Poland Excursion

Remember how I said my next foreign vacation would be Poland? Well, it will be! A couple of months back, I found a super cheap (relatively speaking, $670-ish) flight to Poland and I booked it. I’m going to Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk. I’ll be there for 9 or 10 days in October. 

Why Poland? It’s not a place that people often go to but I hear it’s awesome. One of my long-time yoga teacher’s is from Gdansk, so she’s always raving about it. My dad’s grandmother is also from Poland, in Radomysl, which is near Warsaw, but I can’t find any public transportation to it. The building she lived in is gone anyways. 

I also love World War II history, so this is going to be exciting, albeit a bit depressing (as fuck). I know I said no more fucking hostels, but booking a private room in a good hostel is the same price as booking a small room in a shitty hotel. So, that’s what I’m doing. I always love meeting people from other countries, too, in hostels. It’s part of the fun!

I bought an amazing travel backpack that I got to try out in San Diego this weekend and I’ve decided to take the train in between cities. No city is more than 3-4 hours apart and they run pretty regularly, so that’ll be nice. I’ll get to see the countryside, I guess! (Honestly, I’m pretty sure trees will look the same in Poland.)

I was looking for packing blogs and backpacking blogs about Poland and I didn’t find a whole lot. I know Poland is far from a tourist destination, but I didn’t know just how far. Apparently, it’s pretty far down the list. But the blogs I did find say Poland is AWESOME. Here’s what I’m planning on doing in each city….

Krakow: I’m definitely going to do walking tours around Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter) and Old Town, as well as the Wawel Castle, Rynek Underground Museum, Royal Way Walk, the Barbican City Wall, and the Main Market Square. There will also be a half day spent in Krakow across the river at Schindler’s Factory Museum. I might try to take a day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, too, because I hear those are super neat, but there’s a lot to cover in Krakow.  Did I mention how cheap Krakow is? Super cheap. Very exciting. There will be a half day trip to Auschwitz, of course. 

Warsaw: They have a Royal Walk Way, too, so I’ll walk up that. I’ll also go to the Royal Castle, Old Town Market Square, Warsaw Museum, and possibly the Chopin Museum. I’m going to do walking tours in the Old Town and Muranow (the Jewish Ghetto), and visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Museum of the History of Jewish Poles

Gdansk: Just to be consistent, I’ll go see their Royal Way Walk,. I’ll go to the Historical Zone of the Free City of Gdansk, the Gdansk Historical Museum, and take a few hours to go to Westerplatte where the first shots of World War II were fired. I have to go check out the other two cities in the Tri-City: Sopot and Gdynia

I’m going to eat lots of perogies, go to all of the Bar Mleczny (milk bar), and drink lots of beer and vodka. I’m going to try to see a bunch of the palaces (though I’m not sure which will be accessible or open). I have a bunch of other things on my list of things to see but I didn’t want to list out every possible little thing. 

I wish I had more time to also hit Wroclaw, but you can’t do it all, I suppose. I might squeeze in a day trip from Warsaw to the Bialowiezka Forest – an UNESCO site and a forest that dates back to Medieval Times, which is kind of cool. It’s also the forest that Daniel Craig & co. travel through in the movie Defiance. And I take a day trip to Treblinka from Warsaw, but I will already be seeing Auschwitz and Birkenau, so I’m not sure how many concentration camps I really need to see on a short trip. I’ve been learning Polish with Duolingo, so I might recognize some words and say them, but I have zero chance of writing anything out. 

Is there anything off the beaten path that I’m missing? Anything else I should do or see that I wouldn’t necessarily find out about from my Lonely Planet guide? 

Tradition. When it was first announced that Fiddler on the Roof was being revived, yet again, I was feeling lukewarm about it. Did we really need ANOTHER revival of this show?! 

Answer: Yes.

We needed THIS revival of Fiddler on the Roof. I was in the ensemble of Fiddler on the Roof at a community theatre in high school and I’d forgotten just how well I knew the show. I remembered probably 75% of the lyrics. There were songs that I’d forgotten were even in the score, but as soon as the music started, the lyrics would come rushing back. This show is a classic, and not in the so-classic-it-makes-me-want-to-hang-myself way The Music Man and Oklahoma are classic. But the good kind: the kind that makes memories rush back in. 

(It’s also especially relevant and timely to revive this now because of the current refugee crisis in the Middle East. But that’s for another post entirely.)

First things first: Danny Burstein is a national treasure. He’s great in whatever he does, we know this. He was marvelous in the revival of Cabaret and he’s even better in this. He gives it his all the entire time. It’s exhausting to watch. I also loved Alexandra Silber as Tzeitel. And Jessica Hecht poured her heart and soul into Golde. Oh, and Alix Korey: Oh, Alix Korey. How I’ve missed this woman. She was perfect as Yente. 

The entire company looks like they’re having the time of their lives onstage and their energy floods the audience. The show is somber and the last sequence is 100% depressing but when it’s not intentionally depressing, it’s exquisite. The direction and sets and lighting are all excellent. The choreography is WONDERFUL. A lot of it felt very familiar but new at the same time. 

Fiddler clocks in at minutes under 3 hours, but it never felt long. At all. Had I known how great this revival is, I wouldn’t have waited 6 months to see it. 

Get thee to the Broadway Theatre. 

The Family You Choose

The great thing about choosing not to procreate (besides having the most thankless job out there, not having to pay for someone to go to college, etc.) is that you get to choose your family – essentially who your friends are. As I entered my mid and late-twenties, I began to make solidifying my friendships with my kick-ass and reliable friends, since they were going to be my chosen family. 

You’ll always have your parents, and siblings, and extended family, but when those holidays come around that are in the middle of the week and you aren’t granted a day off (ahem, Chanukah), you get to make your own traditions as an adult.

Ben and I have a tradition for Chanukah that includes going to an old time-y diner and eating ourselves stupid on traditional plates for the holiday. Last year it was, of course, the Edison Cafe, but since the Edison is no longer with us (RIP), we went down to the East Village last week to B&H Dairy.

The service was fast, the place was tiny and crowded, and the food was just what we were looking for. We had matzo ball soup, latkes, and blueberry blintzes. It was delicious and I think it cost us about $24. 

This is one tradition that I’m thankful for and I hope we continue it for a long, long time.

a true Chanukah miracle

Tonight I met my friend Ben at the Edison Cafe for what may be the last-ever Chanukah spent at the Edison Cafe. We got in, sat at our usual seats at the bar, and ordered two bowls of matzo ball soup (duh) and latkes (duh). 

Our server made a face and said, “OOOOH. We might be out of latkes, hold on.” I may have made us leave if they were out, but…

BUT!

We got the LAST order of latkes in the Edison Cafe. They were out of potatoes after that.

Happy Chanukah, indeed.