Warsaw. We weren’t sure if there was a saw, but we did know that it was affected by a war. But not a war that we saw. We also didn’t see a saw, or use a seesaw. …. Ahem, so anyway…
We had 3 days in Poland’s biggest city, and after the previous places we had been to it was quite a change of pace. With the exception of the old town, it was a bustling metropolis and seemed far more modern than many of the places we had been to in the past few weeks. We stayed near what appeared to be the centre of the city (as opposed to the centre of the old town). It was characterised by the huge Palace of Culture and Science (PKiN) which can be seen from most spots around Warsaw. In fact, the clock at the top of the tower was meant to assist people in the city by always being visible, and hence everyone would always know the time. (Unless they were in another building. Or behind another building. Or behind a tree. Or on the toilet – unless it’s one of those freaky toilets with unfrosted windows that people with binoculars could feasibly look into as you expell the remnants of the previous nights meat and potato dinner.)
The area around PKiN was always busy and was home to shopping malls, cafes, and the central train station. Ah yes, the Warsaw train station. What a complete cluster fuck of a station. Not only was navigating it a nightmare thanks to the narrow corridors, but the ticket office only seemed to have 2 booths. This resulted in an endlessly long line…unless you use the automated ticket machines like we did. These were always empty. We’d noticed a similar pattern throughout the country, where people prefer to queue rather than use a machine, which is great for us seeing as we can just waltz in, get tickets, and then leave.
The 2 other main things that we did in Warsaw was walk along the river bank, and explore the old town. Whilst the old town was essentially tourists only due to everyone living in the city proper, it was a pleasant place. We took advantage of an organ concert in one of the churches on our second day, and hearing the organ blast out classical music in a big echoey church was something to behold.
After we left the concert, the world ended. …The weather forecast had said that a thunderstorm was coming, so we were prepared for that eventuality. Or at least we thought we were. The rain came out of nowhere and belted down. We initially took shelter next to a family by the palace, donned our jackets, and grabbed our brollies. Then the gale force winds started (which fortunately drowned out the terrified screams of the family’s children). We ran across the square and dived into a public toilet just as it really hit. There was sideways rain, hail, thunder, lightning, and one hell of a gale. Trees were uprooted around the city, buildings flooded, and several people were injured. One lady who cowered with us briefly had not prepared at all, and we did find it slightly amusing when she ran back into the hailstorm only to have her soaked skirt fall down to her knees. We concluded that she must have been late for a date. Walking around the city afterwards showed the extent of the damage with trees, signs, tables, and chairs strewn everywhere. It was quite the storm.
After the drenching, we spent the rest of the day exploring the soggy old town.
During our last day we wandered into the palace in the old town, and promptly found a random cellar with narrow corridor that used to be used during several wars to hide people. It was fascinating, and another random moment which we love so much.
In all honesty, Warsaw was our least favourite place in Poland. That being said, we thoroughly enjoyed it, thunderstorm and all. (oh, our hotel room also flooded during the storm. Sam’s bag got wet, but Will’s didn’t, so that’s ok.) In fact, Poland itself was hugely enjoyable and one of our favourite countries on this trip. We were sad to leave it, but the Baltics were beckoning us. “Come and see us!” They said. “Come! We have more Tutonic Knights, and many cooler weathers for you!” So we went.