The title’s a bit of a misnomer. Catching dawn here means you have to be up and about before 4 am. I left home at 4.45 and by then the morning was well underway, the moon pale and the light washed-out blue tinged with pink. I haven’t been out and about this early in a city since Dubrovnik in 2014.
At the Old Town tramstop I am undecided. Which way to go? Across the bridge? Towards the multimedia fountain? Through the Old Town? I choose the river, flowing lazily along in the early light.
From the bridge I walk a path familiar from my stay in Mariensztat in 2014, past the front of the Old Town palace, a much photographed staircase, and a littering of worn sculptures, the morning light catching the buildings and making them glow.
One of my goals, the multimedia fountain, is initially a disappointment: I’ve forgotten the hours Warsaw keeps, although I am depending on most people being out of the way for photos, and of course it isn’t playing. However I do catch a few reflections including the tall tower of Marie Curie’s early childhood church.
The New Town is haunted by memories of our first visit before the twins were born when we lived close by. I particularly remember a night of -12° when the Christmas lights were drawing crowds, and I sat on a seat on my corrugated cardboard eating a sweet bun and marvelling at my presence here. I have special affection for the two statues of bears. They were covered in the first fall of snow I’d ever seen: today, bird shit. I thought I’d photographed all the lintel animals, but crowd-free, I spot a swan and boars.
ul Freta, linking the New Town to the Barbikan is also Marie Curie territory: the house she lived in as a child is being renovated and the museum has been moved over the road. I notice other changes, an indication of familiarity with place: the apteka just down from our first apartment where I asked for a urine sample bottle in Polish, is now an E. Wedel chocolate shop.
The Old Town Square is nearly empty, so I have a chance to photograph the mermaid at leisure, seeking out her best angle.
Between the Old Town Square and Plac Zamkowy is Kanonia Square. It is misnamed: it is in fact a small triangular space, host to a huge bronze 17th century bell which has never hung in a bell tower, surrounded by what were once the homes of 17th century canon priests. The photographic instruction site I follow with varying degrees of dedication suggests a focus on detail, already a penchant, so I capture the detail of the bell and a ring embedded in a wall.
Plac Zamkowy is deserted, except for a few pedestrians, the odd camera-slung tourist, and a team of sweepers removing Corpus Christi holiday trash around Zygmunt’s Column. I make my way up to the bus stop hoping in vain to find coffee. However I do find a Chopin bench, and set it playing with a push of the finger. This one marks the site of Warsaw’s music conservatory, where Chopin’s composition teacher taught, and where he met his first love, Konstancja Gładkowska who was studying voice.
I wait at a bus stop bereft of all buses, and finally learn that they have been rerouted, a common event around the Old Town. So I head off through the Saxon Gardens, their green interrupting the city skyline, stopping to record the progress of spring.
I’m back at the apartment shortly after 7, in good time to accept an invitation to go and see “The Jungle Book”, and to have my first phone conversation with 3 year olds: “You a catfish” from Jaś and something I didn’t quite catch from Maja about “fwiends”.