The only way is up!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2012
Trip End Jan 12, 2012

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Flag of Poland  , Mazowieckie,
Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Boring' is the word Alexandra wishes to use to describe the Warsaw leg of the trip. It hasn't been the high point, mostly because the girls have spent most of the time holed up in the hotel room, sick with a virus that has left them with little energy to do much else.

On a positive note, if you are going to be holed up in a hotel then the Intercontinental is a pretty fine place to be. Christmas Day was particularly special, as we sat down to a magnificent spread which included absolutely everything you could wish to eat and drink. We paid about $100 a family for a sumptuous feast, alcohol included.

After dinner the girls seemed to recover so we went for an evening swim in the hotel pool up on the 43rd floor which overlooks the Palace of Culture, a massive monument given by Stalin to the people of Warsaw. Needless to say the people of Warsaw hate it, but from a tourist perspective it's a pretty interesting looking structure. It was lit up on Christmas night with coloured lights and I convinced Saskia that the fairies were holding a Christmas party there. Saskia now refers to the Palace of Culture as the 'Fairy Disco'. (I can't work out how to cut and paste the professional photos from the Internet yet but if you get the chance google Intercontinental Warsaw and then go to images. It will make more sense).

Daniel can rest in the knowledge that his parents seem very much at home. My observation is that they have found their clan, their people. That's all that needs to be said.

Unfortunately the girls have not spent much time with Babcia and Dziadek owing to the fact that they don't seem to know how to use their mobile phone and so our attempts to contact them and make arrangements went unanswered. Both Daniel and his parents have gone into 'jelly fish mode' where no-one's brain seems to be working.

Wigilia (Christmas Eve) was an interesting experience. Not what I expected. It was held in a neon lit room over a dentists surgery with about 30 people. Saskia fell asleep at about 9pm so I took her into a nearby room and lay with her on a couch. I also managed to doze off and was woken at about 11pm, with Daniel telling me it was time to go home. We got into a car and took a 45 minute drive home (I think we were in the Warsaw equivalent of Frankston). Just for the record, there was no alcohol involved. There was a bible reading, and some Polish Christmas carol singing, but apparently no vodka until the day after. We enjoyed warm hospitality from these kind strangers, and I hope it meant something to B & D that we were there.

Daniel has not really found his sense of place, of roots. His old family apartment is in a part of the city that is largely unrecognisable. He managed to get out and about and explore whilst I stayed inside with the girls and he tells me that he feels Warsaw seems a mass of contradictions. I'll get him to put his thoughts down by himself.

My take on this city is that it just carries so much emotional baggage. I don't know if its the 1950's communist architecture or the black slushy ice covering the cobblestones, the weather or the omnipresent monuments to the heroes and the fallen but it is quite a depressing city, seemingly chained to its past with a very heavy heart. Maybe we see this more than tourists with no connection to Poland, because B and D have made a point of ensuring we understand the suffering of the Polish people. I guess that's one of the reasons B&D seem happy here - they're surrounded by like minded people who understand their pain far better than we ever could.

Still, I'm not convinced its cheaper than Melbourne. Admittedly, my shopping experience has been limited to the tourist part of Warsaw but it is no cheaper than Melbourne. The only thing that seems cheaper is beer and Vodka! I bought a bottle of vodka to take to Wigilia (not sure where it ended up) and a 750ml bottle of Wybrowa cost me $10! Normally about $35 in Australia. But the big stores such as Zara, Hugo Boss, H&M etc are charging exactly what you would pay in Australia. I'm sure groceries etc are cheaper, and accommodation too. But in terms of clothing Babcia will have to use the Internet if she's going to keep up the fashion stakes.

Our hotel has been good value though and we'll stay here again when we return on the 7th of January for our last three days (after the French/Swiss leg of the trip which starts tonight). A good sized spaghetti with meatballs delivered to your room with all the bells and whistles costs about $6 Australian. Our buffet breakfasts have been magnificent, with everything on offer. The girls have been enjoying cereal, eggs, fruit and juice, probably eating 3 times more than they would at home. It seems we eat enough (at about 10am each morning), to last until early dinner, so we're hardly spending any money.

We have a 4.25pm flight to Geneva where we collect our car and drive to Chateau de Divonne.. Saskia is very excited about seeing the castle and has asked if the Queen will be there. We're there for tonight and tomorrow night before we drive around Lake Geneva to Thollon Les Memises, for what I hope will be the highlight of the trip. I'm praying that Daniel (who is also feeling poorly today) and the girls' spirits will be lifted by this beautiful part of the world. The only way is up!
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Leonie on

Sorry to hear that the girls have been down with a virus - hoping things will run their course and they'll be we'll again before too long. I do understand your perceptions of Warsaw - we remember back long ago when we were in Krakow - much the same impression - old and new struggling to co- exist, the past evident on every street corner, dull, grey, grimy, busy on the outskirts where we stayed but the city itself magnificent historically, grand, a little decayed in parts but very scenic. Hard to get food, no English and very expensive back in 1995. In contrast the countryside was spectacular the scenery majestic and the churches beautiful - both grand and quaint. Hope all is well and that you get to retrace your family tree and your roots! That is priceless. In Krakow the people adore Pope John Paul 11. What a wonderful man in all his efforts for the Polish resistance during WW2. Definitely my favourite Pope. Loved the way he kissed the earth for every country he visited ( I went to outdoor mass at Flemington Race track with my dad back in the day when he visited Australia) the air was electric when he passed by
Enjoy your visit back home x

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