Live polka music made for a wonderful dinner experience in Poland! Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Poland, Part 2

The Third Republic of Poland is a vibrant country, part of the European Union, with working citizens living a purposeful life and proud of their heritage. In 1775, Poland became the second nation in the world with a democratic Constitution.

In Warsaw, there are statues everywhere of heroes and of characters in famous legends: Wars and Sana, from a story about a famous Prince and two poor fisherman; and Basilisk, a monster guarding treasures; in addition to a young cobbler, a golden duck, and mermaids. As you walk past these bronze statues in the parks and city squares, it is a reminder for today’s citizens to keep their values intact.

The parks are well maintained and nicely landscaped. There are many new skyscrapers and buildings. The rail road system is modern, with new central stations and efficient service throughout Poland and Europe. Universities are thriving and schools provide a good education. There is a new Olympic Center and a National Stadium.

Fryderyk Chopin, the great composer, was from Poland and spent his early years performing in Warsaw. He went to Paris to live and traveled throughout Europe performing concerts. I went to a drawing room in the Chopin Museum for a private concert with Adam Mikolaj Gozdiewski, age 15, a world-class performer. Then there were the evening meals with a Polish band playing lively polkas. The music in Poland is diverse and meaningful.

There is a famous zoo in Warsaw, well-recognized before World War II for saving certain species of animals. During the war, the zoo director and his wife, Jan Zabinski, gave shelter to many Jewish orphans, hiding them inside the animal houses and cages. The book, The Zoo Keeper’s Wife, describes what happened to this family in Warsaw, Poland during World War II.

The restaurants and cafes offer a variety of cuisine and it is fun to try the traditional Polish dinners with pierogi, meat-stuffed dumplings, bigos, stewed cabbage and beef, golabki, meat-stuffed cabbage leaves, red beet soup, and a platter of variety of sausages. Musicians play around the table with lively Polish polkas.

The last evening in Warsaw, I met my guide and a small group of travelers, each from a different country. It was a welcome change to be traveling with a diverse group. On the road together, time passed quickly with such interesting personalities. Our little group came from Cape Town, South Africa; Perth, Australia; Ireland, Argentina, India, Malaysia, Canada, and the USA. From the city, we drove through the countryside, heading north to Lithuania. The weather was dry and sunny. The land was quite flat, with a mixture of farm fields and small wooded areas. The highways are modern with rest stops and places to eat, and diesel is cheaper than gas.

I enjoyed Poland. There is a lot to see and do there. The people are friendly and helpful, and the country is safe. There are places to hike, mountains to climb, biking in cities, and camping by the lakes and forests.

(posted December 13, 2016)