The newest old town around

On my way to Poland I had my first of three night buses through Europe. I have to say, I really recommend Simple Express buses, which I’ve booked all the way from Estonia to Germany – they’re relatively comfortable (for buses), most of them have free WiFi and sockets, this one even had movies… but it’s still a night bus. You know how much luck I have sleeping on those. When I eventually got to my hostel in Warsaw at 6.30 and they told me I couldn’t check in until 2 I nearly cried. Not that I have anything bad to say about the hostel though, not only was I able to stash my bags, but they let me have a shower before checking in as well.

image

So, surprise surprise, first thing I did was head out for another free walking tour. After the rather adorably tiny Baltic capitals I wasn’t really prepared for how big Warsaw is so I didn’t make it to the old town in time for the 11am tour I was trying to catch, but I’m going to consider this as fate since Shameera happened to be on the 12 o’clock tour as well. Our tour guide told us to call him Chris, which was nice of him since his real name is something like Krzystof and Polish pronunciation leaves me feeling like my mouth isn’t big enough to hold all those consonants. This was definitely more of a traditional sightseeing tour than the last two as we stuck mainly to the sights of old town, but that’s by no means a complaint – I knew nothing about Warsaw anyway, but even if I did, Chris was a history student so he had plenty of interesting facts.

For example, what happened to the guy who attempted to assassinate king Sigismund: they made him hold the sword he used while it was thrust into a furnace, and then when his hand was nice and crispy they chopped it off. And then quartered him for good measure. Executions were fun in the 16th century.

Old town is a bit of a misnomer as Warsaw was completely flattened in World War 2, so most of it is a new reconstruction, but I’m happy to say to everyone who told me that Warsaw wasn’t worth more than a day that it’s a good reconstruction, so it’s still worth seeing.

image

This is apparently a mermaid. With feet. And wings. She’s the symbol of the city and you’ll see her all over the place, but everywhere else she’s finished her evolution and dropped off the superfluous bits.

After shuffling to the end of the tour I celebrated with pierogis (which are basically like Chinese dumplings, or big ravioli). I had spinach and cheese, with cheese and cheese sauce, and it was cheeeeese. I mean good.

By that point the world was spinning (though whether that was through lack of sleep or overdose of dairy I couldn’t say), so I said goodbye to Shameera again and made it back to my hostel where I fell asleep for about 17 hours. Clearly I had a lot of catching up to do.

Next day I met Eric again for a very quick and early lunch with his friend Michael, before he went straight down to Krakow. At this point I learned that you can get sweet versions of pierogis, which automatically makes them better than gyoza and ravioli. Take that China and Italy. You may have well loved food traditions, but you haven’t given me strawberry dumplings in custard, have you?

image

After around an hour of walking around after lunch I was getting sunburnt in the tropical Polish weather again, so I sought shelter in the Copernicus science museum. Yay, robots!

image

Ok, let’s face it, this is a museum for kids. But who cares. There are giant bubbles.

image

I also got my portrait drawn by a robot, which was… neat. I guess.

image

It seemed a lot more focused on the ceiling than my face though.

image

Day three I went on recommendation to the Warsaw Uprising museum, stopping on the way at the university library which has a strangely sci fi garden on its roof. Despite the searing temperatures it clearly wasn’t blooming season yet, but it’s still a nice place to wander around (for free) and enjoy the views over the city.

image

I’m in two minds about the museum. There is A LOT of information, but it wasn’t always obvious what direction you were supposed to walk and the exhibits seemed to constantly skip about from the beginning, to the end, to the middle of the war so I didn’t really get a clear picture of the order of events. Generally though, the impression I got was Nazis: bad, Soviets: bad, Warsaw: awesome Spartan style heroes (except sadly without leading to a national victory afterwards)

image

There’s a huge collection of weaponry on display, including the Goliath tracked mine, which the Nazis would use by remote control to get under vehicles or up close to buildings and bridges. This led to the Poles building mini walls around anything they wanted to protect to keep the Goliaths out – the walls were called Davids.

image

I’d been told by my hostel owner that there was something happening in the street that afternoon, and when I came back I was greeted by balloons. Balloons hanging from the lamppost outside always means it’s gonna be a good party right?

image

This is the road my hostel sits on, as transformed into a pedestrian friendly craft fair. I’m not sure what the reason was, but I don’t care. Let’s just pretend it was a ‘yay-it’s-sunny-and-everyone’s-happy’ festival. At every junction there was a stage set up with performances ranging from someone’s mum singing badly in a sparkly T-shirt, to an enthusiastic and rather brilliant Dixie band, to fencing demonstrations. A great end to my time in Warsaw, although squeezing my way through the crowds with my backpack wasn’t the easiest.