I spent the last week in Warsaw, Poland and Sofia, Bulgaria, observing operations at various call centers. It’s amazing how exhausting it is to concentrate intently for a long period of time. By the time we wrapped up around 7 or 8 each night, we were wiped. I managed to steal a bit of time to see both cities, although not nearly enough. When Z’s big enough, I’d like to spend 2-3 weeks touring Eastern Europe by train.
1. The importance of planning ahead. I have a complicated relationship with religion and Judaism. I was never interested in going to Israel, and even though I’d been to Poland twice before, it hadn’t occurred to me to visit the camps. Still. I saw an advert for a tour of Krakow and Auschwitz as I was scrolling through Trip Advisor Sunday morning, trying to plan my day, clicked, and saw that it was an all day affair. So much for that, I thought, and put it aside, until I accidentally wandered into the train station trying to find the tram and saw a train departing for Krakow in 20 minutes. I pulled out my phone and looked. The train left at noon and took two and a half hours. Auschwitz closed to visitors at 3. If I’d looked the night before, if I’d looked when I woke up at 5 am that morning and taken the first train…
I went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum instead, which packed a killer punch even if it was the most poorly laid out museum I have ever been in.
2. A thousand words.
3. Things I left behind in Europe, in descending order of importance.
My passport, left in the hotel safe in the Warsaw Marriott, after I told myself it was a terrible idea to put it there. Brought to me at the airport by a very kind bellman named Gregorz, who got it there about 30 minutes before my flight departed. I waited patiently in the security and passport control lines, which resulted in me running though Chopin Airport like a mad woman and getting dirty looks from everyone on the plane when I finally boarded.
My jacket, which isn’t mine at all but a Rent the Runway piece that I’m in love with. Left in the back of the cab I took to the Sofia airport, which I exited in a hurry because the cab driver was storming toward the local police because I hadn’t paid him. Which I would have been happy to do had he taken credit cards as it said IN THE CAB WINDOW or if my bank card had worked when I tried to get cash out Wednesday night. The police officer spoke English and was very kind and suggested the driver go into the airport with me to watch my bank card but with at the atm. Which it did, so the driver got a hell of a tip and I didn’t realize I didn’t have my jacket until I’d gotten through security.
My headphones, which I’ve had for a few years and needed replacing anyway. I bought an overpriced pair at the Frankfurt airport that will go in my travel bag.
4. Thirty-seven pieces of flair. In Warsaw, my colleague and I ate at The Inn Under the Red Hog, supposedly located at the site of a famous communist hangout. The menu is cleverly divided into dishes for the bourgeois and the proletariat, and the decor can only be described at Communist kitsch. I had the Lenin’s lamb, and it was delicious.
Contrast that to Happy, the restaurant we ate at in Sofia, which appeared to be the Bulgarian equivalent of TGI Friday’s. The menu was equally absurd in an entirely different way, with brilliant English translations of dishes like “happy bits” (chicken pieces with mushrooms and cheese) and “happy cream” (creme brule with ice cream on top).
5. Traveling light. Lately, I’ve been trying to travel with only a carry on. I brought detergent with me and did some sink washing, which went much better than I expected. I’ve also heard that compression bags are great, but haven’t used them. And, of course, there’s the roll method of packing. Anyone have other tips for traveling light?
Links and Things
A bunch of taxi medallions are up for auction, and they’re going for way less than a few years ago.
Filed under things I want to be when I grow up: my brother’s parents ride a tandem bike across the country almost every summer, and keep a journal of their adventures.
I love this one skillet banana bread recipe by Joy the Baker – I’m pretty much in love with ALL her recipes – so when Z wanted to make banana pie, this was a no brainer. Wanted: volunteers to help eat it.