Think Before You Paddle

When I was in 2nd grade, our English class teacher made us read so many stories, and we always discussed the moral afterward. I remember one about a frog jumping into a well and being unable to climb back out as it was too deep. Back then, it didn’t actually occur to me that this frog could die a slow death, alone, and a miserable prisoner in that well. Only that he was stuck there. The moral was to look before you leap.

File_000 (2).jpegYesterday, the weather in Warsaw was beautiful. Being the hipster Varsovian that I am, I decided to lounge around on a beach chair by the Vistula. A beer later, I decided it was, in fact, the perfect weather to go kayaking. So I dragged my friend and we rented a kayak at a shop right by the canal lock.

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So we started paddling, then went downstream, eventually managing to navigate to a sandbar that was separated from both shores and reachable only by boat or kayak. We sunbathed in our little private stretch of beach until the complete absence of shade made us leave.

We hopped back on our kayak and paddled. We paddled. And paddled. We’d make a bit of progress, only to have the Vistula undo it and send us even further away. But we weren’t going to let the current daunt us, so we came up with a plan. We’d paddle to the riverbank and navigate along the shore. We braved Vistula water splashing at us and paddled. And paddled. We managed to get back under the bridge, but never beyond it. People were looking at us curiously. Still, we thought, we were gonna get through this. We weren’t seasoned kayakers, but we thought we could beat the Vistula’s current.

When we accepted it wasn’t going to work, we went back to the sandbar, where, as we tried to navigate through a strait, the Vistula dragged my water bottle away. We managed to paddle to the other bank and dragged our kayak ashore. We were stranded on the wrong side of the Vistula with no water and just a bag of half-eaten chips. Everyone around us had beers, and there we were, trying to figure out how to get our little red problem back to where we signed up for it.

 

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Stranded on the wrong side of the Vistula

 

We talked to the rescue guys who wanted to charge us 40 euros for dragging it back on their jet ski. Being the stingy haggling Asian that I am, I remembered the water taxi I saw while lounging on my beach chair and contemplating the whole paddling on the Vistula affair. It had a mobile number printed on it. Lo and behold, we didn’t even need to make the call! Mr. Water Taxi had come ashore!

We convinced him that it was completely legal to get our kayak on his little wooden boat. Having never done it before, he didn’t even know how much to charge us. It was about a euro per person, and since, when in fear of prices, the safe answer is always “I’m a student”, we only had to pay 4 euros for that boat lift.

 

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One of Praga’s untamed beaches

 

It was such a relief to be on the water again with a boat with an engine cruising the Vistula. It only occurred to us then that nobody was ever expected to paddle against the Vistula, and that we had rented from the wrong place. There was a reason our boat rental place was at the canal – and that they didn’t offer pick-ups or another drop-off point.

The moral of this story: think before you paddle.

 

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The Colours of Spring

While many other European cities started blooming at the beginning of March, Warsaw slept under its grey blanket a little longer, and it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that it finally grew out of the dull winter mood.

Warsaw is an ugly city. It’s a mess of stark contrasting communist blocks and modern steel and glass high-rises. The center is the place to be, and at times it seems like it’s the only place where anything is happening. Despite the sizeable expat community, it is still very homogeneous, and generally, you will get the impression that service is foreign to the Poles.

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Under the Bridge, Służew

But come spring, and suddenly the city is so much better. The first greens remind you that it isn’t such a dreary city – there are plenty of green areas – it just really sucks in winter (which is half the year), when all is bare and the communist era buildings stick out of the cityscape. When Warsaw finally wakes up from a winter-induced dullness, it’s beautiful.

April began with the Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibit cheekily called “The Beguiling Siren is Thy Crest”. It’s set on its new pavilion by the Vistula and managed to lure me there because it’s free. It’s a small exhibit and rather lacklustre. It deals with the origins of the siren in Warsaw’s crest (already in use in the 1400s), the mythology surrounding it, sexuality, and the siren’s relevance to the city.

A highlight of the exhibit is “Him” by Danish duet Elmgreen & Dragset which depicts the Copenhagen Little Mermaid as a man. The exhibit runs until June 18 if you are interested. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it, but if you’re at the Copernicus Science Center or the Warsaw University Library which are right across, it’s worth a stop. The museum cafe is decent and there’s an outdoor platform where you can sit on beach chairs and chill.

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Promenade along the Vistula

With the warm days coming up, it’s worth noting that Warsaw is really embracing the Vistula (Wisła in Polish). They’re building hang out spots on the promenade along the river, and by the looks of it, it should be completely ready by summer. If you prefer a wilder side, the untamed beaches of the Praga side of the banks of the Vistula is the perfect place to relax, and it comes with a view of the Royal Castle and the Old Town.

To celebrate the colours of spring, a Holi event took place at Castle Square in the Old Town and being the kid that I am, I eagerly dragged my friend along. It was a small crowd but it was fun, colourful, and messy – a perfect way to enjoy a sunny day.

Warmer days also mean eating out and lazing around in the park which means – food truck season!

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April’s first weekend was a busy and awesome one. And look, it’s already the weekend…

 

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P.S.

Of course all happy days must have a dash of sadness… mine was because I learned the random palm in the middle of an intersection in Warsaw is not real. And I was so impressed by it.