Thursday, June 24, 2004

Warsaw, Poland—Day 145

Today we woke up and headed straight to the Warsaw Zoological Garden, which is just a short cab ride across the Visla River from our hotel. We bought our tickets to the zoo and walked in and had to walk to the other end of the zoo to find the hippos. Turned out that there was only one little hippo in the enclosure when we showed up! Could it be that there was only one hippo in the Warsaw Zoo?

It seemed just so. We took pictures of the hippo named Gucio (which we learned later) and Sarah showed off by getting Gucio to open and close his mouth on cue. We didn’t realize until other people showed up that Gucio would open his mouth at just anybody, in hopes of food being thrown in. We saw lots of school children gathering grass to throw in his mouth and even a few throwing in chips, which was really sad. We felt awful for poor little Gucio, all by himself in that big enclosure, hoping to be fed by people passing by.

On top of that, it appeared that Gucio had some sort of a cold because his nose made the funniest sound, sort of a gurgle noise that I haven’t heard from a hippo before. He would open his huge mouth and his nose would gurgle—it was quite endearing despite the fact that he was probably suffering from a cold…well, that is, if hippos can actually get colds.

After I took the pictures we walked around for quite a while trying to find someone who worked at the zoo. There seemed to be no one around who we could ask to help us with the hippo's name. We finally found a few men at the monkey enclosure (one with a monkey on his shoulder!) and asked about the hippo’s name—but unfortunately they did not know it.

We decided that this could not possibly be, and walked out to the exit on the opposite side of the zoo to ask the person working at the ticket booth if they could help us since no one else seemed to be of help. Thankfully the woman working there was really friendly and she got on her phone and a few minutes later we walked away with Gucio’s name in my hand.

Sarah and I decided to walk back to the old town from the zoo, so we crossed back over the bridge and started walking. It began to get extraordinarily hot at this point so we decided that we should head back to the hotel first to change. After walking through a park and then trying to figure out the tram and bus stops, we decided to just hop on a taxi and get back to the hotel quickly.

We did just this and went back to the hotel. I organized my hippo photos for the day and then we stopped by the business center at the hotel to have the cds sent off to the States.

Once business had been taken care of, we walked down back into the heart of Warsaw where we visited the Church of the Holy Cross, where Chopin’s heart is actually buried inside. It was pretty impressive! We then walked down a few streets and had to dodge an interview from MTV (they insisted on asking us even though we didn’t speak Polish!) and finally found a good place for lunch. For dessert, we went to the oldest bakery in Warsaw and of course had to test out their famous jelly-filled donuts. After that we walked around a bit more in search of the old Jewish Quarter of Warsaw and instead found a few lovely parks to rest our feet.

Back at the hotel, we took a break before going back out on the town for dinner. We walked past the infamous Palace of Culture and Science (built by Stalin and commonly referred to as representing something much more phallic). It was getting pretty late at this point so we found a quick bite to eat and made it back to our hotel safe and sound.

No muggings today!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.