Have you ever landed in a country with absolutely no idea on how to find your way about, or any knowledge of the local language?
Have you ever wanted to go to a city, and each time you wanted to go, somehow things didn’t pan out and you couldn’t make it? Then you finally made it, and experienced the land first-hand in person?
That was Poland for me. More specifically Warsaw. I loved the fact that the destination was manageable budget-wise, and I chose to go this summer, but because it was just for 96 hours; I had to bring my A-game on.
I knew nobody there, but always had a desire to visit, and always had folks asking me ‘what for’, followed by ‘who do you know theres.’
What I’ve learnt about travel in the past few years as a blogger, is that sometimes you just need to get up and go. The explorer in you will come alive, you’ll have a blast getting lost or trying to communicate with people and deciphering maps like they are some coded secret.
Warsaw has been described with many names..’the city that saw war’..’the Phoenix that arose from the ashes’ ‘the example to all that restoration, renewal and rehabilitation is a possibility, so go ahead and claim your creative zeitgeist.’
When we landed at Warsaw’s Modlin Airport, the capital rushed to greet us..by one picturesque blink of a stunning sunset. It was a fleeting sign that Warsaw would be great. And it was.
I had arranged to be picked up by BeebeepTaxi at the fixed rate of 89 pln. With a further 10 pln they can write your name on a headboard so as to identify you when you arrive.
As with many other European cities, Warsaw has an old town, Stare Miasto. We went there early in our visit and tagged along the english tour offered by Free Walking Tours. I appreciate the fact that it’s a walking tour with guides who personally interact with you as opposed to the hop-off-hop-on tour by bus with a couple of earphones to follow the journey, as you whizz through.
Warsaw’s Old Town is beautiful, and we were left with tales about the interesting city. On the other hand, Warsaw is quite hip and modern; the city centre had quite abit of modern high-rise structures.
Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski): Our meeting point was just next to the castle, which served as seat of the king and the government once the capital was moved from Krakow to Warsaw. It is a relatively new building having being renovated repeatedly and destroyed completely during the Second World War. The segment with the clock tower opens the way to the Old Town. Museum attractions include two original Rembrandt paintings as well as works by Bernardo Bellotto, aka Canaletto, court painter to Polish King Stanisław August Poniatowski. Canaletto’s paintings were used as references during post-war reconstruction of Warsaw.
The Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy): Directly located in front of the Royal Castle, is another notable point of importance. In the middle of the square stands a 22-metre bronze statue of King Zygmunt III who is memorable for making Warsaw the capital of Poland. There are a good number of restaurants in this area, some al-fresco which is great for the summer.
Warsaw Uprising Monument (Pomnik Powstania Warszawskiego): We as well took a break around the monument commemorating those that fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, they essentially lost their lives defending their homeland against the occupiers during 63 days. The monument is in two parts; the first representing the fighters as they crawl out from under a bridge support, while the second displays them as they entered the canal system.
St John the Baptist’s Archcathedral (Archikatedra św. Jana w Warszawie); Poland is one of the most religiously homogenous countries on earth with most poles ascribing to Catholicism. Naturally, you stumble into churches whichever place you look. St John’s Archcathedral is the oldest church in Warsaw although it was practically destroyed and reconstructed after the WWII. It is one of Poland’s national pantheons and stands immediately adjacent to Warsaw’s Jesuit church. Along with the city, the church has been listed on the UNESCO world heritage site list.
The Palace of Science and Culture: There are mixed feelings about the structure; viewed as Stalin’s gift to Warsaw. A symbol of Warsaw’s destruction, its resurrection at the hands of an unpopular, Soviet-imposed government – and, in recent years, as a reminder of Poland’s past. I loved the building more, the closer I got to it. I found it statuesque, intricately designed and regal.
During the 96 hours in Warsaw, I observed that;
1) A crash course in Polish would benefit you. You will bump into some folks who are english proficient, but most times your questions will be met with a shrug or shaking of heads; other times excessive repetition and pointing, A few speak French in addition, so you’ll get by if you have some knowledge of French.
2) People are super friendly and helpful. Like the young lad who helped us carry our luggage up the flight of stairs at Modlin train station. Or the young couple that helped make contact with our hotel when it was past our check-in time and asked them to wait for my arrival.
3) Service can be fast or slow or anything in-between. If you’re patient enough, you will be served. I loved getting into line where I saw plenty of locals, it meant great food or ice-cream.
4) When you meet a black, and you are black you will wave at each other frantically, like you are long lost relatives. Because black is the new black, and because you are so few in this amazing capital.
5) You will encounter beggars, some will look clean and have a cute babe at their hip; others may be very young children who will toss back your zlotys at you if they deem your cup contribution too little. Yet others will accost you at milk bars, they may reek of alcohol and poor decisions, they may have a couple of teeth amiss but will ask in clear English that you buy them a meal like buckwheat or pancake with sour milk and jam.
6) Menus are in polish, but have no fear. Very often, the servers will bring out an english translation of the meals; and in many instances there are pictures of meals or ices so you can just point at what you want.
Our 96 hours went by quickly, there’s so much to see. Warsaw was an amazing city and I know I will visit again.
Have you been to Warsaw?