Day 147, 148 & 149
Before we left home, we had no intention of going to Warsaw, let alone Poland as we saw it as a bit of a dreary, boring and cold place. Yet after we saw the cost on getting to Switzerland by train, we saw we might have to bite the bullet and kill some time there. So, 2 days before we were meant to head out of the country, we hopped online and booked our way to Warsaw. To be honest I was not exactly looking forward to it.
Besides the cold we could not have been more wrong about this city. It was an absolute gold mine of things to and was just waiting for us to explore it. In the three short days there - and I really mean short, the sun sets at 4pm - we did not stop, going all over the city hunting down everything people told us to see. From chocolate factories to fake palm trees, monuments and vodka shops we did not stop. Whilst the temperature did plummet to about - 1 most nights we still managed to get around.
The first thing that struck me about Warsaw was the fact that their buildings are probably the most unique in the world. No matter where you walked around town you would always find some sort of weird structure be it an office building that looks like someone has crushed with their hand to a shopping centre that looks like a wavy glass mountain. There were apartments where the top half of the building was bigger than the bottom and buildings that had holes through the middle. My personal favourite was the office building that had an angled elevator shaft that went from outside the building to the top floor. The guy at the top must be loving his office.
The second thing that stood out about Warsaw was the construction that was happening everywhere. In anticipation for the UEFA world cup next year the city decided to well remake the city. Everything from museums and monuments to shopping centers and tram lines were being built or fixed up. It made getting around and seeing things quite the challenge.
Nevertheless we did sightsee and we did it hard. Starting off with the Jewish quarter on the first full day we saw the only remaining pre war shul and checked out the Kosher Deli next to it. We went inside expecting to find something similar to Athenas but I guess they don't get South African food like we do :P. Next we headed to the Warsaw Uprising Museum expecting to hear about Mordechai Anelevich and the ghetto. However Warsaw had two uprisings during the war, the more well known being the uprising of the citizens against the Nazis rather than the Jews. The museum we went to was based on that one. Whilst we were disappointed, hoping to hear how the Jews kicked ass, the museum was very cool complete with a Full Size British Bomber a whole bunch machine guns and an amazing Sniper Rifle.
We did from there set out to see the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes memorial which was dedicated to Mordechai and his crew. Yet we only got a glimpse from the side as the all encompassing construction decided to somehow repair the monument during the days we were there. Whilst we had seen a replica of the monument in Israel at Yad Vashem it would have been nice to see the original.
Next we headed into the old town and took a look a whole bunch more. We saw the oldest escalator in the world, a cinema that looked like a theatre, a vintage clothing store, memorials from the war and a statue of a giant hand. My favourite part of the old town however was a group of giant plastic horses that was just in some random park.
We headed out of town to a district we were told looked like WW2 Europe. In other words it was a grey, creepy district that was falling apart. Yet it did have some cool things to see including a Vodka shop, chocolate factory and the longest building in Poland. By the time we had done all that it was well past 7 o'clock and so we finished off the sightseeing for day 1.
The touring continued into Day 2 but slowed down considerably. We went to the new side of town and explored many shopping centers and random landmarks. We found a giant fake palm tree in the middle of a round a bout that was meant to be a memorial to the Jews that never returned after that war (don't ask me why). We saw the ex communist headquarters that now ironically has been turned into a stock market as well as the most elaborate bookstore ever with stain glass windows of the evolution of fashion. (confused as you).
Besides the sightseeing during the day we really just walked around and went into anything that caught out eye. We went out at night but didn't do anything that was particularly fantastic. A combination of freezing cold temperatures, a need to book the rest of our trip and a lack of interesting people made going out quite the challenge.
Warsaw was very much a sightseeing town for us and that was all. We hear Krakow is quite the opposite and absolutely can't wait.