Wonderful Warsaw, a couple of days in Poland.

Warsaw, PolandOn the Jan Kiepura Sleeper Train from Cologne to Warsaw, I had just drifted off in our cabin when there was a knock on the door. The train had pulled into a station somewhere in deepest Germany and we were joined by another passenger. After this I found that sleep just wouldn’t come, my peace had been broken. It is a strange sensation trying to sleep on a train, something I haven’t done for a few years, I was out of practice.

In the darkness, all your senses are heightened,  the journey is a flight of the imagination woven from the sounds and the movement. Every bridge, level crossing, tunnel can be discerned, the ribbon of rail threads its unseen way through your half-dreams, keeping you alert, keeping you awake.

The train slipped through the night, devouring the miles, cradling its passengers with rolling movement. It slowed to climb hills which it raced down with gathered momentum. It pulled into stations where the adventurous few stood shivering in pools of milky white light waiting for its arrival. I lay still in my bunk until light began to creep through the curtains, I stood in the quiet corridor watching the morning mist hover over the flat Polish farmland.

Warsaw, PolandWhen you first step out of Warsaw Central Station you are confronted by the domineering tower that is the Palace of Culture and Science, a gift to Warsaw from Stalin, in Soviet architectural style. It’s not particularly loved by the people of Warsaw, it originally represented Soviet domination in Poland and it’s probably lucky to still be standing. It is however a handy landmark for getting your bearings in Warsaw.

Palace of Culture and Science

It was a glorious Autumn day so after checking into our hostel {Emma Hostel} we set off to explore the city. We headed up Krakowskie Przedmieście, the grandest street in Warsaw, marvelling at the architecture, the cleanliness and the well-healed people all out having a stroll in the sunshine. The street opens out at the top onto the crescendo that is Plac Zamkowy {Castle Square} and King Sigismund’s Column.

There was a little speciality market just off the square where we picked up some tasty snacks for lunch, some cabbage and mushroom pastry rolls and a curious dish of shaped nuggets of a local sheep’s cheese, served grilled with a dollop of cranberry sauce on the side, delicious. We sat on a wall, the square was a great place to people-watch as the column serves as a perfect meeting point.

Warsaw, Poland

After lunch we ventured beyond the square to the pretty streets of the Old Town. We learnt later that the Old City isn’t actually all that old, it was rebuilt in the 50s after being completely reduced to rubble during WWII along with the rest of Warsaw. With meticulous detail this part of the city was reborn, like a phoenix from the flames. It is a charming place to lose yourself, the buildings are colourful and many have frescos or decorative plaster work.

The following day we joined the Orange Umbrella Free Walking Tour, which met at Sigismund’s Column at 11am. Our excellent guide was Beata and she began by bringing the square to life, introducing us to King Sigismund with his sword and cross atop the column. She gave us history, a lowdown on Polish religion and a practical lesson on how to drink vodka in Poland, this included a free shot of ice-cold vodka and a meaty {I passed on this} sandwich. We learnt to drink it cold, in one, with proper food. Beata clearly loved her city, she was passionate, informative and her English was excellent.

Warsaw, PolandOn the walking tour we were shown the house where Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Marie Curie to you and me, was born. I just loved the artwork on the building showing the two chemical elements she discovered. Polonium she named after her homeland!

We took a walk to the Palace of Culture and Science to have a nose around but other than going up to the terrace to admire the view there wasn’t much else to see, instead we found an autumnal park and enjoyed the golden afternoon. The following morning we had to be up at some obscene time to catch the bus to Lithuania and continue our adventure east…

Warsaw, PolandLinks

Orange Umbrella Free Tour Warsaw
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By Rachel Davis

10 Responses

  1. Slavek says:

    I would recommend you to visit also other cities in Poland, like Krakow, Gdansk on the Baltic sea side or Zakopane in the Tatra’s high mountains.
    By the way thank you for all the tips from your website. They will help me to prepare for my next south Asia trip in November.

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Thanks Slavek! I would love to come back to Poland to explore it more, it really was just a passing visit on route to the Trans-siberian railway and it certainly made me want to come back and see it properly!
      Have an amazing trip to SE Asia, man I’m jealous! I love it over there, so warm and exotic!

  2. Looks like a lovely city. I love the free walking tours, they always teach you so much more than a guidebook ever could!

  3. Meghan says:

    I hadnt previously thought of going or not going to Warsaw but you’ve really made it come to life and sparked the desire to see it. Beautiful prose and photos!

  4. davegct says:

    Warsaw looks excellent! Definitely makes me want to visit Poland. I love the description of the sleeper train and all the sounds of riding the rails. And I especially love the photo of the fountain with golden trees. Look forward to the next posting!

  5. SnarkyNomad says:

    I keep hearing about how Poland is still somewhat under-visited. I would have thought it would have become solidly on the backpacker circuit by now, but I hear stories about how it’s still peaceful when compared to nearby countries. It’s a great place to visit.