Our trip to Poland in early December was one of those impulse decisions we took after quickly discarding the more popular options with reasons like maybe it’s not so safe this time of the year, the flight is expensive, we’ve already been there. Warsaw was the compromise, as we would rather go *anywhere* during an extended weekend if that means we are not going to stay home.
Poland was not very well received by our friends, they had rather negative opinions: you’ll get borrrred, the city is bleak, plain, it’s going to be cold – booorrriiing!; Pfff, why even bother going there? Isn’t it going to be super cold? Why don’t you pick one of the warmer destinations? Sometimes it’s good to have this kind of opinionated friends because you set your expectations so low that literally you cannot be disappointed. And you know what? That weekend was amazing. I would even say it was quite a bit romantic.
This is the first time we’ve flown with Lot. Oh boy. An interesting combination of a state-run airline and low cost, like WizzAir. Even though we booked the flights on the same ticket and the plane wasn’t full, our seats were separate. I think it’s just a stingy way of making some money if you want to pick your place you have to pay extra. That’s fine, I agree with that. But I would find it common sense if you buy two tickets that even though they should be placed anywhere on the plane, they should be placed together. We asked during check-in both during our departure and return flights whether it’s possible to reseat us. We got lucky on our flight out from Cluj, as the check-in lady was kind enough to move one of us. This didn’t work on our flight back though when the lady flat out refused to move our seats. You know how the Germans try to be cute when they say Schmetterling? That’s kinda how she was when she told us NO. I don’t know what we did to piss her off, but we must have done something. Eventually, a nice gentleman on the plane offered out of his own volition to trade seats. Thank you, kind person!
We left Cluj on rather dry and warm weather, only to land in a fairytale Warsaw. The winter version of romantic walks in the rain.
Transferring from the airport to the hotel was very easy, you can take the S2 or S3 trains directly from the terminal and it will take you all the way to central Warsaw. The public transport seemed very civilized and well done. Even though they had some older trams, they were clean and all of them had ticket machines where you could easily pay using your wireless credit/debit card. A public transport ticket is valid on buses, trams and subway.
So here’s what we did over the three (and a half) days in Warsaw:
In 1944, when the Russians were advancing in a counterattack against Nazi Germany and were closing in on the gates of Warsaw, the Polish underground resistance attacked the occupying Germans in an effort to liberate the city before the Soviets arrived and assert the Polish sovereignty and establish the leadership of the Polish Underground State which led the uprising. The Nazi army proved much too powerful though and crushed the rebellion. Following the surrender of the Polish forces, the Germans levelled what was left of the city, destroying in total 85% of it.
Housed in a red brick house, the museum lays out over two levels the hardships and challenges the local population had to endure under the Nazi occupation. The explanations are translated into English as well, so it should be easy to grasp the place’s history. The most impressive moment was the 5 minute 3D movie which shows the bombardments of Warsaw during the uprising which turned the city to dust during the war.
It’s sort of a National Bank museum if you want to see how money makes the world go round. The Poles did a great job here: the museum is very interesting, interactive and child-friendly. For a child, the time spent here is gold.
I’m not a big fan of tanks and aeroplanes, guns and other war equipment, but this museum really seduced me. It was very obvious that Poland got hit so hard during WW2 and learned something from it. They now have equipment and ammo for ten lives from now on. The museum seemed a bit of a show off for their friends, but most importantly their enemies that they now have what it takes to fight back.
4Palace of Culture and Science
It’s the very Gotham-looking building from the centre of Warsaw. I think that the main attraction is the roof, which you can reach in a matter of minutes with the elevator. From there, you can enjoy a beautiful panorama of the city. Only as I reached the roof, surrounded by skyscrapers, did I realize how much I like this city and country.
5Lazienki Royal Park
The park is located near the Belweder Palace, a sort of White House of Poland. Unfortunately, we arrived here after sunset and we couldn’t see its true beauty, but it’s made for a relaxing evening walk through its alleys, only to reach the beautiful Palace on the Water.
This cooking class was the highlight for me, where I did not only learn how to cook the world famous pierogi, but also met wonderful and interesting people. You definitely need to try such a class, I guarantee you’ll be a better cook and you’ll have fun for more than half a day playing with food.
Just like the Swiss have Lindt and the Belgians have their own super delicious chocolate, the Poles have E. Wedel. Warsaw is littered with Chocolate Lounges – confectioneries with seemingly endless amounts of chocolate varieties of cakes, foods and drinks. On my first night in Warsaw, I really got ahead of myself and wanted to try as many products from their menu as possible. Needless to say, I almost got sick from that much chocolate, but I have no regrets – everyone knows that, during a vacation, the calories don’t count.
Where can you stay in Warsaw?
We stayed at Hampton by Hilton Warsaw City Centre. We picked it because it was centrally located, had an excellent price for that period and it was close to the train station, underground station and bus stations.
Where should you eat in Warsaw?
We really enjoyed our meals at Specjały Regionalne and Gospoda Kwiaty Polskie – extremely delicious traditional dishes: duck with cranberry sauce from one of their forests famous for cranberries, pork ribs with sauerkraut and plum jam, pierogi and rye soup in bread.
At the end of these three and half day escape, Warsaw did not seem so alien to me, so boring as some people said. Okay, maybe it maintains a sad atmosphere due to the communist looking buildings, the same sad grey you see everywhere in the Eastern Bloc. But it seems that Warsaw managed to rise from its ashes and transform itself, through a joint effort, in a super organized capital, with an excellent public transport system, good infrastructure and people who speak English better and more often than in any other Eastern European country that I visited.