I spent some days in Warsaw on my trip from Hamburg to Odessa in September 2012: Warsaw is a grand European capital full of beauty and history, just a three hour train ride from Berlin
I love traveling by train: You really experience the world you travel through as the scenery moves along in front of your window, and your mind has a chance to wander along, float, dream, plan, enjoy. Sometimes you have a chat with people, and many trains offer the luxury of a good restaurant. I remember having a traditional Polish stew and a Polish beer on the Eurocity from Berlin to Warsaw, both were delicious.
Warsaw Central Station: I love the clear lines and the boldness that often comes with socialist architecture and this looks like a good example. While the block at the center of the building seems quite rigid, maybe intimidating, the roof seems to be growing wings. The platforms and shops inside were quite modern, one seems to have invested a lot for the UEFA Cup in 2012.
I arrived by train on a sunny September afternoon and decided to spend the rest of the day in the Praga district East of the Vistula. Many houses in the old district were in a state of decay, others like this one might like a lick of paint but they still gleamed proudly in the evening sun. It’s been a couple of years now since I saw Praga, I’d love to see what it’s like now.
A monument to remember the Polish priest Ignacy Skorupka, victim of the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. Though a noncombatant, he was seen as a war hero who because he took care of the wounded and was killed during the Battle of Warsaw.
I spent a couple of nights at Tatamka Hostel in Warsaw and I loved it: It was a clean and safe place with a relaxed retro style, close to the city center and the Vistula. They are partner of Hostelling International, widely known as The Good Guys.
Warszawa Powisle is a funky bar in a former ticket booth, just a stone’s throw away from the Vistula and very close to Tatamka hostel. The audience is young and hip, it’s a great place to have a nightcap or two on a warm summer night.
They had some proper beer, too.
And some pretty good spirits.
King Stanislaw August Poniatowski bought what he would come to call Lazienki Park in 1764, lazienki (wah-zhen-kee) meaning bathhouse. Center of the park is the neoclassical Palace on the Water, designed as an actual bathhouse with a palace around it. Designed by the Polish-Italian court architect Domenico Merlini, the palace depicts marine life like these shells in countless ornaments on walls and ceilings. One of the representative halls of the palace which was used by the king as a residence.
Oh, Miss Salome, I guess? Good to see you. And the gentleman must be the famous St John. Well, bit late to say hello to him. Nice painting though.
The Royal Castle in Warsaw’s Old Town: This quarter was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt after the war, copying the marvelous Baroque and Renaissance buildings that originally stood here. The castle is a copy of the original building which was destroyed by German forces at the end of WWII. Its origins date back to the 14th century but the Baroque halls that so many visitors admire today were originally created in the 18th century when King Stanislaw August Poniatowski reigned.
If you ever feel like playing with fire, why not do it in Warsaw’s Old Town? The background seems pretty enough.
The throne inside the Royal Castle: Scientists found out lately that sitting is so bad for your health, it may actually kill you as it elevates the risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attack. I guess that depending on the politics of your time, sitting on a throne can be a real health hazard per se, Damocles might tell us a thing or two about it. Usually, you wouldn’t think of getting chubby as one of the most dangerous issues of reigning over a country – but then there was Henry VIII. And, as I just checked with DuckDuckGo, gout was once actually called ‘the disease of kings’. So we’re looking at a really scary object here. Let’s move on.
Some of the halls are just blokes and mirrors.
Me on Mondays.
A supermarket in the New Town of Warsaw. The term is a bit misleading as the area goes back to the 14th century, it resembles the Old Town in style but it has no defensive walls. You can see an energetic Polonium dashing up the façade of the Marie Curie Museum in ul Freta where the Warsaw born scientist had worked as a teacher. This building in the old part of the city hosts a different kind of venue: A milk bar, a simple and affordable restaurant of the kind you found everywhere in soviet days. Interior design wasn’t one of the top priorities in milk bars and it still isn’t. I heard someone say that real estate prices are rising in Warsaw, like in most European cities, so rents may soon get too high to run cheap venues like these. And this is where the waitress picks up the delicacies coming from the kitchen. Oops, really bad pic. Well. You get the idea.
A mural honoring the composer Frédéric Chopin, one of the most famous sons of the city. Note that the front leg of the grand piano is the Palace of Culture and Science, a ‘gift’ by the Soviet Union, commissioned by Stalin himself. It’s not too popular with the locals so some might be happy to see it turned upside down. Or torn down, for that matter.
Just a block away from the Palace of Culture and Science I found this arrangement of architectural styles that I found quite interesting. The one on the left seems to be a Soviet era office building, the yellowish one might be early 20th century, and the one behind that? The sturdy shape and the strong vertical lines do not fail to fascinate me – can it be a hotel or an office tower from the sixties or seventies? Feel free to comment if you have an idea.