Warsaw at dawn

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”.

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
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22 Responses to Warsaw at dawn

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    How very quiet this city, Meg, in spite of the early hour. The quietness, or rather activity suspended oozes from each image. Also the sense of your venturing out on a mission – that in the end doesn’t quite measure up, but instead discovery and rediscovery. You are creating a history of yourself in Warsaw somehow? Held there by blood ties, but increasingly more besides? Btw, the mermaid shot is especially fine. What a backdrop for her!


    • Thank you Tish. You’re right. You understand so well. Warsaw now is a palimpsest consisting of many encounters. The mermaid is a good example. I’ve seen her in all weathers – covered in snow, surrounded by a skating rink, with puddles around her after rain, late at night, and now early morning. We passed her the first day R was out and about after months of bed rest in the early stages of her pregnancy. So she bears all this history. I’ve never seen her free of photographers before. This photo was one of five or six as I circled her. I’m so lucky to have the chance to get to know a city better and better – none of this one-day-in-Budapest tourism, although it teaches me how to make the most of not much time in a new place.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosemary Barnard says:

    This is a lovely record of a lovely walk, Meg, the kind I would enjoy and just maybe will one day, preferably with you. Yes, familiar territory, but see with new eyes, particularly in the early morning light, before the glare of the sun washes out defining tone and colour.


    • The opportunities to poke around yielded so many pleasures, and the golden hour is certainly that. The light on the house fronts walking from Mariensztat to the New Town was especially lovely. I’d love to show you Warsaw, although it would be a challenge figuring out what exactly. I early-walked again today: we’re heading towards 30° and I’m not fond of such heat. Picky, eh? I’m not fond of cold either.


      • Rosemary Barnard says:

        Yes, the light on those house fronts was what caught my eye most among so many lovely photos. In them you captured the promise of the awakening day.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Nearly 30 degrees, that’s wonderful, I’m jealous! But if you don’t like heat then your early walks are a great idea, maybe take a flask of coffee. I always intend to go out really early to take photos, but even though I’m an early riser I can’t get out the door.
    You know I love the mermaid and you’ve got a great shot of her, as well the detail on the bell, what a handsome one it is. Happy days lovely Catfish 🙂


    • It’s 4.20 now, but today is kids and catering day, so my focus is on food. When I first retired I got the guilts if I didn’t see the sunrise from the headland. As for a flask of coffee, my ageing bladder means minimal fluid intake till I’m safely home since there are minimal public loos around! I’m glad you liked the mermaid: I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity for photographic scrutiny. It’s supposed to be good luck if you walk around the bell three times. I didn’t.


  4. Heyjude says:

    What a joyous walk this was with you in the early hours, your photos simply ooze both tranquillity and solitude. I can see how you pause and look around you, familiar and comfortable with the landscape, yet seeking more treasures to add to your Warsaw story. Looking for new angles, new subjects, new perspectives. You done well 😀


    • You know exactly how I proceeded and you put it beautifully. I owe the early morning urge in a strange city in part to my friend Annette, who gave it a great rap when she was studying in Prague. Also to my fear of not making the most of the day. If I get out early I’ve stolen a march on the day. And then again, I remember my first day in Damascus, forcing myself out because otherwise I might have succumbed to fear and spent my precious three days in my room!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heyjude says:

        Sometimes having to force ourselves out of our comfort zones works wonders. I remember going to a pub in Broken Hill (alone) because the alternative was staying in a drab Motel room for the evening. Scary walking in to a pub as a single woman, but I’m glad I did.


  5. restlessjo says:

    Wandering with you is such an indulgence and a pleasure, Meg. 🙂 I can retrace steps I had to scurry past, this time at our leisure. I definitely saw that ‘glow’ we’ve been talking about. Hugs, darlin!


    • Funny how things generate other things. I’m sure Paula’s “glow” was partly responsible for sending me out early. Would you like this one for next Monday? Still not quite sure how to go about linking. Hugs to you too – the real ones seem a long time ago.


      • restlessjo says:

        They really do! 😦 And yes, please. I’ll still be posting Poland. Eventually I might even get to look at my Algarve photos. Returning there 6th July, just for a week. Mick’s birthday and to let James have a laze in the sun. Too hot for walking (well, very slowly- toes in the sea 🙂 🙂 )


        • I’ll be looking forward to more Poland in your posts, and the Algarve, and maybe even Hartlepool. Good to know James will get his time in the sun. Has Lisa been to the Algarve yet? I feel as if I know your two, at least a little bit, after our time in Łódź.

          I’ve just committed to staying in Poland till February. The apartment’s available for a reduced rate. Now all I have to do is change my ticket and sort out insurance. J’s still undecided. He likes making things, and there’s not much scope for that here. But he’s talking bike and tent, so he can transport that part of home to the river and forest around Warsaw. The tribe just spent the weekend on an island in the Wisła not far from the city. There’s wonderful footage of Jaś sitting on the sand riveted by cool jazz played by one of their friends; and him and Maja frolicking, naked except for sunhats and sunscreen, in sand and water.


          • restlessjo says:

            Your family do know how to have a good time! 🙂 🙂 You brought em up right. Lisa and Leo spent a week with me in the Algarve quite a lot of years ago. Neither of them likes heat a lot, and life has been a rollercoaster for them since then. Maybe when/if we finally live there. 🙂
            I can’t see J leaving your Bobby Dazzlers for a lonely life at home any time soon. Winter’s a different proposition though, isn’t it? More language courses? Does he feel the benefit of it? I’m a disgrace! I was determined to carry on with Duolingo at home but I haven’t even started. It’s the darn blog! I should move on. But we know I won’t. Hugs, darlin! 🙂


            • No more courses. He’s counting down to Friday now, and developing other strategies. Duo lingo was recommended at his language school. I’ve done two minute sessions on Babbel, so I’ve hardly pulled my finger out either! Darn blog is right, and I won’t be moving on either.

              Liked by 1 person

  6. desleyjane says:

    Such a rich and varied post Meg. It seems like such a sleepy place and it looks quite cold. I love your details on the bell and what a great idea is a Chopin bench?! Um, a urine sample????


  7. findingnyc says:

    Love this post, Meg – your photos are really great. It’s always interesting how different places look when there aren’t people around – it really helps when you are trying to capture photos. So many of mine end up with people blocking things! The tones in the early morning sky really drew my attention. I love the soft tones, with that slight touch of pink at times. Inspires me to get up earlier and see what I can discover!


  8. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Yorkshire Sculpture Park | restlessjo

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