Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Good Food in Warsaw
[Surviving Fragment of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall]
Checked out of Nathan's Villa this morning. All in all, it worked out much better than expected. While my bed was pretty sucky, and my room was located between two large dorm rooms with 20-somethings coming in at all hours of the night and morning, I never had a problem sleeping. I'd lie down and then wake up some 7 or 8 hours later. It was also very nicely located, less than 10 minutes from the main square of Kazimierz, with a tram stop just half a block away.
Nor was it particularly noisy. They have a really good physical arrangement, where the bar and rec room are located in an underground cellar that is pretty well noise proofed. Even the drunken ramblings weren't that bad. Yesterday, when I went downstairs for breakfast, I found one young man passed out in front of the door to the hallway to the suite of rooms (he told me later he had lost his key). I thought about waking him up, but he was sleeping so peacefully (snoring away), I didn't have the heart to wake him.
I don't think I will stay there again, however, but I am interested in the hotel right next door. Called Hotel Alef (and not the same as the Alef Hotel in Kazimierz), it has a nice lobby full of persian carpets, and old sofas and chairs, and is apparently quite affordable. I'm going to look into using them next year when I bring students.
No problems getting to Warsaw. Last night's brief rain storm turned into a big country-wide storm, but by this afternoon, the rains had passed and the skies had cleared. I checked in here, but my room wasn't ready yet, so I went for lunch at a nice bistro where I first had strawberry soup this year. Unfortunately, because of the bad harvest, no strawberry soup this year, but I had an excellent meal -- one of the best I've had in Poland so far.
I ordered the lunch menu, along with a soft drink. The soup was cream of asparagus, but instead of heavy and milky, it was light, yellow, and thickened with egg yolks (a very traditional way of thickening soups that apparently my great-grandmother used to do). It was excellent. The main course was grilled breast of chicken in a honey citrus sauce, along with some cilantro-rice pilaf, and spinach leaves in a caesar dressing, all garnished with grapefruit and orange pieces. Very, very good. To drink, I had a mineral water, to which had been added raspberry syrup and a lemon slice. Very refreshing.
Afterwards, I went to find the section of the Warsaw Ghetto wall that I had seen with a guide last year. I wanted to make sure I could find it on my own. Not a problem. There are two fragments (the larger and complete one is above). Last year, I had met the man who had saved this section of the wall from being knocked down by the communists, and he was still there this year. Now he had volume 4 of his scrapbook, with the letters of commendation from the government of Israel, Yad Vashem, etc. He told me his life story of how he had fought in the Home Army in Warsaw and had rescued Jews, and how he had put up the first memorial plaques on this site nearly 30 years ago. I added my card to his scrapbook and thanked him for his help.
After that I went to the Jewish Historical Society, where I toured their exhibit on the Warsaw Ghetto (skipping the film, since I already own a copy and use it with my students). I also bought a laminated map showing the location of the few surviving sights within the former Warsaw ghetto (so much was destroyed that mostly you just end up seeing markers that say "formerly on this site was located...."
I decided to have a snack at Cafe Bikle on Nowy Swiat. They're most famous for their orange rind dougnuts filled with rosewater filling. I ordered one and a fresh apple juice, and read today's Guardian (no International Herald Tribune available). Then back to move my stuff into my room.
Now, it's off to the trainstation to buy my ticket for Berlin and then to the post office to mail my last package of books back to the States.