We went to Warsaw to celebrate a mate’s thirtieth. We arrived on a Friday night and left on Sunday lunchtime. We had only 36 hours and a lot of celebrating to do. My newly thirty friend is one of my favourite party animals and, lucky for us, also a very proud Pole. She was as keen for us to have a good time as she was for us to get a real flavour for the city, Polish history and culture.
On the first night we arrived late and after checking into our hotel (central, seventies vibe, did the job) we wandered into town in search of sustenance and vodka. In a cave-like restaurant under the clock tower in the centre of the square we tried our first bit of traditional Polish food including Periogi and er, quiche. Afterwards we made our way to a vodka bar and drank racks of flavoured vodka shots. It felt like Vodka Revolutions only with table service. We called it a night after trying a ‘gas and air’ shot each which involves inhaling air from an alcohol fumed glass.
The next day our Polish tour guide (let’s call her Marta as that’s her name) took us around more of the city. The central square of Warsaw is huge and very beautiful. I had never been to Eastern Europe and enjoyed the gothic architecture which I found very different from Italy and France. Just outside of Warsaw are the old salt mines. Now out of service, they are open to the public to view. We had booked onto a tour, which are obligatory as you can’t wander the mines by yourself understandbly, which lasted an hour. Our guide had a microphone headset and we all wore headphones. This was off putting and verging on creepy at times as you could hear him breathing in your ear. At the end of the tour you arrive into the main hall which is quite extraordinary. Decorated with several statues and ornate detail carved out of salt as well as a crystal candelabra, it is a popular venue for weddings.
Just halfway into our weekend we were thoroughly enjoying being terribly cultured. We stopped for a late lunch at an Italian restaurant back in the main square. We shared pizzas and salads and drank extremely nice rose. When the bill came it was only 5 euro each. For a meal and a setting which would have been easily £30 in London. Absolute bargain.
That evening was the birthday dinner. We went to a very traditional Polish restaurant which included live music and wait staff dressed in dirndls. Between each of the four courses (which included beetroot and boiled egg soup in a bread bowl, assorted sausages and apple pie pudding) we had shots of vodka. Natch. Stuffed full of dinner and sozzled on vodka we made our way to da cloob for dancing and air guitaring on eachother’s legs.
On Sunday we were hungover. Marta had arranged a buggy tour to take us around some of the sites of the city. This seemed horrendous at the time but was really worth it. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and as she took us through the old Jewish ghetto she talked about the conditions for people in the war and pointed out the house and factory of Oscar Schindler. We stopped at a synagogue which had beautiful interiors and a hot dog stand outside (odd). Not far from Warsaw is the town of Auschwitz. Our guide’s Grandma was from the town and would often remark to her Granddaughter about the shocking behaviour of Russian soldiers. In contrast she referred to Nazi soldiers as ‘gentlemen’.
Our final stop was the old castle and tomb of a previous Polish Prime Minister who had been killed in a plane crash. After another pit stop at a traditional restaurant for schnitzel and chips we hopped into cabs and made our way to the airport.
We flew with British Airways which was reasonable and cheap-ish when you book in advance. I haven’t mentioned names of restaurants or hotel as I don’t know them. How useful. Now here’s some awful photos to accompany a thoroughly comprehensive post!