At first, I figured that perhaps it was the language barrier. Judging from my frosty reception and the lack of English being spoken, Warsaw is clearly not a particularly tourist-friendly city, tolerating visitors more than welcoming them. (An Australian friend asked "Wait, where is Warsaw?" when I told him where I am, leading me to think that perhaps the ninth most-populated city in the European Union isn't as high profile globally as I thought.) But looking around, I saw the same sour looks, and heard the same shrieking in Polish. By the time I had my first meal in Warsaw -- a 10zł (roughly US$3.30) kebab sandwich that would be the only good thing worth writing home about those first seven and a half hours in the Polish capital -- I'd yet to see anyone crack a smile. Dear Berliners, I'm so sorry for ever griping about any of you.
I'd read that the old part of the city is the place to see anyway, so I wasn't too surprised by my well-short-of-spectacular visual greeting. Equally unsurprising: my frosty reception at the Radisson, where a hotel employee entered my room without knocking to check the minibar five minutes after my arrival and didn't once apologize or drop what I was by then calling "the Polish attitude" when I scolded him for his insolence. I considered lodging a complaint, but I'd heard enough barking for one day.
I hope I'm able to spend the entire 150zł (US$51) I withdrew from the ATM in the hotel lobby over the course of my weekend here. I can't imagine that these Polish złoty (PLN) would be of much use anywhere else. It's the only currency that I can remember in all of my travel experiences with cover subjects dating back to well before the pre-photography era, which might suggest that the best of Poland is behind it. If I'm wowed by the old town tomorrow -- and for Warsaw's sake, I hope that I am -- I'll be inclined to agree.