Cześć! That's "hello" (pronounced "chashch") in Polish. Warsaw, Poland is the starting point for our 8th Tauck tour. Our destinations will include: Warsaw, Bialystok, Tykocin (these latter two cities are where Wayne's family is from several generations back; we have secured a private driver for Saturday), Kracow, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, and Prague (sidetrips to Auschwitz and Terezin also will be included).
We just arrived this morning so only have first impressions to report (and a meal, of course). Warsaw, which was decimated in the big War, has seen a renaissance--a good part of that due to the European Futbal Championships which started here today. It's kind of how we imagine it will be when our beloved Cubs make it to the World Series.
Our hotel is in the old section of town, right next to the presidential palace. And even the lions out front are showing their national spirit:
Everyone is wearing red and white and dancing in the streets (and this is only round one). Groups of young people, in Polska garb and face paint are everywhere. The town is spotless; there are security guards all over; and lots of nonstop cheering (apart from the game) and random blowing of Polish-style vuvuzelas (the South African bugle equivalents). As we write this, Greece is up one goal. As an aside, there has been a lot of coverage in the NY Times about the possibility of racist taunts toward the athletes. Indeed one young man from Africa has made clear he will leave the field at the first sign of taunting. It will be fascinating to see that storyline play out given that we are basically in the neighborhood of several of the worst camps from the War.
But to something more uplifting. Food. Our first "meal" was at U Fukier (in the old town) a kitchy and wonderful traditional Polish restaurant (with food "like grandma used to make") in a restored 18th century home--with every inch covered--lace, flowers, portraits, and a singing bird in a cage (www.ufukiera.pl) Even though this restaurant caters to tourists, we found it absolutely wendy and wayne write-up worthy (wx4)--as the pictures shown below depict.
We started with some wonderfully hearty Polish bread--brown rye and oat bread, both served with a cucumber spread. Next, Wendy had delectable smoked Polish salmon--served with red roe, capers, and edible flowers. It was amazing. Wayne chose the veal pirogi with bacon dust (we decided we're on the "pirogi a day" diet). It was mouth watering and quite delicious. For our main course, we shared half a roast duckling with stewed fruit; Wendy added brown butter crumbed white and green asparagus. Why can we only rarely find white asparagus in the states? (By the way, the menu touted that everything was organic). We ended our first Central European meal with a warm apple tart--superior to any apple pie we've had in the states for a long time.
After dinner we took a carriage ride around Old Warsaw. Our driver was quite informative--we think--(lots of buildings are apparently 1,500 years old)--but seeing that we don't speak Polish, we missed most of it.
That's all for now. We'll have another post before we leave for Cracow on Monday morning.