Flowers, everywhere. A smiling young nun leans into a bouquet of roses as orange as an Ipanema sunset. The equivalent of two dollars a splendid dozen. If I lived in Warsaw, I’d buy flowers twice a week.
Nuns, everywhere. Ditto priests. Okay, maybe not everywhere, but the last time I saw nuns in Chicago in traditional sisterly garb—long skirts and headgear like The Flying Nun used to wear—I was back in grade school. And Jan Pawel’s face is plastered on every single church in Warsaw; apparently no one got the memo that he’s no longer Pope.
The architecture ranges from the sublime (the Chopin Museum) to the slightly ridiculous (the Soviet built Palace of Culture and Science.) Mostly sublime. The Old Town is much bigger than I had expected. Although most of it was restored after its almost total destruction by the Nazis, it has none of that faux touristy look of places that are, in fact, hundreds of years old (Heidelberg comes to mind.)
I try to visit the Holy Cross Church to see the sepulcher that holds the heart of Chopin, but there’s a funeral mass going on. The church is packed.
Posters of Chopin everywhere advertising Chopin concerts. You can buy little bottles of vodka with Chopin’s picture. The airport in Warsaw is called the Chopin Airport. The airport in Krakow is the Pope John Paul the Second airport.
Bakeries, everywhere. And cafes—kawernias—where you can get a delicious cup of coffee and a slice of apple cake for less than four dollars. Who needs Starbucks? If I lived in Warsaw, I’d have coffee and apple cake every day.
I know what I’d like my final meal to be. Pierogis stuffed with wild mushrooms, sour cream on the side.
People speak English less here than they do in many other parts of Europe, but that’s not a problem. It’s easy to navigate the city—the hop-on, hop-off trams are inexpensive and the conductor never asks for tickets. My husbands suggests that maybe we don’t have to actually buy tickets. I’ll visit you in jail, I tell my husband.
Too many pigeons.
The National Museum is closed. So much for admiring Matejko’s The Battle of Grunwald, which depicts the downfall of the Teutonic Knights at the hands of the Lithuanian-Polish army in 1410, a date that every Polish and Lithuanian child knows by heart.
Lazienki Park seems sad in the rain. Plus, it’s cold. In the heart of the park stands a larger-than-life sculpture of Chopin.
I see my mother everywhere: carefully coifed hair, a good fall coat in a flattering neutral color, makeup that is neither piled on nor so minimal as to be ineffective. My mother always made an effort; no sweatpants, weekly trips to the salon, and, always, lipstick. Sometimes my mother is wearing a beret, and sometimes she is holding hands with a man who is my father.