Well, we have arrived. Now comes the time of the endless supply of Christian churches, mainly of the catholic persuasion. There are a fair number of good ones here in Warsaw, most in either gothic or baroque style, and over 80% of the Polish people are catholic, many of them regular worshipers. It was funny today, because we have to get used to a new way of entering these buildings. They all have little entrance foyers with screens that block your view of the interior. On one of the doors today there was a picture of a stickman wearing a tank top and shorts along side a young lady stick girl wearing a shirt with a sleeveless top. There were big red "X's" over their drawings. The depiction of the stick girl had pig tails. I nearly fell over giggling as Kristine wondered out loud why girls wearing pig tails and bald men were not allowed into the church. She of course was wearing pig tails, so she thought she would be barred entry. Ah yes, fun with stick man signs. Funny how we all see things differently, eh? Did you even realize how different stick people are around the world? Someone should write a book...
Anyway, we're now getting on with Eastern Europe, and there's bound to be a lot more of this. Our route to Warsaw took us through the Copenhagen airport, and holy smokes is that place expensive. It cost us 44 bucks for a small meal for the two of us. Forget about Moscow, this is the most expensive place on the planet I think. We did need to get technically stamped in and out of the country to get to the restaurants though, so I suppose we can say we have "been there". It was too bad really because we nearly got bumped on to a LOT flight to Warsaw that was direct because our SAS flight via Copenhagen looked overbooked, but in the end they squeezed us all on and we arrived late, as originally planned. On the plus side, we managed to navigate both the St. Petersburg and Warsaw public transportation systems on either end, making us feel just a little less flashpackerish than usual.
The hostel we arrived at in Warsaw was decent enough, but we started to get reminders about differences in the world when we talked to a guy who had just arrived, dumped his bags to go have a shower, and was promptly robbed of his camera, cell phone, and passport. Now here's the rub; he caught the guy with his bag, and was able to get the bag back, but the thief tried to "charge" him to get his passport, and then had no idea where the camera or the phone were. Needless to say they were long gone, probably with an accomplis or something, but can you imagine the nerve of the thief just hanging around like that? Anyway, the cops showed up too late of course, and even Kristine and I remember someone trying our door and then quickly moving away. Owen had told me that he thought Poland was an unsafe place based on some comments from a friend, and he might be right. Isn't it sad that we can travel all around some of the world's poorest places in Asia and then you come here, where the country has just joined the EU, and you find people picking on backpackers who have almost nothing. Unforgivable. I guess it's true though, the more affluent you are, the fewer morals you probably have.
I don't think this applies to all the polish people though, although there is a distinctly different feeling to the culture here as compared to Russia. For someone who has not been here (like us), you have these perceptions that because the places are so close together that they must be a lot alike, but this is just not the case. The vibe here is very strange, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it has something to do with having been the world's battleground so many times over. The people have a bit of a defeated look to them, and I know it sounds strange because we are many years away from the last conquerors (the Nazi's), and yet it seems that a certain depressed look has been genetically transmitted through the generations. You can tell me if you think this is a strange observation, but that is about as clear as I can make it.
Warsaw has quite a beautiful old town, with a nice square, completely rebuilt after the Germans destroyed everything in the second world war. The quality of the reconstruction earned the city a place on UNESCO's list of world heritage sites. Warsaw is also the start of BAGEL country (I love REAL Montreal style bagels, which most certainly have their roots over here somewhere...)! With a strong Jewish heritage, there are some fantastic bagels here, and they sell them on the street for only 1 Zloty. You can just walk around and buy them all day long. This we did, as we saw the old town, and we also visited the tallest building in the country, dubbed the science and cultural centre which had a very strange exhibit about the concept of time set inside the enormous Stalinist building; a gift from the soviets. The poles are not very fond of the building, because they say that it has the best view of the city due to the fact that it is the only place from which the view does NOT include the science and cultural centre. I found that to be a cheeky way of sending a message to the Russians ;) Perogies are also high on the list now, and the other night our meal consisted of 5 different kinds of perogies, the last one being fruit. Maybe they hide all their food in wrappers because it all looks so bad? Probably not; it all tasted pretty good, if not a little doughy - I hope I can fit through the door on my way out.