Ultimate Adventures: The Wonders of Warsaw
By Yolanda Clatworthy
Warsaw–what a city! It’s got a little bit of everything, scattered all over: soaring skyscrapers next to a church, next to a concrete housing block, next to a historic district. No sense or sensibility, but there is something sensational to it all. Something that makes you stop and think, and wonder about a city so utterly destroyed during a war that any historic building is actually a recent recreation of what was before.
But that all comes later– the information, the observations, and the musings. They come after four days spent in the city. My initial impressions were more base than that–I focussed solely on the sunshine! After days of rain and cold, it was a darn fine change to wake up to sunshine 🙂
I arrived on the overnight Interrail train (great way to travel through Europe, btw), in time to witness my first early morning Polish rush hour, trying to find my Triptrotter Dominika amidst the madness of the central train station.
I succeeded eventually, and boy am I glad I did. My four days spent with Dominika were something special. She brought me to her parent’s flat in the far northern suburbs of Warsaw, about a 45 minute bus ride away from the centre. Definitely not a place I would ever have ventured to as a normal tourist! From here I was able to make day trips to the country with her and her father, where we saw royal summer residences, and take walks along the river that cut through Warsaw. It was so close to countryside, in fact, that they were making hay a mere 10 minute walk away!
Staying with her also gave me the opportunity to try plenty of home-cooked Polish meals (YUMMY), from pork chops to sausage and cabbage to potato pancakes to blueberry pastries. It meant that I got to go to a Polish birthday party, and to enjoy out-of-the-way cafes and colourful fountain shows, and to explore the garden atop the Warsaw University Library.
Finally, it gave me small insights into the idiosyncracies of the Polish culture and lifestyle, some of the little things that each culture does differently but are so inconsequential that no one ever notices. Examples?
– No guidebook will ever tell you that most Polish don’t have shower curtains, they just splash water everywhere and then mop it afterwards (something I do anyways, just minus the mopping).
– No Tourist Info will ever point out that may people save space by sleeping on pull-out couches and tucking them away during the day.
– And staying in a hostel would never have kept me up to date with what was happening in Poland. . . when the leader of a Polish Political party died today, during my last day in Warsaw, I not only knew about it but watched it on TV with them and learned about the Polish perspective on it.
Szaflarska family, “dziękuję” (thank you) a thousand times for such a lovely four days spent with you in your home.
Other highlights of my time in Warsaw include:
1. Seeing the longest duster I have ever seen in my life. Instead of dusting the top of a bookshelf, I saw a guy try and dust the overhead arches of a church, from ground level. I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to how many meters his duster was.
2. Realizing that Polish people don’t jaywalk, and then realizing that I was instantly labelled as a tourist if I did. Seriously. I’ve never seen such well-behaved people. Even if it is a dead-end street with no car for miles, they’ll faithfully wait for the green light then cross on the zebra stripes.
3. Finding out that the Russian embassy here is the biggest in all of Europe. Trying to get a point across much? 🙂
4. Seeing a coach stopped in the middle of a busy, fast-paced four lane highway, and then seeing the driver trot out with two gas canisters in hand, presumably to fill up the empty tank. Not something you think of before loading on forty passengers and hitting the highway?
5. Seeing many wedding couples wandering around taking photos. Apparently in Poland you don’t need to have nice weather or a gorgeous location for the wedding. Instead, you wait a couple of weeks for a nice day, then deck yourself out in all the gear you wore on your wedding day and traipse around town getting the wedding photos done.
6. Meeting up with my friend Victoria, (Polish guest star in my Triptrotting Winner’s Video) who is in Poland for a family celebration. She was in Warsaw long enough to share an icecream and teach me some Polish (check out Triptrotting TV for footage of me butchering the Polish language).
7. Getting a full, hour-long, non-sketchy (and actually really incredible) massage for 30 Zlotys..about the equivalent of 8 or 9 Euros.
8. Joining a Viator tour, which took me to beautiful gardens, the former Jewish ghetto, and to Chopin’s statue in the middle of a rose garden. It was here that I learned that Chopin is best listened to in nature, and, as mentioned above, that roughly 90% of Warsaw was destroyed during WWII. On one hand, it enabled urban designers to put in wide streets which facilitate traffic flow. On the other, it meant that barely anything is left that is older than 1945. Despite this, some of the old squares, as well as churches and buildings of historical importance, have been recreated exactly as before. By this I mean that they used photos and paintings to recreate the exterior of buildings, and employed artists and architects to recreate the interiors. If the original artist was not around to re-do their masterpiece, then that building was not recreated. Fascinating, impressive, but somewhat disconcerting at the same time.
And that, my friends, is about all for Warsaw. There’s plenty more photos and video footage at www.triptrotting.com if you’d like to see me ramble some more. Otherwise, check back in a few days for my update on Prague. I’m off to search for a hostel there on StudentUniverse. Totally didn’t even know until recently that you can find such cheap and awesome hostels on this site! Would highly recommend anyone, who is looking for a good bargain 😉