Another short and sweet city break. Poland's Krakow and Warsaw have been on my wishlist for a while now and I have to say I really enjoyed these few days in the capital. We arrived to Warsaw Chopin Airport on a Friday evening and took a fun taxi ride to the Old Town. The bluesy driver showed us the sights on the way. We got out at the walls of the Old Town where we booked our finely located Airbnb. We finished our arrival with a dinner at the Old Town's Market Place and a stroll to the Castle Square - Plac Zamkowy.
Walking tour of the western area. The plan was to get weekend tickets and get to The Jewish Cemetery but we just started walking which was also fine. We first passed the old barbican and got to know the area a bit better, found a few nice restaurants as well. The map took us past the Supreme Court with the powerful Warsaw Uprising Monument, where we entered a park - Ogród Krasinskich. We exited on the west side and soon reached Polin - the museum built on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto in Muranow. We didn't visit this one - The Warsaw Rising Museum was our choice between the two.
We continued with a bus towards The Jewish Cemetery which was closed on a Saturday. A tram took us on to The Warsaw Rising Museum.
The Warsaw Rising Museum was opened on the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of fighting in Warsaw. The Museum is a tribute of Warsaw’s residents to those who fought and died for independent Poland and its free capital. The exhibition depicts fighting and everyday life during the Rising, keeping occupation terror in the background. With the total area of more than 3000 m2, 800 exhibition items, approximately 1500 photographs, films and sound recordings, history of the days preceding the Rising is told. The second part of the permanent exhibition presents the story of Allied airdrops. Its highlight is a replica of a Liberator B-24J bomber. Much of the exhibition has been devoted to the Germans and their allies, showing their actions in Warsaw as documented in official texts from the time of the Rising and in private notes. The stories of eye witnesses of the August and September 1944 events are played in Hall B. A movie theatre shows films about the Rising on a panoramic screen. The Museum tower is a special attraction with a view of the Freedom Park and the city of Warsaw.
It is definitely an interesting and shocking museum, it's super detailed as well. Maybe even a bit much for me. What struck me the most was a 3D flyover of the city ruins. I knew about the bombing of Warsaw but I had no idea of the actual scale of destruction. It must've been fuckin' crazy! Basically most of what we saw that day and the days to come was once in ruins. Warsaw has suffered the worst history could throw at it and survived.
Our next stop was Praga district on the right bank of Vistula river. It was once an independent town but became formally attached to Warsaw in the late 18th century. Praga somewhat survived the devastation of World War II and we can find many streets, undamaged during the war. It is now a hip district, overflowing with artistic studios, galleries, alternative theaters and underground clubs.
We took a tram passing Warszawa Centralna station, the mighty Palace of Culture and Science, across Vistula over Poniatowski Bridge and past the National Stadium - PGE Narodowy. We visited Minska street and its castle mural by Phlegm. It's remarkable, I must've taken 30 photos of it.
Filling up nicely with colors of Soho Factory and a few rays of sunshine. We hit The Neon Muzeum next. It is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of Poland's cold war era neon signs. I'm a designer and generally a sucker for typography so I absolutely loved it!
As you see by the photos the museum and Praga in general was a delight. We were getting hungry and tried our first Milk Bar - Rusalka. A Milk Bar is a low priced cafeteria selling traditional dairy-based Polish food. These bars were initially established during the Communist era as a solution by the authorities to feed the masses of workers. Anyway, the food tastes good and home made. The prices are extremely low. I think we paid about 25zl for two simple main dishes and two huge cheese pancake desserts. Man those pancakes were amazing!
The day was getting longer and longer. We ended our day of exploring with Old Town. The sunset was just right with the golden light all over the rooftops. We climbed up the viewing deck which was the highlight of my day! The view is excellent - Castle Square, Sigismund's Column, Old Town's walls, over Vistula to Praga ... Don't miss this out if you're there.
I went out again after the sunset to take some night shots. I ended up in this fancy Podwale Bar (& Books) with a glass of whisky in my hand like a true manly man that I am ;). I'm not a huge whisky guy so I tried Japanese for the first time. I quite enjoyed Nikka - From the Barrel. I decided I'm going to take the lady with me the next night.
We covered lots on the first day so we slept a big longer the next morning. The plan was visiting the Copernicus Science Centre, which should take us quite a while. We started with breakfast in the Old Town and a peek inside St. John's Archcathedral. Exiting Plac Zamkowy, we strolled through Krakowskie Przedmiescie - one of the best known and most prestigious streets of Warsaw, surrounded by historic palaces, churches and manor-houses.
We reached the Copernicus Science Centre on foot and waited in line for an hour to get in. I didn't like this part, which made me not enjoy the tour so much. The museum was totally filled. And since it's very interactive, we waited quite a while to ... interact with stuff. Anyway, this wasn't really my thing (I'm more of a Joey rather than a Ross in this area). Nina enjoyed it big time though!
Dinner at Zapiecek - a chain of Polish restaurants with great food. And hot waitresses. We had pierogi, considered to be the national dish. These are filled dumplings, ranging from sweet to salty to spicy, depending on what kind of filling you choose. They are goood. And a hibiscus winter elixir with vodka goes perfect with them.
I woke up early and went for a walk around the Old Town to snap some photos of sunrise. It was our last full day in Warsaw and we were going to take it easy with some shopping in Zlote Tarasy later.
Breakfast at Kumpir House, Krakowskie Przedmiescie and on to Pałac Kultury i Nauki. Palace of Culture and Science is a prominent high-rise building, the tallest in Poland, visible basically from anywhere in the city. It was constructed in 1955 as a gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland.
There's a huge shopping centre Zlote Tarasy right by the Palace so we went shopping for a while. Afterwards we gave the Jewish Cemetery another chance, a short visit convinced us it's a sad and dark place.
Another dose of Polish delicious food was necessary. We went to Gosciniec, a similar eatery as Zapiecek, with cute waitresses as well. We ordered a bunch of food. We started off with home broth with noodles, potato pancakes with pork goulash sauce, a salad and finished with another portion of pierogi. Naturally with a round of hibiscus and vodka!
We stopped at Bar & Books on our way back. It was a Bond themed evening with martini and cigar promos for the ladies. I got confused by the exchange rate and accidentally had a rare 25y/o Bowmore so the price was just sick. I continued with another Japanese Nikka Coffey Malt which was a delight!
This concluded our weekend getaway to Warsaw, we flew home the next day. We will surely return to Poland, probably to see Kraków as well.