Warsaw was not a city I had originally planned to visit, but due to a lucky coincidence, this was the next stop on our world wide sojourn.
Before we arrived, I was a little sceptical about the city; all I could imagine was concrete blocks of buildings and a cold dark place reminiscent of it’s turbulent history. But, boy was I wrong!
Warsaw is a beautiful city, it is like a marriage between Copenhagen, Prague and Florence and believe me it’s a match made in heaven. To emphasise its awesomeness, let’s start with a little history. Warsaw was captured and bombed horrendously during World War Two by the Germans and Russians. In 1944 the persecuted Poles rose up in a 63 day battle to take back the city of Warsaw. However, it was not a success. But it proved beyond doubt the ingenuity, intelligence and incredible bravery of the Polish People. Warsaw was left completely devastated as you can see from the photos below:
Today, you would not even know it had happened, the city has been beautifully reconstructed to embrace the most beautiful elements of old Warsaw. The ingenuity of the Poles once again has come in full force as their forward thinking forefathers engineered the city so that city transport is a dream to use. Wide smooth streets, Bicycle lanes, trams, a fast effective Metro and thousands of frequent buses run seamlessly through the city making it accesible to tourists and locals alike. The other drawcard for tourists is that the exchange rate for the Zloty (Polish Currency) makes staying and exploring here a good budget friendly option in Europe (1NZD buys 2.63 Polish Zloty or 1Euro = 4.2 Zloty).
We had four nights in Warsaw staying near the central railway station in an eclectic little place called the Oki Doki Hostel. The staff are world famously helpful and make your stay as smooth as the public transport, so thanks OKI DOKI! While Craig was ensconced at Djangocon (Django is an open source framework used by a wide variety of websites and apps worldwide), I had the opportunity to explore Warsaw on foot.
My first stop was the tomb of the unknown soldier, set amongst the beautiful Saxon Garden. Incredibly the tomb was in a building which was bombed during World War 2, the building was destroyed but the tomb remained untouched. From here it is an easy walk into Old Town, where visitors are treated to the site of stunning churches, a palace and more stunning parks. Within Old town there are also a large number of Museums from Chopin’s family drawing room to the museum of Marie Curie – it is easy to lose an entire afternoon here.
Slightly further out of the city is Łazienki Park. Strolling through this park is like a scene out of Pride and Prejudice, you can imagine the royalty of Poland enjoying the grounds of their palace and bathing house during the summer months. The Łazienki Palace‘s (Palace on the water) snowy white exterior and high doorways and windows facing the water on both sides is a stunning example of 18th Century architecture. Peacocks and squirrels frolic in the park grounds and enjoy the wide open spaces. An afternoon was well spent exploring this garden and palace.
The highlight of my time in Warsaw though, has to be the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Every person I spoke to in Warsaw, regards this as the must see attraction in Warsaw, and despite the merits of all the other attractions, I have to agree. The museum curators spent time researching other Holocaust museums, notably the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and walking in you can see the similarities immediately. It is an impressive homage to the valiant efforts of the Poles throughout WW2 and the brutality and evil of the Nazis. The exhibition begins at the start of the War and traces the effects of the War from the capture of Poland through to the uprising, with a small amount of information about the end of the war and the rebuilding process for Warsaw. The information is presented in both english and polish and coupled with sound effects, lighting and interactive design, it is easy to follow and empathise with the journey of the Polish people. For more information on the uprising click here.
Other than that, Warsaw boasts a foodies dream mix of culinary cultures. I tried the Polish staple; Pierogi (Meat Dumplings) which were absolutely deilicious. Other specialities include Onion Soup, Pork Cutlets delicately flavoured and served with delicious potatoes (I don’t know what they do to them, but they are amazing!). Then of course central Warsaw has a mish mash of other restaurants where you can get anything from Italian to Thai to Indian, oh and also Kebabs. Interestingly enough Bubble Tea was a hit in Warsaw for a while, until it as discovered that some of the pearls they imported were toxic, then the shops were all shut down in quick succession.
Do I want to return to Poland? Yes, definitely and I recommend you do to.
Ginga musings, out.