Warsaw in a little less than 24 hours
I flew into Warsaw, Poland because I booked a flight on American with miles. I initially tried to book through a lot of cities: Helsinki, Munich, London, Stockholm. When I saw that Warsaw was an option, with a layover at London Heathrow, I jumped at the chance to go. I decided to make the focus of my trip the Baltics and/or countries whose history was deeply affected by WWII and Soviet rule. I learned so much about Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania in my travels, but this post is solely dedicated to Warsaw.
I booked a shared Airbnb for this trip since it was a short stay and because I didn’t do much research for Warsaw other than consulting some people I’d messaged with on Instagram! The world in 2016 is an interesting place and so small. I also really like the shared Airbnb at least one point on the trip, it was nice to ease into my travels with a host who was a native English-speaker (from London) and very helpful, social, and friendly. My host, Al, gave me some great suggestions as to where to go and what to do, a map to help me, a rundown of the neighborhoods, and some history of the city. My last night there we actually ended up grabbing a beer and some food at one of his favorite places.
My first evening there I dined at a fairly nice restaurant called Dwie Trzecie and ordered an asparagus starter, Hungarian duck for my main plate, as well as a glass of wine and then a beer. I enjoyed eating dinner on their patio even though it was a bit chilly. The waitress brought me a blanket midway through the meal! I had a scarf/shawl with me but needed more. That was one thing I noticed throughout my trip, the patios had blankets over the chairs for people to use while sitting outside, it was a nice way to enjoy the changing temperature during an evening meal. The full day I had in Warsaw, I woke up early and hit the streets. I ate a leisurely breakfast at Charlotte (French toast with orange and an almond milk latte) for around $6 and it appeared to be a hip spot. Al had recommended it, it opened at 7, and since I was awake early, I was there right after it opened. I also enjoyed the walk there from the Airbnb - I was snapping photos constantly!
After breakfast at Charlotte, I had plans to stroll to Polin and spend most of the morning there. Polin is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It is extremely well done and very educational. It describes the history of Jews in Poland from the Middle Ages through the present. Before traveling to the Baltics, I have to admit my knowledge of Jewish history and of Eastern European history was limited. I knew of the two big events in history for that area of the world: WWII and Soviet occupation. I came home with a new appreciation for all of the freedoms I have as well as a renewed appreciation for all of the differences that make the world an interesting and diverse place.
I didn’t take many photos in Polin because I was reading and learning and observing. I really think it is something that needs to be seen in person and posting photos on here in order to explain will not do it justice, so I will not.
After Polin, I walked to Old Town to get my first taste of the older part of the city. The Old Town was originally built in the 13th century, and although much of it was reconstructed after German occupation and WWII, it is still beautiful, quaint, and charming. I found a cute little side street and ate lunch at Shabby Chic Coffee and Wine bar for a very reasonable $7 or so. I had soup, sandwich, and a beer and then just wandered through Old Town taking pictures of the quiet side streets, the city, the Vistula River, and the other tourists. It was a beautiful spring day - almost a little too warm. I was worried I had packed all of the wrong clothes and bought a sleeveless dress at Muji in Old Town, in case I needed to wear it later in the trip. Luckily, that was the warmest day of my trip and I never needed that dress the entire trip. It’s gotten a lot of wear since I’ve returned to Chicago though.
My afternoon was spent taking a break in the Chopin museum. It was a small museum but interesting and my favorite part was listening to some of Chopin’s works on the headphones (particularly waltzes!) and seeing several of his original pianos. I also did not know he had spent so much of his time in Paris - I can completely understand why though as it is my favorite city. After the Chopin museum, I browsed the shops and eventually it started to rain heavily and I ducked into the nearest cafe and ordered a beer. It appeared to be mostly Russians, and the waitress brought me a Russian menu and then a Polish menu and I asked for an English one. It is very nice to blend when traveling, at no point did anyone automatically speak English to me on the street, in a restaurant, or in a museum.
After wandering the city for the better part of the day, I went back to my Airbnb to rest up, have some tea and Theraflu (for real) and chat with Al. We ended up getting some dinner at a place in his neighborhood called Seafood (which is what I ate) and a local coconut beer that was served in a hollowed out coconut shell - Hawaii in Warsaw. :) The place was connected to Beirut Hummus and Music bar - which was very crowded and popular. I wished I had another day there because it was such a busy place and I loved the energy of it! Beirut was directly across the street from Tel Aviv Cafe. Haha, appreciate the joke there. Al told me there used to be a statue of a tank at Tel Aviv with its gun pointed at Beirut and everyone thought it was a funny joke and tolerated it, but then someone complained and they removed it. Such is life.
My time is Warsaw was short and sweet, as was my time in Amsterdam and Paris at the end of this trip. I kind of enjoyed having a little preview of Poland, a country I’d definitely like to return to some day. This was my time in Warsaw and I recommend the places I’ve been to, but as this post is really long, I’d also like to write a post on my impressions of the city, quirks, and getting around - sort of a how-to for Warsaw. So stay tuned.