Written by dangaroo on 01 Nov, 2012
All Saint's Day, the 1st of November is a Public Holiday in Poland and is one that I have a lot of time for. Typically people visit cemeteries, share stories about the dead and light candles in little coloured glass jars that light up the…Read More
All Saint's Day, the 1st of November is a Public Holiday in Poland and is one that I have a lot of time for. Typically people visit cemeteries, share stories about the dead and light candles in little coloured glass jars that light up the cemetery at night and make for a wonderful spectacle. It's all too easy not to visit your relative's graveyards and this traditional holiday means it's harder to avoid. Warsaw, like most big cities has several massive cemeteries rather than lots of little ones, due to the mass of dead bodies in a short period of time in WW2, they are more noticeable in Poland than most other places. While we have some visits at smaller cemeteries to make, the one that houses the most of graves of my wife's family is Cmentarz Polnocny, located on the north-western suburbs between Bielany and Lomianki. All the cemeteries are serviced by temporary bus lines and this is usually the quickest way to get around because driving becomes a bit of a nightmare.Some roads are blocked off and others take on temporary traffic rules, there is a heavy police presence on the road as they sometimes take control of directing traffic themselves. Despite the bus being a good option, many people, us included (somewhat stupidly in retrospect) opt to use their own car and therefore traffic is pretty heavy.Having been making slow progress, our choice route had been blocked off and we found ourselves at a standstill, an ambulance flew past us and it was clear that there had been an event somewhere further up the road. My wife happened to have the map open on the correct page and I noticed that there was a little lane just the other side of the railway line, a distance that was about 6 car lengths, the cars either budged up or turned around and I soon had the chance to see what it was like.It was bumpy, very bumpy and barely recognisable, the ground was made up of all kinds of odd materials and the bottom of the car constantly scraped a mixture of rocks, paint cans and whatever else was lying around. At one point I had made a slightly wrong turn and noticed in my mirror that another car had seemingly followed me, he'd taken the lead. Despite the road's worsening condition and the fact that both cars had the ground clearance of an earwig, we proceeded seemingly more confident now there were two of us smashing up our cars instead of one. Our adventure on wheels came to a close when the road disintegrated into a massive field of mud with grooves, almost a metre deep. Seconds later, another car turned up, this time it was a big jeep and the driver egged us on to go for it but we turned him down, he sped up and soon got stuck in the muddy mess. The car that had accompanied us decided to turn back, while we parked in the field and started walking across it. The mud was extremely moist, my daughter, myself and the pram that I was half carrying, half ploughing the fields with were covered in mud. Some people really dress up to go to the cemetery, smart trousers, polished shoes, the lot, the more casual at least look clean. We were going to turn up looking like we'd come out of the graves ourselves and the only consolation came when we strangely came across another family, who were in smarter clothes but clothes that were about to be covered in mud all the same. By now, the jeep had made it a bit further through the field but seemed well and truly grounded and whilst the other family decided to persevere, we decided to go back to the main road, a wise decision because the road was empty when we got back and I think if we had continued, more disasters awaited and I would have found myself in the cemetery permanently, either through slipping or facing the wrath of my wife.Close
Written by flyingscot4 on 14 Sep, 2011
Disclaimer: I am not a travel agent, have no tour planning experience, and don't want any. What follows is what I do to plan and organize a trip, and it has worked for me for many years. Most of what I do…Read More
Disclaimer: I am not a travel agent, have no tour planning experience, and don't want any. What follows is what I do to plan and organize a trip, and it has worked for me for many years. Most of what I do was learned by trial and error (focus on the latter) and from the writing and experiences of others. What I do is what I do and if it helps others in any way, I am delighted. As is true with anything, I don't ever listen to only one source. I figure that there are a lot of people out there like me.Attempting to spend seven or eight weeks in Europe for $3500.00 is quite a challenge and in order to do that I must make a number of immediate assumptions to make the trip possible for me. Some of the assumptions are very specific to me and my personal needs and requirements. Since I go "bare bones," the costs can vary for other individuals. My figures are based on a spring trip, shoulder season, for one person, of 60 days in length. I realize that $3500 is a lot of money, but 2 months is a lot of time. One of the latest .Frommer,s tomes considers $85 per day as being frugal. I am trying for $58 per day. The Frommer,s figures include better accommodations, food, and probably better everything, but we're all in the same Europe. I'm just attempting to really cut the costs and show others that it is more reasonable than one might think. As I said, it's the same Europe.Also, I understand that most people would not undertake a trip of this length, but the principles remain constant. The more days added to a trip, the lower the cost per day becomes, because the fixed costs remain the same. I am not saying that you can take a three week trip for the price of two weeks. The cost per day may be less, but it does not just go away.Assumptions1. I will be flying out of Chicago (ORD). Chicago is a hub for many airlines and flight choices are better with lower prices in some cases. I will book the least expensive economy flight that I can find (I will post the cost when I book my flights). I try for direct flights or a maximum flight time of fifteen hours. Maximum airfare - $800.2. I will stay in hostels and at the lowest possible price based on the ratings of the individual hostel. Frommer's guide also says that there are over 130,000 hostels in the world so there are many from which to choose . I usually look for a rating of at least 75%. Included in the $3500 cost is the figure of $30.00 per night. If I can spend less than that, it will allow me to eat better. Maximum lodging cost - $1800.3. I am not going to Europe to eat! My diet will be based more on the cost of cooking my own meals as opposed to eating in restaurants for more than my lunch meal. I can usually get by with about $12.00 per day for food and quite frequently for less. Maximum food cost - $720.4. Transportation from place to place will be rail, second class seating, taking the least expensive ticket. This is where creativity gets important. Many countries systems have very deep discounts for early online booking. Some of the night trains have very good prices and I can sleep pretty well in a second class seat. I will figure out the per trip ticket fare as opposed to using a rail pass and use whichever is least expensive. Traveling at night will save $30 lodging cost for each trip. I will need that. Maximum cost - unknown.5. I will stay a minimum of four nights in each city and take day trips by rail or bus. I will use public transportation exclusively. Most of my travel in cities will be by foot. I will take mostly "free" tours or "hop on - hop off" tours. Maximum cost - unknown.6. I will purchase very few small, light souvenirs. Maximum cost - unknown.As can be seen, the total cost of this trip is already at $3320 leaving me with a total of $180 for travel as well as incidentals which are numerous: local public transport, medical costs, and other incidental costs. Funds available at this point - $3.00 per day! Somethins' gotta give!ClarificationsThe first reason is that $3500 is the maximum amount of funds available, which is a known non-variable. All of the other details and costs are variable. So now I need to "rob Peter to pay Paul" and lessen the non-variables. Not a problem - yet.First, if I can get a price for airfare of $100 less than the projected figure, I will have $280 left. This is pretty "iffy" because I'll have to hit a "special" fare from one of the carriers. I may also be able to find a courier flight which may save even more. Possible savings - $100.I am using the figure of $30 per night for lodging. Most hostels cost around €20 per night; some a bit more and others a bit less. With the value of the dollar at a low point (except for the past 10 days when the euro slid from $1.47 to $1.37), I think that $30 per night is a reasonable figure. However, hostel prices in eastern Europe will average about $19 per night and since half of the trip will be in the East, and the savings could be as high as $300, the figure of $200 seems reasonable. Possible savings - $200 - $300.Transportation between base cities is a huge variable. The best rail pass in this case is either Eurail Select Pass for five countries traveling in eight days in 2nd Class for $656. The other option is a Germany-Benelux Pass and a Europe East Pass which will cost $575 with five days of travel in each pass. And that's just from city to city. Things are not looking too good, I guess I had better set-up an itinerary. That's next.Close
Written by Praskipark on 30 May, 2011
It took me quite a while to get used to living in Warsaw. Having lived in Portugal for ten years and in the south of France I found the cultural changes very different and at first I really didn't like what the city had to…Read More
It took me quite a while to get used to living in Warsaw. Having lived in Portugal for ten years and in the south of France I found the cultural changes very different and at first I really didn't like what the city had to offer or the language. I missed my Mediterranean comforts and the opportunities to show off my knowledge of the Latin languages.After four years things have moved on quite a lot. I am very fond of Warsaw these days and am always out and about taking photographs of the Old and New Town. Learning a Slavic language is for me a long process and I am still not sure about it. I don't like the word sounds and I can never remember or spell the words properly. One day it may all piece together but at the moment there is a big space missing in my language development.One area where I have progressed very quickly is my knowledge of the city's streets. I reckon I would make a pretty good cab driver now as I know the city very well. I have my favourite streets and most of them are based around the Stare Miasto. Miodowa Street is one I stumbled upon quite by accident when I was taking a walk through Krasinski Gardens. I came to the end where the palace is and there in front of me was Krasinski Square leading on to Miodowa Street. It isn't a very long street, I can see from one end to another. What is fascinating about it is the number of glamorous residences situated on the street. Only half of the royal houses exist out of the thirteen that lined the street and boy, they are pretty spectacular to look at. Look is what you are only allowed to do unless you are visiting on official business as they nearly all house government offices.One building, the Collegium Nobilum is not a government building but a Theatre Academy and it was outside this building where I stood on Saturday morning waiting for President Obama to drive past.I had already had a glimpse of him the evening before when he popped along to the Jewish Ghetto to lay a wreath in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. It was very difficult to pick him out as Security had blocked all the roads and built a huge bank of metal fencing so nobody could touch him. From where I stood in the crowd I couldn't see him close up but I was lucky to see him as his car drove past the crowd and turned the corner. He smiled and waved to the crowd and that was good enough for me.From the news reports I found out he was travelling down Miodowa Street with his entourage on Saturday at 2. 20 pm. That's the time I thought I saw on the TV. I know the street well and thought I would give myself at least an hour or so to stand and wait for the cars to come rolling down the street. The reason he was coming down Miodowa Street was to turn the corner to visit the Field Cathedral Church of the Polish Army. It would only be a short visit as he had to then travel back to the airport to fly back to Washington.The weather was okay but a bit drizzly and when I arrived the police had cordoned off the bottom half of the street and Krasinski Square. Barriers were placed so people could look over but I knew by now that he wouldn't be walking around shaking hands with people. For some reason Security didn't think it was a good idea to let him do the 'walkabout' thing in Warsaw. I was a bit sad about that as I would have liked to have shook his hand but I suppose his life is always at risk and I sure wouldn't want anything to happen to him.It was a strange experience. I could sense the importance of the visit by the way the helicopters where flying low and police cars were rushing up and down checking everything. Big Security guys who looked mean and heavy stood at intervals down the street with mobile phones and there eyes were everywhere. Every five minutes or so armoured vehicles would drive at a slow speed; the men inside dressed in black with machine guns and black masks covering their faces, only eyes peeping through. I could see them looking high on the rooftops for anything looking out of place.Gradually more and more people came along but they went down to the square area probably to get a better look at him as he would enter the church. I decided to stay put because I was near the pavement and nobody was in my way except a police officer. I did seem to be waiting a long time and then my husband phoned me to tell me that he was watching the Press Conference on TV. I had got the time wrong and he hadn't even left the conference yet. So I waited and waited - a bit like the little boy in 'Cider with Rosie' who was told to wait there for the present. He was sad because he thought he was going to receive a present but didn't. I knew that my present would be another glimpse of Barrack Obama so I was happy enough to wait.After about 30 minutes I knew something was about to happen - the police traffic started to move faster. Vans turned up to the side of the pavements and scores of police officers jumped out and formed a line on both sides of the road. They stood at metre intervals. This was to make sure that nobody ran into the road as the entourage was about to proceed. I could see the posse of motorbikes with blue and red flashing lights and sirens wailing. It was so exciting and I began to feel shivery. Next came police cars followed by black armoured vans, a black car with body guards in and then the presidential car; black, sleek and shiny as a leopard. The flag of the United States flapping in the summer breeze. The windows were slightly darkened but I was able to see through. He was sat next to someone holding a conversation but looked up and waved to the people on my side of the street. In a fleeting moment his car disappeared round the corner and the rest of the entourage followed on. There must have been about 20 vehicles following. Suddenly all the bikes came back and stopped half way up the road, the riders took of their helmets and had a breather. The other cars did a mad turn at the end of the road, parked, ready to be off again as soon as he came out of the church.Ten minutes must have passed and I could hear voices on walkie talkies, engines revving, the bike guys were donning their helmets, switching on their engines and they were off - it was like the start of a Formula 1 race. The noise and energy was amazing - I felt exhilarated and within seconds the leaders of the Presiden't s gang were leading the way. He was on his way back down Miodowa on the opposite side of the road waving to the crowd and then he disappeared. President Obama was on his way home and I felt sad.I will always cherish this memory of the President, his entourage and Miodowa Street. When exciting things like this happen I am happy I moved to Warsaw.Close
Written by Praskipark on 12 May, 2011
Warsaw transport - is it any good? Yes, it is and very reliable too. I don't think I have lived anywhere where I have relied on public transport so much - maybe Sheffield in the UK. In fact, we don't really use a car…Read More
Warsaw transport - is it any good? Yes, it is and very reliable too. I don't think I have lived anywhere where I have relied on public transport so much - maybe Sheffield in the UK. In fact, we don't really use a car any more except for longer journeys, holidays and picking heavy shopping up from Arkadia and such places. There is no need for a car in the city and in winter it is a pain in the ass with changing tyres, moving snow and stopping the inside of the car from freezing up. I know it's not as bad as the Ice Truckers in Yellowknife, Canada but it's not far off.There are three main forms of public transport; buses, trams and the Metro. All good, reasonably priced and punctual.Let's start with the buses; this is a well developed system with buses travelling throughout the city and to the outskirts. At peak times roads can get hectic and as there aren't enough bus lanes buses do get stuck in traffic jams. They also get packed but most of the buses are new and in good condition so they are very safe. Most drivers are okay and not too grumpy but they won't wait for you if they see you coming towards the bus and they are due to leave - they will just drive off. Also they don't give you long to get off the bus so if you are elderly or struggling with a pram you have to be quick or else the doors will close. Before you get on the bus this is what you should remember to do:Buy a ticket.......These can be purchased from kiosks, some shops, transport office at Ratusz Arsenal, automated ticket machines on popular routes, on line and from the driver. I have never bought one from the driver but have seen people do it. I am always worried about the reception I would get asking for a ticket. I can't be doing with grumpy drivers so have always avoided this scenario. I read somewhere that there is a surcharge of 0.50zl so bear that in mind.It isn't much but it all adds up.All tickets should have the words ZTM Warszawa written across the top and remember it is only valid if it has been punched or validated. The validation machines are attached to a vertical handrail on the bus near the doors - you just push the ticket through, it makes a buzzing noise and Bob's your Uncle. Inspectors do get on and are very thorough. Note they don't all wear uniforms and sometimes are dressed like normal folks - very sneaky! If you are caught without a ticket it is a big showdown and they take you off the bus, ask for identity, give you a telling off and you have to pay a fine of 120zloty (about £25) while everybody is staring at you. I haven't been fined - well not in Warsaw but I have seen other people suffer this embarrassment.Tickets for buses, trams and the Metro are identically priced and the ticket types are:Czasowe - timeJednorazowe - disposableKrótkookresowe - short -termDługookresowe - long-term.To buy tickets at the automated machine is simple enough. The machine is computerised with a touch screen pad. There is an English and German language option and you just follow the instructions. The ticket types mentioned above are shown, you just tap the one you want and the price comes up. If you want to buy more than one ticket you add the number you want and the computer does the maths. There is the option of paying by cash and the machine will accept notes, small change and you can even pay by credit card. What else can I tell you about our buses? There are three types:Black Number - means this is a regular service and stops at all stopsRed Number - Speedy service stopping at selected stops on the same regular routesBlack square with white numbers followed by N - you've got it - night buses. These don't stop - you have to wave them down!There are also two other types of buses; E for Express and buses showing the numbers 700-799. These are suburban buses which travel to the outer parts of the city.Personally, I prefer to travel by tram but my husband loves Warsaw's buses. He travels into the city a lot more than I do and he says they are very comfortable and don't get as packed as the trams. Trams:My favourite form of transport but only in the winter as they are too hot and smelly in the summer. A few times I have been travelling across town in July and felt physically sick with the heat and the smell of BO from other travellers. Wicked!We still have a lot of old trams on all lines throughout the city and although very nice to look at they are a bit cronky and you do get thrown around if you are stood up. These have heating but it is quite poor in the winter and I find the older trams much colder than the newer models. The seats are hard and if you are on a long journey you will find that your bum aches at the end of it. Things to look out for:Smelly tramps - there are a lot around and boy, they do stink. It isn't unusual for passengers to get up and move down to the other end of the tram to escape the odour of wee and poo, sometimes vomit. It is sad but a fact of city life. It used to make me feel icky at first but I have become used to it.Old ladies built like wrestlers - I say this tongue in cheek but until you have encountered a Polish old lady on a bus or tram you won't have any idea of what I am talking about. They are tyrannical - rush to get all the seats even if they are fit and push everybody else out of the way. When stood next to one you will find yourself suffocated between huge breasts sagging and swaying to the rhythm of the tram and the smell of sweet perfume which is enough to make you keel over. Not a pleasant experience.Children who take up all the seats. It is traditional for children under the age of 12 to sit on seats on a tram or bus. In UK I think a mother would sit the child on her knee or make the child stand up. Not here - children and old people come first which I guess is a good thing in a way but irritating when you are knackered and need to sit down.The practical info regarding the trams is the same as the buses except there are no night trams. Trams run between 5am and 11pm. Be careful though on some routes. I have been caught out before on my way home to Wola from Ratusz - jumped on a tram at 10.20pm to come home suddenly when it got to Tesco's instead of turning right to my road it went straight on to Wolska. That was in the days when I didn't know the city and I panicked - ran all the way home scared to death. Warsaw still has a reputation of being dangerous at night which I never believed and took with a pinch of salt but I think it is true.Overall, I like travelling on trams the best as it is the quickest way to get through the city especially through the rush hour as buses and cars cannot travel on the tramlines.Finally, the Metro.Things are changing as far as Warsaw's underground is concerned. We only have one line at the moment travelling north to south from Ursynow to Bielany so you won't lose your way. The second line is being built to be finished in time for the Euro Football Championships 2012. The new line will connect Wola (where I live) and Praga (my favourite district). I have only travelled on the Metro a few times since I moved here 4 years ago. It's okay, very nice and clean and the trains are modern, punctual and very comfortable equipped with TV screens showing advertisements and short films. Trains run from 5am until 12pm every weekday. During busy hours trains run every 3 minutes and in the evening every 10 minutes. At weekends the train service runs until 3am with trains running every 15 minutes. Ticket information is the same as it is for buses and trams and you can use the same website as above which is an excellent site with loads of detail.Hope this info helps for visitors to Warsaw especially for those coming over to watch the football. Zapraszamy na wycieczkę (enjoy your trip). Close
Written by Praskipark on 09 May, 2011
The street leading away from the entrance to the Barbakan in the Old Town of Warsaw is a fascinating little street, cobbled, not very wide and always buzzing with life. The name Freta probably originates from the German word Freiheit which means free trade. At…Read More
The street leading away from the entrance to the Barbakan in the Old Town of Warsaw is a fascinating little street, cobbled, not very wide and always buzzing with life. The name Freta probably originates from the German word Freiheit which means free trade. At the beginning of the street on the even numbered side stands the Dominican Church of Saint Jack's; an elegant white church with a black steeple and a Dominican Convent tagged on to the side making the building very large indeed. I have never walked past this church without people going in and out of the front entrance - it seems to be always well visited. Just a little further on, on the same side of the street is the biographical museum of Maria Sklodowska-Curie. The museum was the house she was born in and inside you will find photographs and documents pertaining to her life as a student and a scientist. On the opposite side of the road you will find the Museum of Asia and the Pacific together with the Asian Gallery as well as a great selection of cafes and restaurants such as The Barbakan and Pierogarnia Zapiecek. These are traditional Polish restaurants serving good food at a reasonable price. In the summer tables are set outside with colourful banners and parasols which adds colour and a sense of carnival to the street. There are many small boutiques selling strange and weird clothes - quite expensive but a lot of fun to look at even if you aren't buying. The street at the far end on both sides has a very Bohemian feel to it and one of the reasons I like to walk down this street is that it always seems to be in shade in the summer. In winter it is another story as the cobbled roads are slippery and dangerous but it always looks so picturesque in winter when heavy snow has fallen - like the cover of a traditional Polish Xmas card. Freta Street is also on the route for the horse and carriage drivers who take visitors around the Old Town in a Victorian type carriage. Quite gimmicky but adds a bit of character to the street.This old fashioned cobbled street is the main thoroughfare leading from the Old Town to the New Town Market Square and one that shouldn't be missed if you like a touch of Bohemia with a bit of old fashioned Poland.Close
Written by flyingscot4 on 07 May, 2011
Getting directions in spite of a language barrier.Communication need not be difficult. All one needs is a small amount of note paper and something to write with. Suppose that you have a particular place that you wish to visit and somehow you take…Read More
Getting directions in spite of a language barrier.Communication need not be difficult. All one needs is a small amount of note paper and something to write with. Suppose that you have a particular place that you wish to visit and somehow you take a wrong turn. We have all been there. It is difficult enough to get directions when you speak the language, but when no one speaks your language... It is character building to say the least.When facing a serious language barrier, and this is true anywhere, the first thing you need is a piece of paper written by your hotel staff with the following information: your destination, the tram, subway, or bus number you need to take, the "end station" of whatever conveyance you are taking, directions to the stop when you leave your lodging with a little map to show you the way to the stop, and finally, the name of the stop where you get off the vehicle. It helps if you are good with maps. Personally, I can get lost in the bathroom, so I need some help. I carry 20 - 30 pre-printed 4-up 4x5 inch notes for the purpose (photo included). The blank side I use for notes to me or to store clerks. Knowing the "end station is important because just taking a bus with the number 12 for example, doesn't help if you don't know which direction to go. Almost everywhere (including the US), all you need to know is where the bus ends and turns around. Make sure that you understand where the tram, bus, or subway stop is located. It should be within a couple of blocks. If you have to change at any point, use a second note. Those little pieces of paper will get you to where you want to go. When you need help, just show a local the note and point to what you need. The next thing that you need to know is how to get a ticket for your method of transportation. First, ask at your lodging as they sometimes sell tickets. Most of the ticket machines that I saw in the Eastern bloc countries were multi-lingual. Sometimes tickets are available on the tram or bus. Tobacco shops usually will sell tickets. Tickets are usually good for any mode of transportation. It is usually cheaper to use the machines.The last thing to do is to validate your ticket. Buses and trams will have a small box near each door. Put your ticket into the box in the direction of the arrow on the ticket. You will hear the ticket being stamped or punched. Even if you purchase your ticket on the bus or tram, you still have to validate your ticket.and last...Learn the words for please , thank you, good day, good evening, and where is the nearest toilet? Also learn the metric scale. One kilogram is 2.2 lbs. I just drop the two tenths for simplicity. Thus 100 grams is just under one-quarter pound, 250 grams is one-half pound, 500 grams is one pound, etc.. Then go shopping. Everyone understands written numbers so just write the number of grams that you want. Those words, numbers, something to write on and with, and your index finger will get you whatever you need. It has worked for me for 50 years.Close
Written by flyingscot4 on 05 May, 2011
Ok, I confess. Actually, I have two confessions to make. The first is that my time in Polish cities was about 4 hours. I was there for 7 days - 3 in Warsaw and 4 in Krakow. It was raining and…Read More
Ok, I confess. Actually, I have two confessions to make. The first is that my time in Polish cities was about 4 hours. I was there for 7 days - 3 in Warsaw and 4 in Krakow. It was raining and sleeting the entire time I was in the country. I apologize if the titles led people to think I was going to write about sights in Poland. I didn't see many. My first two weeks in Europe were in Warsaw, Krakow, Vienna, and Prague. I took pictures and wandered through the city all four days in Prague, but the other cities were almost a total bust. I admit that I could have gone out in the rain, but I didn't. Even though I went through 3 umbrellas, I don't feel like I needed be an "umbrella tester" and experiment with more (especially at my own expense). The sleet was bad, the wind made it worse, and I didn't feel the need to go out so that I could tell others about how I braved the dismal weather to see and photograph things and places that most people don't give a damn about. I have learned from sad experience that while true travelers are interested in every picture, most everyone else gets very bored very quickly. So there.Confession number two has to do with something that I touched on in the preceding paragraph. I have been reading stories and reviews written by others and have realized that as much as I would like to believe that my writing is superior and everyone wants to know what I think about different sights in different places, they don't. And neither do I. All I want is a brief description and pictures of the place. If I want to know about something, I will do the research. Some people want the the writings of other travelers, and writers far more talented and less verbose than me - this website is full of them. The point of searching through travel sites is to find out how to travel as well as where to travel. I want to know things that are of concern to me. I want to know about places where I am going or places that I would like to go, and I know that my age has a lot to do with where I go. With all of that said, I am going to try to put into words the important things about my trip which have more to do with people, not places. In Warsaw, Krakow, and Vienna I saw few sights but I met wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable people.I am very excited about the former "East" Europe even though I haven't seen much of it. It all has to do with the people I met, not with the sights of a city or town. This is why. In 1961 I enlisted in the US Army shortly after the wall divided Berlin, Germany. I can't say that the decision was the smartest thing I have ever done, but it turned out to be the best. The day that I got off the troop ship in Bremerhaven, Germany, I was loaded into a train and sent to Kaiserslautern, Germany. That train trip is the basis for my excitement.This year I took the train from Warsaw to Krakow, and on the three hour trip, I saw the very same sights that I saw in 1962 on the train to Kaiserslautern; almost exactly the same. I saw the old, dilapidated buildings along the rail route. I saw the poor farmland, the very old tractors and other obsolete farm implements, the houses and buildings that needed care or demolition. The only difference that I saw was that the cars, while older, were 45 years newer than in 1962, and there were more of them. I saw a country that was emerging from ashes of a war and 50 years of a totalitarian system.There are differences though. Germany had the Marshall Plan and a population that wanted to return to what they had. They had lost most of a generation of young men and women were doing the work. Education was always very important to all of the population including the farm folk, and the importance of getting the schools back in session was total. While there was unemployment, it was not as serious as it is in Poland today.But I am still excited. Poland and the rest of the East European community can look at Germany today and see a road map to economic revival. Many corporations are moving factories to the East. While this is very problematical for the countries and cities that are losing jobs, and I do feel sorry for them, a strong Europe, both financially and educationally, will benefit the entire world in the long term view. I wish that I could live to see my vision become reality, but I'm over 70 now so I'll just watch for as long as I can. I can only suggest that travelers go to Poland and the East see the miracle happen for themselves.Close
Written by dangaroo on 11 Jul, 2010
I recently discovered that a good way of learning a country's history is through the road signs, whilst the likes of High Street and Low Street aren't going to educate you much - the majority of street names relate to a famous person, battle or…Read More
I recently discovered that a good way of learning a country's history is through the road signs, whilst the likes of High Street and Low Street aren't going to educate you much - the majority of street names relate to a famous person, battle or date and the first time I really came to this conclusion was when I came across the sign Skwer I Dywizji Pancernej.The Armoured Division Memorial is not impressive, in fact other than the sign I can't really say I noticed it. The park lying on what used to be the riverbed of the Wisla many years ago (and nearly was again because of flooding) is underneath the New Town and close to the Old Town walls.It is rather nice but looks slightly forgotten, unfortunately it's the victim of poor city planning, a park running directly down from the imposing buildings of Nowe Miasto and Stare Miasto straight to the river could have put Warsaw into the creme de la creme of good looking European cities, unfortunately someone decided to stick a busy 4 lane highway (the Wislostrada) through it minimising the size of the park and making it ny on impossible to get across to the river banks apart from an underpass at one end of it. This park/square has potential but like the dried up fountain in the centre of it, it gives vibes of what only!One of the most appropriate things there is some 1944 Warsaw rising graffiti murals on the walls at the top of the park, it kind of reminds me of the Banksy ones on the wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem marking the West Bank. Although I assumed it was some sort of military division, I can't say I knew what I Dywizji Pancernej was until I checked it out at home. I was surprised that such a small sign denoted such a large amount of history, whilst my WW2 history knowledge is quite good.. there are still quite a lot of parts that I know nothing about, I Dywizji Pancernej is the 1st Polish Armoured Division that was stationed in Duns in Scotland and protected 120 miles of British coastline before transferring to fight in Normandy, Belgium and Netherlands.Close
Written by dangaroo on 23 Mar, 2009
Your average Vietnamese restaurant in Poland is less than desirable, consistently cheap and often in a shack like building. Meals tend to consist of rice or rice noodles with veal, beef, chicken, pork, duck and seafood in a choice of sauces which all tend to…Read More
Your average Vietnamese restaurant in Poland is less than desirable, consistently cheap and often in a shack like building. Meals tend to consist of rice or rice noodles with veal, beef, chicken, pork, duck and seafood in a choice of sauces which all tend to taste rather similar. The meat can often be chewy and the choice of starters is usually just as appetising. An abundance of cabbage usually comes with the meals which can be used to disguise the taste of the meals or simply cheer up the locals. Vietnamese food largely pulls in a crowd of workmen, drunk people on the weekend or hungover people on the weekend.The amounts succesfully satisfy the hungover and the grease soaks up the beer but to the less blurry eyed there are few of these restaurants that appeal nd to the foreigner who may have tasted better Chinese fare in their home country, will ultimately be a disappointment. A large amount of Vietnamese headed to Poland in the late 80s and early 90s, a fair proportion of them sell trinkets some have done well over the years, particularly in the clothes market. Another option, particularly for the legal residents is to set up a restaurant - judging the food, I can only think that their profession isn't in the kitchen as it is now and that could be one of the reasons for the lack of quality, Poles don't tend to use a great deal of spice in their cooking and this could also be one of the reasons, otherwise it could just be that such a huge amount of meat, veg and sauce is hard to knock up for such a cheap price without the meat having to come from suspect supplies. Either way, unless you want Pol Pot running riot in your stomach, I'd tread vary carefully and not just step in to any old Asian take away in Poland if you want your meal to be enjoyable. Close
Written by marif on 23 Mar, 2004
1. Park Lazienkowski was formerly the hunting grounds of Ujazdow castle but once acquired by King Stanislaw Poniatowski in the 18th century, it was transformed into a lovely park-palace complex. The park can be reached easily on foot from the city centre in about 20…Read More
1. Park Lazienkowski was formerly the hunting grounds of Ujazdow castle but once acquired by King Stanislaw Poniatowski in the 18th century, it was transformed into a lovely park-palace complex. The park can be reached easily on foot from the city centre in about 20 minutes. From Plac Trzech Krzyzy, walk straight ahead along Ul Ujazdowskie. Poland's parliament stands on your left while the other side is mostly occupied by embassy residences.
After going past the charming Botanical gardens and the interesting Astronomical Observatory, you'll reach Lazienki's main entrance, a huge gateway guarded by the monumental historic statue of Frederick Chopin. During the summer season, Chopin piano concerts are held here daily at noon in memory of Poland's greatest and most beloved composer.
Enter the park and stroll along Lazienki's main promenade towards the Old Orangery, a medium-sized structure that houses an excellent exhibition of Polish sculptures. The promenade itself is adorned with a variety of rare trees, busts of Roman emperors and elegant fountains. Continue straight ahead along the King's Promenade until you reach the Palace upon the Water. Considered as the most prominent structure in the park, this beautiful palace is the work of architect Domenico Merlini. Renovated after the war, it houses numerous fine furnishings and a unique Greek-style bathroom decorated with a profusion of bas-reliefs. The Amphitheatre, also designed by Merlini on the edge of a lake is a perfect summer venue for plays and musical performances.
Lazienki is much more than this. It is Warsaw's most famous recreation spot. It is a place where Warsaw's rich cultural heritage has been perfectly blended with the city's most fascinating natural environment.
2. Wilanow, 6kms from the city centre is a park-palace complex designed by architect Augustyn Locci for King Jan III Sobieski in 1677. The original design was made to imitate a typical Italian village; hence, the name Wilanow, a corruption of the Italian words villa nova. The park can be reached from the city centre by Bus 116, Bus 130 or Bus 410 in less than 30 minutes. From the Wilanow stop, cross the main thoroughfare and go in the direction of the church. On your right, drawn backwards from the road, you'll find Wilanow's main gateway.
The highlight of the park is Wilanow's palace, a symmetric construction whose artistically decorated exterior hides a profusion of equally fascinating interior furnishings. The grand hall, the dining-room and the gallery are majestic displays of opulence and romanticism. Several grand portraits of Jan Sobieski adorn the walls of the building.
The amazing garden that surrounds the palace is actually a combination of three gardens in one. A Chinese-style romantic garden lies on the south edge of the park while an English-style garden occupies the space north of the palace. The most splendid is unquestionably the central Baroque Italian-style garden, a delightful environment of beautiful pathways that meander along perfectly trimmed shrubs and hedgerows.
An amazing profusion of monuments, garden pavilions and blooming shrubs make Wilanow a breathtaking place for everyone.
3. Picturesque, historically interesting and ideal for a stroll, Ogrod Saski is a small public park that offers a perfect combination of paved walkways, recreation spots and lush greenery. Located a stone's throw away from the Old Town and Krakowskie Przedmiescie, it is an English-style summer garden whose beauty is enhanced by old chestnut trees, stone fountains and rows of lifesize statues that stand proudly along the garden paths.
From Krakowskie Przedmiescie, take ul Krolewska that soon opens into Plac Pilsudskiego. Walk towards the west side of the square where you'll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb itself is the remaining part of the arcades of Saxon Palace designed by Stanislaw Ostrowski in 1925 for King August II. Since the remains of an unknown soldier were interred in the tomb, the place became a national symbol of bravery and heroism. Foreign delegations come here to put wreaths and pay homage to the soldiers who died to defend their country. At noon every Sunday, the square becomes the venue for the formal ceremony of the changing of the guard.
Behind the tomb is the public garden, opened for the first time in 1727. The goblet-shaped fountain ringed with an array of blooming shrubs was designed by Henryk Marconi in 1850 and was one of the few monuments that survived the war. The main promenade behind the fountain is adorned with a collection of 21 Baroque lifesize statues, allegories of the Virtues, the Sciences and the Elements. On one side of the garden, a small lake surrounded by willows stands out amidst a conglomeration of chestnut trees. Perched above it, the picturesque classicist building you see is Vesta's temple. Right on the lakeside, a tiny cabin houses a cafe and pastry shop where you can relax over a cup of coffee amidst enchanting surroundings.
Ogrod Saski is a great place for a walk away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Lined with an abundance of stone benches that fill up its numerous walkways, it is also ideal for relaxation. By day, particularly in summer, it offers a calm environment characterized by quietness, seclusion and tranquillity. However, all this changes after sunset when the garden is taken over by drunks, drug addicts and hooligans. Don't come here after dark because the place becomes daringly dangerous and unsafe.