I really went to Warsaw.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’m likely to say it again but Warsaw isn’t a traditional destination by any means, but it nevertheless intrigued me.
Warsaw made me wonder why I hadn’t previously gone there before.
And why not?
Let me explain.
Just because a city isn’t pretty, isn’t trendy, isn’t in, is not a reason to bypass a place and I’m as guilty as the next person. I mean, I’ve been going to Poland since the 90’s and not once did it occur to me to go to Warsaw – the capital of Poland!
Not even once!
Well, my visit last week changed all that so I’m going to tell you why YOU ought to go visit.
So don’t just stand there, let’s do it!
There’s plenty to do in Warsaw so let’s..
- Just walk around and do some people watching. It’s always interesting to see the way local people look, dress and act.
- Go on a free walking tour.
- Take photographs of the Warsaw mermaid.
- Check out some of the lovely churches and places of worship which are just bursting to be visited.
- Wander around Nowy Świat and go for a few drinks and a snack.
- Dress up, go fancy and go posh on Motokowska Street.
- Bump into Polish celebrities and do a bit of shopping in expensive boutiques of Polish design.
- Have a few elegant drinks and a cocktail whilst on an elegant stroll down Foksal Street.
- Go for stodge and stuff yourself with grilled Polish sausages and a glass of Spanish red wine!
- Jump on the metro underground train and take it to the end of the line!
- Listen to the music of angst-ridden Chopin at the Fryderyk Chopin Museum.
- Be amazed by the Old Town.
- Take scenic photographs from the Royal Castle.
- Go to the National Museum, the Modern Art Museums and as many museums as you can muster.
- Nibble on a Polish dessert sold as Polish street food.
- Investigate the re-constructed socialist project of Marszalkowska Street.
- Take a photo of the famous palm tree on Jerusalem Avenue.
- Glide down the historical centre of Warsaw depicting the tradition and glamour of Old Warsaw that is on Poznanska Street.
- Go to a beach bar. They’re all closed for the winter but I image if you brought your own stuff no one would mind LOL!
- Breath in the fresh air and take a very long walk on the Warsaw riverside and if you’re that way inclined, hire a rowing boat or a canoe.
- Visit the beautiful Łazienki Królewskie Palace-Garden.
- Be impressed by Warsaw’s Old Town Market Place and the Keeper of the Square – Wario Wojciech – who can often be seen in his traditional clothing of a red suit and brandishing a curved sword!
- Explore the urban history and architecture of Warsaw.
It’s perfectly alright to explore on one’s own but I personally find it useful to use the skills of an expert local, to get my bearings. This time around I used the excellent services of Adventure Warsaw.
Adventure Warsaw is a non-formal urban off-the-beaten-track sightseeing tour company. They very kindly invited me to be their guest on one of their tours. I picked their most popular Off the beaten path trip and I was enormously lucky that only one other person beside myself, was on the trip – a middle-aged Australian woman on a solo European trip around Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. She chose well LOL!
Thank you so much!
Our guide was a young lady called Maja and our driver was a jolly fellow with an old Geordie (Newcastle) working man’s cap, called Marek. At a distance he could have been mistaken for being English LOL!
The weather was surprisingly that of a golden Autumn and more than once, I found myself overdressed. Happily, I had on layers and could strip whenever the need arose, but in most cases I didn’t. Because of my hair.
Yes, my hair!
It takes an awful long time to get everything into place!
Anyway, Maja was well-informed and she introduced us to post-World War Warsaw by showing us the statutes and architecture of the socialist regime and the power of communist Russia, as well as the deviance of the predominately Catholic church and its hidden chapels.
Maja taught us about the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 after which sadly, 80% of Warsaw was flattened and destroyed. This made me aware of why we all think that Warsaw is ugly. Mainly because the history and culture of Warsaw disappeared but it seems not entirely. Yes, the communist era took over and yes, Poland became a part of the Iron Curtain BUT they were never inculcated into the USSR and like the Czech Republic, Hungary and East Germany, they still had their own state and “government.” They weren’t free but they weren’t dead either as we saw in the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) Museum.
The days after 1945 were extremely difficult but they managed, and they coped. We saw the reality of bygone Communism as well as their furniture and clothing at that time. We even got to try out some of their local snacks and local drink. No wonder they took to vodka. It was pretty grim living!
After that, we walked to the Warsaw University of Technology as the interior historical halls are part of the tour however, the area was blocked with men-in-black and people with colourful clothing with instruments. And scarves!
Maja wanted to go on but as soon as I saw this, I jumped out of the van!
This is what travelling is all about.
I had a chat with some of the people wearing traditional clothing. They were students and their clothes were of the native variety in Southern Poland.
I asked to stay with them for a little while and we chatted and took photographs. We even attempted to do a bit of a jig.
I just shocked everyone and jumped right in the middle of them LOL!
Moving on, we visited the artistic Praga neighbourhood which for many years was a forgotten area. Now, it’s a bit like how Kreuzberg used to be when I first moved to Berlin, jam-packed with melancholic artists, young pacifists, a very low-budget and a non-conformist way of living.
Praga today is considered a more authentic Warsaw with an artistic alternative lifestyle and generally worth visiting!
We then went onto what was previously, Jewish Warsaw. Or rather what was left of it. Basically, one street.
Poland is not to blame of course but the fact is, one cannot speak of Polish Jewish history without the understanding and acknowledgement that Poland had the worst and most horrifying Jewish concentration camp in the history of Nazi Germany – Auschwitz.
A large number of Polish Jews were taken from Warsaw.
Thankfully, history has not forgotten as Warsaw just like Berlin, has a most wonderful museum of remembrance and commiseration called the Museum of the History of Polish jews (POLIN) which was not part of this tour but which I visited on my own a few days later. I recommend it highly.
Oh yeah, did I tell you that this trip was not a walking tour, you know how much I love a good walk, but a means in which you could hop around town in a genuine classic Nysa 1968 Polish van!
And then, what I consider a grand finale of sorts, we were taken to a milk bar.
In all my twenty (20) odd years of going to Poland, I had never ever heard of a milk bar.
Every day, you can still live and learn LOL!
But what the hell is a milk bar? Is it some sort of strawberry shake or worse, a real dingy whisky bar!
I’m so sorry, I have so much to tell you about it that it just has to wait until next week where I reveal the secrets of eating and drinking in Warsaw!
DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND POLISH ?
Hardly at all!
The tours are in English and private tours are possible.
I now have an inkling and the low-down of contemporary Warsaw. Totally recommended.
Very nice indeed!
Tickets for Off the beaten path trip in Warsaw are €43.00 or 169 PLN (including lunch) and reduced for students, groups and presidents!
Approximate tour time: Roughly 4 hours.
After all that, one is likely to be quite tired and weary and needing a bit of a lie-down.
My oasis in Warsaw was Autor Rooms.
Autor Rooms was like living at home in a huge apartment. Although it had just four rooms, the apartment was a very large space and the rooms were artistic.
I was in room 1410 which is the smallest one and had automatic curtains for privacy as the door was covered in glass and was opposite the foyer.
My room had a double bed with six (6) pillows (luxury!) one (1) artistic designed chair, two (2) side tables, plants and lilies, a free space to hang clothes (hidden), a vintage radio, and a bathroom that was sort of minimalist chic!
A hairdryer, organic shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and face masks were also supplied. There was a rain-shower covered by clear glass and a wooden sliding door for privacy. The room is good for couples or if you’re really good friends. If you’ve got kids with you, choose the other rooms, they’re much bigger and have separate doors!
There was free WiFi and books and items of art which you could either read, use or buy, access to a fully equipped kitchen, and fresh drinking water, as well as a variety of tea or coffee available at any time. Breakfast is supplied on demand and was delicious and a far cry from my experience of grilled Polish sausage and mustard. More about that soon!
Staying at Autor Rooms put me in contact with the artistic community which is quite intimate as everyone seems to know each other LOL!
I met Magda Ponagajbo who is part-owner of Autor Rooms, Lucy and Joanne. They were really nice and friendly such that Lucy invited me to spend an afternoon with her and introduced me to the neighbourhood, a peek at her friends and an insight into the “real” Warsaw. I also met some of the other guests who were artists or musicians in their own right. Many from right there in Warsaw! There was a business guy from Brazil, a musician with his young daughter who was there because his own apartment was being used to make a film, a musician, and a Polish lady who was the head of an Institute and lived a few streets from me in Berlin!
I loved everything about it. The snag? I didn’t have a table in my own room.
I tend to write long in the night and even though there was a communal / dining / get-together / living room, I ended up writing on the edge of my bed or spending the evening chatting away, and watching a podcast on my laptop with one of the guests, instead of working!
When you book a room on-line, you can never be entirely sure what you’re going to get and can only hold your breath and cross your fingers.
I didn’t know what to expect in Warsaw but it was rather pleasant!
For breakfast, I had cold cuts and salmon, a variety of vegetables and sauces, porridge and grains, as well as a variety of bread and fresh delicious blue berries. Yum!
All this from €80.00 per night which for two (2) people would be €40.00 a pop!
WOULD I COME AGAIN?
I intend to do just that and can’t wait to visit again.
Let’s do it in Warsaw!
For more information about an off-the-beaten-track sightseeing tour, please contact: Adventure Warsaw.
For more information about a unique designer boutique hotel, please contact: Autor Rooms.
See you next week.
This post is not sponsored and even though I was a guest of Adventure Warsaw and I received a discount on the hotel, all opinions and the artistic alternative lifestyle that I discovered, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you.
Next week, I’ll be writing more about the secrets of eating and drinking in Warsaw!
In November, I’ll be going to England to visit Bristol & Bath and in December, I’ll be taking part in The Best of Berlin in 48 Hours campaign.
If you’re going to Warsaw, Bristol or Bath, let me know!
October is going to be golden!
Watch this space!
See you in Berlin.