The train journey from Kraków to Warsaw is direct, short and sweet. The only challenge was the walk to the hostel. All the hostels we tried to book into we’re fully booked so we ended up staying in another university halls that were recommended to us by Atlantis in Kraków.
Well I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. And if these were my uni halls I’d definitely commute from home. With three people to a room, we were split across two (this was not a problem). But it said it had a fully equipped kitchen but it doesn’t and it’s very far out from anywhere. Clo and myself shared a room with a bloke who we called Handy Andy, because he was neither handy, nor called Andy.
Warsaw is an interesting city. It’s still a building site. If you look at it without taking it’s history into account, it’s a lot less impressive. During World War II, Warsaw was practically destroyed. The Warsaw uprising in 1944 led to a retaliation by the Nazi’s who bombed the city within an inch of it’s life. Thousands were killed and the majority of the buildings destroyed.
We went to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 12 o’clock on Sunday. Well, they’ve only gone and surrounded it by a building site haven’t they? We had to stand on flower pots to see over the industrial fencing and watch it from behind. It was still interesting, still very ceremonial but annoying that we couldn’t watch it properly.
Upon visiting the Old Town, I really began to appreciate the efforts by the Varsovians. They have completely rebuilt it in the style that it was before. It’s odd because the design doesn’t suit the age of the buildings. They seem too intact.
On our way to the Old Town we stumbled across a mini festival – I can’t work out what it was, despite looking everywhere – where there was food, trinkets and dancing. We decided to spend our time looking around and taking it slow here. We purchased some travelling flags for our respective uni rooms and the biggest waffles you have ever seen. They were covered in so much cream and chocolate and fruit and nuts. They were beautiful. We then decided to go for a bit of a walk to burn off the calories. We weren’t at all annoyed when we unintentionally ended up in a roof garden overlooking the river and city. It wasn’t such a bad accident.
The following day we began by going to the local supermarket and stocking up on our vodka. I’m talking practically buying out the shop. We were determined to purchase as many flavours as possible. The thing is, 350ml of vodka was about 17 Polish zlote, which is the equivalent of £3.50. It is a student’s heaven.
Later that day we decided to walk to the Jewish Quarters to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum where it is free entry. We discovered why these cities have trams everywhere. It was so far away! With full bladders and aching legs, we didn’t really appreciate our surroundings.
If you ever find yourself in Warsaw, visit the museum. It is very atmospheric with cobbled floors, bullet holed bricks and air raid sound effects. It is simply crammed full of information; photos, relics and videos. The videos don’t hold back mind. Some of them are very graphic when it comes to the disposal of starving corpses in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. I left the museum feeling very cultural.
Faced with a long walk back, coupled with our new found knowledge, we appreciated the buildings a lot more. Amongst the recently built glass skyscrapers, there are surviving 1940’s buildings, in the middle of building sites, or in the middle of a block simply shut off from the world. When you’re looking for them, they are obvious: grey, dirty and unkept. Behind the gateways lie a labyrinth of old Warsaw. However, unless you are looking for them, wartime Warsaw remains unnoticed.
Some of the old buildings can still be seen in the Jewish Quarters
These are postcards of the city after it was bombed and how it looks now
We saw the shape of these ice creams and we couldn’t resist… (Rebec, Chloë, me and Em)