Friday, March 27, 2015

Warsaw, Not Love at First Sight

Since adrenalin-driven activities are somewhat limited with a small kid on board, one can always take travelling as an occasion to visit friends. Our next trip was Warsaw, of course visiting friends again.

Warsaw will never cease to amaze you with its magnitude of dimensions. The popular saying ‘There is nothing (interesting) in Warsaw’ is an empty cliché. There are plenty of things. One just has to dig a bit harder and know a bit of history. You will not fall in love with Warsaw at first sight but if you are patient enough and learn a bit about the city's stormy history, you will be awarded with unexpected discoveries. The history breaths out there in the streets of Warsaw!

The best thing for parents and their offspring is to visit the Copernicus Science Center. Your kids as young as there years old will certainly enjoy the center, even if they are not particularly interested in science and astronomy. Weekends apparently tend to be heavily busy and lines are inevitable. 

Next to the Copernicus Center, just across the street, you will find the famous Warsaw University Library with its breathtaking roof garden. The building is said to be a unique collaboration between the city and the architects, applying a then pioneering principle of open access.  Thus the library is supposed to be a “centre for leisure and culture“. 

The culture aspect is here represented by an amazing roof garden, designed by Irena Baierska. It is a genuine oasis in the city full of building construction sites and new high-rise buildings that mushroomed due to the European Football Championship in 2012. Any kid of all ages will like to explore the garden's labyrinth of little avenues, hidden in the luxuriant vegetation.
After seeing the Warsaw University Library and its garden, you canrecharge yourself in a nearby trendy hipster cafe Kafka. 

We were blessed with sunny days, so one day we lounged in the Mokotow park, enjoying the warmth of sun and coldness of Polish beer. Rica appreciated the little pond (got all wet) and a playground nearby (got all dirty). Parks are a favorite place to relax with plentiful food options and beer stands and places to rent a bike. 

Visiting friends can also have one big advantage for parents of small kids – free baby-sitting. While Rica stayed with our friends and enjoyed their company (hopefully they enjoyed hers), we took a bike tour around the city. The bike paths are clearly marked and wide. 

The Warsaw's bike rental system made the biggest impression on me. You can cheaply rent one and explore the city and its numerous parks on a bike. It is probably the fastest and cheapest way to discover the spacious city.

On the last day of our stay I took a quick visit to the recently opened and yet unfinished Jewish Museum. It was very sunny that day (as you can say by the semi-naked people baking on the grass in front of the Museum).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Travels with My Rica - Vienna, the Aging Lady

The first question for parents of a small child who love travelling is: To travel or not to travel (with the kid). When to start, where and how? For me personally a small kid has never been a reason to stay home. Naturally one has to take precautions and be aware of places and possible dangers. But someone told me your kid is happy wherever you go, since the kid likes to be with the parent/s.

Especially should she or he skip the school, right?

There are several rules one should be aware of. The top first rule is tune yourself into being utterly, absolutely, maximally flexible. Planning is necessary but be prepared to accept changes to your plans and improvise. Any time you want the kid to do something, like fall asleep for example, be sure she or he will not. And vice versa. Rica fell asleep twice on Manila metro and I had to sit in a station and wait until she wakes up (not only to allow her get some energy but simply because I cannot carry those 16 kilos around in the humid tropical climate any more).

I also found amusement in observing the kid when taking in new experiences. It often enriches her vocabulary bordering with poetism. So for instance to fly in an airplane she started to use a phrase: To be on the cloud (Být na mráčku).

Vienna, Aging Lady

My first foreign trip with Rica was visiting friends in one of the neighboring countries, Austria. Vienna is an aging lady of elegance and manners, clean, well-kept and a bit pompous. An aging lady, which strives to be modern but would look more natural if she faced her age and were faithful to the old style.

It was Easter time, something between the ending winter and beginning spring, so Vienna was still clad in grayish colors. No leaves on trees yet, no green grass. But the sun shining fully and happily for four days revealed the town’s semi-nakedness before it would get dressed in spring colors.

When thinking about Rica in Vienna, I think of her walking by my side happy and joyfully singing along our way to a park where we sat on a bench and ate our snack. We bought goodies in one of the plentiful  Bäckerei shops. I think of her chasing the pigeons in front of and inside the Stephan Dom and then leaving the huge kirche and Rica singing Ježíšku, panáčku (Czech Christmas carol about Baby Jesus). I think of her jumping on a trampoline with kids in a park from all over the world. 

Rica may not have discovered the famous sightseeing spots of Vienna this time but it was something I call a training trip. To train her to travel longer hours, experience new places (playgrounds), eat new food (and lots of Easter chocolate), learn to share her toys (and iPad) with a kid she saw for the first time in her life, that is my friends' daughter Giulia (sharing toys was a huge challenge for both of them).  

I would like to praise the České dráhy (Czech railways) for being so helpful when frantically looking for a seat. We had only a couple of minutes to get on the train before it would depart and I literally struggled with the pram into the wagon. The conductor standing nearby quickly responded and helped me to get on and then found a convenient seat for me and Rica himself (in fact, he asked a young lad to sit on the floor). I felt bad about it but there was little I could do at that moment.