This going out and about early is becoming a habit, and so is just wandering around to see what I can see, maybe with a vague goal. This morning I’m heading for the Mirowski markets. However, I’m more than willing to ramble off in another direction if I see something interesting.
Ul Próżna is billed by lonely planet (thank you, Sue) as an “eerie and incongruous survivor of WW 2”. That may have been the case once, but now it’s been renovated, all except one building of splendid dilapidation, which is also under threat.
SURPRISED BY STALIN’S GIFT
I’ve visited the Palace of Culture and Science often, and once even painstakingly circumambulated its arrogant vastness. I am drawn off course by the sight of it framed by trees and fronted by a fountain, an aspect I haven’t encountered before. In the early morning light-and-shade it even has a certain charm. Lime trees move towards their apotheosis of bloom; lions spurt water into the fountain; men sit lazily on the benches; a bee buzzes from flower to flower (reminding me that there are hives on the top of the Gift); and a statue commemorates Janusz Korczak who accompanied the orphans in his care to the death chamber at Treblinka in 1942.
A CHURCH AND A SQUARE
At the end of Ul Próźna is a church and a landscaped square with gardens, seats and a water feature, a beautifully tranquil foreground for the church it shares the square with. Pope John Paul presides at the top of the church stairs, with lanterns of devotion at his feet, and as worshippers pass they reach out an almost inadvertent hand to touch him.
Always in Warsaw, reminders of history, against the background of modern glass and metal buildings. December 13, 1981 was the day the communists declared martial law as their response to Solidarity: 10 000 people arrested and 100 killed.
The real goal of my morning stroll is the market, the first in my planned tour of markets in Warsaw. I am ready for a photo-feast but I’m daunted by the formidable look of the stallholders and my lack of Polish. However, I feel free to steal images of the buildings, dating from the early 20th century, although only the walls were left standing after the Warsaw Uprising. The Germans conducted civil executions here and you can still see bullet holes if you know where to look. There is a story that Margaret Thatcher shopped at the market in 1988: she bought vegetables and dried mushrooms. (Source: http://www.spottedbylocals.com/warsaw/hala-mirowska/)
I prowl the aisles, scrutinising vegetables with a professional eye, once a market gardener with a stall at the local growers’ market. I’m spoilt for choice and finally buy tiny new potatoes, dill, spring onions, rhubarb stalks obligingly cut in half, a very white cauliflower. I note egg stalls, including speckled quail eggs; stalls selling a vast variety of cheeses; piles of bread; rows and rows of flowers; and pots of herbs just asking to be taken home for our windowsill herb garden.
It’s 8 am when I head back to the apartment, along densely shaded pathways into the sun that is beginning to burn down.