Today, April 19th, is the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II. There is a fantastic museum in Warsaw dedicated to this uprising and it’s a Must See if you’re in Warsaw. I found out yesterday that there’s a memorial to this uprising in Riverside Park at 83rd Street. I’m going to go pay my respects before work. If you feel like watching The Zookeeper’s Wife or The Pianist. There’s a movie about the Jewish Uprising but I can’t remember the name (comment if you remember it! It’s the street address of the secret meeting place!) Here are a few photos from the museum.
The original mermaid that stood in the Old Town before the Germans bombed them as punishment for the uprising.
They used the sewers to get around and deliver messages and weapons. This is what you’d see under a safe exit.
The symbol of the uprising.
The flags of the uprising.
And around the city you’ll see several monuments dedicated to those who fought:
The Littler Uprising Monument – dedicated to all the children who helped sneak past guards with messages and weapons.
This photo makes me nostalgic for Warsaw. Out of the three cities that I visited in Poland in October, Warsaw was my favorite. Warsaw had history spilling out of every corner.
Krakow was beautiful because it was basically untouched by the Nazis (and Russians) during WWII so it’s all original and old AF. But Warsaw was completely decimated during the war. The photo you see above is the Old Town Square. After the Polish attempted their first uprising, the German’s, who’d left the Old Town alone for the most part because it was treasured (obviously, look at it), gave a big middle finger to the Polish people and destroyed it.
This is what the Old Town looked like after the Germans destroyed it.
After the war, the Russians and the Poles rebuilt the Old Town. The Russians wanted to show the world what fine work they could do and that communism was great. On the other hand, 500 feet away stood the Royal Palace which took twice as long to rebuild because a palace didn’t exactly align with Communist principles. But the brilliant rebuilding and duplication of the Old Town is why it’s an Unesco World Heritage Site now.
Warsaw has so much more history than just the Old Town Square and that’s why I loved it so much. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing about them soon.
I just did 5 yoga classes in 3 days. I am sore and took today, Friday, off. I’m going in for one more class before the final holiday of the year tomorrow morning, which should kill me. My knee is acting up but I think it’s strained from overdoing it in King Arthur pose on Wednesday night so I’ll have to go easier.
I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions and I didn’t know what they should be. J said that because I’m doing yoga teacher training, and that’s a big commitment, that I should basically be absolved from making other ones, but I still wanted to think of something. Here’s what I came up with:
Volunteer more – this will likely be in the realm of volunteering with cats, something I’m already doing, but let’s do it some more, shall we?
Go on Facebook less – like 15 minutes a day or less. If I have a question about something, I’ll just have to Google it or reach out to actual human people I know. Facebook is a super fucking waste of time and it makes people depressed, so let’s cut it out.
Read – I read 14 or 15 books this year. Let’s do it again in 2017. Or make it 20. Why not.
Be healthier – Cook more, eat out less. Get back to drinking once or twice a week and no more. Basically try to feel good.
Make a vision board – I keep meaning to and then I’m like, “Ooh, NVM, let’s watch My Cat From Hell…”
Figure out what I want to do – I don’t think a 9-5 desk job is for me (unfortunately) so I need to figure out WTF I want to do instead.
Rock teacher training – Duh. Maybe I’ll be able to master a headstand, too, finally. But hey, just because someone can do a handstand doesn’t mean they’re a good teacher.
Watch less Netflix – This goes for HBO Go and Amazon Prime too. I want to watch less TV so I can read more.
Be more patient – with my partner, my friends, family, and especially strangers. I currently have no patience, so cultivating any patience would be a miracle.
Be less judgmental – I would like to look at someone that I’ve never met and not make 10 assumptions about them based on what they look like or what they’re doing.
Travel Somewhere New: One new city in America (we’re planning on Denver, at the very least) and three new cities in Europe (ideas that have been thrown around: Reykjavik, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Budapest, Bucharest, or wherever they film the Bond movies in Croatia).
I think that’s good for now. What are your resolutions?
The Badass Polish Street Cats of Gdansk
Before I arrived in Gdansk, Poland, I still hadn’t seen a single cat on the street. There were lots of dogs, but not cats, but little did I know what a street cat population Gdansk had. The first one I saw during my first morning in Gdansk while exploring the Old Town and it looked wet and scared and a bit muddied. I hoped that it had a home to return to because it ran way when I tried to approach it.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I saw at least 8 other cats in the Old Town. And on my walk back from the Solidarity Center in the northern part of the city, I found a longer-haired version of Playbill. Needless to say, I was excited. I purchased cat treats at one of their local drug stores and gave them treats when they’d come near.
The little tabby cat (first photo) was the most adorable and very friendly. He was wearing a collar though so he was just hanging out on the Long Street (actual name!) before heading home. I gave him treats anyways. And on my last morning, I gave the rest of the treats to two cats who were hiding from the rain underneath a car (fourth photo).
Apparently it’s not illegal to feed stray cats so you’d often see little empty cat food trays on the top of the stairs (like the stairs in the final photo).
While exploring, I met a woman who was feeding a few of the street cats near her apartment and she gave me a flyer for an organization named KOTangens (’kot’ means cat in Polish) in Gdansk that’s trying to control the feral cat population (basically their version of our TNR programs). You can find them on Facebook here (if there happens to be any Polish people from Gdansk reading!).
Needless to say, I loved interacting with some of the streetcats in Gdansk. Definitely an unexpected surprise of my trip to Poland.
Making Pierogies in Warsaw, Poland
When I arrived at my hostel in Warsaw (Dream Hostel – best freaking hostel ever, seriously), I was informed that there was a pierogi making class that night in the hostel’s kitchen. I’ve never been one to partake in group events at hostels, but since it was cold and getting late, I decided WTH and signed up. Fifteen zloty later, I was signed up, and after a couple of hours walking around Castle Square and the Old Town, I headed back to the hostel, put on my yoga pants, and got ready to learn how to make pierogies.
It was actually stupid easy. The most work involved is probably the preparation of the fillings (which we didn’t do). We made potato-filled pierogi and meat-filled pierogi. We rolled out the dough, cut circles using a glass jar, further rolled out the circular dough, filled the centers, and then wrapped them up.
As per usual, appearance of food isn’t my concern or forte, so mine looked a little weird, but they all still tasted good. The most fun part of the evening were my pierogi-making comrades. In the group was a mother who was traveling with her young son and daughter from France, a guy probably around my age from Brazil, and a guy who was around the same age, I believe, from Germany. I thought it was so cool that the French mother was traveling with her children in hostels instead of, you know, Grand Hyatts.
The class was totally fun and worth it. We were all stuffed and happy by the end of it. I’m planning on making pierogi on my own very soon.
Sleeping Like a Baby
This is the view from the doorway of my extremely cozy and pretty-much-perfect hostel room at the Dream Hostel in Warsaw, Poland. There was a heated towel rack in the bathroom, for fuckssake. I’d recommend staying here even if you have the money to afford some fancypants hotel. This hostel was awesome, but this isn’t about that. It’s about how well I slept here. With the down comforters and the lack of noise outside on the main street at all (activity near Castle Square really dies down after about 9pm), plus my ear plugs and eye mask, I was basically a zombie for 8 hours a night. Saying I was sad to leave this hostel is an epic understatement.
But now that I’m home, in my own bed, I’m sleeping like a baby again. Better than I slept in my bed before I left. I don’t know what it is – the complete one-eighty from sleeping in strange beds for 10 days straight, or the new MyPillows that I bought, or maybe it’s knowing that it’s my bed and everything on it is perfect.
Side note: Not all was copacetic on my first night back. I went to bed stupid early because hello, jetlag and when I woke up around 11:30pm, I forgot where I was and freaked out when I saw someone come into my room and go into the bathroom. That someone was my boyfriend and he was in my room because, well, I was home. But did my heart stop for a split second? Yes. Oops.
I’ve been going to bed earlier, sleeping more soundly, and through the night. It’s lovely. I hope it keeps up because, although I used to say I could get enough when I was dead, sleep is actually a very lovely thing.
I saw these in the airport in Gdansk and debated long and hard over whether or not I should try to smuggle these babies into the country. It only cost about $10 USD, and I ate one in the airport, so I said fuck it, let’s do this and live on the edge. There’s a $2500-per-egg fine if you’re caught trying to smuggle Kinder Eggs into the country but I’m pretty sure that only applies if you’re trying to smuggle thousands.
Let’s back up: These things are a European delicacy that was banned in the United States (or rather, chocolate candy with inedible toys inside were banned, not Kinder Eggs specifically) because apparently American kids are too stupid not to differentiate between an obviously edible chocolate egg and the plastic toy inside of it. A couple of kids choked on these little toys and ruined the fun for everyone.
So, I bought a box of 5, wrapped the box inside the bag from the airport store, and buried it in the top of my suitcase. I put chocolate bars on top of it in case there were chocolate-sniffing dogs at JFK, I could be all, “What? Yeah, those are chocolate bars.”
To a totally anti-climactic ending, US Customs never even attempted to open my backpack. There were no chocolate-sniffing dogs. And I didn’t even get fined $10,000. I got my contraband into the country and gave a couple to friends and ate another one.
I thought I should run down what I learned while traveling abroad by myself this time. It’s worth writing it down here in case anyone else here is a solo traveler or considering a solo trip. Because they’re the best and you should totally take one.
Really look at your accommodations. I can remember that after my trip to Scandinavia, I decided to really vet the hostels I was staying in, or not stay in hostels at all. I decided this time to stay in private rooms in hostels because a private room in a nice hostel is way better than a single room in a cheap, shitty hotel (probably located near the airport). I spent weeks (and I mean weeks) looking on hotels.com and hostelworld.com at different accommodations. It paid off because I stayed in a great hostel and an amazing hostel in Krakow and Warsaw, respectively. Unfortunately, my painstaking vetting fell short when it came to Gdansk. The room was very nice but the build itself was located in an area that I wasn’t really keen on. Or maybe it was just the time of day I arrived? That leads to the next thing I learned….
Arrive during the day. Don’t arrive in a new (especially foreign) city after dark. Check the time for sunset and arrive an hour before. On my walk back from the Solidarity Monument in Gdansk, I ended up walking past the hostel that I’d abandoned 30 minutes after arriving and saw that the area actually wasn’t too far from the Old Town. It was actually quite close to the old town but in the dark, it just looked scary. To my credit, there was a lot of construction around the doorway, reception only until 8pm, and little light near the doorway, hello, rapist?
Don’t schedule to the minute. I’d started planning my days out last year in Scandinavia a month before I got there based on when my travel book said things were open. These travel, regardless of when they were published, will almost always be wrong. My Poland travel book this year said Schindler’s Factory was only open on Saturdays. This was not true. At all. Don’t plan your days before you arrive. You never know what will happen and then you’ll be frustrated. Just go with the flow.
Hello and Thank You. Learn a few phrases in the native language of the country you’re going to. Don’t be a typical fucking American who expects that everyone speaks English because We’re #1 (if you’re one of those who believes that). I tried teaching myself Polish using the Duolingo app, but I retained almost none of it. I did retain the words for cat, cookie, milk, and apple, though (you know, the important words to know). Upon arriving in Poland, I was alerted to the fact that Polish is the 2nd or 3rd hardest language to learn in the world, so I didn’t make myself feel too bad about it. But while I was there, I picked up the words for hello/good morning, thank you, you’re welcome, fine, yes, and no. Not much, but I was told they always appreciate it when the Stupid Americans ™ at least try.
These are, at least, the most important things I learned while abroad in a country that is very, very different from the United States. Everyone should definitely travel by themselves, at least once in their life. You learn so much about yourself and the world in the process. Any questions?
Photo is of a picturesque street in the Old Town in Gdansk, Poland.
Shot glasses. Those little cylindrical glass houses for shots of alcohol. One of the most cliche collections a person can have, IMO, and I say that as someone whose been collecting shot glasses for almost 10 years, sadly. But (un)sadly, I’ve finally stopped. In Gdansk, the moment presented itself for me to obtain a third Polish shot glass and I said no. Part of me is afraid that I’ll look back someday and be sad that my shot glass collection is incomplete from the time I spent in Poland.
In reality, I know that I’ll probably never use the two that I bought and in a few months (or weeks, or days) I won’t care, at all. In fact, I’ll be happy that I didn’t buy another souvenir to clutter up my cabinet. I have too many already.
I have shot glasses from London, Oslo, Krakow, Warsaw, Tallinn, Rome, Venice, Jamaica, Miami, Puerto Rico, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hollywood, San Diego, San Francisco, Prague, Portland, Seattle… among other places.
The way I look at it is that when I didn’t buy a shot glass in Gdansk, I officially ended my collection. It’s been a good run though, but I can count on one hand how many times they’ve been used, so it’s not worth it in the long run. Anyone have any good ideas for displaying shot glasses though? I’d be open to hearing them for sure!
Long time, no post! Apologies if you’ve noticed; I’ve been abroad. I knew that when I was in Poland for 10 days that my meditation practice would pause. It did when I went to Scandinavia last year and I made the decision to change my expectations and not to beat myself up over it. The last time I meditated was the morning was on the flight from Frankfurt to Krakow and I was OK with that. I was a little anxious that I would have trouble sleeping without meditation. But aside from that one day when I drank three cappuccinos (damn you, caffeine), I had zero trouble sleeping thanks to walking 12 hours a day (and the mulled wine, and pierogi, etc).
I started meditating again yesterday morning and it feels totally easy to slip back into my two 20 minute meditations a day. Six to seven AM are my time to meditate, check my email, and pet my cat again.
I’ll get more posts and photos up about my travels, but if you need to see photos in the meantime, you can head over to my Instagram.