A few months ago, my family and I were invited to visit Poland to attend a family wedding. Excited at the prospect of a wedding abroad and pleased for the invite, we booked apartments, hotels and transport for 6 people for one week, only to find out a few months later that the wedding was no longer going ahead. Regardless, we are off to spend a week visiting Warsaw, and family in a small town called Sulejow (say it like “Su-le-yu”), in Poland.
Having my first experience of the country over 10 years ago, I don’t know much about Warsaw except from learning about the second world war. Sulejow, until recently has been completely foreign to me, and after a little research I’ve come to know that it inhabits fewer than 7000 people, and points of interest include a monsastery, an abbey, and some ruins destroyed by the Luftwaffe.
We arrived in Warsaw 2 nights ago, late in the evening and were immediately met with humidity and thousands of mosquitos, which was a drastic contrast to the grey skies in the UK. Our apartment is in the Old town of Warsaw, amply situated right by the Rynek Starego Miasta, which basically translates to Old town market place, full of bars and restaurants. Having previously visited Krakow in the early 2000’s I was immediately reminded of the Rynek Glowny, which is the main social hub of Krakow except on a much larger scale, boasting the Sukiennice (cloth hall/market) and St Marys Basillica. Warsaw’s attractions seem to be much more widespread, whereas Krakow had many of it’s own gathered around or within the square.
If you don’t have much knowledge of history, you would probably think that the buildings in Warsaw had been standing for a few hundred years. However as much of the city was destroyed during the second world war, many buildings are less than a century old but have been rebuilt with the same historic and even medieval style they would have had previously. Walking around the local streets and squares is truly mesmerizing as everything looks just as you might have imagined it years ago, down to the beautiful details painted or etched on many of the buildings. One of the brilliant quirks is that a lot of the basic foundations of each building are still there, and you can see the line of old stone meeting new brick and plaster.
Character is definitely a trait of European buildings which cannot be beaten!
Everything so far, from food and drinks, to taxis, to attractions have been incredibly reasonably priced, with the average 10 minute journey costing about 20 zloti (rougly about £5) and a meal out with 2 starters, 3 mains, 2 desserts and several drinks (including alcohol) costing only around £60! Considering Warsaw is still a capital city, you really can’t argue with those prices!
Now I like to chill and have a few holiday beers as much as the next person but I also like to explore different cultural attractions that won’t be overrun by tourists and that are unique to the place itself. Fortunately so do my family, so on our first day we took a trip to the Frydryk Chopin museum. It cost about £10 for the admittance of 4 people and offered 4 floors of education on Chopin’s life and works. I’m not one for reading every little plaque for every scrap of paper or picture on show in a museum but this one in particular offered plenty of opportunity to listen to many of Chopin’s works which was lovely to sit and listen to as part of the exhibition.
Unintentionally keeping with this theme, in the evening we had bought tickets to go to the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, where we watched a couple of up and coming musicians (a violinist and an accordion player) perform a number of well known and newly written peices. The girl playing the violin was hugely talented and played with perfect precision whilst the young man playing the accordion performed with such emotion throughout. Classical music is not something I listen to a lot of but this was certainly an enjoyable and unique experience and if you can at least appreciate classical pieces I advise you to attend a concert like this at least once!
Warsaw is also home to the beautiful Łazienki Palace, where the ground surrounding it are open for public access. We spent an afternoon wandering around the gardens which are neatly kept and spacious, perfect for a summer stroll.
With 2 old ladies in tow, we haven’t done the usual amount of exploration we might usually have, but Warsaw as a city has certainly been a beautiful visit.
For the second half of our trip we will be making our way out to the sticks, to go from tourist haven to the middle of nowhere!