The Lady of the Vistula

I never did finish posting about my trip to Poland. Well, after Krakow and the Wielizcka Salt Mines, Lola and I went to Warsaw.

First we went to the Palace of Culture, which was a gift from Stalin to the Polish people. People say that it offers the best views of Warsaw because you can’t see the Palace of Culture, but I thought it had more character than the ugly modern skyscrapers built around it. Why is it called the Palace of Culture? Well, it’s one of the largest buildings in Europe, consisting of a number of auditoriums, museums, theatres, and various arts centres. Near the top of the Palace of Culture is a viewing terrace which does, in fact, offer the best views of Warsaw.

I particularly liked that from above you could see that the crosswalks are painted to look like a piano keyboard. Frederick Chopin is from Warsaw, after all. His heart is buried in Holy Cross Church in Warsaw (his body is in Paris).

Copernicus is also from Poland. One of the (many) statues of him has him looking down on a model of the Solar System. Lola and I have a long-running joke that I’m ‘like the Earth!’ so I couldn’t pass up a photo-op of being the Earth.

We spent most of our time in Old Town — wandering around and doing some souvenir shopping for me. On our way to the Warsaw Renik we passed Death and the Bear. Death bore us no ill will. Upon learning that the bear is an enchanted prince, cursed until his true love kisses to wake him, I kissed his nose — but alas, no Polish prince for me.

In the Renik is the protectress of Warsaw. This guardian who defends Warsaw from harm is none other than a mermaid from the Baltic Sea who came to live in the Vistula river. More a siren, or syrenka, than a mermaid, she is fearsome to behold.

(Yes, I did buy a replica of her. How could I not? She is too much like Melusine to be left out of my desk collection of medieval romance figures.)

In a basement in Old Town is one of the best tea houses I have ever been to. Same Fusy was small and cosy, with tables made of tree trunkes, candlelit, and Agnes Obel softly playing from the speakers. We spent ages choosing which specialty tea we wanted and chose 1001 Nights of Summer. I have never tasted more delicious tea.

  This, my friends, is the perfect essence of tea.

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