Pilgrimage to Poland

I grew up playing the piano, hopelessly in love with Chopin´s music. Chopin was born in Poland to a polish mother and Polinized frenchman, but spent his adulthood in Paris. He died young,

Chopin´s heart

with many works unfinished, and it’s depressing to think about all the romantic pieces for piano he never even started writing. His body is buried in the Parisian cemetery Pere Lachaise, but his heart was returned to Warsaw where it is encased in a marble pillar in the Holy Cross Church. I have visited his rose-covered grave in Paris, a sanctuary where women daily express their love for his music with dozens of flower bouquets. I wondered around Warsaw with a similar adoration, daydreaming about this city where he studied and performed his music as a young prodigy. I accidentally stumbled upon his heart grave, when I walked into the church and found myself standing right beside it as I stared at the golden organ. I found streets named after him, parks, statues of him, and finally visited the Chopin museum after 2 failed attempts (it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays offer free admission which causes long, long waits).

Warsaw wasn’t a conventionally beautiful European city. It was a fusion of time periods, the small core of Old Warsaw surrounded by modern and industrial

Nowy Swiat Street

architecture. Nowy Swiat street, a main road for shopping and dining linking the old town to the Royal Castle, felt fairy-tale-ish, like a colourful reconstruction of the pre-World War II Warsaw. The architecture mixture is a grave reminder of the destruction Warsaw suffered from the German occupation, and the remnant Soviet flare keeps you feeling further away from Western Europe.

The churches have cool, damp cellars that make your imagination run wild – they date centuries back through a complicated history and you start wondering, ‘if only walls could talk.’ I watched a baroque concert in one of these cellars, a string quartet that played Handel, Vivaldi and Pachelbel. I tried mead and polish wine, lots of bison-grass vodka, and stuffed my tummy full of pierogies, polish sausages, beets and sauerkraut. The food and drink was always reminiscent of somewhere else, as if you could taste a piece of Ukraine, Germany and Russia in all of it.

The old town is a romantic, walkable city, fortified on some sides and laced with Medieval architecture between.

Old Town Square

Horse-drawn carriages roll slowly through the square with the mermaid waterfountain as pigeons fly away to the church steeples. The churches have cool, damp cellars that make your imagination run wild – they date centuries back through a complicated history and you start wondering, ‘if only walls could talk.’ I watched a baroque concert in one of these cellars, a string quartet that played Handel, Vivaldi and Pachelbel.

the food lane

I tried mead and polish wine, lots of bison-grass vodka, and stuffed my tummy full of pierogies, polish sausages, beets and sauerkraut. The food and drink was always reminiscent of somewhere else, as if you could taste a piece of Ukraine, Germany and Russia in all of it.

Poles joke about how their country is flipped the wrong way around – their mountains are in the south and their beaches are in the north. I went to the Baltic coast for some summer searching but it was only 15 or 16 degrees and overcast in G´dansk, not quite warm enough to make it to the beach. But it was a pleasant surprise to see how quaint this little city was, with even more grand architecture and promenades than in Warsaw. The timing could not have been more perfect – Aug 15 is Assumption day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also the anniversary of the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, so a long holiday weekend was celebrated with the entire city center being turned into a huge outdoor market. Each street had its own theme – one street sold antiques,

Aug 15th in Gdansk

one street sold sausages and other delicious food, one street sold amber and other pretty jewelry, and another street sold underwear and artwork. I fell in love with one piece, an oil painting of a woman holding her umbrella and standing under a lamppost and beside a single-horse drawn carriage. The painting was not only beautiful, but it was painted on an antique suitcase, which you could still open and use to pack a few things for your own carriage journey… I would have bought it if I could go back to the Old Warsaw for a carriage ride right then.

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