly didn’t look like any chicken parts I had previously encountered but the Chinese clients were tucking in nicely so perhaps it was just me?

Next thing we knew it was closed with paper covering the windows and a note about a remont. We assumed they’d decided it was working and were tarting it up or adding more seats. It reopened for about a day looking no different, then closed again this time with boarded up windows and no note about what was going on. It’s been that way now for a couple of months at least.

We’re hoping it does reopen (after having found better meat suppliers), or something similar takes its place but the circumstances are strange enough to suggest that perhaps this will not be the case. We certainly don’t need another high-end grocery store or overpriced coffee shop but with Złota 44 right next door and one day to fill with Warsaw’s rich and famous (ROTFL), the pressure to be “posh” might be overwhelming.

What I can’t quite get my head around with things like this is why people go to some fairly considerable effort to create something that is clearly a flawed enterprise? They had to rent the place, create a business, make and install a sign, find some Asian cooks, fit-out the kitchen and restaurant, buy ingredients……..etc. A lot of work and cost only for it to close after a month or two? What the hell?

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Sunbeds

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If there’s one thing bound to cause trouble on a holiday, apart from renting a car, it’s sunbeds.

I write this because a recently departed guest from our resort has posted a generally good review on Trip Advisor but complained about the sunbeds and one particular German family. I don’t want to continue the German sunbed myth but in this case it is a fact although in our time here they were not the only ones and not all problems were German. Nor is there a rampant sunbed problem here. For the most part it’s a very minor issue

The question is what, if anything, can the management do to solve this problem and keep everyone happy? In my opinion this is impossible.

Everywhere we have ever stayed has the same problem, demand greatly outstripping supply and only a small percentage of the supply being sought after thanks to location (sun, shade, proximity to bar). You then add the different cultural or personal attitudes and you have a recipe for some people to be happy and others not.

Everyone who is hanging by the pool for all or most of the day wants the best beds, whatever nationality, this is particularly so if you have kids who will naturally demand more pool time. The differences arise in how “nice” you want to be to fellow guests and in how you go about “reserving” your beds. The latter is probably the root of the problem.

There are perhaps three ways of claiming beds:
1/ select beds that are available when you (the majority of your family) arrive at the pool and immediately start using them.
2/ have the first family member to arrive at the pool secure beds for the rest of the family as well.
3/ one family member gets up early and reserves beds for the whole family then leaves the pool area and nobody returns for hours after.

Option 1 is the fairest (British sense of fairness) and would cause the fewest complaints but almost never happens.

Option 2 is what we use, myself being the earliest to the pool often by an hour or two. I feel slightly guilty when my technique restricts the choice of people trying to use option 1 arriving before my family does but this is offset by looking at the number of beds taken up by people who have used option 3. I therefore find this option a good compromise between screwing other guests and getting screwed by them.

Option 3 is the one that causes all the problems. I’m sure those who use it just feel like they have paid for this and are simply making sure their family enjoys the holiday. The problem gets worse when this option is used by a family of 6, as was the case in the complaint I mentioned. Even worse when they don’t turn up until mid or even late afternoon and when they do their idea of pool fun is bombing each other non stop. For balance, we had many conversations with this family and they were very nice in every other respect.

The longer I am out of Britain and its innate cultural sense of fairness the more I understand option 3 even though I will never be able to use it. I am essentially and option 1 kind of guy. More interesting to deliberate on is how, despite repeat occurrences, nobody ever just removes their towels and reclaims a bed. Everyone just sits there all day staring at the unused, towel reserved beds and getting angry.

How management are supposed to deal with this is beyond me. If they rule that no towel reservations are allowed then many families are forced into a routine they don’t want and will not return. If they have no rules, some families will get upset and perhaps not return but will they be any better off elsewhere? Management intervention takes time and causes confrontations they can do without especially in a family run place like this.

I think with this matter we have to accept it is never going to improve, there is no magic solution. You have to decide which option you’re most comfortable with and live with the consequences.

Gad the heat!

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The last time it was this hot I was in Kuwait City, which had the advantage of air conditioning. EDIT – no it wasn’t, it was Seville, Spain, which had no air con and the locals had deserted the town.

It’s not just the sun that’s hot but the ground, the wind, everything. Life in an oven. Thank goodness it’s not humid as well.

There are other excursions planned but in this heat schlepping around any town is no fun.

This evening we go in search of yet another world famous, 40 years in business ice-cream emporium about 15 minutes away in the direction of nowheresville. With luck we will stumble upon a small restaurant serving the best truffle risotto known to man as well.