Our Visit to Warsaw: Story in Photos

Words I never would have imagined myself saying before this year:

I’m on my way to Warsaw to apply for my visa.

To apply for our first 1-year visa, we needed to be outside the Czech Republic—even though we also had to prove we have a Czech address and a Czech trade license. It’s confusing and weird and I don’t care because it worked and we got our visas and we love it here.

We also enjoyed Warsaw! We visited in May for just two days—here are a few snaps and snippets from my journal.

Once upon a time, we went to Warsaw.

In the 46 hours we spent in Warsaw, we ate pierogies and bigos, walked the Old Town, visited the embassy, ate a fantastic lunch, took a nap, ran from zombies along the river, ate cake, rode the bus, browsed bookstores, and saw “Murder She Wrote” on Polish TV. Instead of dubbing the show in the usual way, with actors re-recording the dialogue in Polish, this version was still in English, but with the soundtrack turned low in the background. Then over the top, a man’s voice spoke in Polish and seemed to be explaining what was being said. There was no break when the characters closed their mouths, nor any change in tone of voice—is this the ultimate mansplaining?!

Visa interview day! We killed time before our appointment in Park Ujazkdowski, near the statue of Ignacy Jan Paderewski. He was a beloved Polish composer and pianist—played Madison Square Garden in 1922 for 20,000 people—and was Polish Prime Minister in 1919. He’s buried in Warsaw but his heart is in a church near Doylestown, PA. (Video of him playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody.)

So… we went to the embassy at 10:30 for our appointment at 11:00. A man was using a key card to open the door, and I made my first mistake. I started to follow him into the embassy. He wheeled on me and said something like, “What are you doing?!” and looked quite stern. I gulped and stammered that we had an appointment at 11:00, and he said, “No… at the consulate.” and pointed to a sign and map taped to the door. The very sign and map we thought didn’t apply to us. He slipped inside, and we went around the corner to find the consulate. We needed #12.

Around the corner, we counted the houses and found many numbers—but not 12. At the building where we thought 12 should be, we saw a window with signs taped to it—in English, Czech, and Polish—listing the consulate hours. Is this where we’re meant to go, like a fast-food window for official papers? This can’t be right!

I eventually found an intercom buzzer to the right, at about hip-height on the wall. I looked at Dave, shrugged my shoulders, and pressed the button. A woman answered! In heavily-accented English, “Go to the right, the right! And ring again.”

To the right, we saw a wrought-iron gate but no obvious way to open it or ring for help. We looked at each other, shrugged, and gave it a push… and it swing open.

We walked up the short driveway to a side entry, rang another buzzer, the door clicked, and we entered the foyer. There were stairs leading up to other businesses, a black-and-white tile floor, and a nondescript door with a sign—we made it to the right place!

A woman poked her head out. “Moment!”

We cooled our heels in the lobby for about 20 minutes, then found ourselves in a beige room with two bank-teller windows at the front, a few Prague tourism posters on the walls, a saggy couch, and a small table with two wooden chairs. We paid a stern blonde woman at one of the windows, surrendered our paperwork, and waited for our interview.

The man who interviewed us looks like Mr. Magoo in my imagination. He sent Dave for a walk and sat with me at the table, where he asked me so many questions—more than I expected: tell me about your work history… what is your living address… what is your work address… can you explain the Czech tax laws… what is your rent… why do you want to live in my country. He dutifully wrote my answers in long-hand on a form, then repeated the process with Dave—then he disappeared for a while and returned with typed forms. From these Czech forms, he read our answers back to us in English. At that point, we’d been there for almost three hours—and my palms were sweating the entire time.

The happy ending to this story is that about five weeks later, our visas were approved—and after we left the embassy, we went to a lovely café where I enjoyed a life-changing bowl of carrot-caraway soup (which you can now enjoy, too).

The end.

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