passport-life:

Warsaw | Poland

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.

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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. 

Pre-Thanksgiving Fun @ The Cherry Orchard 

I couldn’t think of a more appropriate play to take in before the Thanksgiving holiday than The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. I knew it was be pretty dry, but the cast sounded too great to pass up. I showed up to the American Airlines Theatre last Wednesday around 2pm and took my seat in the last row of the orchestra. 

I read the description in the Playbill, and the breakdown of the family members, so I had some idea of what I was getting into (tl;dr: A Russian family is going broke and losing the estate that they’ve lived on for generations). Sadly, Joel Grey was out that day, but I was still really excited to see Diane Keaton, as well as Tavi Gevison and Celia Keenan-Bolger. Oh, and Chuck Cooper, too. 

The script was as dry and depressing as expected. The sets and lighting were lovely and mesmerizing. The performances were stellar. I can’t decide whether Keaton was great or overacting, because her character is a little delusional and crazy (think: a Russian Blanche duBois) so it was hard to tell. I still enjoyed watching her regardless. Keenan-Bolger and Gevinson were more compelling, though that might be because their characters were just more interesting to me. Then there was Chuck Cooper. who played a Russian businessman who knows the family. I love him in any and everything and he can do no wrong. Philip Kerr, who was on for Joel Grey, was whimsical with great comedic timing. Honestly, I can’t figure out why Grey would take a small, supporting role, but as great as he may be, I enjoyed Kerr a lot. 

Roundabout has put on a stunning production with a stellar cast of a slightly boring Chekhov play. But hey, I knew what I was getting myself into when I took my seat. If you love this kind of play, this is a great production to see. 

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. 

Where to next?

I will not, even if it kills me, let another 7 years go by before I go to Europe again. There are too many cheap ways to travel for me to stay here and only venture to “convenient” places. But where do I still want to travel to? That’s easy:

  1. Ireland/Scotland
  2. Iceland
  3. Poland
  4. Ukraine
  5. Turkey
  6. Russia
  7. New Zealand
  8. Australia
  9. Vancouver 

I imagine I won’t make it to New Zealand or Australia until later when I am making more money (fingers crossed) but the others shouldn’t be too hard. I learned recently that it’s pretty annoying to travel around Turkey as a solo female traveler. 

Despite the order of this list, I’m pretty sure Poland is at the top of my list.

I know what you might be thinking: But what about all the cities in America that you haven’t been to yet??? I went to Chicago and New Orleans this year. Those were big cities to check off my list. I want to visit Austin, Madison, Des Moines, Charleston, Savannah, and Memphis, maybe. Those could all be weekend trips though; they’re not for-real traveling. 

I think I definitely want to go to Poland sometime this year. Maybe towards September again. I want to go to Warsaw, Krakow, and one of my yoga teachers (who’s from Poland) said Gdansk is pretty awesome. 

We’ll see what the year ahead brings.

Suomenlinna: Helsinki, Finland

So, Helsinki is a really small city with not a lot to do, to be quite honest. But it was actually the perfect place to end my trip because it was less running around and more relaxing. Smaller cities will do that to you, I guess. But my favorite thing about Helsinki was taking a ferry out off the coast to visit Suomenlinna, a giant sea fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was built by Sweden in 1748 when Helsinki was still Swedish. It’s Swedish name was Sveaborg (pronounced seh-vay-eh-bore-ay). It was just a quick ferry ride from Helsinki early in the morning through a handful of other tiny islands to get there. 

It’s ownership was then passed onto Russia and then back to Finland finally when they declared their independence from Russia in 1917. Sweden put a mass amount of resources into it and it was incredibly fortified. It wasn’t until the Crimean War in 1856 that Suomenlinna really sustained any damage from an attack (they were attacked in that war for 46 hours straight, that’s understandable). 

It was decided in the 1960′s that they’d make Suomenlinna a live-able place and today around 900 people live on the island. It’s hard to believe people actually live there. They opened a school, a medical center, and a few other things to make it inhabitable. 

I visited the museum first, which included a very informational video and a lot of artifacts from Suomenlinna’s past lives and then I walked around the island for around two hours. It was very, very cool. Probably the coolest thing in Helsinki.

The building where the museum is. 

Inside some of the fortresses.

Parks where built for inhabitants. 

The glass blowing plant that is on the island.

Vesikko Submarine: Built for Germany in 1933. 

The dry shipyard where ships were built for wars when the island was still in use and I believe ships are still built and repaired there today.

One of the handful of apartment buildings on the island.

This was worth the early wake-up and ferry ride over. If you’re ever in Helsinki, make sure you make it over to Suomenlinna