I sauntered into the lobby of the serviced apartment building in Warsaw, as if I’d been here before, not pausing on the cobblestoned entrance path, and heaving the glass entry door open, knowing it was onerous. “Welcome,” nodded a man in his thirties at the front desk, his closely shaven white-blonde hair contrasting my nearly jet black mop. “This your first time in Warsaw?”
“No. It’s my fifth. I’ve stayed in this building four times.”
“Welcome back then,” he smiled, handing me my room card. “Need help with your bags?”
“Dziękuję – Thank you, no, I’m fine.” The truth was, I was in a hurry to offload my suitcase after ten hours of being squished in a tiny airline seat. I planned to soak under the shower, then rush out for a walk.
A few hours later I wandered along wide streets lined with grand buildings reconstructed after German warplanes strafed and destroyed them and the city during the war. I ignored the clear plaques fastened to facades that I had been drawn to on prior trips, describing what had been there before the destruction; courthouses, banks, government buildings. The city seemed familiar. Despite new construction, restaurants and landmarks were where I remembered them two years ago.
Around the corner, close to my ‘home’ for the week, was a street lined with cafes and bakeries. I waltzed into one I had frequented with my mother many times, when we traveled to Poland together to meet the families of those who had saved her during the war. Now I pointed to a piece of dense chocolate cheesecake, then sat at a table with my tea and cake. Sliding my full fork into my mouth, I closed my eyes, smiled and swallowed. Welcome back to Warsaw.