Aug 5th, 2008
Expectations and “first contact” were pretty grey, but changed radically as soon as I left the hostel. I had no idea where I was, so I went to the right, where the Medias-fan at the hostel told me that i would find tourist info.
And up the street it was – wow.
Large, clean, shiny, old. This is no Warsaw Pact atmosphere. I entered the big church right upfront, refurbished, impressive. Later I found out that I was on one of the most important streets in Warsaw, Krakowska-something,
sort of a “Calea Victoriei” in Bucharest. Sort of.
The guy from tourist information was very friendly, told me how to chirp on polish a few things – it sounds really cool when you’re actually saying it ;).
On we go on Krakowska street,
which used to connect 2 palaces in the old times (well, that’s how they built the first streets everywhere anyway),
on the way being fascinated, as usual, by the organpipe in catholic churches.
One of the two palaces was the royal palace, the red one on the right
which marks the entrance to the old town.
I had no idea they have something like THIS in Warsaw.
This old square is enchanting, one can not stop taking pictures.
I didnt stay long tho, as I had no money, cash machines didnt want to give me, so I went to find a bank. For to do that I had to ask the following question to the lady at a tourist desk:“Przepraszam, gdzie jest jedena banka?” – and – victory! Although she spoke English, since she was working at a tourism info center, she answered in Polish! Of course I didnt understand a word, but at least it was my first <i>beginning</i> of a conversation in Polish.
Ladies at the bank didn’t speak English, and sent me to another bank, towards the “new” city center, where I ultimately managed to talk to someone who could help me. The guy let me call the bank at home and complain, they said – your card must be broken. You have to come home to fix it. Great. I’m in Poland, dude. Tough luck, dude. Take money from your credit card. Right, so you can charge me. Right. Shit. Right.
There’s no other option though, so I took 100 zloty off my credit card. Fortunately at least that worked.
Cost me a lot of time, since i chose to walk all the way, to get a feeling of the “non-touristic” side of the city, a quite familiar post-communist sight
with a modern touch.
I happened to pass by another area of interest, the “theatre street”, with national theatre, opera, city hall etc. lined up,
followed by New Warsaw
and the inevitable monument you find in nearly every former Communist country.
Then I had to go to the railway station twice. Once to book a seat for the next trip, and the second time because they didnt want to do it without seeing my interrail ticket, which of course I didnt have with me.
The Łazienki Królewskie park was not exactly on the way, but I made a detour to see it, down on Nowy Swiat,
(under some threatening clouds)
till i reached a park very similar to Herastrau,
with Chopin’s monument,
then a quick look at the “water castle”, sort of a Polish Sans-Souci,
and back. Quickly, to catch the last opening hour in the tower. Windddyyyyy and cooooold upstairs, quickly a few pix
And back down, to old-town,
to the famous and still gorgeous square,
on through the gate
towards the “newer” part of “old town”.
I noticed the very high number of monumental churches one next to the other, I wonder if they have full house on Sundays. I ask, and people say they do, it’s full, people are waiting outside and listening to the sermon on speakers…
Quick historical note: The old city centre is an UNESCO monument, and has been REBUILT ENTIRELY after WW2. That’s because after a riot in Warsaw, nazis decided to destroy the city systematically. They managed to blow 80% of the buildings up.
This street exhibition on Krakowska street shows some interesting beforeandafters.
In the entirely rebuilt old square, the Mermaid is a central figure, one of the symbols of the city,
they say she’s the sister of the one in Copenhagen :).
It got cold, so I headed home, when I saw the royal palace in a strange light
and realized – it’s the sun! It was looking back. I looked back too, to see one of the sunsets with the most spectacular and diverse evolution:
Enchanted, I went back to the main square to see how it looks at night, and it was worth it – it was bathing in a very special light
Unfortunately, this is where battery ran out, completely. Good night.