Days 23 & 24, Warsaw…and…MOSCOW!

I forgot to mention in my previous posting that last night we returned to our favorite little Polish restaurant where our favorite little waitress worked. The food was so good that we had to go again. Our waitress, Alexandra, was working. She goes by “Ola” for short because, as she explained it, “‘Ola’ is short for ‘Alexandra’ in Polish”. After a wonderful dinner, we went back to our apartment.

Our little apartment in Warsaw was quite nice. It’s tiny, and I mean TINY. It is definitely an “efficiency” apartment. It is the size of what we would call a studio apartment. The kitchen is smaller than a closet yet there is a washer under the countertop. The bathroom is actually larger than the kitchen. There is a “bedroom” that has a half wall separating it from the kitchen and “living room” and “dining area”. The “living room” had a futon and some cabinets for storage. I marveled at how easy it was to accommodate our accommodations. It spoke volumes to me about us as Americans and our wretched proclivity for wretched excess. Do we really need half the crap we have?

The second building from the right housed the efficiency apartment we rented in Warsaw

The second building from the right housed the efficiency apartment we rented in Warsaw

The apartment was on a side street, but this side street was unbelievably busy. Because we had no air conditioning, Barry and I kept the windows open all night long vainly hoping for a vagrant breeze which never came. During the evenings we were treated to raucous party-goers apparently tanked up on one libation or another. Every night would find someone signing, arguing, crying or yelling something probably profane in Polish. Dogs would bark, cars would rev their engines and we’d hear trucks belching noises–probably, we figured, as they picked up illegally parked cars.

One morning construction workers had wickedly decided to dismantle an entire building in one hour. At least, that was what it sounded like. A forklift from the construction site was dumping large pieces of steel into a dumpster–at 7:00 a.m. The resounding >crash< and >clack< were nerve-wracking.

Other than that, it was a nice little place.

Our last day in Warsaw found us trekking to the National Stadium in Warsaw. We could see it from our side of the Vistula River and we had to see it because it was very impressive. We walked the entire distance as we hadn’t yet used the bus system. Sweating, we arrived and walked around the entire diameter of the facility before finding the ticket gate–one hundred feet to the left of where we first approached the building.

National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland

National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland

We bought tickets for $3 apiece and went inside. I have to admit that it was not that impressive inside. In looking at the building out front with its unique architecture, I thought it had to seat at least 100,000 spectators. It only seats around 58,000. That’s the capacity of Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, home of the U of O Ducks.

We took the train back across the river and to our neighborhood where Barry and I opted for another nap time. We had been doing this pretty much every day during our trip through Europe. Frankly, I was glad. Every day I found myself needing a nap and I didn’t know if it was from the constant activity (we were walking miles every day), poor nights’ sleep or what. Either way, I was glad that Barry was as dead as I was because I didn’t want to be a killjoy.

After our snooze we were going to visit a large park that apparently had a number of monuments. However, once we got out of the apartment we found thousands of people everywhere. It appeared that it was some type of special weekend with an assortment of different activities. This explained why each night we were treated to a cacophony of screeches, yelps and laughter as we tried to sleep.

Concerts had been held along the waterfront not far from our apartment and people were walking back and forth. Concerts were being held in some of the squares. Street performers were everywhere–college students reading poetry, magicians, musicians, break dancers. It was all there. It gave the whole scene a very carnival-like atmosphere. Of course, attempting to eat at a restaurant was impossible. It was a muggy day and too hot to eat inside so everyone opted to eat outside.

After trying to maneuver our way through the throng, Barry and I decided against finding the park and decided we would just park our butts and eat somewhere. Unfortunately, as I asserted earlier, there was no place to be found. We would up ordering two pizzas to go and took them back to our apartment. Our flight out of Chopin Airport in Warsaw for Moscow the next day was at 7:20 and we had to be up at 4:00 to catch our cab. Sleep came first.

On Sunday, July 20 we woke up at 4:00 to get ready for the cab ride to the airport. I had sent a text to the young lady who owned the apartment and asked how we might secure a cab so early. She ordered one for us (she was great). He was supposed to call before he arrived at 4:30. Well, he arrived at 4:05 and didn’t call us beforehand. Barry saw him drive up the street and back down. Waving at him, Barry watched the cabbie as he continued back onto the highway.

I had just jumped out of the shower and got on the internet to find a cab service. The woman spoke English and said she’d have someone over in ten minutes. She kept her promise. The guy arrived and got us to the airport in great time–we spent less than we did when the first cabbie brought us to the apartment from the airport three days earlier.

The flight was quick. We flew first to Vienna from Warsaw where we transferred onto another jet for Moscow. Don’t ask me why we flew west to Vienna and then back east to Moscow. The only reason I could come up with was that Poles probably hate Russia so much from decades of Soviet repression that no one from Poland wants to go there!

So we arrived in Moscow. It was warm and sunny. My brother, Tony, was late getting to the airport as he was stuck in horrid traffic. But he arrived and we drove back to his luxury apartment in the city. Barry is asleep. Tony is asleep and I’m still up writing. But I wanted to get this all down.

Tomorrow Barry and I will hit Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Tomb, the Kremlin and Old Arbat (an historical district full of street vendors, artists, cafes, restaurants, etc.). I visited Old Arbat when I came to Moscow in 1999. Looking forward to seeing it again. We have many more things planned, too–a river cruise, museums, nightlife, cuisine, cathedrals.

And I’m so glad to see my brother. We’ve only been here a few hours but he’s been such a great host. We were sitting on his patio overlooking the forest behind his apartment and he was regaling us with hilarious stories from his exploits. I found myself looking at him and beaming with pride inside.

I love this kid so much that I can’t even articulate it adequately. I look at him and it feels great to see the resemblance between us. For those of you who don’t know, this is my biological brother whom I’ve only known since 1978. I was adopted, my biological parents ultimately married and they produced my brother.

Anyway, I can’t express how wonderful it feels to know there’s someone else in the world who resembles me. Barry has been laughingly commenting on how similar my brother and I are. “Bob, you two sound like each other”, he exclaimed. I found myself listening to us talk and realized Barry was right. I never saw it before. I had always felt we were too different. We never grew up together and we only see each other a few days a year, if that. It makes me proud to know we also have that similarity Barry noticed.

I guess you can’t really understand unless you’ve been in my shoes. To go your whole life feeling at loose ends, feeling like you don’t fit in. Feeling unique from your circumstances, yet still wanting to know that somewhere someone in the world is like you. That connection.

Me and my beloved brother, Tony

Me and my beloved brother, Tony

I adore my brother. And I’m so proud of him. He’s leaving for a new job in Kazahkstan in a month which gives me a reason to visit there…maybe. For some reason, the feelings for him are stronger now. Maybe it’s because our father is dead. We’re 50-year-old-plus orphans. I don’t know. What I do know is that I praise God for hearing the prayers of a child for a younger brother. God kept saying, “Just wait a bit, Bob. You’ll get the desires of your heart and it will be more than you ever dreamed”.

He was right.



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