03.06.2012 - 04.07.2012
Poland is an amazing country. It’s beautifully landscaped with forests, fringed with picturesque mountains, and crowned with a beautiful Baltic seaside. When and meeting Europeans during our travels, many have mentioned how they enjoy vacationing in Poland because of all of it has to offer – hiking in the scenic “Polish mountains”, relaxing by the Baltic sea, unwinding by one its numerous lakes and forests, indulging on delectable Polish cuisine, and exploring its charming towns and cities.
After travelling around Asia for 4 months, coming to Warsaw was quite a relief! We flew from Vietnam to Warsaw with a stopover in Moscow. The journey was about 12 hours long. When we were received by Derek’s mom we were visibly skinnier and haggard. Fortunately for us, we were able to stay with Derek’s mom who had a flat in Warsaw. Derek’s mom nursed us back to our original fat selves through her love and excellent home cooking! Also, we were only a 20 minute transit ride away from the downtown area, and only 10 minutes from the football stadium.
Yes – we came to Warsaw primarily because of the 2012 Eurocup!
Apart from the Eurocup games and festivities, Warsaw is a great city to visit! It’s modern with wide streets, decent public transportation, beautiful parks, great Polish restaurants, and EXCELLENT desserts! The people can by shy but friendly once you break the ice, and happily willing to correct butchered Polish when attempted! It is such a difficult language!
Scattered throughout the city are reminders and monuments to historical events and tragedies throughout the city. Many of these tributes are in Polish, therefore it was great having my very own Polish translator to translate for me. He happens to be good-looking too! We even had the opportunity to hang out with our good buddy S.A.M who was couch-surfing around Scandanavia and happened to be in Warsaw when we were! It was great enjoying Warsaw’s many beautiful sites with our international-travel buddy!
For me, the best part about Warsaw was visiting family and seeing the places where Derek and his family had grown up in. We had such a wonderful time visiting family and friends just outside of Warsaw. The suburbs of Warsaw look like Ontario cottage country – many trees, clean lakes, the presence of forest birds and animals, and the serenity of the country side. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, generous, and so much fun to be around! It was fun sharing stories about how Polish customs couldn’t keep a straight face while looking at my passport, and the Polish name that did not match the obviously Asian face!
And the FOOD! Oh wow – delicious. The best part is that you don’t even need to go to an expensive place to have fantastic, fresh food. The Polish take pride in using fresh ingredients, cooking from scratch, and making sure that it’s so tasty that you want to eat more and more!
One can visit a cafeteria-type place called a “Bar Mleczny” which literally translates to “Milk Bar”. Here, one can find the menu (all in Polish) posted on a wall, a very unpleasant-looking woman behind a cash register, and 2 small windows. Here is a step-by-step description on how to order food here. DO NOT DIGRESS FROM THESE INSTRUCTIONS or else someone WILL yell at you:
1. Know what you want to order: If possible, have a translator present. Or ask someone in line to describe what everything is. But by all means DO NOT ask the woman behind the counter what anything is or else she WILL yell at you.
2. Order from and pay the unpleasant woman who will be standing behind the cash register: she will give you a receipt and expect you to figure out, without any help from her, that you should go to the small window next. If you ask anything idiotic, she will let you know that you are being an idiot.
3. Go to the small window, hand in your receipt, and wait: do not remind the people behind the window that you still have other items outstanding. They WILL yell at you.
4. Take your meal from the people behind the small window: the food is cheap but delicious. Savour all of it, and do not waste any of it. You might want to have more, but you will have to risk going through steps 1 through 3 again.
5. Once finished your food, take your dirty dishes and tray to the second window and place the tray there: do NOT take any pictures of this process. You WILL get yelled at, guaranteed!
I actually had the best roasted duck and apples EVER in the small town that Derek grew up in. The cost of this fabulous meal -- $4! Seriously! I made Derek tell the owner that I would never eat another duck ever again because it is not possible for me to have duck THIS AMAZING ever again!
Although we spent almost 1 month in Warsaw, it was not enough time to see absolutely everything. But the most significant thing about Warsaw is its history. Until you visit the war museum and Warsaw Uprising museum, you will not appreciate how much Warsaw has progressed since its destruction by the Nazis in the 1940s, then its occupation by the Russians immediately afterwards. It was not only the Jewish people of Poland that were targeted by their occupiers -- it was ALL Polish people. One would not be able to comprehend how this beautiful and upcoming city was literally flattened and then rebuilt to its former likeness by finding old blueprints of the city, by old paintings, old pictures, and the sheer drive and dedication by the people of Warsaw.
Warsaw is an inspirational city to the rest of the world because it is a living example of the positive outcomes that could arise even after a city is devastated by war, oppression, occupation, and other acts against humanity. It is a testament to the power of people working together towards a common goal that benefits the greater good. And once you realize all of this, Warsaw will seem like an even more beautiful place than it already seems…