TAILS OF A TRAVELLING CAT
Greetings, humans! It is time! We’re off on holiday, first stop Poland! Well, actually the first stop was the airport, but anyway, Day 1 is set in Warsaw, with some scenes on location at Stansted Airport in the, erm, lovely county of Essex. So, at 5:30am, we hit the road to drive to Stansted. There was a very long queue for bag check-in and Jack and Charlie both reminisced of our recent Benelux trip (see the Benelux Edition) where we travelled with only our hand luggage. As this queue was of no interest to me (refer back to the Before we Begin section for a complete list of all the things which are of no interest to me), I took the opportunity for a cat nap. Once we’d been through that queue, we then had to deposit the bags in the Out of Gauge area because they had too many straps. What is the exact definition of too many straps, one may ask. I am afraid I cannot tell you the answer as I don’t know.
Finally we were through, security was reasonably quick and we headed through to the lounge and breakfast. Nothing stands in the way of these humans and food, I can assure you. The gate was soon called, the humans boarded a train. Wait, what, I thought this was an airport? Oh, we had to get a train to the plane, ok, I’m with you now. We lined up, tickets in hand, ready to board, then… the plane was delayed by 40 minutes. This wasn’t a great start to the holiday, but we did eventually make it onto the plane and we were off!
It was very cloudy as we left the UK behind, which was a good thing as it meant I couldn’t see the sea. After being woken up so early, we all decided it was time for a cat nap. My humans are learning from my example!
Charlie and Jack next woke up over a lot of fields, interspaced with some trees. We were an hour into this two hour flight and guessed we were flying over eastern France or western Germany. I don’t know how we would tell the difference, we were too high up to spot flags, which is my preferred method of country identification. Number plates also work well.
Soon we were descending and know we had arrived in Poland, Warsaw is quite far east, in case you were unaware – although if you’d looked at my helpful map located in Before we Begin, you would be aware. We touched down and were shortly out the airport and looking for the trains. After some confusion, we were informed one must take a bus to the train station and this journey wasn’t covered by our Interrail passes, nor was the train journey. No matter, as we were soon to learn, things are very cheap in Warsaw and the bus and train journey from Modlin Aiport to Warsaw Centralna Station, a journey of approximately one hour cost just 19 złoty or £3.85. You don’t get that kind of value in the UK!
We boarded our bus to Modlin Station, where we disembarked and boarded the train to Warsaw Centralna. Hmm… something wasn’t right, all the seats were reserved. Turns out our 19 złoty tickets weren’t valid on this train. Oops…
We escaped this train at the next station Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki) which coincidentally was the name by which Warsaw Modlin airport used to be known. I can see why they changed it, much less of a mouthful. The train we were meant to get stopped at this station too so we sat down and enjoyed a packed lunch before boarding our actual train and heading into the city. Warsaw, here we come, I hope you’re ready for me!
So, we made it into the city and headed straight for the AirBnb, ready for our holiday to begin. Warsaw, having been mostly destroyed during World War II, suffered an almost complete absence of older buildings, many were built in that lovely 1950s prefab and concrete style. However, there were some beautiful old buildings and a stone proclaiming the distances to various cities, which provided photo opportunities. A lot of Warsaw seems to be underground, the city’s pedestrian subways under the busiest streets are teaming with boutique style shops, selling everything from haberdashery to food to clothing. If you want it in Warsaw, you can probably find it sub-terra.
This subway system initially caused a great deal of confusion for the humans (I was napping again so my navigation skills wouldn’t be called into use), especially as the steps of the subways kept leading out to the middle of the roads, tram stops only it turned out. Eventually the humans got the hang of the system and after taking another wrong turn (this time not subway related) we made it to the AirBnb. The apartment was a combined bedroom-kitchen with an attached bathroom on the third floor (no lift, the host pointed out, but this was no problem for my humans). The room was high-ceilinged and over-looked a Mexican restaurant and what might be a pastry shop marked proudly on the glass as vegan. The high ceilings have facilitated a wonderful cubby-hole to be located above the door, which I lost no time in thoroughly exploring and then claiming as my own.
The room was very warm (as was the day in fairness) so we put the fan on full blast and bathed in its cooling glory. Soon we were cool enough to venture outside the building. Well, I say we, my humans had returned to coolness, I have been as cool as a very stylish cucumber this whole time.
Interesting side note – I have previously referred to my humans as the humans. When did I become so possessive? I may need to take a look at my interior motives.
Anyway, we were soon on the move again. We headed briefly to a whole foods/ deli shop for some food for dinner. It was a nice enough shop and gave my humans opportunity to take in a few more sights. After dropping off our purchases in the AirBnb fridge, we were off again.
Back to the train station, we had to attempt to book some train tickets for our planned trip to Auschwitz tomorrow (cheery, I know). After waiting in two wrong queues, we eventually made it to the right place. Here we took a ticket and waited our turn, like in a medical clinic, not that I have ever been to such. We waited for the nine people in the queue before us to be seen before taking a seat at the desk of a very helpful customer services information–tickets–reservations person. I’m sure there’s a more condensed job description out there but I am nothing if not loquacious and accurate in my writings.
It turned out that rather unfortunately, our Interrail passes wouldn’t be valid on the trains we would need to get to Auschwitz, meaning my humans (but not me) would have to spend 43 zł each way to travel. Although Jack thought this was £43, it actually amounted to £16 each for a return. Not too expensive but the reservations for the Krakow train were free, and included in the Interrail pass, so tomorrow we are hitting Krakow instead.
Reservation made, we headed off to Marszałkowska Housing District (MDM in Polish), which is apparently where the good communists lived in the 50s. We walked most of the length of the large street and although we did see some nice buildings, the socialist architecture and giant statues we were promised remained disappointingly absent. At the very end of the street, we did eventually find the MDM, which was now mostly covered in scaffolding. Ironically, part of the MDM had been converted into a Hotel and another section into a Deutsche Bank, a symbol of capitalism if ever there was one.
Unlike many of my fellow internet users (and many general humans) I am using ironic in its correct literary sense. At least I believe I am. If I am wrong, would that be ironic?
We took a detour down a side street where we discovered some lovely old-ish buildings and the very grand Politechnik, which according to Google was a school. I have my reservations about that, it didn’t seem very school-like. Distraction over, we continued in a circle and approached the MDM from the other end. This area was a plaza, surrounded on three sides by what were once highly-coveted apartment buildings and on the fourth side it met Marszałkowska, the street from which it gets its name. From this side, we could see a sculpture of some socialists and a dog (perhaps a socialist dog?) attached to the wall of the west apartment building, next to a vegan food-stall – my humans’ minds are never far from food. In the centre of the plaza were several very tall, glorified street lights and many cars. There are lots of cars in Warsaw, although not as crowded as London or New York, there are very few (if any) pedestrianised areas, the streets are wide and seem to be designed for vehicular access.
After investigating the MDM, we set off in search of food. This treasure hunt took us passed a vegan burger joint and a vegan bakery serving Polish delicacies. This city, it think it would be fair to say, deserves its title of third best vegan city in Europe (according to our friends at Happy Cow).
We soon made it to the Lokal Vegan Bistro where we settled into our seats and attempted to peruse the menu. As my humans were not proficient in Polish, the English menu was a better choice. The bistro was clearly popular as it had sold out of one and a half of its main dishes. The humans both ordered a fried soya fillet (battered) with potatoes and salad in a yoghurt dressing. The food arrived quickly and all parts were thoroughly enjoyed. The portion was large and totalled 19zł each, the same price as our train tickets earlier!
The humans were so impressed they ordered pudding almost straight away. This was a large slab of Polish chocolate cake, a very thick layer of cream, sandwich between two layers of chocolate sponge of the same thickness, topped with a layer of chocolate icing and a cream floret and a strawberry and vanilla cheesecake. There were real strawberries in the cheesecake but no biscuit base which leads to the important question – can it still be called a cheesecake? Whatever it is called, it was delicious, the filling tasted more like a cross between custard and yoghurt, but this is of course not something to complain about. The chocolate cake was equally good, each pudding costing just 11zł or £2.25.
The humans left the bistro satisfied. Not for long though. After a brief stop in Flying Tiger (which I believe is just called Tiger in the UK) for Jack to buy some Tupperware, we headed for Nice Cream Factory for some Nitrogen ice cream on the same road as the wholefoods shop. Those of you who know the chemical symbol for Nitrogen will understand why it was called Nice Cream.
Here, a huge array of options greeted the humans who could choose any three flavours to make their own unique ice cream. To a soya milk base, Charlie added peanut butter, Oreos and salted caramel sauce and Jack added salted caramel, apple pie and cocoa and we watched our ice cream delights be mixed up and the liquid nitrogen added. Nitrogen vapour flooded out around the bowl in a scene worthy of stage dramatics. The ice cream was ready and absolutely delicious, costing just 14zł each (£2.85). Bargain! Food is stunningly cheap in Poland, which means the humans could end up buying a lot of food. Plans are already hatching for another trip to the ice cream factory.
After a very busy day, my humans made up a packed lunch and dinner for our trip to Krakow tomorrow, hit the shower (I don’t want smelly humans in my life) and crashed in the very comfy beds. I spend the night on the windowsill, pretending I could see the city below through the blinds. I still like to be close to the view. Maybe tomorrow I’ll sleep in the cubby-hole which I have claimed as my own, mostly because the humans can’t reach it.
Join me tomorrow for my travels to Krakow! Goodnight for now, folks. Chesh.