Stalins Birthday Cake
Warsaw Travel Blog› entry 18 of 22 › view all entries
I didn't sleep much on the bus, as I just couldn't get comfortable. There isn't enough room to stretch out and I'm too tall to comfortably lie over 2 seats!
The road to Warsaw was very very foggy, with visibility only in the 10s of meters. It didn't seem to be impeding our progress though and we arrived at the (very ugly) bus station on the edge of Warsaw at about 5.30am. I said goodbye to Rasa, the Lithuanian girl, then went to find a bus into the city centre.
On the way into the city, I could see this massive brown building dominating the skyline, with the top of it shrouded in a thick fog. This turned out be the Palace of Culture and Science, which was a 'gift' from the Soviet Union to Poland in the 1950s. The building is immense and was an absolute slap in the face to Poles from Stalin, but I was quite fascinated with it. The building is generally (and understandably) not liked by Poles and one of its nicknames is "Stalin's Birthday Cake". The building has a very similar design to the 'Seven Sisters' of Moscow and a few other Stalinist buildings peppered over the former Soviet states.
I got off the bus along side the Palace and made my way to the Camera Hostel, which is right in the city centre. It was around 6.30am at this point and when I reached the hostel, I was greeted an incredibly rude tattooed little man who apparently worked at the hostel. It was far too early to check in, but all I wanted to do was drop off my bag and use the bathroom, but the reaction I got from the horrid little man was: bugger off and come back at 4pm. Resisting the urge to spit in his ugly face, I asked politely to leave my bag at reception and to use the facilities, then just to annoy the hideous creature of a man, I sat in the lobby for an hour doing some stuff on the internet using my iPod.
I was feeling a little sleepy at this point and as I had no chance of a bed until the afternoon, I decided to go get a coffee or two to wake me up. I found a place just around the corner from the hostel, so plonked myself down for a hour and waited for Warsaw to wake up.
The Palace was drawing me to it, so after the coffee, I headed out into Warsaw, with the first stop being a walk around the Palace. The scale and dominance of the building is amazing, even more so with the layer of fog still around the top of it. The building now contains lots of offices, an exhibition space, a cinema, a technology museum, a nightclub and lots of other things. There was a book publishers fare being held in the building at the time, so I had a look inside the main lobby, but didn't try to get any further as security were checking people on the way in. I wandered around the edges of it for a long while and picked up some breakfast along the way. A number of other skyscrapers have sprung up alongside the Palace, most of which have some quite interesting architecture (and some not so), including a building with a big chunk taken out of the side of it (apparently to allow light to get to the smalled building next to it). The Palace still dominates the skyline though!
With my curiosity of the Palace satisfied (for now), I headed away from it and saw the Old Synagogue, the Covered Market, the new Norman Foster Building, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Opera, lots of great parks and then walked on to the Old Town. All most all of the city was raised to the ground during WW2, leaving only smoking plies of rubble, but the whole of the the Old Town was rebuilt after the war ended, based on the original designs. Today, the Old Town is a bit of a tourist trap. The buildings do look very genuine, but seem a little un-lived in and too new, which makes it feel a bit like a theme park. Ever with that and all of the tourists, I liked the Old Town quite a lot and did spend a lot of time there.
I was feeling rather exhausted by this point and it was now well after 4pm, so I headed back to the hostel. The rude, nasty little man wasn't there (thankfully), and a much more friendly guy checked me in and showed me to my bed, which I collapsed into and slept for a good few hours.
After a well needed nap, I woke myself up and had a long long shower, then chatted to my room mates for an hour or so. I was getting hungry by then, so went out to find some food. The Palace drew me in again, as it was getting dark and the Palace was lit up like a Christmas tree! I wandered all the way around it yet again, then headed off down a long cafe-lined street in search of sustenance. The cafes were all a little pricey, so I came back towards the Palace to find a place selling a traditional Polish snack food, which are kebabs, of course! They seem to be very popular there, with lots of stands in the street and even some gourmet style restaurants. I had a chicken kebab, which was very different from what we would have in England and only cost a few Euros. It was getting quite late by then, so I went back to the hostel, chatted to my room mates a bit and then hit the sack!