17 Lug A totally adventure, Warsaw in Winter
by Sandra Martinez from Spain
If you are an adventurous traveller and you want to discover the old Europe, you should visit Warsaw, an ex-communist jewel that might be hard to get to know.
The first thing to know is that cold is made in Poland. When I was there, I suffered extreme temperatures (like -15 degrees). Jackets, scarfs, boots, socks, two pairs of trousers, gloves, hat, more socks… Okay, everything is needed to be on the street and go sightseeing.
Money is the other important thing. In Poland they use zloty, so although they are part of the European Union since 2004, they don’t use euros. This is an advantage for the people who are going to travel there because of the change, we always win. (More or less, one euro is four zloty.)
In my case, I changed the money in my city mostly because I just panic if I don’t plan everything. If you prefer to postpone it until you arrive to Warsaw, there are exchange offices at the airport (but the change could be different).
Of course, in Poland they speak Polish. As an English speaker I thought I could communicate with the native people there in English. Poor me! Luckily, I’d bought a pocket dictionary and I could search some important words as for ordering food or say hello (cześć!).
At the restaurants, at least if you don’t go to the typical tourist ones, they don’t have anything in English. This is the funny part. You don’t know what you are ordering for lunch. I give you some tips (not for vegans):
- Kielbasa: sausages
- Placki: potato pancakes
- Golabki: stuffed cabagge
- Pierogi: like the japanese gyozas.
- Zapiekanka: a baguette with cheese, ham… on it. Like an Italian panini.
- Barszcz: beet soup.
- Chlodnik: cold soup.
- Zurek: the most famous polish dish. It’s a sour flour and sausage soup with eggs and vegetables. It’s served in a big bread.
- Pomidorowa: tomato soup.
- Schnitzel: breaded meat.
Favourite types of restaurants are the “Milk Bars” (bar mleczny). They are small self-service cafeterias with traditional food and there are very very cheap. Here are a few ones:
Restaurante Pierogarnia na Bednarskiej (Ulica Bednarska 28/30)
You can only order pierogis. Each portion contains six pierogis and it cost 3 euros. You can choose between meet, cheese, lentil… It’s the only restaurant where I could find mineral water without gas! And the owner is very friendly.
Bar Mleczny Prasowy (Marszałkowska Street 10/16)
The have an English menu but it may be different from the Polish one. The food is delicious and every dish come with rice or smashed potatoes. It’s always full of people in peak hours but it’s opened until 20:00. The price is 4 euros for a menu.
Mleczarnia Jerozolimska (Nowy Swiat Street)
Similar to the others bars, but the views of the Palac Kulturi I Nauki are amazing. You can eat enjoying a view of the most emblematic building in Warsaw.
The menu includes self-service salad, soup and a main course with side dish.
And if you get bored of pierogis, there is a modern restaurant in Marszałkowska Street, 140. It’s called Manekin. (Their web: http://manekin.pl/warszawa.html)
The ambient there is fantastic and the decoration reminds of a Magritte picture. There are typical soups with a new touch, and a large list or salad and sweet crepes.
It might be more expensive than the milk bars, also quite cheap.
About the travel
Some people ask me why I chose to travel to Poland. It was kind of a not-planned-at-all trip because it was the cheapest travel I found for my winter holidays. Naturally, I didn’t have any idea of what to do (and photograph) there. My first option was looking on the Internet, but everything I found were Second War Museums, typical places, restaurants… (nothing interesting for me, I prefer walking around the cities and discovering my own favourite places.) So, it was totally an adventure.
My flight took off from Madrid and arrived in Modlin, the Ryanair Airport in Warsaw. It’s about 45 minutes from the city centre where my hotel was located.
The transport from Modlin to Warsaw is very simple. From the comfort of our homes we can buy the tickets for 6 euros. (Here: https://www.modlinbus.com/) These buses leave us next to the Palac Kulturi i Nauki.
Our hotel is the Lofthotel Sen Pszczoly in Piękna Street (about 15 minutes walking from Centrum). It’s half hostel half hotel, with a common kitchen and the possibility of shared bathrooms. The owners, who also have a bar and a gallery in the Prague district, have taken care of the decoration in order to create ambiences in each one. Our room was Space Time, and it had a curious lamp and barber’s chairs. In addition, the leitmotiv of the whole hotel is the doors, curious remnants of lifts in a purest vintage style. The bathroom despite being private was in another room and I had to cross the corridor in pyjama, such a pleasure. That might be the only downpoint.
Different things to see
I’m not going to talk about historical museums or monuments (because the best thing to discover that is to buy a guide and follow it). I want to relate the things that impressed me about Warsaw (and made me love this city).
Zacheta Gallery (Malachowskiego Square)
It’s a museum of modern art. At the moment there are two expositions about Polish folklore and architecture. The tickets cost 4’5 euros and it’s a fantastic place to space from cold. The information is in English too, so you won’t miss anything!
Stare Miasto (The Old Distrit)
You can get there by tram from the city centre. Stare Miasto is the oldest part of Warsaw. It’s demarcated by the Vistula River, Grodzka, Mostowa and Podwale streets. The center is the Market Square, and through its medieval cobbled streets we can see cafés and traditional shops (there are plenty of souvenirs for tourists). We can also visit the Royal Castle (Zamek Krolewski) and photograph its impressive tower.
The best way to see this part of the city is to get lost in its streets and discover the old-new Warsaw that survived the Second World War.
Prague District is another of those areas to discover walking. By the time we went (I guessed it was already 12 a.m., more or less) the bars were closed. But it is worth saying that this district is plenty of curious clubs for a drink. We walked around the streets (Brzeska Street, Kijovska Street, Zabrowska Street), including Markowska Street.
There is an area called Soho Factory which is actually an ex industrial zone. Now, there are small independent stores and a Warsaw must, the Neon Museum (Minska Street, 25). The ticket price is 3 euros. At the entrance, there are information panels about the use of neon in the Polish trades of the 80’s. Inside the museum you can’t take photos, but come on, you can with a little discretion, of course.
In this district you can find Bazar Rózyckiego (calle Targowa, 54), too. The oldest market in Warsaw. Moreover, the streets are full of urban art.
Centrum Nauki Kopernik
It’s a big science museum where you can discover things about human body, robots and physics playing with the museum elements.
The ticket is 6 euros and you need about 2 hours to see it all. Keep in mind that the museum closes at 6 p.m.
Palac Kultury i Nauki
The gigantic building (237 meters high) inherited from the Soviets. You can go inside where there are offices, a cafeteria and best of all, a lookout. The price of the lookout is 5 euros but it’s definetely worth it.
You can get to go up to the 30th floor, where the views of Warsaw are heart-breaking. (Also the COLD here is heart-breaking. I recommend to go extra bundled up).
As you can imagine, it’s a huge park in the middle of the city. When I got there it was like being in Siberia. I took amazing photographs and I fell on the floor few times because of the ice and snow.
In spite of what I could imagine, Warsaw offer a lot to do and it fascinated me. I also became resistant to cold! You go back home with a lot of good vibes and vodka (which is pretty cool).
Take a look at my personal page : ohohcomely.blogspot.com