Who: My friend Lindsay, who I’ve mentioned too much on this blog but whatever.
When: mid-morning Friday 9/28 to evening Sunday 9/30
Where: El Hostel in Warsaw, Poland. Great hospitality, incredible furnishings, and extremely interesting roommates. Definitely would recommend.
Most used phrases:
Gofry: a polish dessert or breakfast waffle. (we also have no idea how to pronounce it.) Sadly, we were too broke to enjoy these our last day but they looked delicious.
PLN (Polish currency): Złoty (zoo-all-ter)
Old Town: starówka (star-oz-ca)
Auschwitz: This will definitely deserve its own post, but I have to chime in quick to just say how amazing and informational it is. From Warsaw, it is NOT a day trip (It’s about a four to five hour train ride – with transfers – to get there, in addition to a four hour tour. Bad decision on our part.) but it is more than worth getting there and back. We were only able to stay for about a third of the four hour tour but the amount I saw and learned in that small span of time has given me enough to think about for weeks. For only a small amount of PLN (the equivalent of about eight euros, six for students), you’re given a tour guide and a listening device, and have access to both complexes of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. All of the buildings still stand as they did in the forties, but about half have been converted to a museum-like state of information panels while the rest retain their original furnishings for display purposes. Like I said, we couldn’t stay for the whole tour, but the things we had the chance to see were life-changing and astonishing. I deem it a must-see and hope that I have a chance to go back in the future.
Old Town: Okay, I have to level with you: when you step off the bus into the center of Warsaw, it’s…well…ugly. There are a lot of industrial buildings, busy streets, and so much gang spray paint tags on all the concrete…let’s just say I was a tad disappointed. BUT if you walk just a few blocks northwest, you’ll find where the real center of the city is. There are loads of old-fashioned buildings and monuments and it’s big enough not to get crowded – even on a bright and warm Sunday afternoon! Plus, if you walk deep enough in (or get a big lost like we did), you come out on a huge terrace that overlooks the city! (And thus is the only existing picture of me in Poland:)
Graffiti: Like I said before, there is a lot of tagging in Poland. Most of it is gang-related or just stupid (and, if you head into Warsaw, a bit shockingly anti-Semitic) and really brings down the city’s beauty. However, if you look closely, some of it will turn into works of art. There were stretches of building that was under construction that was heavily tagged so it was almost a mural – something that made the thundering of jackhammers a little more bearable.
Trattoria Rucola: I could talk for hours about this meal, but I’ll try to condense it into a single paragraph. We first arrived around ten and found the inside to be completely packed. Despite it being chilly, we were sat outside and couldn’t help but think we’d freeze to death. We got the menu, decided on an appetizer, pizza, and salad to share, ordered our red wine, and decided to wait in shivers for our meal. Then, the amazing happened: our waiter appeared with two of the warmest, fluffiest blankets I’d ever felt in my entire life. We wrapped ourselves up like little cannoli’s and spent the rest of the (amazing) meal in total comfort. Also: incredible (but small) bruschetta, a crisp and spinach-y pizza, and a salad with THE MOST DELICIOUS HONEY BALSAMIC DRESSING YOU WILL EVER TASTE IN YOUR LIFE. Anyway: blankets and Italian food. All you need in life.
Karmnik café: This was the last place we went to Friday night and it was quite the hipster bar. (We deemed it very Emerson-like.) We asked for the bartender’s special and the drinks we ended up getting were SO sweet and SO…well…PINK that we could hardly finish them. However, the whole crowd was very young and friendly so we ended up chatting for most of our time there. For some reason most people thought at least one of us was Polish (we were talking loudly in our American accents, but we rolled with it…) and they were also very interested in how schooling and the bar scene worked in the United States. It was a great way to close out the night and to our delight, we realized that there was a smoothie place next door!
W Beigu Café (amazing kiwi smoothie), Warsaw Bar de Luxe (open twenty four hours, yes!), Rue de Paris Café (crepes of my dreams).
End result: Warsaw is a great place for history and a bit of fun. Poland itself has a lot of beautiful countryside and the trips to places like Auschwitz and neighboring Krakow are worth it in spades. Just make sure you can plan more than a weekend.