Photos from top left to right and down: 1) Me, bracing myself for the public transportation experience in a very foreign language and after a VERY long day of travel 2) the 4,40 zł (about $1.15) 3) Graffiti from the train ride into Warsaw 4) On my walk to Charlotte, a view of the Kościół Najświętszego Zbawiciela on the Place Zbawiciela 5) A monument to honor Polish soldiers 6) View of the Palace of Culture and Science, a 1950′s Soviet landmark and “gift” 7) A bus stop advertisement that I found interesting 8) One of Chopin’s pianos
I went to Warsaw not really knowing what to expect. It was my introduction to Eastern Europe. It was a modern, beautiful, and cosmopolitan city, filled with friendly and reserved people.
My first night I dined alone on a patio - it was a cool Thursday night and fairly late by the time I arrived at the restaurant so it was pretty quiet. One of the things I like about traveling alone is that you get to watch and listen to all of the other people around you going about their daily lives. At dinner that night, I was surrounded by several tables of locals who I enjoyed observing: four middle-aged adults (two couples), two businessmen, a young couple, two girls and one guy (a couple and a friend). I chatted with the latter, because I liked one of the girl’s dresses. She told me where she got it and told me she had a similar one and then they asked me where I was from. We chatted briefly and they told me that they hoped I enjoyed my dinner and my stay in Warsaw.
The second day at Charlotte, I ate breakfast outside again in the cool morning air. I was surrounded by businessmen and a man who had just gotten off of his very fancy motorcycle/sport bike (which he had been photographing - $10 says I could find those photos on Instagram). I later learned this restaurant is pretty trendy and the Plaza (Place) it is on, is a trendy spot. It was a quiet crowd, I didn’t chat with anyone, but again, I enjoyed observing. I watched the outdoor patio fill up with fashionable women and a few tourists - I did hear some English!
I really do appreciate the slower pace of life in Europe. I loved watching people get on with their early Friday morning, especially since it was a weekday and I was seeing people headed to work, teenagers headed to school, moms and/or dads walking the kids to school. Upon my return to the US, I ate lunch at the bar of an Italian place near my work on a Friday afternoon and though it was 1:30 or 2 pm, late for lunch, all of the servers and bartenders were rushing around like maniacs. It was kind of annoying to me. That is less common in European restaurants. Life is slower, there is no major rush. I’m not saying people are lazy, not even close! I just really appreciate the slower pace, there are more opportunities to observe and appreciate.
Before I get too long-winded, I want to close out with this last observation on nightlife. I didn’t stay out late, my body clock was still adjusting, I had a marathon to run in a few days, and late nights just really are not my thing. But my Airbnb host did tell me that Polish people like to stay out very late. I observed this on Saturday morning as I was leaving for the Warsaw airport to go to RĪga. My flight was at 7:20 am and so my taxi arrived at 5:15, since the airport was pretty close and there was no traffic. (I highly recommend being at the airport 2 hours before your flight ESPECIALLY if you’re departing to go back to the United States). However, at 5:15 in the morning, there were many people outside of the various clubs and bars, smoking and still enjoying their night out. I could never, I just wasn’t made for that late of a “night.” The Polish know how to party.
You can’t smoke inside of businesses in Warsaw, it seems, so people would gather outside and smoke. At home, I hate cigarette smoke - in Europe, it doesn’t really bother me. I think it is because I know it is never going away. It did seem that there are a lot more smokers in Eastern Europe than I’ve ever noticed in Western Europe. I don’t have a problem with that, it is just an observation.