Warsaw, City of Contrasts

with 16 Comments

If I were to use only one word to describe Warsaw, I would use reinvented. Why? Because it seems to me Warsaw reinvents itself every step of the way.

We spent the 6th day of our 1 month InterRail journey through Europe in Warsaw. First thing we saw when getting out of the main train station was this huge building commissioned by Stalin, now the Palace of Culture and Sciences, supposedly the tallest building in whole Poland. However, from  just looking around at the new skyscrapers that have been erected in the last years, our common sense told us this won’t be the case for long.
Warsaw has the feeling of a big capital, with professional but less personal treatment, with skyscrapers taking the place of the old communist buildings, while the older generation is still selling fruits and flowers on the street corner. Warsaw is a city of contrasts nevertheless.
At the same time, the old city center, completely destroyed during the WWII, has been rebuilt to its former glory and beauty, and though some might say it now lacks historical value, truth is, it has a magical aura surrounding it. But then this is the case with other Polish cities. Many of Poznan’s attractions were repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt as well.
Like in Krakow, we also joined the Warsaw free walking tour. As I explained before, the free walking tours are an amazing concept, offering people of all ages the possibility of learning about a place and discovering it’s secret corners while paying only if they want, as much as they want.
Jacek, our Warsaw guide, took us through the little cobbled streets of the old town, explained us the city now and then and showed us spots WWII related.
He also showed us the house where Marie Currie was born.
Jacek was a great guide. He spoke loud and clear over the noise of the big city, gave us tips and generously shared with the group his knowledge about the Warsaw.
He also showed us one big bell that is supposed to fulfill your wildest dreams if you go around it while touching it with your finger. We gave it a try. Hope it works!
Right in the middle of the Market Square, Jacek stopped and told us a beautiful legend by the statue of the Warsaw mermaid. She is the warrior sister of the Little Mermaid from Copenhagen. She came to Warsaw a long time ago and did what all mermaids do and as a result people got angry and wanted to kill her. But the son of the king liberated her and in return she promised to forever protect the city from its enemy. The promise was kept all the way till the WWII however.
The tour lasted 3 hours and by the time it finished, we were melting down. We never expected this much heat so up north. There were around 36ΒΊC and the sun was burning and all we wanted at that point was to find haven at the shadow of a tree, as not many cafes in Warsaw are air conditioned.
Warsaw has surprisingly many parks. And they look gorgeous too. First we relaxed in a park right in the city center, between some amazing statues. There was a strong scent of linden flowers in the air. Basically ever since we started traveling through Eastern Europe, more than one month ago, in Romania, we were accompanied by this scent throughout our journey as we traveled upper north and the trees bloomed later.
Warsaw also has this incredible Chopin singing benches. At the touch of a button they playing a Chopin score.
Reminiscent of the recently ended Euro 2012, the football fan mermaid is to be found all over the city.
Next we visited the Wilanow Palace and Gardens. The palace is probably the most beautiful in whole Poland. The upper level is more like a portrait gallery than anything else and the facade reminded us a lot of the one in Potsdam .
Just before sunset, we went for a relaxing stroll through the Lazienki Gardens. These gardens actually are a thick forest right in the middle of the city, with some very tall trees, cute and friendly squirrels and the wonderful Water Palace, with a colony of beautiful peacocks in its vicinity.
We ended our day in Warsaw with a traditional Polish dinner in the old town. We haven’t seen anywhere else before more beautifully decorated terraces. They are surrounded by vegetation and lit lanterns and strings of lights, just like the ones we use to decorate the Christmas tree.

You can also see our month long Interrail itinerary and read our tips for traveling Europe with an Interrail pass. Have you used an Interrail pass before or are you planning an Interrail trip in the near future? Please leave us your feedback. It means the world to us.
Though we used the Interrail Global Pass for our journey, it’s worth noting that single country passes are also available.

16 Responses

  1. Agness Walewinder
    | Reply

    I'm so glad to find some nice articles about Warszawa. It's definitely one of my favourite cities in Poland. Love it so much and I wish I visited Poland more often.

  2. jessica philip
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    If your in Warsaw this is an absolute must! it's not far from the palace of culture… 3 min cab ride. You can't go to warsaw with out seeing old town!
    http://www.globogirls.com/place/22-Warsaw

  3. As a Krakow native, I've never been overly keen on Warsaw. There's an age-old tension (good-hearted, nevertheless) between the two cities – we each think we're superior. :)) But I do have to say that Warsaw does have beautiful places to visit, and is certainly a busy, hectic metropolis with lots to do. You have some beautiful pictures in this post! πŸ™‚

    Enjoy your time in Central/Eastern Europe and up north!

    • Laura
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      Thank you Pola, we loved Krakow so much!! You are lucky to live in such a beautiful city πŸ™‚

  4. Jade - OurOyster.com
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    I really want to go to Poland some day… I have so many Polish friends.. I really ought to visit their country

    • Laura
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      We really liked Poland. It's a beautiful country & we definitely recommend it.

  5. Angela
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    Lovely post, I went to Warsaw only once, stayed only one day, and it was pouring like crazy although it was July. I didn't have the chance to fully enjoy what the city has to offer and it didn't leave me much impressed. Might have to go back πŸ˜‰

    • Laura
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      There's a pretty big difference between the way we see a city depending on weather, isn't it? Now that we are in Scandinavia and one minute it is raining the other it is sunny, I can really attest to this.

  6. Emily in Chile
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    I knew NOTHING about Warsaw before this – interesting stuff!

    • Laura
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      We didn't know much about Warsaw either before visiting and we definitely didn't expect the city we've found. It was a pleasant surprise.

  7. A Montrealer Abroad
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    Gorgeous photos – Poland really is fascinating!

    • Laura
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      It is indeed. I never though I would enjoy it so much.

  8. Pete Heck
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    I want to spend a good amount of time exploring Poland. This damn Schengen visa get out for 90 days thing is messing up the program πŸ™‚ Hopefully next year.

    • Laura
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      I'm sure Poland is fascinating beyond the big cities too. We've witnessed some gorgeous landscapes from the train.

  9. MIchelle
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    I love your photos! I'm planning on going to Poland…probably around Christmas this year! πŸ™‚ If you have any questions about Germany, feel free to ask me πŸ™‚ I was there last year, and moving back in a month to teach English there!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Whoa! Moving to Germany! Think about all the bakeries you'll discover and the pastries you will eat!!! πŸ™‚
      Thanks for offering to give us tips πŸ™‚

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