20.25 Söndag, 7 April, 2013
On my way to Italy for Easter break, I made a one-day stop in Warsaw, Poland (mainly because overall it was cheaper than flying directly to Italy, but also because I wanted to visit Poland). I arrived around noon on Thursday morning (March 28) and found my hostel, then went sightseeing in the city for the rest of the afternoon and the following morning. On Friday afternoon, I went back to the airport to go to Rome.
The Flag of Poland
Map of Poland – Warsaw is called Warszawa in Polish
Since I didn’t really know much about Warsaw or Poland before I arrived, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I actually found the city to be very interesting, and there is much more that I would like to see if I ever find myself in Poland again!
One of the most interesting things about Warsaw is that during World War II, it was completely destroyed by the Germans. In fact, in 1939, the population of Warsaw was over 1.3 million, while in 1945, only a few thousand people lived there. After walking around the old town for a while and seeing the city center, I took the suggestion of the hostel reception and went to a museum called the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which was very interesting and well worth the 30-minute walk to the other side of town!
The Uprising Museum was about an event that occurred during World War II in which the people of Nazi-occupied Warsaw attempted to push the Germans out of their city. The battle lasted for over two months before Hitler decided he was fed up with it and ordered the city to be leveled. So, ultimately the people of Warsaw lost and the city was in ruins after the war. It was very interesting to go through this museum because the people fighting the Germans were mostly untrained and poorly-equipped, so all of the citizens contributed to the effort, including women and children. The museum had some interesting first-hand videos showing daily life during the battle and also a neat 3D flyover film of the ruined city.
‘The Little Insurgent’ Statue
Probably one of the most surprising things to know when walking through Warsaw is that essentially every building was built after World War II – including the medieval old town! Yes, the old town was reconstructed during the past 50 years after being destroyed – it was reconstructed so accurately, in fact, that it is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you didn’t know it was so new, you would have thought it was hundreds of years old, because it was rebuilt so well.
The Old Town Square
The Royal Castle
Holy Cross Church
The Palace of Science and Culture
One of the things I saw in the old town was the Marie Curie museum, located in her house (or, a rebuilt version of it). Although Marie Curie is best known for being a ‘French’ scientist, she is actually from Poland. Another interesting thing that I learned that is kind of funny is the fact that the main (and most famous) street that goes through the center of Warsaw is called Krakowskie Przedmieście, which actually means ‘the suburbs of Kraków’ (Kraków is another major city in Poland). I wonder how it got that name…
On Friday morning, I walked down a large street containing many parks and embassies. Along the way, I saw things such as the presidential palace and a musical bench! After that, I took the bus back to the airport to head to Rome.
A bench that plays music by Chopin, who was Polish
Before I end this post, I should say something about the food, because I tried as many of the places recommended by the hostel as I could in a 24-hour period! Of course, I had a pączek, the traditional Polish jelly doughnut! I then had dinner at a traditional Polish restaurant where the menu consisted almost entirely of different types of dumplings. I was very surprised to see, though, that they were almost all sweet – most of the main courses were some type of fruit-filled dumpling, and there were only a few that contained non-sweet fillings such as mushrooms or meat. I had the dish that the waitress recommended, which was blueberry-filled dumplings topped with whipped cream. It was delicious, and when I was finished, I was asked if I wanted cake – apparently, in Poland it is common to have sweet dishes for both dinner and dessert! As a snack on Thursday afternoon, I had an interesting Polish thing called a zapiekanka, which is half of a baguette with cheese, pepperoni, and ketchup on top. It sounds strange and looks even stranger, but it was actually very good! I decided that I had to try one because I saw that they were sold everywhere, and there were many people walking down the street eating them, so I figured they must be popular.