I don’t know if it was some sort of sign, but we had trouble finding somewhere to eat near Auschwitz. Tomas approached one place – a kind of food court affair with plenty of seating, and where he’d taken groups before – and was told they were closed. I don’t think she’d told the patrons sitting there. Whatever. We’d been warned beforehand that food was fairly hard to come by near Auschwitz, so we’d all taken Tomas’s advice and brought our own – in our case, cheese and meat rolls created (with the hotel’s permission) at breakfast. So we all piled back on the bus and ate as we headed for Warsaw.
Motorways are much the same everywhere. Tomas commented on the differences between villages in Poland with those in Slovakia, then put on the movie The Pianist. I had not seen it – like Schindler’s List, it’s not something I would automatically watch. I prefer light and frothy, like Star Wars. But this was about one man’s struggle to survive the Nazis in Warsaw, so, having just left Auschwitz, it was singularly appropriate. Roman Polanski drew on his own family’s experience in the war to create the movie, as he explains in this interview. It was compelling viewing, adding details about the ordinary folk the Nazis murdered.
We arrived at our hotel towards evening. There was a slight delay because the police had blocked off the road for security reasons, the Presidential Palace being located next door. The driver got out and had a word with the cops, who let us through.
That evening we had dinner at a Polish restaurant. The meal was forgettable, if generous, but the group of Polish entertainers made up for it. They performed a number of traditional regional dances, changing costumes several times. We were encouraged to join in with a few small contests, and some dancing. Pete and I passed on the dancing, but I won the shake-the-most-eggs-out-of-the-plastic-duck’s-bottom competition, and Pete won the loudest whip crack. I thought he’d do well at that since he’s expert at the tea towel flick. I have the bruises to prove it.
Next day we passed on the city tour, but we went for a walk to find an apothecary. It was in the old town, which had been rebuilt after the war. It wasn’t (in my opinion) as well done as the German towns. The painted-in cracks and ageing didn’t add anything.
It’s a clear indication of how unwell both of us felt that we didn’t take any pictures in Warsaw. Or if we did, we’ve lost them. Neither of us took a camera on our visit to the old city, although I’ve got one of the park outside the hotel. Although the sore throat had faded, we both had the cough that seems to be a prerequisite for the end of river trips. On a cold and damp day we didn’t do the city tour, so I didn’t get to see the Warsaw ghetto memorial. However, Tomas, knowing my interest in the Holocaust, used his phone to record the guide’s explanation to the group (with her permission) so that I could listen. That was well beyond his duty and I was very grateful. The Jewish uprising in 1943 is a part of the movie The Pianist.
Next day we would be catching a train to Berlin while our driver would set off early to meet us there.