Introduction: Although we had lived in Europe for nearly eight years (two four year tours with the Army), that was in the days of the Iron Curtain. We had traveled extensively in Western Europe, but our exposure to Eastern Europe had been limited: several trips through East Germany to Berlin and one family vacation in Yugoslavia. We were eager to see the rest of Europe, and Grand Circle Travel's tour, "The Best of Eastern Europe", seemed to hit the high spots. Worried about cold weather in Warsaw, we decided to go in July, ordinarily not our favorite time to travel.
Wednesday,15 July: With our son Randall driving us, we got to Dulles Airport about 7:40 p.m. (EDT), in plenty of time for our 9:35 flight. We were very favorably impressed by British Airways. There was almost no line at the counter; we boarded exactly at the time specified on our boarding passes; and the plane (a 747) pulled away from the gate five minutes early. A nice supper was served at 11 p.m., and it was nearly midnight by the time that was cleared away.
Thursday, 16 July: We tried to sleep, but that's always hard on these flights. There wasn't much time, either, because a breakfast was served at 3 a.m. (EDT). The flight took about seven hours, landing at London's Heathrow Airport at 9:40 local time. We took a shuttle bus to another terminal to transfer to our flight to Warsaw. While waiting for the flight, we met Claude and Elsie, also taking the same tour. They were real world travelers and had been to places we'd never think of visiting. Claude couldn't wait to show us the piranha bite he got in the Amazon. Again the British Airways flight was right on time, pulling away at 11:40 a.m. They served lunch on the plane.
With a one-hour time change, we arrived in Warsaw at 3 p.m. After we cleared through immigration and customs, Katie, our Polish tour director, was there to meet us. She was tall, blond, 27-years old, and very proud of Poland. There were several more of our tour group on the plane. We talked to Hans while waiting. He was a German-Swiss now living in California. We all piled into a bus that took us to the Forum Hotel, our home for the first three nights in Poland. It was a sunny 72 degrees. Katie told us that the entire summer had been cold and rainy in Warsaw until just two days before. We changed some money at the hotel (335 zlotny to the dollar).
After a short rest, the entire group met Katie in the lobby for an orientation walk around the hotel area. We found out that there were 43 of us taking the tour. (Two others had canceled at the last minute.) She showed us where there were banks, stores, streetcar and bus stops, and so on. Then we went to the hotel dinning room for a buffet dinner with a "complimentary" glass of wine. The food was very good, but they kept running out of everything. The only place we saw many of the offerings was on other people's plates. Particularly noteworthy were the several different kinds of aspics. We sat with Hans, Claude and Elsie. By the time we finished, jet lag was taking its toll, and we were ready for bed. We were surprised to find that the air conditioning in the hotel did not work, so the room was a little warm for sleeping.