Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
26Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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On the morning of Sunday 29 April, we packed our luggage and walked to the train station to get the train to Warsaw. We got there early, but couldn't get on an earlier train because we would need to buy new tickets that were three-times the price. We waited for our train, and it was mayhem when everyone went to get on it! There were no spare seats in the first carriage we tried, so we went to the next carriage, and got seats in the first cabin we tried. It was a three hour ride, and there was some nice Polish countryside (farmland and forests). We read most of the way.
We arrived in Warsaw and walked to the rental office to get the keys. It was a very hot day! And it was a dry heat. We got the keys and waited for a cab across the street, with cab vouchers from the rental office. The cab took longer to arrive than we were told it would, and we almost left to walk to our apartment with all of our luggage in the heat, but then we saw the cab and were driven to the Old Town. We dropped off our luggage and left to find a place for lunch. We walked a little through the Old Town and past the Royal Castle, and down the Royal Route, and had lunch at a German-type cafe.
We looked at what to do for the rest of the afternoon in some brochures, and decided to do the Warsaw Ghetto walking tour. We walked to some old tenement buildings from the Ghetto. Most are being renovated at the moment, but there was one that was still original. We went to a synagogue nearby (the only one pre-War still in use) and had a look inside. We walked to a place where part of the Ghetto wall still stands. It is in the backyard of an apartment block. We walked all the way up to the Hero's Memorial, but it was blocked off because they are doing some sort of work around it. We couldn't get close enough to see both sides of the memorial properly, but we worked out a way to see them a little. We bought a giant bottle of water from a supermarket because it was such a hot day! It was very draining!
We walked home and had dinner in the square in the Old Town, which was very pretty! The light in Europe is so lovely at night (as the sun sets so late, I can talk about the "light at night" :P). Perhaps it is because of the angle of the tilt of the Earth, I'm not sure. But the evening light seems different.
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: seeing the remnants from the Warsaw Ghetto.
On the morning of Monday 30 April, we walked around the Old Town to see the pretty buildings. It is interesting because they were almost completely destroyed during WWII, but were restored so faithfully that they have been UNESCO-listed. We walked on the bridge over the Vistula River and walked through a park. We saw several little red squirrels, and a woman fed them. I was worried about rabies :P
We arrived at Warsaw Zoo and got our tickets. When we entered, we saw some flamingos, which I have never seen in real life. We saw several Australian parrots and a kookaburra, which made me smile :) We also saw some vultures, which made me feel a little sick, because of what they are usually associated with eating. We went to the aquarium, which I think was really well done and presented :) We saw mini shrimps, stingrays, seahorses, piranhas and reef fish, including a yellow tang (the character Bubbles from 'Finding Nemo'), clown fish (Nemo and his dad Marlin) and regal tangs (the character Dory) :) It was funny because there were some Polish kids looking at the tank, and they were saying, "Nemo!" :P So it was a hit in Poland too!
We left the aquarium and saw some baboons. We entered the building that houses the gorillas, and they were beautiful :) There were windows around their enclosure, and some little kids were banging on the glass, and one of the gorillas started to get agitated and was banging back, and people were using flash photography, even though it said not to! Dan and I were getting frustrated that people had so little respect. We saw some chimps, lemurs, marmosets, elephants (named Erna, Leon, Fryderyka and Buba), rhinoceros', llamas, and lizards and snakes and crocodiles. We went to see the giraffes, and could see two people on the outside of the opposite fence of the enclosure feeding a giraffe yellow wildflowers (it was leaning its neck over the fence). We started to walk over, but saw a sign saying that we couldn't go down the path to get to where the people were. We realised that they were zoo workers and thought we would try our luck, so we gingerly walked towards them and Dan asked if he could get close to take photos, and they said yes :) If you don't ask, you don't get! We didn't go as close as they were, but we got pretty close :)
We couldn't see the tigers because they weren't visible, but we saw some lions (resting), and I don't think I had ever seen lions in real life before. We went to the hippo pool and went into the building adjoining it, thinking that it would have a large window showing inside the pool and the hippos walking on the bottom :P But it was just an entirely different pool, with large fish in it. In the same building, I saw a peaceful-looking reef aquarium, and it made me feel really calm just watching the fish swimming around, and then Dan pointed out the shark! :P When we went back outside, we saw the hippos in their pool, but only when they surfaced, because the water was not very clear. We saw bison, yaks, a camel, ponies, zebras, deer, a leopard (resting), storks, seals (resting), bears (the brown bear was resting), and an otter. Most of the animals were resting because it was a hot day, again! We went to see the wallabies and kangaroos and emus (all basically resting), and they also made me smile :)
After we left the zoo, we walked to the Praga area of Warsaw because we had read it was pre-War, and we were interested in seeing the buildings. There was lots of roadworks going on, and it was a really hot day, and there were no restaurants on the main street, so we went to the mall, and Dan got sushi and I got Maccas :P We walked back to our apartment and got our internet fixed (it hadn't been working for us since we'd arrived). We walked around the Old Town for a few minutes and then went to a cafe. I got what they call a "cold chocolate", which I thought would be like a chocolate milkshake, but it is actually like cold melted chocolate, and I couldn't finish it because it was too rich! I got Indian takeaway for dinner and Dan made some fish :P
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: going to the Warsaw Zoo, and seeing Australian animals in such a far-away land!
On the morning of Tuesday 1 May, we decided to walk to the Royal Baths Park. It was a nice hour walk down to it, and the park was lovely :) We went to a beautiful palace called Lazienki Palace, which is on a lake. The lake was also lovely, as was the surrounding parklands :) From the front of the Palace, we could hear the honking of peacocks, and there were quite a few at the back of the palace and near the amphitheatre. There was one peacock with its tail feathers fanned standing in the corner of the back courtyard, and people were surrounding it and taking photos, and I felt sorry for the poor thing. It probably just wanted to get away. We walked around the parklands for a little while longer, and then walked back to the Old Town.
There were a lot of police around because it was essentially Poland's Labour Day (it was a public holiday), and there were protests and rallies. We could hear some in the distance. We went to the New Town (also rebuilt after the War) and had lunch at a Jewish-style (though not kosher) restaurant. We had egg-battered veal cutlets, rice, cymes, carrots, raisins and honey. It was tasty.
After lunch, we had a little nap because we were drained from the heat (again!), and then we decided to go to the movies, because we knew that it was open, even though it was a public holiday. We got these really tall ice-creams in cones that seem to be very popular in Warsaw, and walked to the movies. When we arrived, I looked at the poster for our movie ('The Untouchables') and saw that one of the main characters' names was very French-sounding (Francois Cluzet), and we realized that it was a French movie, with Polish subtitles! :P We decided to see it anyway, and it was a really good movie! I would like to see it with English subtitles :P I understood most of what was happening in the movie :P I have since found out that it is the second-highest grossing French film ever (at the French box office), and it has won several awards :)
We bought some supplies to make dinner, and I was going to have an oven pizza, but the oven wasn't working (or, at least, we couldn't get it to work), so I got Subway instead. Krakow was definitely more the place to have Polish food :P
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: seeing a French movie with Polish subtitles :P
- Warsaw has a fantastic mix of architecture, creating interesting compositions.
- The tenements in the Jewish Ghetto that were still original were beautiful.
- It was great breaking up the trip by going to the zoo and having a real cultural experience watching a French movie subtitled in Polish!
- Warsaw has some beautiful parks, especially the Palace on the Lake!