qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Polskie Sklepy

After considering a number of options for a holiday this year, we finally decided on a return to Poland, this time to visit the cities of Warsaw and Gdansk. Setting off on Friday morning only slightly earlier than a normal work-day, the trip to Heathrow was smooth enough. Our flight was slightly delayed, but nothing compared to the disruption we suffered in travelling to Italy last September. The train from Warsaw Airport to the city centre was efficient, but as often happens we were a little disoriented (on this occasion not helped by Google Maps having two stations labelled Warsaw Śródmieśce) and didn't take the most efficient route to the hotel. (Following a previous unpleasant experience with food hygiene in Poland, we stuck to big chain names on this occasion. The Hampton by Hilton was an ugly tower block, dwarfed by the more massive tower blocks around it).

We saw the infamous Palace of Culture, and the Old Town. The latter is a reconstruction after it was flattened by the Germans following the Warsaw uprising in 1944, so I have mixed views on it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site - it has been rather more than just repaired or kept going. Nevertheless, it's undoubtably attractive. Our first full day was the best day weather-wise, and we went to Park Łazienkowski and its palaces, then returned to the Castle Museum. Later in the evening, as forecast, there was torrential rain and a thunderstorm; though soaked, we did quite well to get a decent meal in the shopping mall by the central station. Warsaw is quite a large place and it took time to get around; the attractions seemed to be generally quite large, though perhaps not so numerous as in other places, so the National Museum (including some interesting Numidian/Sudanese church paintings and artifacts) and the palace at Wilanow each took about half a day. The POLIN (Jewish History) and Warsaw Uprising Museums were, in my opinion, less successful - both new attractions in vast buildings (the first purpose-built, the second a converted tram power station) with few real artifacts but lots of interactive zones, and I didn't find either of them engaging (it was also quite dark and difficult to find the way out of the Uprising museum).

Palace of Culture and other skyscrapers


It turns out that Britain is not the only place that has Polish shops. You get them in Poland too. We saw this example in central Warsaw.

100% Polskie Sklepy!

We had pre-booked the train trip to Gdansk without enthusiasm, following our trip between Krakow and Wrocław in 2009. On this occasion, however, a shiny new bullet-like train drew up at the platform, on time, in Warsaw Centralna. It proved a very comfortable and punctual ride, though I noted from the on-board literature that it only runs on a handful of routes so far. It's a great improvement.

Polish Bullet Train

Sadly our arrival in Gdansk coincided with yet more rain, and on our exit from the station it wasn't clear how to get to the hotel (Best Western). Once again Google Maps had been far from clear, and we wandered in vaguely the right direction with a feeling of foreboding, as the shops petered out into run-down housing and unmaintained streets. We were on the verge of retreat when I finally found the place. The map was accurate, but the environs were a bit unexpected. The hotel was fine although I would have appreciated better soundproofing from the corridors and nearby rooms.

The highlight of our stay in Gdansk was probably the trip to Malbork Castle. We also managed to fit in quite a lot in Gdansk itself, including the main church with its astronomical clock (we returned for an organ concert on the Friday evening), the Artus Court, Uphagen's House and the Maritime Museum. We ventured out to the cathedral at Oliwa, where we chanced upon an organ "demonstration" (the instrument has - literally - all sorts of bells and whistles, including animated angels blowing trumpets), but the weather was frequently wet and we decided not to go to Sopot. We also had problems with the local SKM ticket machines - despite claiming to accept notes and coins, they definitely didn't want the former and were rather picky about the latter. We took a taxi to Gdansk Airport for the return trip.


More photos on qatsiphotos_ip in due course.

The food was traditional fare and we enjoyed it - on this occasion I encountered flounder and honey beer, as well as some old favourites such as goose and kvas. Like Britain, you take a chance with the weather, and we didn't have much luck this time, but it was certainly a good break.
Tags: places, travel
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