1: Through Park Dreszera to the apartment
I arrive in Warsaw on a Monday. It’s Thursday, the day before solstice and the beginning of northern hemisphere summer, before I begin to notice my surroundings and enjoy the relics of spring. My left knee is still temperamental and the sole of my right foot is mildly painful, but walking – which I tend to fear when anything goes slightly wrong – seems to be good for both.
We spend a few hours in the park just over the road from the apartment I lived in on my last visit. I watch the twins colonise the playground, and I communicate with their young Polish-French friend by biscuit. When it’s time to go home, I walk through Park Dreszera – a nice symmetry. This was the last park I walked through on my 2018 visit, the five year old twins brandishing water pistols they’d just emptied – on me (Maja) and pigeons (Janek).
The shade is dense, the fountain playing, the formal flower beds blooming, and a dense smell I can’t identify filling the air.
Closer to home are a few bright patches of colour – a cylinder of unknown purpose, a segment of blood orange, and roses against the pale yellow wall of my apartment block. There is also the inevitable reminder of a dark past, this time more happily commemorating a survivor.
II: To Biedronka after light rain
My generic walks are beginning to deconstruct into themes. Half the photos I took en route to a grocery shop are bespoke for an ongoing exploration of loss. However, light rain left me something. I had no need to carry my spray bottle with me as last night’s read of 11 tips for incredible flower photography suggested.
III: Reconnoitering to buy paints
Maybe I overprepare, but before I embark on a shopping expedition with Janek and Maja I need to know where I’m going and whether the shop has what I want. So I travel by tram to Plac Unii Lubelskiej, passing a garden bed of splendid orange lilies on the way.
I cross five roads to look at an array of information panels, some featuring Susan Ryder, another the history of this area: 18th century turnpike; 19th century turning loop for horse-drawn trams; early 20th century turning loop for electric trams, and multi-storey tenements that survived WW2; 1892 – 1935 end-stop to narrow gauge railway connecting with Wilanów; 1939 aborted plans for Polish radio high-rise; 1959 Supersam supermarket featuring innovation in “roof architecture for hall-type buildings”; in the vicinity at different periods a race track and Russian barracks. And now glitzy Plac Unii.
The detritus of spring fills the cracks in the pavement, and piles up against the tree bed.
A new form of hire transport has appeared since my last visit, although bikes are still popular.
I’d forgotten how disorienting the glass temple to consumerism at Plac Unii is, reflections descending far below my feet.
I find an array of paints in Empic – when I finally track down Empic. So the afternoon excursion is, dare I say, under control.
Except that when it came to it, they didn’t want to shop themselves. They wanted me to do it for them.
IV: Here and there
Lovely hollyhocks, dribbling pollen right next to busy Puławska Street. I pass their corner coming and going to my daughter’s apartment (mostly, when I’m not getting lost, still.)
Lovely even in their fallen state, calyx holding firm and stripes vivid.
Looking down yields other treasures, like this neat patchwork of weeds.
V: To Nowy Teatr
Late on Saturday afternoon I join a group of Rose’s friends at the Nowy Teatr for talk about travel and theatre and a shared slice of lemon meringue pie. We soak up the sun, made pleasant by a light breeze, while Janek and Maja take turns to tear around on the pedal-less bike they rode when they were 4, now owned by Lea who has the most wonderful smile. A large concreted area is bordered by gardens (ID of the yellow one anyone? It grows in spikes.)
En route, I pass the apartment where we lived for a year, the renovations that tortured us with soot and falling rocks and noise now complete.
I love the way every walk through the same territory yields different noticing. I must have walked the route to and from the tram stop ten times already without registering these particular beauties.