After nearly two years grounded, I've been back in the air. Unfortunately, Clare isn't with me because my trip to Poland has a certain novelty to it: I'm not on holiday. Not really, anyway. I've recently signed up for a three-year, part-time postgraduate course, part of which entails me being in Poznań next week. I decided to fly out on the Saturday morning, giving me bit more time here, and so here I am in Warsaw. This might be a bit of a gamble: Clare and I were very briefly here in 2009, travelling from an Esperanto event in Czechia to another in Białystok, via a short stopover at Warsaw's Centralna train station. Both experiences convinced us that we didn't like Poland, and so, except for a brief visit I undertook with some family members in 2019, we've consciously avoided Poland since then.
Travelling to the airport was a doddle. Having left at 04:30, I pretty much had the motorway to myself. I did have cause to be worried: signs were up saying that the M1 was closed between junctions 14 and 15, and that there was a 30-minute delay between 15 and 15a. The thought did enter my head that I didn't have a lot of leeway regarding timings, and I left at junction 16 intending to bypass the closed part via A roads. I changed my mind within a couple of minutes, realising that this wasn't the time to take risks: better to be late but on the correct road than to gamble with a longer, circuitous route. As it happened, I never did leave the M1 once I'd rejoined it: the bulk of it was limited to 60 mph, and it reduced to a single lane for a stretch, but it wasn't actually closed, so I made it with lots of time to spare.
That was a good thing too because the Wizz Air section of the departures hall was carnage, with lengthy lines. As it happens, I got lucky about 30 minutes into the wait: an assistant, who had earlier been calling out the names of Romanian destinations to usher those passengers to the front, switched to Warsaw, and I was able to jump to the front of the line. After that, everything went exceptionally well, except that there really wasn't enough time to get breakfast, with 30 minutes to go until final boarding. (Of course, they hadn't even started boarding once that time arrived: there wasn't yet a plane for us to climb into!)
Wearing a mask for the duration of the flight wasn't the bother that I thought it would be, and it was an entirely pleasant experience. I didn't spot a single person reclining their seat, and there wasn't the pointless rush at the end to race out, grab luggage from the overhead lockers, and then stand around aimlessly, all squashed up. The flight appeared to consist almost solely of Polish people, so presumably that's a cultural difference. I did spot one group of English people: they joined the EU queue at passport control. Perhaps they've been asleep for the last five years. I joined the queue for the rest of the world: one quick glance at the vaccination certificate on my phone, and my passport was soon bearing a new stamp.
After that, I withdrew some cash and took a taxi. The host here has been exceptionally helpful, and so I knew the street address to get dropped off at: the apartment is on a pedestrianised section, so this wasn't the taxi's destination, but the host had provided me with a map from the drop-off point. And what a notable drop-off point it was:
A-ha: the instructions did indeed mention a monument being in just this spot. It's the Pomnik Jana Kilińskiego; Jan Kiliński Monument to us. He commanded the Warsaw Uprising of 1794 against a Russian garrison stationed here. He looks as though he meant business:
Behind him stand the city walls extending from the 16th-century Warsaw Barbikan:
My journey was short and simple from here. All I had to do was walk up the small street which Kiliński was guarding, and within a couple of minutes my own street crossed it. Ulica Piwna, where I'm spending the next two nights, boasts some beautiful buildings:
There were some beautiful colours as I approached the stretch where the apartment is:
I was too early to check in, but the host had invited me to sit in her café until the hour came. No problem: look at how pretty it is!
I assumed my suitcase would be too bulky for inside, so took a seat outside. There was a touch of rain, and one of the staff members invited me in. It turns out that the café is larger than I thought with several rooms, and I took myself to the corner of one with floor-to-ceiling bookcases:
Everything was running late because the cleaner hadn't turned up, so the host started cleaning the apartment herself before escorting me across the road to it. It's a perfect base with a living room and kitchen:
And the bed looks as though it's going to be luxurious!
I settled in, arranged to meet a friend and his wife, and did a little bit of exercise in the meantime, before heading out to the restaurant my friend had reserved us a table at, which was only a couple of minutes' walk away. I got there slightly ahead of schedule, not realising quite how near it was, and so made myself comfortable whilst waiting for them:
And then we spent a few pleasant hours in each other's company before heading our separate ways. Warsaw is much, much nicer than our disagreeable experience in the underground section of the main railway station led us to believe!