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Day Two - Exploring Warsaw, Jet lagged

Divinity and the Universe

View Andy's Trip to Eastern Europe on Andy_in_Europe's travel map.

I have this policy when travelling that if you have left anything behind, this must mean I was supposed to purchase it on my travels. After the morning drama, driving, the rental car, and the car park, I decided to go out into Warsaw to buy a few items I needed and a new pair of Sunglasses, swear word. It’s a vast city, and the version of the Google map has shrunk as I eye up what looks like a very close landmark from my hotel, “Palac Kultury I Nauki.” The Palace of Culture and Science. It’s a magnificent structure for those who saw about one-quarter of it. I managed to fit in a photograph from about 500m away from it, On FaceBook. It’s Sunday, 6th August and 29 C degrees, and I’m dressed for about 20C, with the wrong shoes on. Unlike Melbourne, where the shops have all weekend trading, most shops are closed apart from anything that sells food, gelato, beer, and vodka.

Love abounds in the park with young, vibrant couples, with all the gender combinations, holding hands and openly showing each other affection. It’s a good litmus for any society as you can travel to places where this is frowned upon and same-sex unions are punishable by death. The streets are wide with railings making them difficult to cross when I notice people disappearing underground following large Thomas the Tank Engine symbols. My curiosity follows them to escape the heat, and I discover a complete underground tunnel network lined with shops that are mainly closed.

I need sunglasses and shoes. Nope. Nothing that resembles it would sell, either. Where are the street vendors? It feels ripe to have stands of things to trade with this many people, but with Poland being more Catholic than Rome, I believe selling wares on a Sunday is frowned upon by God. Speaking of which, something I saw on a sign for mass advertising the schedule has the word “godz” (no capitalisation) and the time he is arriving. It said God would be at the church at 10.30 am, so I had missed him by an hour. I saw another session at 1.30 pm, but I considered, should I be waiting for God like an older person might in a rest home? If God was coming again at 1.30 pm, I decided I wouldn’t be there just in case he decided to take me. God knows why.

I’m not functioning with the jet lag, heat, no sunglasses, dress footwear, and the fact it’s the middle of the night back in Melbourne. I pass another group of people drinking beer under umbrellas on streets with buildings that are a colourful mix of the very old and new. I check Google Maps and my walking guide to discover I have managed 13,469 steps without doing anything useful. I decided to ask the universe for some entertainment. If you haven’t tried this, I recommend it. When asking for miracles, as a good friend often does, I find it’s a good idea not to be too specific. Eyes and ears open, and away we go.

The first stop (or sign) is a magnificent fountain with four arcs crisscrossing and one towering up through the centre as high as gravity allows. I’m laughing because a fountain is as much fun as popping bubble wrap, but I may be in this heat; with the right angle, I can be gifted a rainbow. Picture an overdressed jetlagged tourist stumbling around a fountain squinting and searching for rainbows. It occurred to me that I might be the entertainment I was looking for when some kids pushed past and jumped in. They are screaming with laughter and joy, cupping handfuls and splashing one another like elephants at a zoo. Okay, I think this is getting better. I have arrived at a place where I can hear music. Classical Piano playing. I grew up with my Dad playing the piano in the house, and whilst he didn’t play a lot of classical music, I recognised the sounds of live instruments from hundreds of metres away. Dad would have recognised the composer, but thankfully God had assembled five-metre-high billboards that, whilst in Polish, had a single word, I realised. Chopin! I shuffled along with the queue, hoping I didn’t need a ticket, and perched on the grass, centre stage. Now I would be lying if I said it was Chopin himself playing, but the fellow who seemed to have eight limbs at times masterfully made this piano proud, and I squinted up into the blue sky above and said, “Thanks for the entertainment!”

The heat, the crowd, and a soundtrack from God are cathartic in the realisation that nearly everyone I know is standing upside down on the other side of the planet. I’m tired and decide to navigate the last kilometre and a half back to my hotel. I am stumbling into people and realising that the side of the road a country drives on is also the side they walk on. I adapt my driving mantra: to keep right or your (swear word) dead. I am waiting for my lift in the lobby when I feel the presence of an Arabic-looking gentleman standing on my left. He has zero personal distance, which means he comes from a country where they are used to rubbing shoulders with masses of people in public. He reminds me of the dark character. Called “The Hood” from Thunderbirds, with distinctive fuzzy caterpillars fornicating for eyebrows. He’s less animated than the puppet version of himself, and as the door opens, we have this standoff as to who goes first. He seems older than me, so I offer my arm to let him pass. He’s firm, glaring, and insistent on letting me go first. In a Maxwell Smart voice, I self-talk the line, “The old chop to the back of the head and being robbed in the hotel lift trick.” He smiles at me, which I know the puppet version with its bee-stung lips was incapable of. If you ever share a lift ride with a stranger, I think it is good policy to have saved up a piece of profound wisdom for them. He turns and says with a thick Arabic accent, “In my culture, the person on the right always goes first. Once you know this, then these right-of-way situations are simple. The only exception to the rule would be if you were an elderly person or if I was a child.” I exit the lift on my floor and hear the closing title music from The Thunderbirds. I think it’s a simple principle that should be taught to the world, especially with the uncomfortable arrival (for some) of gender equality and being damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I watch the All Blacks nearly lose to the Wallabies on Kayo on my laptop (VPN kids) and order room service on a tray with its silver hood on, untouched the following day, which is where we are up to.

End of Day Two.

Posted by Andy_in_Europe 07:12 Archived in Poland

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