The Phoenix city
Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
62Trip End Apr 04, 2006
ˇ Prague time +0hrs
ˇ Days to get to Prague - 3
The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see
- G.K. Chesterton
Too early for us... but not for some
Having just about managed to catch, what turned out to be, the almost empty overnight bus from Vilnius to Warsaw, we found ourselves 'delivered' to some shady looking bus terminal on the outskirts of Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It was 7am and I seem to remember cursing how early it was. I know, I know, 7am isn't that early. But it was still dark and coming off an overnight bus trip it felt way too early to be out and about. And it was obviously too early for the bus station as well because everything was nicely closed, including the bus station Euroline ticket office.
"Guess we'll have to wait around for a bit Henk".
So we did, and decided to pass some of the time waiting for the ticket office to open by freshening up in the bus station toilet and getting some breakfast in a basement café, both tasks proving quite the adventure. The toilet was manned by some guy looking for payment to use the facilities. We were soon to learn having to pay for such facilities in Warsaw was the norm, and after withdrawing some local currency (the zloty, with the € buying you about 4.5 of 'em) and handing over the asking price of 1 zloty, we tended to business. Next stop was the nearby café that, even at 7am, seemed to act as a bar for early morning revellers.
"2 eggs - scrambled, bacon, sausage and toast. No tomato.. oh, and an Okocim please".
It was here, over our uninspiring roll and equally uninspiring tea, that we decided on our plan of action for Warsaw. God bless guidebooks. With, evidently, not a whole lot to see we decided a day was all we needed to do the place justice and decided that when the bus ticket office actually decided to open we'd look for tickets for an evening departure to Krakow, our next stop in the south of the country. The only problem was getting the tickets. We hung around the station until 9:40, by which time the Eurolines office still hadn't opened and, regardless of the posted opening times on the door, it wasn't showing any signs of doing so anytime soon. So we reluctantly went with transport option 'B', the government buses, and without much hassle we soon had two tickets for an 11:05pm departure to Krakow.
So with our adventures in the bus station over we set about seeing what Warsaw had to offer. I'd always wanted to come to Warsaw, which, I guess, is a bit weird. I mean, I've had friends visit Krakow before and they spoke very highly of it. But I've never heard of anyone recapping, let alone praising, a visit to Warsaw. So what fuelled my desire to get here? Well, it certainly wasn't because I could produce a list of unmissable city tourist attractions. I can't, or I should say, I couldn't. So what then? I guess it boils down to me being a World War II buff, and anyone who classes themselves as such will, or should have, read a lot about this city, most of it making for depressing reading. Even those with a passing interest in war might know that Warsaw was virtually demolished during WWII and, if I was pushed for a reason as to why I wanted to get here it would be because I was keen to see how the city had rebuilt itself. Good enough, right?
To The Old Town & back again
So now that you know what I was looking forward to I'll let you all know it wasn't really that exciting. And we walked a lot. But that's okay; we'd nothing else to do, except kill time. From the bus station we walked down a long, long street called Jerozolimskie. That brought us past the mammoth Palace of Culture and Science to Centrum subway station. At this stage the Henkster was feeling a little patriotic (must have been all the war talk?) so after a quick detour to the Australian embassy we continued up Nowy Swiat and Krakowskie Przedmiescie, which, after stop offs outside the Chopin Museum, the Church of the Holy Cross and Saxon Gardens, brought us to Warsaw's premier attraction, Plac Zamkowy (Castle Square) and the entrance to Warsaw's (new) Old Town. In here we got acquainted with some medieval artists (!) and reacquainted with picturesque public squares, pastel buildings, and church spires. The usual UNESCO World Heritage protected Old Town stuff. How blasé they become when one sees them day after day. Oh, and we also got reacquainted with the Polish penchant for charging an arm and a leg to use the toilet. wtf? See the accompanying pictures for the complete low-down of our time in the city and for some nice pictures of the reconstructed Old Town. It's pretty impressive.
With a full day tramping around Warsaw under our belts, and with hours still left to kill, we retraced our steps and headed back towards the bus station, stopping off at the aforementioned Palace of Culture and Science to take in the movie 'Syriana'. If anyone understands that one please get back to me/us. And after all that what did we have to look forward to? A trip to McDonalds (where the whole access to the toilet adventure reached new heights... see the pictures) and another overnight bus trip. But at least we're moving nicely along. Not too many stops left. Boo hoo.