The little capital that could…
The miracle city that rebuilt 80 % of its destroyed self after World War II, Warsaw is a lot less bleak and dull than we were expecting (in the best, best possible way). The town centre is humming with activity and promise, and cheerful colours abound in the reinvigorated architecture.
All of the walking tours: We chose the Orange Umbrella tours, and started with one of central Warsaw, which takes you everywhere from the Royal Castle, Saint John’s Cathedral, the Old Town Market, parts of the New Town, and to greet the Warsaw Mermaid. Because we are hopeless history geeks, we followed this up with a Jewish tour, with plenty of background on life in Warsaw during the war (did you know Jews accounted for 30 % of the pre-war population?!), through a look at some hugely significant monuments, and the outlines of the former ghetto. IT also finishes up next to one of the best museums we have ever visited…
Lazienki Park: Originally a 17th Century baths park for a nobleman, Lazienki was taken on by King Stanislaw August in the 18th century and was transformed into a beautiful setting for palaces, ornate villas and monuments. These days, it’s a laid-back space for a wander and a gawk.
The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews: This imposing structure is an architectural marvel, as much as it is a historical masterpiece. It’s been intricately put together in such a way that you’re completely immersed in the life of a Polish Jew, at their highest points and their lowest. Historical significance aside, the intricate murals and artworks in this place are a sight to behold on their own, and we’d fully recommend spending several hours there. Aim to visit on a Thursday when admission is free.
Rusalka Milk Bar: Now this is a milk bar. – we’re convinced we heard the woman taking everybody’s orders actually hiss at us. While it’s a bit of a walk to get there, over the Vistula River, if you or your traveling companion need to be taken down a peg – head here for a bollocking from a Polish woman who hasn’t had enough caffeine today. They also don’t speak a word of English – so get ready for a lot of panicked stabbing of menus and butchering of languages. The food here is of a sunnier disposition than the staff, though, and you should expect huge portions of dirt-cheap and delicious fare. Tip: Whatever you do, don’t stand and read the menu in a place in the restaurant that isn’t the ordering queue- unless you’re in the market for a swift telling off in a language you can’t retaliate in, nor understand.
Between cities: Traveling between Gdansk and Warsaw, and Warsaw to Krakow, is easy with polskibus, and you can easily book tickets on polskibus.com. It’s exactly like Flixbus and the other low cost carriers, where if you book early enough you’ll score a fairly sweet discount. The buses are big, clean and comfortable, and for the price of a sandwich, we couldn’t complain.
Our hostel was shithouse in Warsaw so we won’t bore you with the details. We also can’t remember its name so we can’t help you to avoid it. Sorry.