June 11:  Warsaw

At breakfast I did my "new socks" announcement for the third time, and it got applause.  This thing is catching on.

Jared got the Boob Shirt.  Yesterday he gave a little speech thanking Matt for helping him not get lost in Russia and Belarus, and immediately thereafter he couldn't get out of the car park at the service stop.

Local guide Joanna took us on a tour of Warsaw:

Chopin statue in Łazienki Park.

Monument of the Ghetto Heroes.  The Ghetto was the neighborhood where 400,000 Jews were concentrated.  After 300,000 of them were sent to Treblinka and their fate was learned, the rest of them launched the 1943 Ghetto Uprising.  They had no chance of beating the Nazis but were determined to go out fighting.  In suppressing the Uprising, the Nazis burned the Ghetto to the ground.

As we passed the University of Warsaw, Joanna informed us that the best-looking girls in Warsaw can be found in this area.  That kind of info is useful in selecting bars for the evening.  She pointed out one particular Irish pub, but the guidebook from the hotel said it was nasty, and someone later confirmed this in person.

The narrowest house in Warsaw.  There, in the corner.

The narrowest house is in Old Town, of which 95% was destroyed in the war.  The area was accurately rebuilt and is very colorful and photogenic, but I was kind of disinterested in taking photos of reconstructed buildings.  They just seemed non-historical.

GODDAMMIT, I lost my jacket in Old Town Square.  I'm fairly certain I left it on a bench.  I was carrying it around bunched up in my hand because it was warm out.  Treo $500, Treo case $25, jacket $50.  Insurance is for suckers, but assuming they honor my claims I'm actually ahead now.

Rob's Best Friends challenge was to stand in the town square and sing "Baa Baa Black Sheep" for money.  After he threw down his cap and started singing, a guy came up to try to sell him flowers, but he ended up tossing a coin into the cap.  Well done!

We had free time from 12pm to 6pm so I gradually walked from Old Town Square back to the hotel, probably about 4 miles.  I stopped for KFC and and hour on the Internet.  Officially 4pm was the end of free time as that's when we were meeting for the Chopin recital, but that was the one optional I decided to skip.  Come on, ballet scarred me enough.

On the Internet I learned that the great Ray Charles had died, and that the Lakers lost game 3 to Detroit.  Reagan, Treo, jacket...one tragedy after another.

Palace of Culture and Science.  This was Stalin's gift to Warsaw, meant to resemble the Seven Sisters.  It was his way of marking his territory.

The coach was returning from Chopin at 6pm, so the plan was to meet at Old Town at that time and find a place to eat.  I took the popular 175 bus from the hotel back to Old Town.  I asked people in advance how to use the bus, and no one could figure out how to pay, so they all rode free.  Sure enough, when I got on, I couldn't figure it out.  I had a 5zł coin in my hand and wanted to use it (rides were 2.40zł each way) but disembarked with the coin still in my possession.  Jeff was the only one who successfully got a ticket from the driver, but even he didn't pay.

A group of 20 or 21 of us settled on an outdoor dining area in Old Town Square for dinner.  This was quite the mess.  They were clearly unprepared for a group of our size.  The food took forever and the entire meal took 3 hours.  There was mass chaos in paying for drinks, especially when each person was hit with 4zł for a glass of water.  Sam clearly got double-charged for a beer and finally got them to back down.  Continually improving on the "new socks" announcement, I did my first Michael Buffer version, albeit abbreviated since not everyone was there to witness.  Photos and full applause ensued.  The coach was making a trip back to the hotel at 8pm for whoever wasn't staying out, and Shaun had to go back and change for the bars, and sure enough his food came at like 7:55.  He made it to the coach anyway.

An enjoyable meal, despite the confusion.

Kind of a non sequitur here, but it appears in my journal at this point:  Chris King is known as The Lummox.

Us walking out of Old Town.

Random guy offered to take photos of the group in front of the King Zygmunt III statue, so we dumped 20 cameras at his feet and he obliged.

On the way to our first bar of the evening we passed the Presidential mansion.

The first bar we went to was Tyger, near the Copernicus statue, but it was devoid of locals, so we didn't stay long.  On the way to the next bar, someone called Shaun's cell to ask where he was.  He said "I'm in my Hawaiian shirt."  We assumed that meant he was drunk and wouldn't be joining us.  But he made a surprise appearance at Muza.

Muza unfortunately was a typical dance club, somewhat of a compromise between the girls who wanted to dance and the guys who just wanted to drink and pick up chicks, or just drink.  It was way too smoky and noisy for me--visibility 5 ft and auditory range 1 ft.  So before 12am I declared to The Lummox "This place sucks--I'm outta here" and walked home.  We were close enough to the hotel at that point.  The problem with the walk, though, is that I purposely left my umbrella back in the room because I was tired of carrying it around, and sure enough the skies opened up.  But half the walk was underground, on account of a metro station and other subterranean pedestrian areas.  That's some shrewd urban planning there, Communist or otherwise.