Ahh Warszawa. Poland was like a breath of fresh air after being in hot and humid Spain and Morocco for so long. I got off the plane and finally I didn’t feel gross any more. I also began my time in Poland with making a new friend straight away, Iurii from Ukraine, before even leaving the airport. We had dinner together before I went to my hostel and it rained while we were eating. Half the sky was bright and sunny, the other half dark and raining, the pizza was delicious, the company was great, it all made me so happy!
My first morning in Poland I decided to do a walking tour of Warsaw. The one I’d done in Barcelona had given me a new appreciation for walking tours, and on the way I stopped by a Café Nero to get what turned out to be probably the best latte in Europe, and a chocolate croissant. The walking tour took us to places like the magic bell and the smallest house in Warsaw, the mermaid statue, one of the many Chopin benches, and countless examples of the rebuilding project after 85% of the city was destroyed in World War 2. It was a tour of the (not so) Old Town, and while the destruction of all the major cities in Poland by the Nazis was a devastating event it has allowed them to rebuild the Old Towns to their glory days, making the Polish cities some of the most picturesque locations in Europe, if not particularly ‘authentic’.
During the walking tour I made friends with Ashlee from Melbourne and Ed from Cape Town and afterwards we had lunch together at a Milk Bar, or a Bar Mleczny, called Familija. The Milk Bars are leftover from the Communist days under Russian rule. The idea behind them was to provide everyday people from the working class with affordable and good quality local cuisine. And that’s exactly what they still offer to this day.
Familija really didn’t look like much, but the food was amazing. Honestly. The total cost for our three meals, three drinks, and dessert of fresh strawberries and cream (yummmm) was less than $14. This included a massive bowl of soup, traditional pierogi (Polish dumplings), schnitzel with delicious potatoes and salad, and a bright red drink made of boiled fruit called kompot which was amazing and can be had hot or cold.
After lunch we went our separate ways and I went back to my hostel for a nap. In the evening I went to the look out tower next to the St Mary’s church. It’s right in the main square next to the old Royal Palace. The tower costs about $2 to enter and the. You climb up up the stairs and then you are afforded with a fantastic view of the old town and the river. There was a band playing in the square, the sun was going down, the streets were full of locals eating ice cream, it was very atmospheric.
I was still mostly full from my lunch so my dinner ended up being a very traditional Polish dessert: gofry. It was a little bit of a struggle to order it, I ended up just pointing at someone else’s and eventually the woman understood that I wanted the same thing. It cost me $3 and I sat in a park and ate it surrounded by locals enjoying the relaxing evening vibes.
The next morning I headed to the station to book my bus to Gdansk for that afternoon and then I headed out to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. I’d read that this museum was one of Trip Advisor’s “Best Polish Museums of 2016” and as it was Thursday it had free entry. The museum definitely exceeded my expectations. It was so hands-on and interactive and engaging. It covered 1000 years of history through several rooms with amazing displays and information given through extracts taken from original historical documents. Most information was displayed in both Polish and English and I think you could easily spend two hours there. I only had one hour because it took a bit longer to get there than I thought it would, so I had to rush a bit in order to get back to my bus, but you can easily walk there from the Old Town.
I got on my bus feeling very pleased to be in Poland and very excited about the next step in my adventure.