Good F&B, a terrible history & a commie's penis!

Trip Start Apr 28, 2012
Trip End Dec 21, 2012

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Flag of Poland  , Central Poland,
Thursday, August 9, 2012

The bus ride from Klaipeda to Warsaw was a long 10 hour trip. We had decided to skip the Lithuanian capital Vilnius after speaking with other travelers & them saying that it is very similar to the other Baltic capitals. So thats the reason for our first five plus hour transport since the Trans-sibirian. The 10 hours was filled mostly with drinking overpriced beer & laughing about silly signs in the toilet.

We arrived quite late to our hostel & went straight to bed.

Again we arrived in the capital with very little on our “to do” list, so we set off in search of yet another old town.....but this one was different. This old town was completely demolished in WW2 & has been rebuilt to such a standard that it is (apparently) the only heritage listed area that was actually constructed in the 20th century. The market square in the centre is filled with beautiful buildings & like all the other old towns was packed with tourists.

We jostled through to a set of walled gates into the outskirts where we knew that we would find some lunch that didn’t include the “old town tax”. The old town tax is an unofficial tax  that magically gets added to all meal & beverage prices as soon as you enter the walls of any of the old towns. No different to theme parks & sporting events back home only here we have the option to get out to eat & drink somewhere else.

And aren’t we glad we did. A young girl handed us a flyer for a restaurant near by & that took the effort of deciding away from us (a good thing). The little restaurant was quite busy, but we were quickly served by one of the girls in the funny uniforms. We ordered a Hungarian pancake (I know its not Polish). The meal arrived & we were impressed immediately. The pancake is  mashed potato fried into a rounded pancake style, placed on top was a pork stew topped with sour cream & chives. We will be attempting this when we get home as it was one of the best (different meals) we had in a while.

We stopped by a tourist info centre to ask the important question, “where would we be able to find some micro breweries or beer houses?”. We left armed with a few suggestions circled on a map. The first place had good beer, but shit service so we moved on to the sunny side of the street to find the next. Here they had quite a variety. Dani has become a big fan of the cloudy wheat beers & me...well dark beer not only tastes great but it also goes well with the beard. But this time I think I had a pilsner, arh who knows after a stein or two?

One of the very few things on our list to do was visit the Warsaw uprising museum. Rated as the best tourist attraction in town we thought that we would check it out mainly because I wanted to know more about Jewish resistance during the war. Way back when I was in school I remember learning quite a lot about WW2 & I have had an interest in it since then. Of all the history that I had heard, read or seen I had never really heard of the jewish people resisting & we went to the museum to find out more.

Unfortunately for a very large & well funded museum this exhibit had no structure or time line, making it very hard for the average Joe to piece together. It had some very good movies that were informative & one speechless 3D film showing the view of a pilot flying over a demolished Warsaw. The 3D film was good but not worth the extra money & certainly not worth the 45 min line up to get into the 16 seat theatre.

With display after display of guns, a bomber suspended in the main hall & the sound effects of war playing loudly to set the mood, one could feel that they were at a WW2 theme park. Obviously we weren’t very impressed. The place had so much information that if put in an order of occurrence would have taught us a lot about the uprising of Warsaw. Instead we will do what the rest of the world can do..... search it on Wiki for our own knowledge & its free!! Unless you are kind enough donate to Wiki?

Off to find the remains of the Ghetto wall which could very easily have gone unnoticed as it makes up a boundary of a small carpark for an apartment block. We found it by following the address but thought that we would only be able to see it from the road as it was gated off. Luckily a Polish girl handing out restaurant flyers showed us that we can walk in to check it out. 

This was a small part of the of the wall that kept 450,000 Jewish & other minority groups in a 3.2 square kilometer area. Over 100,000 of those died early on of malnutrition, a further 300,000 were taken to Treblinka. Treblinka’s soul purpose for the Nazi’s was to exterminate the Jews, there was no camp, no work & no food for the inhabitants of the ghetto. The trains simply arrived & within an hour the passengers would be gassed & cremated. It is believed that 870,000+ people were murdered on this site north of Warsaw, 800,000 of them were Jews.

It was also behind this ghetto wall that the uprising started on 1st August 1944 & for 63 days there was fierce fighting between the Nazi’s & the Polish resistance movement on the streets of Warsaw. The resistance was very much alone in the fight as the soviets were still sometime off reaching the capital. As the battle went on Polish teenagers joined the fight, many of them felt they needed to do something to fight back before the war was over or it may have gone into history that the Poles did nothing to stop Hitler’s Nazis.

When it started to rain we decided to get some lunch at the restaurant across the road, it was the same restaurant that the girl on the corner was handing out flyers for. Opposite the carpark was a huge mural depicting soldiers as puppets, it seemed appropriate that this art work should be here.

On our way back to the hostel we checked out a huge monstrosity known to locals as “Stalin’s Penis”. Apparently a gift to the working people of Poland it was built in the 50s as Stalin’s palace of culture, but with the fall of the soviets it is now just the palace of culture. Apparently the building is disliked around town & for obvious soviet related reasons but as we walked around it we couldn’t help but be impressed by it communistic beauty. We had seen quite a few (mostly drab) commie buildings by now & this was by far our favorite.

In the evening we went to the main square where some live Jazz was being played to the out door restaurants. We grabbed a beer & sat in the gutter to listen along whilst the sun went behind the historic buildings. A good way to finish the day.

Our bus was booked for 3pm to travel to Krakow, and that was perfect because it gave us enough time to catch a piano concert in the park at midday. All through the summer world renown pianists come to Warsaw’s largest park to play Chopin’s music to the tourists & locals for no charge. Chopin the classical composer is Poland’s second favorite son after Pope John Paul II. We don’t know who the pianist performing was but he was incredible to hear & the concert was a great way to experience music that we have no specific interest in, & best of all it was free.

I was going to include Krakow in this blog but because it includes a visit to the notorious Auschwich death camp I think i’ll write it separately. 
So that was Warsaw.

Big thanks goes to Wikipedia.

Loving every minute

Brent & Dani
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