Monthly Archives: June 2013

AIMLESS WALK LEADS TO ENLIGHTENMENT

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Walked aimlessly for hours around Poland’s largest city – Warsaw snapping pictures of non-touristic things 

 

in touristic areas

and near tourist attractions, just because that’s the goofball mood I was inlamp10

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Strange cracks in the sidewalk. Weird angles. Weird kindred spirits. Whatever grabbed my attention.

At sunset, it was a neat row of lampposts.

The lampposts lined a side street that led to Saski Garden.

The sky behind the lampposts was a golden yellow and deep orange. I noticed as the sun set, the lights seem to glow. From the distance I was unable to tell if it was a strange effect of the dimming sunlight or the lamps were beginning to come alive as darkness beckoned. It was a curiously interesting tradeoff: natural light was making way for artificial light. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful dance, aglow with vivid shades of yellow, orange and amber. I aimed my camera at the tall lampposts and continued to shoot photographs as the sun began what seemed like an eternal descent. Camera-toting tourists around me paused and wondered what I found so interesting in the sky, especially given the abundance of amazing historic monuments and buildings and sculptures within the lushly green city park, including the remains of Saxon Palace, converted into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and guarded at all times by two stone-faced sentinels. Funny how you can quickly draw a curious crowd when you aim your camera in unexpected directions.

Sometime after 1815, Saski Garden, a one-time royal garden that surrounded Saxon Palace, became a municipal park. lamp10Saxon Palace was destroyed during World War II and all that remains is the archway today known as the mausoleum, where an eternal flame burns an the two Polish soldiers stand watch. Periodically, and for brief moments, the two soldiers march around the monument, perhaps to break up the torture of having to stand still for such a long time. I caught one of the soldiers perhaps fighting back a sneeze, wiggling his nose – or was he just trying to fend off a pesky fly away from his face without actually swatting at the irritant?lamp3

 For many years, only appropriately dressed strollers were allowed to enter Saski Garden. Today, there’s no official dress code. In the warmth of summer, men and women wear very little. Nobody cares. The grounds are well-groomed, serene, and still have that regal air, with its stone sculptures positioned throughout the grounds.  There is a duck pond with weeping willows and a bronze fountain that spits water. Needless to say, the park draws its share of amorous couples. Sitting on the grass is not allowed, so don’t even think about it, lest you face a sentinel’s bayonet. But none of it held my attention like the setting sun and the lamps. Together they were a spectacular medley, worth the long, aimless walk.

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Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland

Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland

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Pay As You Wish? Smack Me Amadeus!

With a very relaxed atmosphere, Der Wiener Deewan is frequented by university students, locals and travelers on a budget.

On my first trip to Vienna,

I learned about a restaurant

that sounded

too good to be true.

The restaurant, Der Wiener Deewan, serves buffet-style Pakistani food – to my taste buds and olfactory perception – no discernible difference between it and Indian food. At Deewan,  diners eat all they can eat – as much as they wish to eat – and pay whatever they wish to pay. Eat as much as you like, pay what you want. How could this be?

My first reaction was how could any restaurant stay in business with such an off-balance policy? What if I ate a ton and wanted to pay a penny? No problem, said the cashier. It’s as stated: Pay what you wish.

So off I went with Xin, my Viennese host who told me about Deewan. This I had to see for myself. Of course on our way there I asked if the food was of low or poor quality. Was it good? Was it fresh? Was this place some sort of roach-infested dump?

None of the above.

First, the food was pretty good. It was so good I wish I had the stomach to go back for a third helping of rice and potatoes and the curried stew. Even the vegetable medley was cooked to perfection. But with seconds, I was stuffed. I don’t eat much. Never have been able to stuff my face silly at those all-you-can-eat joints while my friends got their money’s worth – and then some.

If you can imagine Indian food, you will have a sense of Pakistani food. And my dear Indian and Pakistani friends, I know you will argue I just committed heresy by suggesting there’s no difference between the two. Again, the only difference to me is in the nationality of the hands preparing it. Needless to say, because Deewan is so cheap, it draws lots of university students who have better things to spend their money on than food 😉 and budget travelers. But it’s a well-known local spot. Most people know it. Well, most people under 30. It caters to the young and hip and hipster. I’ve been to Vienna twice and each time I’ve paid a visit to Deewan. It’s, of course, worth it.

Here is its website with more photos and location information. If you do go, yes, pay as  much as you wish, but don’t be

a total jerk! 😛

DER WIENER DEEWAN

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Real Football In Europe

Real Football In Europe

There is an actual American football league in Poland.

I had heard about this months ago and sort of filed it in the back of my brain. But after I met one of the players of one of the teams – the Warsaw Spartans – I decided to check out a game. I caught the match between two other Warsaw teams – the Crusaders and Eagles. I attended the game with two Polish women who don’t know anything about American football and I tried to explain the rules as we watched. They were not quite impressed with the sport and we decided to leave at half time. As of this writing, I don’t know who won, but the Crusaders were dominating. I will return soon to watch another match and hopefully stick around to the end.

I hadn’t seen a live American football game in quite sometime. The Polish version was far more subdued, with fewer fans and in a much smaller venue – a university field. But the fans were every bit enthusiastic.

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