My train pulled into Warsaw at 11pm, and I was tired. The train station is not intuitive–it is underground and corridors are lined with busy shops and casinos. I hailed a cab, and hopped in with a pair of colleagues. Fitting our luggage in the trunk was difficult–a sub-woofer and amp took up most the space. Techno music thumped as the overweight driver sped from the train station. “Hotel Sobieski” my colleague told the driver…the cab sped faster.
As we approached the hotel the driver said his first and only word to us. “Sobieski” he grumbled while pointing to the curb. We unloaded our bags and the cab hurried away. Welcome to Poland.
It is no surprise Warsaw reminded me of Prague. I am still totally perplexed by Eastern European languages, so I wander around hoping I have deciphered correctly. Like Prague, too, Warsaw seemed to have one foot in the Western developed world, and another foot in a crumbled past. Along with aged buildings and former city walls, even the city’s demographics tell of a tragic past–there are only 3000 or so Jewish residents in Warsaw.
I enjoyed this city, though I wish I had more time to explore. I walked the streets of the old town and modern center, and ate a Polish potato pancake in a small cafe, but such things don’t reflect how interesting a position Poland has in modern geopolitical situations. It sits as a front-line NATO member to Russia, for example, and wants desperately to wield more power within the EU.
I can’t say I felt at home in Eastern Europe, but my experience was not a bad one. I think I will add Poland to the list of places to visit, but never to live.