Warsaw, day 3 & 4...
Warsaw Travel Blog› entry 3 of 3 › view all entries
I hardly slept again. This time courtesy of 1 mosquito. I spent most of the night chasing after it, much to the annoyance of the neighbours. So, 6:30am found me in the breakfast lounge in a rather foul mood and itching all over. The one thing I forgot to pack: insect repellant. Great!
I took off at 7:30am, walked east like the previous day, but now turned right on Nowy Swiat instead of left and walked down to Plac Trzech Krzyzy (try saying that 3 times in a row, or just once for that matter). The initial idea today was to head to Praga and visit the infamous Russian Market, a true landmark in Warsaw, in the Dziesieciolecia Stadium across the river. Unfortunately, I read in a magazine in my hotel room, that as of 1st July, it had ceased to exist. Now that totally screwed up my schedule.
Walking down Aleje Ujazdowski, it struck me again how beautiful Warsaw actually is, and how much at times, it reminded me of Paris. Big stately houses and statues when you least expected it.
I walked into Ujazdowski Park, already muttering to myself about the heat. It was a nice little place, with some sculptures and a pond with a pretty bridge across, but nothing rather exceptional. For that, I had to go a bit further to Lazienkowski Park, or Lazienski Park, depending on whom you're talking to.
I walked past the Botanical Garden and entered the park itself near the former Orangerie, with its collection of Roman busts, all pristine and in posession of a nose, which I think is rather remarkable in a park open to the public.
Now someone had forgotten to mention that Lazienkowski Park in NOT flat. It's actually quite hilly on the west side, so I clambered up some stairs, sweat running down my back and feeling a bit annoyed when overtaken by a bunch of chattering grey haired ladies, in search of the Chopin Monument, which I eventually found, but which had to wait as I had spotted some dude selling drinks at a stall right outside the gate.
I said 'one water please' and pointed to the bottle.
'Gasnogaz,' he said.
'...' said I.
'Gas... NO Gaz..' he repeated.
'Oh, ok, no gaz please, got plenty of that myself,' but the joke was lost on him.
I drank the bottle of water and then headed back into the park, swearing I would never, ever travel in July again.
Further down the path, I came across the White House and Belweder Palace, then got lost, found some buildings that weren't on my map, found the little stream again, and followed it to a sight to behold: the Palace on the Island...
It was beautifull. Nearby was also an open air theatre in a Roman style, with peacocks prancing about. I walked around quite a bit, looking at the palace from different sides, and my foul mood of the morning had gone completely. This was such a peacefull setting. It left me breathless.
I eventually exited the park, crossed the street and went back into the park on the other side, where there was a cafeteria. It was a little over 10am now and I had basically seen most of what I had planned to see that day, but I didn't care. I sat down at a table and had a Fanta, which I hadn't drunk in years and which I thoroughly enjoyed. I noticed I had a big grin on my face and for a moment I feared the heat had finally gotten to me, but then I realised I was actually quite happy to be sitting here, far away from all my worries and the hectic life back home, having a refreshing drink in a beautiful park in a city where I didn't understand a word people were saying to me and didn't really give a shit. It was one of those Zen-moments... probably because of lack of sleep and the after-effect of Polish beer, so after a while, control-freak took over again, said 'hey Bubba, snap to it! We gotta get movin' and I walked on, looking at my map and wondering what to do for the rest of the day. But I had had my moment of tranquility. What more can you ask for?
I walked around for a while, seemingly aimlessly, down streets that once again reminded me of Paris. Every street would hold a surprise. You just had to look around, or up sometimes...
Eventually, I found myself back on Marszalkowska, heading towards Plac Konstytucji, which looked more Russian than anything I'd seen so far.
I grabed a slice of pizza and headed to the hotel to freshen up a bit. It was around 36°C now. I would hereby also like to anounce a change in dress code policy. As of now, whenever I travel in summer I will wear bright coloured shorts, sandals and a straw hat, no matter how rediculous I might look in it. Black is just too brutal in these conditions.
That being said, I put on a fresh black shirt and headed out into the oven again, exploring the area north of the Palace of Science and Culture. Prozna is the only remaining part of the Jewish war-years ghetto, crumbling and held together with only god knows what.
More war scars were visible on another building a bit further.
For dinner that night, someone had recommended Chlopsjie Jadlo on the Plac Konstytucji, which served traditional Polish food, so I went in search of it. Unfortunately the place was packed, so I tried to find that Indian restaurant again. It was actually behind the place I had dinner at the night before, down a driveway into a little courtyard. I mean SIGNS people! Ever heard of them?
I spent some time at Bar Below afterwards, which was fun, but had the obvious downside of being BELOW, which meant getting up a stairs to go home.
You know how you're sitting in the hotel bar, and this gorgeous girl sits down next to you, and you start talking and have a few drinks and then head to her hotel room for some hot, steaming sex?
Well, that never happens to me. Instead I get a drunk Polish geezer, who, despite the fact that I've tried to tell him about 15 times I don't understand Polish and have no fucking clue what he's talking about, just won't SHUT UP!
So I headed to my room and for anything better to do, declared war on the mosquito. Armed with my plastic fold-out map of Berlin, dressed in just my underpants for maximum manouverability and protected with the lid of the bathroom trash can in my other hand because... well... I was a bit drunk, I stalked my prey, got stung a couple of times, crashed into the furniture a lot and then by sheer dumb luck, squashed the damn beast with Kreuzberg.
I finally had a good night sleep and showed up at breakfast at 8:30am the next day. I checked out, left my luggage at the hotel and went outside again, where it was already 32°C. The plan was to take the subway to the Citadel, but I thought why not walk? Well, I am a lean, mean walking machine after all, and I probably wouldn't understand how the subway worked anyway, so I walked all the way back to the old town and then the new town and then somewhat further north, passing some more beautifull buildings along the way, like this little gem...
I found a fort, concluded after consulting my map that it didn't look anything at all like the citadel and headed even further north, where at a point I had to get across a busy road, clamber over a bridge, dodge a few trams and climb down some stairs again. And then I was in front of it. I wondered how many tourists would go through the trouble to get here. Apparently, I was the only idiot. I walked and walked, looking for an entrance, and came across the Executioner's Gate, which didn't lead into the citadel either.
A bit further, I finally found a gate and walked inside, where I was greeted by a sign that read 'Military Zone. Stay Out! That means YOU, dumbass!' or something like that. Somehow, my guidebook had failed to mention this little fact. So I kept walking around the citadel, since it would be silly to turn back now. I walked for about an hour, never finding an entrance that wasn't guarded, clambering through people's back yards, being chased by a big dog for half a mile and swearing I would sue the people at Lonely Planet IF I ever made it home.
I retreated to the Old Town Square where I sat down at an outdoor cafe and (quite out of character) ordered a pineapple juice and had another Zen moment, which passed quickly as I ordered a beer, watched the waitress - in a tight white top and short black skirt - clear the table, muttered 'Well, hello!' and thought 'Hey, I'm normal again!'
Somewhere around 3pm, I collected my bag and had the front desk call me a cab, which took me to the airport in about 15 minutes, and then I waited for my flight.
So it was fun. Despite the weather, I actually enjoyed myself very much. As an introduction to Eastern Europe, this was excellent, and I can't wait to head back in that direction.
Let me leave you with the Mermaid, symbol of Warsaw. Unlike the one in Copenhagen, this one is not to be messed with.
I hope you enjoyed this little entry. My apologies to all the nations I may have offended in it. Feel free to leave feedback.