Warsaw had already won us over before we even left the airport. The pram was waiting for us as we left the plane (that never happens), the airport was easy to navigate and the immigration man smiled and waved us on through (also never happens). Note for further Schengen reference, when booking cheap flights it’s probably cheap because you have a stopover in a non Schengen zone, which can be a pain because you have to do the immigration thing.
I was a bit nervous the taxi ride might ruin our new fondness for Poland, after reading up on the taxi scams and being warned by our host, I was ready for it. I can say that the two times we caught a taxi were very pleasant, the second guy even put a dvd on for the kids. Taxi prices we found to be extremely cheap compared to other countries like Italy.
One of the major stresses we have when traveling is meeting the owner of the apartment. This sounds pretty straight forward in theory, the owner shows you the apartment, you get the keys and the wifi password and they leave all content in the knowledge their place is in safe hands. Not how it plays out for us, ever. The kids are always so incredibly naughty, to be fair on them it is from sitting down all day being good, not even my warnings through gritted teeth will stop it. The owners this time were parents of little children and they were not fazed one bit by the children doing circle work on the rug that looked like grass.
Five nights in Warsaw meant we had a bit of time to explore without it being rushed. I think we experienced a bit of culture shock with a mix of homesickness the first day or two, especially Amelie who was really sad and missing home. My theory is for us the places that most resemble home, but at the same time are nothing at all like home, can make us feel a bit sad for a bit. It passes within a day or so and we each have our own way of getting through it, for us getting outside is important and we did that a lot.
Warsaw Uprising Monument
A must see, a monument to the attempt to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany in WWII, we saw this on our first day because it was right around the corner from our apartment. Usually we don’t tend to take photos on our first afternoon out but I took the camera along and said to Rohan “let’s get some photos in case we don’t get back here.” Well there was no chance to take photos here again during our visit, the anniversary of the uprising was on (we had no idea) and the monument was barricaded off for the annual memorial concert. We felt very privileged to be in Warsaw for the remembrances of such a a devastating but important event in history.
Completely rebuilt using photographs and paintings after 90 percent of it was destroyed during WWII, this is also a must see and was conveniently also around the corner from our apartment. Amelie had a great time looking for the town logo, the mermaid, and I’d highly recommend a walk along the castle walls where they’ve placed photographs of the buildings when they were destroyed, it really gives a great perspective on the effort that went into the restoration.
We went to a really good kid friendly restaurant in Old Town. The seats were on a big swing, anytime the kids tried to run away or got too rowdy we stopped the swing. Worked a charm, especially when we installed imaginary seat belts and told them they had to stay put while the seat belt signs were on (it was just a lamp but it also worked a charm!).
A really big shopping centre just outside the city, we weren’t planning on going here but Charlie lost a favourite toy and we needed to replace it before he noticed. As far as shopping centres go, this was really nice. The Poles seem to know how to do a good food court, so sleek and clean and even comes with a microwave that everyone was using. Another thing we got to notice about Polish people, they never make you feel bad for not speaking the language. I am really all for trying the language of a country I am visiting, it is polite to try. But Polish is really really hard, beyond hello we are stuffed so when they switch from Polish to English without blinking we are always grateful and very envious of their ninja language skills at the same time.
The Copernicus Science Centre and Planetarium
We tried to go here, the line was so long at the science centre you couldn’t buy anymore tickets and the Planetarium didn’t happen to be showing a movie appropriate for four year olds. We were disappointed but the kids had a great time playing in the field outside and we got to go on the roof top for free which was also good fun.
The Palace of Culture and Science
A gift from Stallin to the people of Poland, I can see why the locals both love and hate this place. It is amazing, it’s ridiculously big and you can’t help but stare at it. A statue outside the Palace, dedicated to Dr. Henryk Goldszmidt, a man who tried to protect Jewish orphans and ultimately perished along side them in a concentration camp is wonderful and heartbreaking all at once.
Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Within walking distance to our apartment, this was the place I was most keen to visit. We happened to go on a Thursday when entry to the core exhibition is free. Rohan and I took it in turns to visit while the other stayed with the kids outside while they played on the grass. This place affected us more than an other museum about the Holocaust we have visited. It’s not just that period of time though, it takes you through the 1000 year history of Jewish people in Poland.
We are now enjoying Krakow for a few days in a really nice apartment in a convenient part of town. We continue to love Poland and look forward to learning about it some more!