Bolstered by a cracking trip a little over a year before, Destinology Content Executive David Entwistle ventures boldly forth to find out what other treasures are waiting to be discovered in the Eastern European gem his parents now call home.
My first holiday to visit my parents was in May 2015 where we took in Krakow and Zamosc (yeah, you’ve probably only heard of one of those places) and was detailed in an article you can find here. As promised at the end of that article, here’s the next exciting instalment – my August 2016 trip in all its glory.
I had declined a visit to Warsaw last trip because I thought it was just a concrete monstrosity. To be fair, there is a lot of concrete to be found in the city. However, I was expecting a communist block misery-fest of grey dour government buildings and homes with Ladas parked outside. How wrong I was.
For example, right in the middle of the city is the fascinating and historical Lazienki Park. At 76 hectares, it’s the largest park in Warsaw but it’s also surprisingly picturesque. I also found Captain America here.
Okay, I jest about the Captain America lookalike but it did form just a part of a flurry of Instagram worthy shots I took on our walk-around the wooded park and along the banks of its river. We even found a little place for a relaxing coffee at its centre, Trou Madame Café. Sadly, the Nazis tried to destroy the park during the Second World War but thanks to a major post-war restoration project much of it has been beautifully restored. There’s a lot of historical monuments to be found here as well and boards around the park written in English detailing aspects. I only know this because, in usual fashion for me, I held our party up by stopping to read each and every one.
Tragically, The Third Reich destroyed Warsaw Castle and about 85% of the city during the famous Warsaw uprising with Polish civilian deaths estimated between 150,000-200,000. The monuments to the uprising had a big impact on me as I tried to imagine what the brave men and women (and often children) of Warsaw went through at this time.
Despite this devastation, the castle and old town were rebuilt. What I learnt about the reconstruction effort surprised and impressed me. The Old Town, with its medieval buildings, was reconstructed by the Soviet era leaders by following the paintings of an 18th Century Venetian landscape artist called Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780). However, when the inhabitants re-entered this part of the city, they felt disorientated because the reconstruction was better than the original. Basically, Bellotto had embellished somewhat.
However, it wasn’t just the history of Warsaw that took me by surprise, it was the food options. Obviously, it has all the usual fast food restaurants (too many Subways – they love it here), take-aways, Chinese, Indian, traditional Polish etc. So, no surprises there but what was interesting was the options for healthier alternatives. We found three we particularly liked. Salad Story may sound about as exciting as a restaurant dedicated to celery. However, this sold every salad you could think of or you could design your own but they also offered soups, tortilla wraps, juices and so much more. It’s the opportunity to eat a tasty, fresh lunch without the usual guilty holiday feeling of overindulgence in under-nutritious fare.
Then there’s Organic Coffee and More (yes, that’s actually its name) offering sugar and sweetener free treats – they’re sweetened with things like dates and, of course, delicious organic coffee. This is where we overindulged as we just knew it would be a lot trickier to find this sort of thing back home.
Finally, there was the king of the crop – a vegan burger joint that actually offered tasty vegan burgers. We’re not even vegan, and I’m guessing a fair proportion of the clientele weren’t either, but that didn’t matter – good food is good food after all.
Now something that’s a bit on the stranger side was the rules regarding crossing the road. Whether right or wrong, we English can skip over roads anywhere and at any time. If we do choose to use the pedestrian crossing at all, we usually cross when the red man’s showing or wait fo the green guy if we have children. If you do this in Poland, and the police see you, you will be fined (at least). On the plus side, Warsaw does have the widest pavements I have ever walked on.
So, we had another good time in Poland, apart from me accidently leaving behind personal items in one of the ridiculously small airport trays. These included my beard trimmer and expensive cologne. We got them back when my parents visited us 5 months later but that was too long to wait to trim my beard so now I have two identical beard trimmers. That aside, the trip was great and I keep being surprised by the rich history, culture and now food of this great land. So, what are you waiting for? Book your holiday in Poland today.