Saturday, July 19

We sleep in.  Actually, Marek and Ania sleep in and I get up and am ready to go because I did not set the 2 hour time zone change from Moscow to Warsaw on my watch.  Marek fixes a wonderful breakfast while Ania goes horseback riding.  When she returns, we go on a tour of Warsaw, the Old City area.  During WWII, the Germans destroyed all of Warsaw and the Old City was rebuilt using paintings.  When we reach the inner square we stop for a beer and snack on mushroom crepes.  The women in the square are all beautiful, I like this town .  After touring a bit more, we stop for a gigantic dinner.  Liter beers, bread, mustard, and freshly cut horseradish are brought to the table.  Marek and I share an entire roasted pig shank (with wonderfully crispy skin) and Ania has traditional duck with apples.  We head to Marek’s favorite bar to watch some sports, have some beer and Zubrowka Vodka and play a little billiards.  (Note 1: Zubrowka is the finest Vodka I have ever tasted.  It is not a flavored Vodka but it has a slight taste to it.  It is exceptional straight but also mixes well with apple juice.  Note 2: Rules for European billiards differ from that which you are used to in the US or have watched on ESPN.  If you play locals, make sure you understand their rules ahead of time)  Ania becomes the grand champion of billiards as she is the only one who doesn’t lose a game.  We stop on the way home at Marek’s mama’s, who has made us Pierogis and Golabkis for tomorrow night.  Mmmmmmm.

Sunday, July 20

We sleep in again.  Actually, I have had enough sleep and wake up earlier again.  Marek comments that he is still tired (muscle and sleepwise) from the climb.  I’m fresh as a daisy.  We feel this has more to do with the amount of training each of us had done for Elbrus.  Ania cooks a tasty breakfast and we go to tour Warsaw Park.  We stop for ice creams in the park.  Marek is beat, so we cut things short, but we saw a lot.  Back at the house, waiting for Peter (from Kilimanjaro) and his family to visit, Ania and I go for a bike ride through the forest.  Peter brings Marek and I bottles of Vodka to celebrate our summit.  We socialize with Peter, his wife and son for a few hours.  Dinner is fantastic Pierogis and Golabki from Marek’s mama and it is really delicious.

Monday, July 21

Today we get up early because I am taking a train to Krakow while Marek goes to work.  We buy a tourist guide in the train station to read on the 3 hour train ride so that I will know what I am doing when I get there.  There is nothing to see on the train ride between Warsaw and Krakow.  In Krakow it is a rainy day, so the first thing I do is buy an umbrella.  I cruise around the Old Town like a pro.  I start with St Florian’s Gate and the Barbican.  Then I head to the Market Square and tour St Mary’s Basilica (no photos allowed), Cloth Hall and climb the Old Towne Hall Tower.  Next I go tour Wawel Royal Castle (there are lots of churches, cathedrals, basilicas on the way), its gates, Cathedral, Crown Treasury and Armory, statues, towers, dragon’s den and gardens.  I head off across the bridge for some pictures of the Wawel Royal Castle and then cross back and head into the Jewish Kazimierz Quarter.  What I am looking for here is the cemetery that was desecrated by the Germans in WWII.  The broken headstones were then used to construct the wall of the cemetery.  I am not really happy with the cleanliness of this part of the city.  The synagogue is very small, unlike the several large churches that are also in this quarter.  I do not get a chance to tour Auschwitz or Birkaneu or Kosciuszko Mound as they are outside the city.  I head back to the Market Square for a late lunch, it is already 1pm.  The guide says that Wiezyrnek is the finest restaurant in the city, so I go there for 3 courses overlooking the Market Square and St Mary’s Basilica.  I have the traditional Duck with Apples and it is so delicious, I can still taste the crispy buttery skin with apple.  Last I am looking for the Wawel Chocolatiers in Market Square, the guidebook says it’s there but I can’t find it and no one knows where it is.  I buy a t-shirt at the Hard Rock Krakow and go back to the train station and head home for another traditional dinner of Pierogis and Golabki from Marek’s mama.

Tuesday, July 22

Today I say good-bye to Marek and Ania and head home.  Warsaw to Chicago to Washington DC.  It is a fiasco in Chicago.  Fly in late due to airport traffic, customs takes very long, so they require me to change flights to DC because “I cannot make my connection.”  So I wait in line, change flights, check my bags, change terminals, go through security, buy a dinner at McDonalds and go to the gate….where they are still boarding the flight that they said I could not make!!!  They won’t let me on because “you have to fly with your bags”.  The flight they changed me to comes in and they announce that it needs repairs.  The next flight out leaves and they won’t let me take this because “you have to fly with your checked bags”.  Then they reserve me for the last flight out just in case mine doesn’t go, but they tell me “there is no guarantee that your bags will go on the same flight”.  Finally, my flight leaves 5 minutes before the last flight.  It is almost empty, everyone has switched to the last flight to DC.  When I arrive, my bags are already sitting at the United bag claim counter because they had gone on the earlier flight that I was prevented boarding because “you have to fly with your checked bags”.  All of this makes me chuckle because none of it really matters.  I had a great trip and I am home safe. 


July 19, 2008

The value of our life is not solely measured by its length, but also by the depth of our hearts.

And breadth of our experiences.  And indeed the heights that we achieve.