While planning this trip, I kept seeing articles with names like “36 hours in Warsaw,” which reminded me of other travel articles about 24 or 72 hours in a city, and I wondered whose trips and lives fall so neatly into those types of hours. Here’s my trip, and doesn’t fall into a neat time slot.
9 am: When you roll into Warsaw in the morning, you’ll realize why overnight buses are a terrible idea. Get a cab, schlep your suitcases into the hostel and drink a pile of coffee.
10 am: Grab a quick, easy, early lunch: Vietnamese pho with tofu and vegetables before exploring.
11 am: When Ayn Rand was talking about bad architecture in the Fountainhead, she must have meant the communist Ministry of Science and Culture. Next to the shining modern skyscrapers, it looks especially strange.
noon: Stumble into the National Museum. Look at everything, and write down the name of an artist to look up later (Aleksander Gierymski).
3 pm: Discover there are sirens on everything, as a sword-wielding mermaid is the coat of arms of Warsaw. Take pictures of all the sirens you see, including on the lampposts.
4: Go back to your hostel and officially check in. Realize you forgot your toothbrush in someone’s flat, and go shopping. Find an English language bookstore and buy a book for the plane.
5: Take a stroll through the park Ogród Saski.
6 pm: Go to the all-vegan Loving Hut and discover it’s not a buffet, like Prague. Accidentally order too much food (both the crispy spring rolls and the marinated tofu and rice come with three tasty Polish-style salads.) Take one with you, for lunch tomorrow.
7 pm: Go to “Old Town,” which was rebuilt after the WWII bombings. Listen to a tour guide talk about the war before you realize you’d rather sit and watch kids play in the siren fountain. Birds are perching on her sword, so you buy postcards instead.
8 pm: Walk along the river to the second big siren statue, and realize you cannot match the destroyed city you’ve seen in history books to the vibrant place you’re walking through.
9 pm: Find the second statue, but the area is under construction and you can’t get a good photo. Watch the sun set over the river. Ignore that everyone else is part of a couple.
10 pm: Go back to the hostel, and discover your roommates are from Boston and New York, meaning you’re all American women from the north-eastern part of the U.S. Remember to check into your flight online.
11 pm: Tell the cheerful Australians and your hostel-mates you are too zonked for a pub crawl.
8 am: Get up, drink coffee, and head to the post office to mail the postcards you bought.
9 am: Explain to a cranky cab driver you were just taking pictures of the siren on his cab, not his cab number. Delete the photos. Take photos of the siren on the trams instead.
10 am: Find the Fryderyk Chopin Museum, but it doesn’t open until 11. Drink more coffee.
11 am: Go to the museum. While the touch-screen exhibits are distracting, the booths where you can listen to Chopin’s music and read about their backstory are lovely. Write down names of songs you want to share with someone later.
noon: Head back to the hostel, and eat your Loving Hut leftovers.
1 pm: Decide to share a cab with a man heading back to Tel Aviv, while his girlfriend is staying behind to sightsee in Poland for a few more days. Talk about the trials of dating long distance and the places you’ve both visited.
2 pm: Discover if you read your new Tina Fey book in the line, you’ll be laughing, which will make the person working at the passport control booth grumpy.
3 pm: Eat your last plate of roasted vegetables with cheese, and treat yourself to a Żołądkowa Gorzka, a sweet polish vodka. Fumble with the name, as you’ve always had someone else ordering it for you.
4 pm: As you walk to your gate, you pass a souvenir shop selling things with Warsaw’s siren on them. Think of the legend of Warsaw— the fisherman named Wars who caught a siren named Sawa, and they fell in love— but you cannot remember where you read it. Check your ticket, which is tucked next to your passport, siren souvenirs and a dwarf keychain that someone special gave you.
4:30 pm: Write down the Murakami book title “Sputnik Sweetheart” to remind yourself to re-read that novel when you get back to the United States.