Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Warsaw, Poland: The Po' Land Saw War

Synopsis: Searching Ryanair and Wizzair and found a cheap flight to Varsovie Modlin (Warsaw, Poland). Then, searching and I find a host fairly quickly. Her name is Agnieszka and she is going to give me the local's insider exclusive tour of the city. Eurocup 2012 is being hosted here soon.

Trip Overview:
Day 1: Get to Warsaw in the early evening and I meet Agnieszka at the McDonald's under the main train station. She takes me back to her place to drop off my stuff and then we head out into the city. Along the way, we are talking and then we pass a statue of Copernicus, and I say something dumb, typical American, "I didn't know he was Polish. I thought he was Greek or Italian." which is the wrong thing to say. I quickly learn about every famous Polish person and their impact on history, plus an appreciation for the uniqueness of the Polish culture. (Did I say everything you wanted me to say Agnieszka? :-P)

I get a fantastic tour of the Old Town and as we are walking back, we see a group of guys huddled around a large black guy. I recognize Bob Sapp, in town promoting his upcoming MMA fight, but I know him from movies as the big guy/comic relief. I go say hi. From there, we grab some food and drinks before heading back to her place.

Thoughts: I learned the Polish and German and Russian languages are not the same. Matter of fact, it is forbidden to say that anything Polish is similar or like anything German or Russian, at least not to a Pole's face. It is also amazing how little I know about the different European cultures, but what more fun way to learn than saying something dumb and being corrected?

My wonderful host, Agnieszka

I learned Copernicus was Polish

Me and that famous Polish guy… lol

Two mahogany strongmen

Ran into Bob Sapp. Dude is so funny in real life too. Look how much bigger his fist is than mine!

1950s style bar

Day 2: During breakfast at Agnieszka's, I meet Emila, her roommate. Then, we head into town, to our first stop, the Palace of Culture and Science. We go inside and walk around a bit and it is very austere, but still intriguing. Afterward, we head over to E. Wedel's for some good hot chocolate. From there, we walk down the main road, Krakowskie Przedmiescie, and see statues, municipal buildings, Warsaw University, and then end up back in Old Town. Then, we head up to Multimedia Fountain Park. Getting hungry, so we go to Zapiecek for some traditional periogi, and it's delicious. 

After having my fill, we walk to the Warsaw Uprising Memorial. The museum is closed, so we check out the memorial. Walk to Piłsudski Square where the tomb of the unknown soldier is. Next, Agnieszka wants to take me to her favorite bridge. It's on the other side of Old Town and it is hidden behind the castle, with only a few cars using it. 

We walk back through Old Town to the marketplace and, not realizing that it is September 1, a day the Polish remember from the start of WWII, we see a large group of people observing the day. Then, we head back to the Multimedia Fountain Park for the water and light show. It is really nice, set to music, and many people gather around to sit and admire it. From there, we head back to the house for the night.

Thoughts: Today was a long day, but I saw so much of the city and with the Agnieszka-guided tour, I am getting way more than I get when I do the hop on/off buses. They are building a new metro line in the city, so there are a few streets blocked off. I didn't realize Poland had so much to offer, and of course, my hostess is making the trip as amazing as it is.

"The Russian Palace of Polish Science and Culture" -Rafol

Mermaids from the EuroCup 2012 that is being hosted in Poland. Agnieszka didnt want to be in any pictures, but I got her!

Hot chocolate at E. Wedel's, and he is drinking something

Cześć! Hi!

Do the Belgians know they are not the only ones who sell waffles???

The wall…on the ground. These markers are all over the city where the walls used to be 

Daytime shot of the fountains

In the park

Eating world famous Polish-made Periogi

The Warsaw Uprising Memorial

Agnieszka's favorite bridge

September 1st (1st day of WWII), when Poland was attacked

Mermaid is the symbol of Warsaw

Fountain show at night

Day 3: At breakfast, I meet  Emila's boyfriend, Rafol, and they both join us for the day. First, we head over to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, via tram. However, I forgot my tram ticket at home (which was only 2 zloty) and we ride the tram in fear of inspectors, and jump off the tram one stop early, when they get on. We thought the museum was free on Sundays, but they changed it when I landed in Warsaw, and plan to change it back when I leave. The museum is amazing and interactive. Later, we go to Lazienki Park to enjoy "Chopin in the Park", where every sunday someone plays a selection of Chopin's greatest hits from his first album.

Then, we head over to the brand new stadium, built just for EuroCup 2012. Just on the other side, there is a natural beach on the Vistula river, and we head down there and enjoy some drinks on the beach as we watch the sunset over the numerous bridges of Warsaw. Nearby, there is a beach bonfire party starting, but we don't stay. Instead, we head back to the house.

On the way back, Rafol suggests I try some authentic Polish vodka, called Soplica. They buy a couple and we go back to the house. The rest of the night, Emila and Rafol teach me crazy things to say in Polish and are amused by my accent. We turn on some salsa music and show off our moves and just have a good time.

Thoughts: Another busy day where I saw so many things and got to experience some real Polish Poland with Poles. The experiences you have with locals are so insightful and unique.

Polish bomber plane in the Warsaw Uprising Museum

Me, Agnieszka, Emila, and Rafol listening to Chopin in the park. The lady in the background kept shushing us because we were having too much fun and it was ruining her ability to hear the 150db of Chopin blasting in the park

Great men pondering things

Stadium built for EuroCup 2012

Coca-cola owes me some money for all this advertising!

Beautiful sunset and the bridges all light up

Party under the bridge

Day 4: Early morning flight back to Brussels. Agnieszka escorts me to the main station on her way to work. She has completed her amazing hostessing, and receives the highest accolades from me.

Thoughts: I have really enjoyed this trip and the zloty has been very considerate to my pocket.

Final Thoughts: Agnieszka should be a tour guide! She knew everything about every building and the history behind so many things. Emila and Rafol were also lots of fun and insightful about Polish culture. I had so much fun with them, and I told them about my plans to visit Bratislava next, and Agnieszka has a friend there, that is also a couchsurfer, and has already agreed to host me! Onward to Slovakia!

Location: Warsaw, Poland


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