Last week, I saw a photo of my Warsaw mob on a sandy track through the bush (thank you, Aneta) and suddenly my Australian home was very close. I knew that I needed to find the place that contained this seed of nostalgia and explore its tracks.
Checking Park Kultury w Powsinie on Google images, I found a photo of a bus, the 519. That solved the how-to-get-there problem – even if I did begin by catching 519 in the wrong direction. Once we got beyond Wilanów, the bus stopped “na żądanie” (on demand) and the road signs warned of tractors and horse drawn vehicles. I was heading for the country.
The park is 50 hectares, and was once a golf course. It reminds me at first of a rather dilapidated park where we sometimes went for Sunday school picnics in my childhood: that place, near Lane Cove, was called Fairyland. Playground equipment, including a huge manual merry-go-round, was battered and the paint was peeling. The garbage tins at Powsin remind me of the Fairyland feeling.
I pass an outdoor amphitheatre, empty now, paving stones edged by grass and tiny white flowers.
I find my sandy tracks, edged by weedy bushland.
The tracks lead to dirt roads with the marks of tractor tyres, bordering on farmland.
Berries and flowers brighten the weedy green, insect eggs pattern leaves, a string of translucent fruits hang in a necklace, leaves capture light and shadow, roots calligraph the dirt, and a hollow log makes a mossy vase for ferns and serrated leaves.
Making my way back into the park I see a cyclist and some of the park’s more urban attractions – a jungle course, tennis courts, a restaurant, children’s rides, basketball courts, an area of exercise machines, and overflowing garbage tins signifying a busy weekend.
An old oak tree, pomnik indeed, propped up and protected by law, its acorn cups dotted ready for stitching, is surrounded by a low fence marking the spread of its upper branches.
I emerge from this reconnaissance back at the entrance to the park: a swimming pool, a discarded giraffe and “seasonal touristic homes.” I sit beside a small rustic fountain with other aging women: one in rumpled white with a clumsy backpack, meeting a friend with immaculate hennaed hair, a walking stick, a floating silk shirt, and a neat shopping trolley: one walking with difficulty and dipping her fingers into the fountain, shaking them dry with graceful arm movements: and me, in bright trousers and a faded black Tshirt, staggering a bit when I stand.