Almost 2 years since we traveled, this is our first trip during COVID-19. The goal is a friend’s wedding in the Polish countryside.
Idyllic, romantic, and beautiful – the picture in my head of a wedding experience. The reality is that attending a wedding could be an adrenaline-rush activity.
On the way, we visit Warsaw and Łódź.
Warsaw is clean and very walkable, the buildings are pleasant. The spacious streets are remarkable with the lack of joggers and inconsiderate electric scooter riders.
Probably the most famous part of the Polish capital is the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s also Warsaw’s oldest and most picturesque neighborhood. The place lures with fairytale architecture, museums, a royal castle, local cuisine, a viewpoint worth the climb, and scattered amber jewelry shops. I imagine pre-COVID tourist cohorts strolling through the cobbled streets. It’s different now: mostly peaceful before noon, it gets lively later during the day. However, it’s noticeable that people want to travel even during a pandemic.
The New Town is another part of Warsaw that impresses me with beautiful architecture. It begins where the Old Town ends and it feels like a prelude.
True to the belief that one should go where locals go, we dine at a local restaurant. It’s located outside the tourist areas and we are the only foreigners. The food is delicious and pierogi instantly become my favorite.
Łódź (pronounced ‘woodge’) has a textile-manufacturing past, the industrial mood still lingers. It’s not among Poland’s most beautiful places to see, but it has grown as a cultural center. The gloomy weather suits it very well.
Piotrkowska, the main street, is among the longest shopping streets in the world – 4.2 km. Hidden in a side street, we stumble upon a former hotel covered with mirror mosaic. This sparkling surface resembles the retina and reacts to light in unexpected ways – from a distance, the building looks like it’s dressed in silver. The inspiration for Rosa’s Passage by Joanna Rajkowska comes from her daughter’s recovery from retinoblastoma (eye cancer). One of the things I love about traveling is the serendipitous discoveries of hidden gems.
Łódź is the closest big town to the wedding venue. The plan is to take a cab for about 35 minutes, we leave the hotel an hour earlier and order a taxi at the reception. Instead of the usual 5-10 minutes, it will take 20 minutes due to a road closure. While we wait, at least 5 cabs drive by. Eventually, a cab stops in front of the building, and, relieved, we rush to get in. At this same moment, another couple from the hotel takes the cab. Stupid coincidence! Twenty minutes later there is still no one to pick us up. We have to make it on time, no matter what. I go to the street and stop the first taxi I see. Success, we arrive 10 minutes early.
I get emotional when I see my friend walk down the aisle with her father. The ceremony is beautiful and touching despite that we don’t understand a word. The previous evening, a reaction to my contact lenses gives me swollen eyelids and face, however, wearing a mask saves the situation. After the knot has been tied, guests gather outside to meet and greet the couple.
The way back to Łódź seems easy and quick. What could go wrong? We try to call a cab unsuccessfully: there are no taxis around, foreign numbers don’t work. Somehow we manage to get to a human, but she doesn’t understand what we say and we hang up.
With high hopes, we head to a grocery store, buy some sweets and ask the cashier if she could call us a cab. Dressed up, with a bag of sweets, and asking for help – we definitely look suspicious. She answers in Polish and I grasp that we have to get a bus. To explain that we need a taxi sent from Łódź is pointless and disappointed we try to figure out a way to get out of here. While E. researches the options, I devour 3 chocolate wafers.
After an hour of hitting a wall, what’s left is to take a train. The train station is 3 km away, I wear high heels, it rains and it’s windy. Although not as severe as in New Zealand, the rain and wind slow us down. We walk on the road, there are cornfields on both sides, caterpillars hang from thtrees and my umbrella. Once at the station, we need to wait another half hour.
The epic return to Łódź took 4 hours, longer than the wedding ceremony and the flight to Warsaw – an adventure to remember.