Updated: Jul 8, 2021
You may remember my elder brother John from my ACT August 2020 daily blogs recorded as 'Journey of Discovery in East Sussex', written after I stayed with him and his wife Christine at Bexhill. A very memorable visit while also catching up on our family archiving. https://www.artculturetourism.co.uk/apps/search?q=Journey+of+Discovery+in+East+Sussex During my time there, John expressed his determination to visit our first cousin Rysiu and his family in Poland in September and he was liaising with UK passport authorities to get his new passport to make this happen. He received written confirmation before I left and was really looking forward to it. Since his tour, I have been waiting for the right opportunity to publish John’s illuminating blog after I had received all his relevant photographs and captions to accompany it. He’s been learning fast including technical up-skilling on What's App and organising Zoom meetings with his church community! So now you can read the full travelogue of his September expedition to Poland via London - Warsaw - Katowice - Tychy - Zakopane. Enjoy! Marysia Zipser Founder of Art Culture Tourism Nottingham, UK
London - Warsaw - Katowice - Tychy - Zakopane - by John Zipser
Wed 23 Sept I drove to Purple Parking at Heathrow, then by shuttle bus to Terminal 2. Simplified and automated passport and customs check - not too busy and on the plane in time. English comments by the crew on board are virtually unintelligible but journey pleasant with snacks and reading the LOT magazine. Soon at destination (9.30pm) Polish Time and found ourselves waiting for the bus to go in the Old Town direction - a young man sitting in front of us took pity on our plight and got us off at the right stop where he said we could catch the tram. However he got off with us and then on the tram telling us to leave the stop after he got off. But it was a stop too soon and it was 11.30 before we were safely in our hotel (Old Town Ibis) and settled in our most welcoming room (with an enlarged photo of the moon's surface as the ceiling "wallpaper". We ate remnants of our lunch box from home plus hotel coffee. Images below from left to right:
With Christine at base of the Zakopane ski jump
A taste of Italy on arrival in Zakopane with Hanka & Piotr.
Exiting Rynek (Market Sq) en route to Royal Castle, Warsaw
Thurs 24 Sept
Explored hotel a bit - breakfast very professionally done where we were served by a duo of waiter and waitress serving us from the selection of cold/hot dishes from what we pointed out. There was enough and more so we filled our lunch boxes too the next two days!
By 11am we had set off to walk to Stary Miasto in warm summery weather, gradually entering the area of old rebuilt burgher's houses, and churches before we got to the Barbican. Horses and traps with wealthy tourists going by as we entered into the Market Place. An amazing area with cafes and parasols around the perimeter and traders of all kinds of wares with the odd beggars and gypsies plying the tourists. (They seemed quite well-off - we saw one later spending his takings at a local convenience store.)
So we sat down and wrote postcards, afterwards deciding to stop and have a coffee at a street cafe/delicatessen. After giving another man at one of the street tables a tract, we got into a conversation, learning his name was Piotr, worshipped at a nearby Evangelical/Augsburg Confession church and had family members living in Brighton.
Wandering further to post the cards and going the direction of the Ramparts, we followed our map until we got back about 6pm, taking photos along the way.
Images below from left to right:
Through the Barbican Gate, Warsaw
En route to the Barbican in Warsaw Old Town
The splendid brickwork of the Barbican
The problems re the iPhone started to increase and with not being able also to access my emails at the hotel's computer, the only definite thing about our next stage (train to Tychy on Saturday, booked and paid for by Olek) was an emailed ticket on the iPhone. That left us no option other than to release ourselves from all concerns and enjoy each moment as it came along. That night we dined at the hotel's tv-room/bar/restaurant; and engaged the receptionist to suggest an itinerary for Friday.
Images below from left to right:
Hidden square in Warsaw Old Town + bell
Man with tame bird at Barbican entrance
A welcome rest (with conkers falling from above)
Fri 25 Sept. This day was occupied with a visit to the not-too-far-away Westfield Shopping Mall for adaptors (eventually, iphone cables too) and then off on a tram journey (going the opposite way to the intended, but nevertheless giving us a welcome tour of central Warsaw). It terminated on the outskirts where there was a landscaped park and lake provided by EU funding where we ate our picnic lunch with many young mothers with prams and children strolling by and sunbathers on the provided decking. Walking the first part of the way back we encountered a cheap market, run predominantly, it seems, by Vietnamese clothing traders, where Christine was able to buy a necessary coordinating top for a skirt she had brought along.
The picture we were getting of Warsaw was that of a capital of a nation with a resurrected economy (compared with when I last was there) and as multicultural as any Western European capital. (Though Middle-Eastern (Muslim) nations not so conspicuous as in Britain.) Thoughts of sampling one of the eateries on the road back as we walked the remainder (having taken the tram part of the way) were resisted, considering the attractive atmosphere of our hotel more appealing. Christine chose zupa pomodorowa while I had a kotlet wieprzowina.
Sat 26 Sept The train from Central Rail Station did not go till 3.30pm, so Saturday morning we paid another visit to the Westfield mall, though it was raining. It was milling with families amidst the giant screens with adverts to the rhythm of the incessant pop songs. We had our packed lunches outside when the rain stopped for a while. The station was quite well organised despite the fears of complex platform systems that my Lonely Planet guide had informed me of, and, once seated on the train (going to Ostrava, Czech Republic) we felt settled. But our composure became ruffled when told we were on the wrong carriage. An awkwardly negotiated.transfer of baggage and ourselves ensued, being helped by a friendly man who saw our difficulties - especially as the train was moving by then. We discovered he knew English well and wrote for travel magazines - Alex he said his name was. It was well he knew English, as we discovered when the tickets (printed out by the hotel from my iPhone) were examined by the conductress, and we were told that they had been invalidated. This could have meant immediate ejection from the train (hopefully when stationary at the next station) and a large fine! Alex got Olek's phone number off my iPhone (which I could not ring because I'd no network connection) and on speaking to him, discovered he'd cancelled the tickets and bought two others more cheaply with an age-related discount. They were shown the conductress when she appeared the second time who, I'm sure, would have relished the opportunity to have had a couple more notches on her ticket scanner, had Providence not intervened.
As we sped along (it was an "Express" by name, though not exactly hurtling along!), Christine noted the names of the towns we passed through so we could track the route. Darkness soon overtook us but the sunset had been lovely. Conversations continued, with the other man putting the odd comment in too - he was fluent in English also. At Tychy, what a joy to be met by Olek and bundled off in his car to the hotel with his assurance that all was in place for our arranged enjoyment of the next few days - even promising to take us there and back to church in Katowice in the morning. Thinking about it, the pleasantness of surroundings, the hotel and Olek's mother, Hanka, and her husband's hospitality was so comforting, as, getting older, our capabilities to run around and do things on our own initiative were diminishing. We spent the remaining hour or so that Saturday evening enjoying a pizza at quite a high-class pizzeria near the hotel. We were to meet everyone at Rysiu's home tomorrow after church.
Images below from left to right:
View of the Vistula
Site of the Warsaw Ghetto walls
Memorial to the Jews along the road they were taken to the station, thence to the extermination camps.
Sun 27 Sept After the 10am-12noon meeting at the Bethany (Betania) Pentecostal Church (with a coffee afterwards in their lounge), we were surprised by Peter walking in to pick us up and whisk us over to Korczak Street. Effervescent as usual, Ela welcomed us and we were round the table in no time - Rysiu being upstairs whom we'd meet later on. Cakes and drinks and plenty of bi-lingual chat amongst the whole family (only Peter, Hanka's second son, not free to see us till later) with photos taken and old ones from times gone by perused - all combined to bring everyone into a very happy elated state, with the pandemic far from our thoughts.
Soon, after meeting Rysiu up in his living area, communicating reasonably well with him and glad to see him visibly happy with us all being there, we were off again for a meal out (Just a select few this time: Peter, Hanka, Ela, Sonia and we two). It was situated in an old miners' housing complex from the early 20th century renovated but retaining the atmosphere of a bygone era (Giszowiec). Christine ate abstemiously (soup again) as Ela's cakes were quite filling, but I enjoyed a really classy pierogi and side dish with wine. It was getting cooler and raining by the time we left, and having been told Monday was the day we were going to Zakopane, we were dropped off at the hotel, well content.
Images below from left to right:
With Christine at the base of the Zakopane ski jump
Christine with Hanka at the base of the Zakopane ski jump
Mon 28 Sept We were certain now that the Zakopane trip would be subject to uncertain weather and on our very scenic route we sensed it getting somewhat cooler. Travelling over into Slovakia and back into Poland en route, Hanka's Volkswagen was a very comfortable means of transport. On arriving,we were taken to an Italian restaurant first before experiencing her beautifully renovated chalet. With intriguing pine and bare wood decor on four floors, the cosiest place was the basement kitchen snug. Later in the evening, on the next floor lounge, we watched a TV documentary on Churchill before turning in.
Tues 29 Sept Although I'd had a walk in the rain to stretch my legs after yesterday's journey, we were to set off on a walk around the ski-jump area today, which, thankfully was warmer and brighter. The visit to the extensive market was an experience not to be missed, although we had some memories of it from 2013. It was impossible to stop Hanka demanding to pay for everything we wanted to purchase for souvenirs and presents - not that there were lots, but, although we did buy some small items, (we had taken everyone a small token present from Hastings when we came) she did end up buying me a thick woollen sweater and Christine traditional socks and mementos to keep in the house.
When we were journeying back later in the afternoon, (on the main, busy autostrada route) we knew we were coming to the end of the holiday, but there wasn't any sadness - every moment had been so fulfilling - and Hanka and Marek together with their sons (if possible) said they were planning to come to Britain next year to tour, especially keen to see some of the historic Sussex iconic landmarks with us joining them in some of the tour. Something to plan and look forward to! In the evening Peter (Hanka's medical student son, now starting his penultimate year of training) came to the hotel to see us and chat as well as give us the gen for Wednesday's trip to Pyrzowice airport in which he and his brother were to escort us in the Volkswagen.
Images below from left to right:
Outside the refurbished Zakopane chalet
Dining room at the chalet with Hanka & Piotr. In background is 'dumb waiter' or 'winda reczna' (cupboard housing food lift).
Chalet next door
Wed 30 Sept
All packed and set to experience LOT's accomplished airline and flight experience, we sped off after a "morning coffee" - Polish Style - at Ela & Rysiu's. What a unique holiday! But just right in every way to fill us with memories for musing over during the continuing months back in Britain while Covid continued to pervade everyday life. Amazingly, only were we back 2 days when the quarantine rule was imposed so how blessed can one get? The flights (to Warsaw, then to London) were soon over and we joined the parked car with little bother at customs (all electronically sorted when Olek filled in our forms on-line for us the night before). Back on familiar ground and home ahead, suitably refreshed and replenished with an unforgettable experience!
We hope you've enjoyed the Poland experience. Please feel free to leave your reactions and any written comments in the box below to John or myself, or via below contact links.Many thanks.
John Zipser and Marysia Zipser
https://twitter.com/MarysiaZipser Art Culture Tourism