Poland is the second country I discover in my journey. Recently I meet a lot of people in Spain from Poland and all of them told me good things about this country. What I found out made me fall in love with the country and the people there. And I had the luck that Elise joined me there.
I get to Wroclaw in the evening after an unforgettable train ride where I learnt about the relationship between Germany and Poland.
See Previws post – Germany the Great
Wroclaw is the biggest city in the West of Poland. Next to Germany is the historical capital of the region call Silesia. It became part of Poland after the new boarders in 1945 after the second world war. Before it was part of Germany, Prussia and Austria Empire.
The city was considered in 2015 one of the best cities to live and in 2016 is the European Capital of Culture. It is in true a vivid city with buildings where you can tell its Germanic past.
Once in Wroclaw I was about to meet Elise. She would arrive in town before me but she couldn’t tell me when as she had no network and she were travelling by bus. The last thing I knew when I get to Wroclaw was that she will be there by 18:00. As I get there before her I went for a walk around the area of the hostel not to visit the city without her.
I was impatient to meet her. It was already two months since she left our house in Spain to went back to Belgium. Many things had happened in between but my feelings towards her still alive.
When we said goodbye in Spain we knew that we were linked beyond distance and time and time. Back there we talked about meeting here and now it came to be true. I was nervous as I felt like it will bring a lot of feelings back, but at the same time it will make harder to say goodbye as from now here we won’t know when we would meet again.
I came a couple of times back to the hostel to see if she had arrived. I tried to meet her for sunset next to the river but it didn’t work. I just get a cider for free as result of a promotion. I had my drink waiting for her in the riverbanks but she never appeared. Back to the hostel I found out that she has passed by and taken the keys of our room with her. So I couldn’t get to charge my out of battery mobile phone and no one could lend me a charger at the hostel. I wait for her to come back one hour at the common area and once I was annoyed and I had already red all the brochures I decided to went for a walk in the city. The walk I wanted to do with her.
Sunset in Worclaw
At that time, I was hungry, angry and impatient to meet her again. I passed by the place where we were supposed to meet for sunset in case she was there. She wasn’t so I walk all the city centre and around expecting to meet her around any corner.
Walking in the Market place of Wroclaw a girl came to me. She looked nice, well dressed and pretty and she started talking to me in Polish. I showed her that I don’t speak polish so she continued in English. First she offered me to go with her to a nice bar to have a drink. Then she commented that the bar is free admission palace. At the end of the conversation she told me that there were really nice striptease dancers there. Is at this point, where disappointed I told her that I was not interested on stripteases.
That situation happened like 4 times along my walk around the square.
In the Market square, a part from these girls there where a lot of street art performing. Wroclaw is this 2016, the European capital of Culture as San Sebastian and it was Friday. There where people playing music, Polish and English; also people with fire cariocas and fire rings. It was a circus all around, but Elise wasn’t there so I continued my walk to the garden around the city. I went all around the city thinking that Elise probably has meet someone and she might be walking around the city as well.
Wroclaw by Night
After my walk I went back to the hostel where I finally found her. I didn’t know how to react as I was sad and excited to meet her again so I just let everything go on. After explaining both our situation and what had happened we end up talking of the last two months, our feelings and in between each other arms. Next day we will worry about our journey.
As the weekend the prices of our room in Wroclaw triplicates we decided to move to Gliwice. Home town of our Polish friend from Malaga, Aleksandra. But before we went to discover the city together. I showed Elise all what I had discovered the previews day and together we visited the interior of all the Cathedrals and big buildings in the city of Wroclaw. We were so close to each other that I completely forget that there were more people around us.
In our walk, apart from hunting dwarfs we chatted about all what had happened to us during the last two months. We keep in touch along this time quite often, but however there was a lot to tell.
Elise in Wroclaw
The Market square was not active during the day, but nearby we learn about the relationship between Polish and Hungarians in the past. For sure no girl approached me this time offering me a Striptease club, I was already in the best company I could be.
With Elise in Market Square
From the centre, we walked towards the Opera and then turned around on the garden I visited the previous night. There we stop to share a quiet time together behind the angel of death at the Family of Kajyn memorial. In our walk we stopped a couple of times just to chat and enjoy being back together again.
We stopped again next to the river with the views of the Cathedral at the other side before getting to it to climb his tower. From the top there’s a beautiful panorama of Wroclaw. In the way back to the hostel we stop for a Smoothie in a nice garden terrace.
Panorama of Wroclaw
From the hostel, we went to the train station in the afternoon. There we get into the train to Gliwice. I had never need to get a ticket as I’m travelling with my Interrail Pass, but it was funny to see how Elise struggled with it when the girl at the ticket office didn’t speak English. Elise knew some words of Polish, so she succeeded quite fast, though.
Gliwice is a small city in the Silesian Region, next to Catowice they are part of a group of cities that thanks to train connections made part of a bigger aggrupation. People that lives in this area may live in one of the cities, work in another one and go meeting friends in a third one. It is known as the Katowice conurbanation.
In Gliwice after dropping our stuff at the hotel we were staying, we went for something to eat. Back to the room we bought Polish vodka to try it at the room while talking. With Elise it’s easy to get lost in all kind of conversations. From personal experiences to African geopolitics. Also we talked about what we would do the following days.
Next morning, we had a first breakfast at the room with hot chocolate and tee. Then, after failing looking for a laundry machine where to clean our clothing, on the way to the centre we found a nice coffee shop where we had our second breakfast. A nice cake and coffee. Then finally we went to visit Gliwice.
Gliwice isn’t big so there was not much to see in town. We just walk to the market square where we spot a couple of places to dinner that night. Then we went to visit the more distant churches and the park beneath the University to get back in the afternoon to the Square. In our walk we stopped for a while at one of the churches to wait for the ending of a wedding to go visiting the building. After waiting for 20 min. talking about the Polish history and current religious and political situation we get found out that immediately when the wedding finished, another one started. That was a factory of marriages. So we left the church.
Elise and I, we were having a drink at the Market Square of Gliwice trying to contact Aleksandra. She was coming on her holydays to visit his family and I wanted to meet her. Somehow, because networks and delayed messages I was understanding that she was about to get to Gliwice just the day we would leave the city. Waiting for her answer about what to do in town and how to get to meet her we were also struggling with our future visit to Auschwitz and the Salt Mines of Wieliczka. We needed to book both and there were not many tickets left for the days we could visit them.
We end up taking the French tour for Auschwitz and an English one for Wieliczka Salt Mines. That’s another good thing of understanding several languages. You don’t need to accommodate only with yours.
Talking about how bad would be not to meet Aleksandra in her home town while looking for which might be a good place to eat that night, I saw in the nearest bar a girl that was like Aleksandra. She was having a drink with two other women and talking. I told to Elise that she was either Aleksandra or a relative that really looks like her. We were looking at her and the girl next to her realised of the fact so she told Aleks. When she turned up to us I could see the surprise on her face to meet us there.
We talked a little and organised what to do together that night.
As Aleksandra suggest us, we went to try Kasha in a restaurant at the Main Square and afterwards she picked us up with her cousin to show us the Gliwice Tower. It’s like the Eiffel tower but made in timber. It is considered the highest structure in Timber in all the world. As the Eiffel Tower, it is a Radio.
From there we went to Katowice, a city next to Gliwice where my host from Bern is from. There was taking place a Beer Festival. Entrance was free and there was polish live music and local food. Aleksandra and her cousin gave us a try of Polish sausages and vegetables. But the best moment was to see Aleksandra her cousin and everyone around singing the songs of the band on the stage. Aleks explained to me that it was a popular band from her youth whose songs were well known by everyone.
Beer Fest of Katowice
Aleksandra stayed at her cousins but we get the tram back to the train station of Katowice and from there a train to Gliwice. In the tram, a gently lady showed us where to stop and took us to the train station. It wasn’t difficult but she was going in the same way. She told us that two days before some people stabbed a guy next to the train station. She was a bit scare I thought.
Katowice Train Station
As we get home late, we did enjoy our time in bed and waked up late.
We picked our staffs and get a train to Katowice where we had a connection to go to Krakow. We decided to have a little walk and eat something at Katowice. Originally, after I meet Malwina in Bern we were about to stay here instead than in Gliwice. Aleksandra convinced me to do it in the other way. We enjoyed Gliwice, however Katowice seemed to have much more activities and life. Not only they had this beer festival, but next to the Constructivist style train station and in some squares of the city centre they had food trucks and music.
We ate in one of them and followed the rhythm of a Cuban-Polish speaking coach teaching some Batuka or latin-aerobics in public.
We didn’t have time to visit much more before getting in our train to Krakow.
Situated in the Vistula River is the Second largest city of Poland. It is also one of the oldest cities. Capital of the Kingdom of Poland between the XI and the XVI century. It is a cultural city with several universities that bring the youth generations to be an important role of the city living.
During the Nazi Occupation was the capital of the occupied territories and host one of the greatest ghettos. Pope Jean Paul II was archbishop of Krakow before been elected leader of the Catholic church.
In Krakow, we inquiry the receptionist of our hostel about what to do and where to eat in the city. The girl was named Aleksandra as well and she really told us about the best non-touristic places to go. The touristic ones were already marked on the map of the city.
Trusting on her, hand by hand, Elise and I went to discover the city. We walked through the doors of the city while a duet was playing Concerning Hobbits with two accordions. The old town of the city is like a medieval city really well preserved and full of bars and shops for tourists. Most of the entrances are open to the street as they link to internal patio full of more commerce. Some of them are well decorated with plants others are just empty patios.
In the Market Square, in the other side of the Basilica of Saint Marie there was a stage and some folk music. There was also food trucks and long tables. We had a seat on one and a couple of dishes to dinner. Ok, this time we didn’t follow the advice of our receptionist, but we preferred to try the place before the fest ends.
As Elise wasn’t feeling well that night we went back to our hostel to watch a film and rest. Meanwhile I did the laundry. Laundry finished at 4 am.
We had tickets to visit Auschwitz before noon so I waited till Elise felt like waking up next to her. From Krakow there’s a bus that takes you to the concentration camp in 1h30min. more or less and it drops you at the entrance of Auschwitz II here started our Tour. In the bus we had time to talk about my experience in Dachau and what I learnt about the second World War along this journey. Elise as always surprised me with her huge knowledge of the geopolitical situation in the past and in the present related to the Great War.
The day was once again cloudy. I start thinking that it’s part of my luck to have cold cloudy weather whit a high probability of rain when I visit this kind of sites.
Here we took the French tour as the English one was too early in the morning or too late. With us there was a Spanish couple as well. I understood most of the Tour, however I was confident that Elise will help me if I needed.
The concentration camp of Auschwitz is free but with limited entrance per day. It is huge and well preserved. We took the tour not only to be sure that we will get an entrance, but also not to get lost. In Auschwitz II the former barracks host information of different aspects related to the holocaust: the contest, the reasons, how was life in the concentration and death camps, and many other aspects.
Our guide wasn’t a passionate one. I know that it might be hard to tell about the sad stories behind this fences, but she wasn’t catchy or with a good script. I don’t know if I could have done better, but I’m sure I have had better guides. I remembered when I visited Alcatraz when I was a kid.
In Auschwitz II the barracks are made of bricks and they look warm, however in Auschwitz-Birkenau there were of timber. From one to the other area of the concentration camp you can get with a free shuttle bus. There’s one every 10 minutes.
When we get out of Auschwitz II to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau it started to rain. So we went to pick our poncho at the luggage store room. As Elise was a bit sick from the previous day she toked with her. We get a snack while waiting to the shuttlebus and when we get to Birkenau it seemed that it has stopped raining. Once we cross the big entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau it started to rain strongly.
The guide suggests the group to get a poncho at the souvenir shop. There we went all the group to buy one poncho for 8 Zloty, not even 2€. I hadn’t cash enough but finally I managed to pay with credit card my new colourful poncho. When we went out of the shop I was about to wear it on when I realized that the rain has stopped.
Most of the group was already wearing the poncho and they stayed all the tour with it. It didn’t rain anymore until we were on our way back to Krakow. However, it was funny to be the only group everyone with a different colour poncho.
In these area of the Concentration camp is where the Nazis had their biggest or at least more effective gas chambers and crematories. There were the same prisoners the ones in charge to remove the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematories where they burned them. Those prisoners lived separated from the rest of the concentration camp and they were killed after 3 months to avoid having to many witnesses.
The Germans, when the camp was about to be captured by the Russian they exploded all the gas chambers and the crematoriums to cover up what was the real activity of the buildings. Now the ruins stay as they were found and next to them there is a memorial for all the victims.
That day, there was some kind of memorial as there were a lot of young Israeli Jews in groups in the area of the memorial.
In Birkenau part of Auschwitz most of the barracks have disappeared. What remains is their stone-blocks chimneys. The extension is huge and it is divided by the railway in men and women areas. We visited the women area and heard about some stories that took place there.
After the tour we went back to Auschwitz II and from there to Krakow. We went back to the hostel so Elise could rest a little bit more as she was not feeling perfect yet.
Then we went for dinner. We went to a Pierogi place in the old town. Pierogi’s are a typical food form Poland. They are basically dumplings filled with meet, mushrooms, vegetable, cheese or even chocolate or marmalade. The bar was cosy and the two employees where teenagers. Probably working to afford their studies. They were a couple that failed not to make notice that they were together when they expressed their love to each other. It reminded when Elise and I started in our relationship in Malaga. We ended up talking about it.
We could have taken some sweet pierogi at the same restaurant but I was feeling like having an Ice-Cream and Elise was feeling the same. We stopped two doors ahead on the same street at the first Ice-Cream store we found. It was far away from a good Ice-Cream. It was then when I realized that as I continue my way to the East, Ice-Cream would never be as the Italian or Spanish I like.
But to make the taste of our frozen dessert we get to the square of the Conservatory where there’s a fountain illuminated with colour lights. The different squirtsof the fountain and the colours were dancing at the rhythm of some ambient music in the square. We recognized several songs like Mars from The Planets of Holst, that excited me; The Soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean; a Valls from Tchaikovsky, that we danced close to each other; and the Soundtrack of Finding Neverland, Elise’s favourite.
We liked so much that after it ended we waited for a while in case it started again. Not to get cold standing there finally we move continuing our romantic walk along the garden where once was the walls of the city.
We enjoyed our time to wake up and get ready. No one was waiting for us. However, we are not people that sleep till late. Before 11:00 we were at the bar, Aleksandra, the receptionist suggested us for breakfast. It was a new bar next to the university that to get to be known among the students offers breakfast for 1 Zloty with a coffee. Coffee is only 7 Zlotys. There was no trick and the breakfast was good in quantity and taste.
From our tasty and fulfilling breakfast we went to properly discover the city of Krakov. Once more we walked the Market square but this time we continued to the river, and the Castle. The old town was full of commercial activity towards the tourist. Restaurants were promoting themselves with flyers as during the night did the bars and strip clubs. It’s obvious that tourism is one of the big incomes of the city. At least of the old town.
To get to the Castle we walked up the hill watching the panoramas to the Vistula river For many reasons it took us a while to get to the top. There as none of us was interested on visiting a puppet house, we avoided getting into the Castle. We chatted at the castle square about Poland and once again Elise surprised me with her political culture. Travelling with her I get to learn a lot. Then we visited the Church – Only the part with free entrance. It includes the catacombs where are buried some historic polish personalities. Unfortunately, it is avoided to take pictures here and there is security in every corner to control it.
We went down from the hill of the cathedral through the other entrance. There we passed a wall full of names that we never knew what it was for. If anyone knows the reason, please drop a comment.
We continued our walk to the former Jewish Ghetto of Krakow. It is located out of the old town at the south of it partially surrounded by the river. There we followed the path indicated at the entrance of the ghetto to pass by the main sightseen of the area. I wanted to visit some of the synagogues. However, to visit them you have to pay. The fact that Christian temples were for free but synagogues not took us into the discussion if religious temples should be for free or not. What do you think? We compared cases of several cities we know.
We were walking in front of the synagogue Remu, the one with the Jewish cementer chatting about the religious temples as I describe above. At the entrance of this temple there were a couple of young orthodox Jews dress in a black suit over a white T-Shirt, the typical curly hears and the black hat. One of them approaches to us and said something in polish to us. Our poker face made him understand that we didn’t speak Polish. Aware of that he asked to me in English if I was a Jew. I gave him a negative answer and continued my walk with Elise.
Due to this event we made a parenthesis in our discussion to talk about when in Nice someone though that I was Arabic. We laughed about it and decided that I could be both. We hadn’t get far from the Synagogue when we saw a group of young Jews walking in that direction – Probably the same ones from Auschwitz.
We thought that we could try to get in with the group and see if the access was or not free. Back to the synagogue. This time inside the same young Jew approaches us again and asked me again if I were Jew. First in Polish then in English. Elise and I had nothing else to do but laugh about what had just happened.
The synagogue of Remu had free-entrance. Or at less we entered for free. The cementer in the other hand was payable. It didn’t look as attractive as the ones from Prague so we let it be.
We walked the commercial street of the former ghetto looking for a place to eat to end up eating a kebab at the end of the street.
We crossed the bridge to the other side of the Vistula where we visited St. Joseph Church.
Back from the church we passed by the News CRICOTECA. This building made us discuss about the contemporary architecture. Also I explained Elise a bit about structures.
Just on the other side we stopped again for a drink. Talking and talking a mid-age man came to our table and said something none of us understood so we answered him negatively. At first impression it looked as if he were begging money. Later he had a drink and seated on a table at the same terrace we were, but on the other side of the bar entrance. Another couple was in that side. In matter of 5 minutes this mid-age man started a conversation with them and moved to their table. I could feel how the woman of the couple was little by little more uncomfortable there. His couple, however, was more shy and excessively polite to stop this invading their space. As they couldn’t find a way to get rid of the unwelcome visitor, they ended up leaving the terrace.
From this terrace we walked around the old town on it East side on the garden that surrounds the city. Talking and walking with Elise made hours come to be minutes and kilometres to seem metres. Without realising of it we were back in the area of our hostel. I’m know for walking fast, but I must admit this time we weren’t. We even stopped from time to time.
As time for dinner was close we decided to try another of the suggestions of our receptionist Aleksandra. This time the speciality of the bar was fish and the bas was located face to the U.S.A Embassy. Once again we ate a delicious food for a really cheap price.
Later on we had a meeting with my former housemate Kinga. We meet her at the square of the Conservatory. The one with the illuminated fountain that dances according to the music. The soundtrack of the night was the same than the previews day so I started to memorize the water effects.
I meet Kinga in Malaga more than one year before. We livedtogether with Mr Kiayas. My first month with them was the only we left on our own and we get to create a good family. We spent to many nights at the sitting room talking about our lives. We shared a lot of experiences, feelings, good and bad feelings and supported each other. Probably for this reason I was happy to see her again after all this time.
Kinga took us to two bars on the same square. In the first one we talked about our lives, about what we have lived together to set Elise in circumstance and what happened since then.
In the second bar she made us try her favourite shot – She hadn’t one arguing that she had to drive back home, how impolite ;P
Before going back home she gave us a fast tour of the Krakowian night life. We could find out there where a lot of Spanish speakers in Krakow.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
We Woke up early in the morning, and get something to eat in the way. We knew that to get to Wieliczka Salt Mines we had to get a regional bus, but as we have been informed the stop was next where we get the bus to Auschwitz. This place is the bus station which is located on the other side of the train station. In Krakow the train Station is not only a train station, but a huge commercial centre. It took us a while to get to the other side to find out that the bus to Wieliczka was half way between the train station and our hostel.
Once in the bus we discovered that the only way to buy the tickets for the bus was dealing with a machine. The problem we found is that the machine doesn’t take notes neither credit cards. Only the magnetic credit cards. We had no coins to work with the machine. Hopefully a guy that was watching us struggling with the ticket-vending machine gave us change so we could get our two tickets. At that time, we were already thinking on travelling illegally as we had no other choice.
The tour started at 8:00 am. We were there before time. This time we get an English tour. Elise asked me to help her with the translation if needed but her English is perfect so she never got to need it. Our guide here was simply awesome. He was a Polish guy who really seemed to love his work. He made jokes about the facts of the galleries. There were easy jokes, but enough to make us smile and laugh.
The Salt Mines of Wieliczka are probably one of the biggest mines in Europe. More than 2000 rooms deep underground connected like an ant colony. We just visited about 22 rooms in a depth of 150m under earth. The guide himself confessed that he just knew about the 10% of the total.
Every room was made of salt rock. You could taste it. Roof floor and walls had been carved in the salt rock. However, as you may see in the photos, the galleries and some rooms where filled with timber. This timber helps the rock structurally so it won’t collapse.
The Salt Mines of Wieliczka have come through several periods according to the new technologies of exploitation. Now a day it is no more a Salt Mine but a touristic activity. However, they steel getting salt from it from the phreatic water they pump out. Also, there still miners working on the mines but just to guaranty security of the visitors. Their tasks are more repairing galleries, cleaning accumulation of salt in rooms or replacing trunks.
The tour was prepared to illustrate kids so some parts we skip them fast after a funny comment of our guide. Along the tour you get to understand how was working here. As our guide told us being a miner back in the days was a reputation job.
Did you knew that…?
There were Royal horses working in the mine? The horses get the name of “Royal” regarding that the mine belonged to the kingdom and now to the government. These horses where grown and then token into the Mines forever. There where special rooms for them. The horses were used to pull the cargo of salt and to work machines like the elevator. In contrast with the workers that worked in the mines for 8 hours and then they went to their homes in the surface, the horses only worked 3 hours, but once they were in the mines they never see again the light of the sun.
There are several rooms of the mine that really took me to several scenes of The Lord of the Ring or The Hobbit. Probably Tolkien get his inspiration here to wrote about such underground dwarf mines.
The tour was super exciting. We really appreciate our guide. Elise and I agreed that if it had been a boring lady like the one from Auschwitz, our experience at the mines could have been really annoying.
I must admit that sometimes I felt like getting lost in the mines with Elise. But everything was well calculated by the team of tourist guys not to get in troubles. However, we get a bit lost at the end.
Our tour guide left us underground at the souvenirs shop as happens in every visit. There he explained us how to get to the didactic room where they display a 3D video and the way out of the mines. Well we went to the didactic room, and then to the exit. We lined in what we thought it was the queue for the elevator. Some minutes later another guide divided the group in two. We ended with a group of Polish people visiting more rooms – this time in Polish.
At the end he took us to the elevator and back to the surface.
Back to pick the bus we found out that we had no change to buy the ticket once again. This time I went asking one by one all the little food and souvenirs shops if they could change me 10 zlotys note in coins. No one speaked English and after a minute explaining myself, when they get to understand what I was saying they answered that they had no “little money” I ended buying a bottle of water to get it. When I get back to the bus station out bus was leaving. We had to wait 20 minutes for the next, but no big deal. Sun was shining and I was with Elise. What Else? I just came next to her and enjoy.
Back to Krakow we went to eat something. It ended up being a kebab again and the afternoon we just enjoyed ourselfs all around Krakow as the following day was about to be the last day together. This time we didn’t know when we would see each other again.
Late afternoon we met Kinga at the Conservatory square, with the music. She took us to an Ice-Cream store. It was good, but not as good as the Ice-Creams I have recently taken in Italy our I used to take in Spain. From there we walked a bit around the city and then we get to a beer bar with a Spanish name. I ended up asking Kinga why so many things were in Spanish in Krakow. She confessed me that there’s a big Spanish community in the South of Poland: Krakow and Wroclaw mainly.
We chatted until late about Poland, Spain, Russia, the future and the past. Then we went back to our hostel. As it was a cold night Kinga took us by car. It wasn’t far away though.
That night, the pressure of knowing that we were about to separate made presence, in a good and in a sad way.
We picked up our stuffs, double checked that we left nothing at our room and drop our bags at the luggage room of the hostel. AS we liked it so much, we went back to the 1 Zloty breakfast place next to the University. On the way there and after a long breakfast we were analysing how summer has ended in Krakow. Students in uniform were walking to the school. The University area was also more active. There still tourist in the streets, but for locals the summer was over.
We walked once again the garden around the city and into the city. We tried to visit the tower of the church, but the only visit available was after my departure. We went to the tower at the Market building. It was a little disappointing. To visit you pay to visit as well a little exhibition of costume and history of Krakow, but everything is in Polish. The never offered us anything to help us understand what was all about. From the top the views are limited as you can’t get out to the balconies. Pity. My feeling was negative but probably in it the fact that I was going to say farewell to my love played the big part.
For lunch we ate something at the Commercial centre of the train station, close to the bus terminal where I was about to get the bus to Warsaw, and later on Elise will get hers to Wien.
We never get into silence, but everything was full of sadness. I don’t think I could smile as I always do. I was completely out of my mind with all these feelings. I almost get on the wrong bus. Hopefully Elise was there to correct my mistake.
We said goodbye on the platform of the bus to Warsaw one minute before the bus left. I haven’t yet accommodated myself when the bus departed. I did take a place on the second floor of the bus next to the window where I could see Elise. She couldn’t see me at first instance but she stood up and waved her hand hoping I will saw her. I was shaking mine from the inside. When she got to see me I broke in tears.
It took me some minutes to calm down and then I get out my book to help made the journey to Warsaw shorter.
The first part of the way was over the highway, but later on the highway interrupts to became a normal two ways road. It seemed like the highway that connects Krakow to Warsaw, North and South was under construction.
In the Vistula river, it is the biggest city and capital of Poland. Today Warsaw is considered an “Alpha–” global city, a major international tourist destination and a significant cultural, political and economic hub.
I get to Warsaw and it was already night. The bus terminus wasn’t at all next to the city centre. However, it was well connected by metro to it.
Here was waiting me a new Couchsurfer Host. She was feeling sick so she couldn’t come to pick me up. I know that if she had could, she would have done it. However, I had no problem to get the bus to her house. As it was late, she was already in bed waiting for me to get there.
From the very beginning she happened to be a super generous person. She needed to rest so she let me accommodate myself after showing me her pretty clean cosy house. She lived at a 14th floor with amazing views of the old town.
However, local people told me that the best top view of Warsaw is from the Centre of Culture and Science as it is the only place from where you can have a panorama of the city without the Centre of Culture and Science on it.
I wake up before Adrianna, my host, but I waited to wake up after her not to make much noise and let her rest. While I had a shower she prepared a delicious breakfast for both of us. We repeated this behaviour all the mornings I stayed at her apartment.
While having breakfast she suggested me several places to visit in the city. I started thinking that three days would be too little time to visit all. Also I had the advices from Elise. This girl will never stop surprising me with her knowledge about the world.
I could have taken the bus to the centre as I did the previous day to came to her apartment but in the way to the centre from her place there is a great garden and a couple of orthodox churches that I wanted to visit. Then I get to the statue of Charles De Gaule. It is located in the Palm crossroad. As Adrianna will explain me lately, there is always a police car below the palm to control the traffic. People in Warsaw call them, the Beverly Hills Cops.
One of the streets that gets to this crossroad is the main commercial street of Warsaw and leads to the old town. It is Nowi Swiat. The street is full of bars, cafeterias with their correspondent terrace and lot of shops. Over this street there are also small gardens and open squares and the Presidential Palace. This street is full of history. It hosts the statue of Copernicus and the Holy Cross Church. This last one has at his entrance the statue of Jesus carrying a cross that came to be a symbol of the Uprising.
At the end – or beginning – of the street, next to the old town, there is an open square with views to the new stadium built for 2012 World Cup. Next to it is the Royal Castle of Warsaw and the narrow streets of the old town.
In the middle of the old town is the mermaid of Warsaw. Symbol of the city. As I promised to Adrianna I was about to research the legend of the Mermaid and here I drop you what I found in Wikipedia.
The most common legend says that the mermaid was swimming in the river when she stopped on a riverbank near the Old Town to rest. Liking it, she decided to stay. Local fishermen noticed that something was creating waves, tangling nets, and releasing their fish. They planned to trap the offender, but fell in love with her upon hearing her singing. Later, a rich merchant trapped the mermaid and imprisoned her. Hearing her cries, the fishermen rescued her, and ever since, the mermaid, armed with a sword and a shield, has been ready to help protect the city and its residents.
I sat in the square of the mermaid to write some letters, listen to the people that come to visit her and the beautiful music of a barrel-organ.
I continued my visit north to south, east to west until I covered all the old town and exit on the other side of the city. I exit the city through the gate Barbakan Warszawski to a street full of restaurants for tourists. All of them says that they sell local food. But as you may have red before, it isn’t true. Instead of that I went to a kebab and I ate it on top of the wall watching the groups of tourists coming by.
One thing I noticed on my morning walk that made me sad is that there are kids begging on the street. I remembered when that was common in my home town and I’m happy that it has been forbidden. Also, I remembered las winter when a guide in Morocco correct us from give money to a kid in Marrakech. He said that we shouldn’t give them money as that will support them to stop going to the school in order to look for tourists. Wise words.
Back on my way I cross again the city centre, passed by the Culture and Science Centre, to walk back to Adrianna’s place and visit on the way the garden next to her house. There I went to the military monument that commemorate the minesweepers – the people that deactivate mines.
Back to Adrianna’s I rest a little bit and chatted with her about what to do next and our interests in life. Adrianna is a person full of references. No matter what subject she had books, films and documentaries to suggest me.
In the night, she took me for a walk next to the Vistula river. The summer season is about to end in Poland but the weather still good so everyone is out, and there are food trucks all along the river. Adrianna took me to one where the cookers are refugees Every week they bring someone from a different nationality so local people can try the food from their countries.
After eating we had a beer next to a stage with Cuban music. My first thought was that I hadn’t come that long to hear latin music. Then I wanted to believe that as it was an international fest it was justified.
Adrianna told me about Warsaw and Poland. I get to learn my first concepts about the Uprising and the situation of Poland during the two great wars and after them. I felt a bit shame of knowing so little about their culture and history.
We went home early as Adrianna wasn’t feeling 100% healthy. That allowed me to rest warm and long to be full of energy the next day.
Back again in the morning to the routine that won’t take longer than three days but makes me feel super comfortable. I really appreciate Adrianna and all what she’s offering me. Her way of thinking, her altruism and how she is generous comes to be an inspiration to me. If I ever live again with someone I hope to have this kind of understanding.
During our morning chat Adrianna told me about her new project a new pastry shop in Warsaw but with an innovative style of creating pastry. As I don’t know if I’m talking too much about her idea, I’ll stop here. I offered her all my support as knowing how hardworking and perfectionist she is, I don’t doubt that she can get whatever she wants.
As I already visited the city centre, this time I went to visit the big Lazienki Park that my beloved Elise suggested me. Adrianna also thought it was worth a visit. The garden is at the south of the city and it is huge. There are several styles combined and many monuments and statues. Chopin has the biggest one at one of the entrances. There’s a summer theatre, a Egyptian temple, a Roman mausoleum and a Chines garden. There is a lake and a river with fishes, ducks and swans and in the garden the squirrels approaches the visitors looking for food.
After the garden I went back to the Palm crossroad where I had something for lunch and wait for the Communist Warsaw Free Tour. The tour shows to the visitors the old buildings of the Soviet Poland. The guide was pretty good and made us feel what was to live in the soviet time.
The guide explained how was Poland during the Soviet occupation, how live was and how that changed people behaviour. In front of the censors building he explained us about the censorship remarking the fact that this was happening not even 50 years ago. He also remarked the fact that it was not far from now when people had a rationalisation card. He showed to us one of them. It was at that point when a man from Hong Kong I’ve been talking with, standing next to me told me at my ear – They still have things like this in China.
The tour ended at the Centre of Culture and Science, the emblem of Stalin in Warsaw after visiting the Constitution(s) square and other buildings of the communist government.
From the big Soviet tower, I walked back to meet Adrianna at her place, but first I went to the Ice-Cream store she suggested me. It was supposed to be one of the best in Warsaw, however, it wasn’t as good as the Spanish or Italians but it was pretty good compare with other ice-creams I have tasted in the area.
Back to Adrianna’s place we chat a bit I rest looking for my future trip to Ukraine and latter night she took me to dinner. We went to another area with food trucks. This time was an abandoned train platform transformed into an alternative food area. There where food trucks of all kinds. Thai, Mexican, Burgers, Sushi. In the area there were even a barber and a tattoo truck. Add the end of the platform there was an art exhibition. Food was more expensive here than the previous night. To be an alternative looking place, there were really fancy people and cars in the complex.
We ate some Thai noodles and the most original was the Ice-cream in a warm bubble-crepe cone. First time I see something like that and I must say that I really like it. It’s an idea worth spreading worldwide.
In Poland I started to realize that they weight the Ice-creams to be sure that they gice you the proper quantity of Ice-cream as it is expected.
After our dinner we went back home where we had a tea while chatting about Polish politics and history, films, books, travellers’ biographies and the biography of A. Agasi. Why not? Once again, full of references, I went to bed.
Once again, after an amazing breakfast with a brain fulfilling conversation I went to the Jewish square. This area was completely devastated during the second World War. First was the greatest Ghetto of Poland. When the Uprising was completely destroyed. When the Russians get in Poland they ended the job taking to the ground every single stone.
Now is an area where new contemporary buildings are rising. Banks, insurance companies and other big companies are building their headquarters. Now you can see the big skyscrapers insignia of the different companies in the area. Also in the area there’s the Synagogue. I tried to visit it but it was closed and surrounded by private security guards. Some kind of event was taking place inside.
I visited then the church in front of the synagogue. Passing by the Square surrounded by all the skyscrapers I get to the museum of the Uprising.
Note that the Uprising museum is free on Sundays.
If you want to understand what happened in Warsaw during the Second Great War and to Poland. It’s worth visiting the Uprising museum. Inside is really chaotic, I found that the information is not properly in chronological order and unless you follow the numbers of the audio guide it’s easy to get lost. I took my time to listen every single track of the audio guide and learnt as much as I could.
In the museum, among the several audiovisual features, there’s a 3D animation of how was the city after the War. If you compare it with the time before the war and how is now, you might understand how vast was the destruction.
The Warsaw Uprising
In short terms, as the Nazis started losing territory against the Russians, the Polish government in the exile in London and the resistance in Poland started to organise themselves. Not wanting to fall under the control of the Russians after the Nazis, to claim their independence they upraised in Warsaw against the Germans. The idea was to defeat the Germans before the Russians at the time the Russians get to the city. Unfortunately, the Soviets were one step forward. When the red army get to the boarders of Warsaw, they stopped their army at the other side of the Vistula and waited till the Germans and Polish destroyed themselves and weakened their forces. Once the Polish revolution was exterminated and the city destroyed, then, the Russians attacked the weak Nazis and took control of the city. The Polishes in London tried to claim the independence of Poland, but neither of the big allies’ countries wanted to get in troubles with the Soviet Union.
I spent the afternoon looking in every single bookstore open in Warsaw for a book to thank Adrianna. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find none of the 3 books I was looking for anywhere.
That night we didn’t went out for dinner, but we cooked together at home. We created a combination of Spanish “Pisto” with a similar Polish recipe. I liked a lot cooking chatting with Adriana.
During the day the weather came to be sunny to rainy. But the big storm arrived while we were cooking. First you could hear the wind heating the windows and see the dancing without control. Later the raindrops start heating strongly the windows. Little by little the buildings and the beautiful panorama view from Adriana’s started to disappear in the rain. The thunders started to make a strong presence and then ice rocks started falling from the sky against the windows.
The wind was so strong that let the water leak inside the house through the windows. Together we made sure to cover every single leak with towels to avoid any mayor damage. Adrianna was a bit scary and I felt like excitement. It was awesome to be together at that time. The contrast of our emotions gave us stability and security to both of us. After several minutes the storm stopped and the only noise was the sound of Police and ambulances along the highway. The accumulation of cars in one way proved that something happened on the road.
Back to our dinner we went to our rich conversations and as always dinner was not only food fulfilling but let my mind full of new ideas anecdotes and references.
Next morning the rain continued but lightly. I took time to find a BlaBlaCar and a hostel in my next destination Lvov. I amused myself talking with Adrianna and having a look to her Manga about Jesus and Buda.
When there was time to leave Adrianna gave me an amazing letter with the most beautiful words any host has told me and with a load of the references we talked during my time in Warsaw.
After a big hug and doing my best to express Adrianna how much I did appreciate her kindness and generosity I left to meet the guy who was about to take me to Ukraine. We met next to the Centre of Culture and Science. I left Warsaw from the same point I started to discover it.