Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Warsaw, Poland

I'm getting better and better at traveling around Europe, it's fairly easy to hop on a plane in Southern Italy and go to places that would be considered off the beaten path if you were traveling from the US.. Well, in most cases, if you were traveling from Chicago everywhere but Poland might be considered off the beaten path.  This past weekend I made my first trip to Warsaw, the capital of Poland and was really surprised how much fun it was to visit.  This city was mostly destroyed during World War II but shortly after the war Poland quickly started to rebuild everything.  This building was a gift from Joseph Stalin.
 Mass transit is amazing in Warsaw.  At the airport, you can get a 3-day pass that allows you to get on and off anything that is public transit (bus, tram, train, subway).   And as long as you are in the city, it seems like you are never from a bus or tram.
 All over Warsaw are memorials and records of what happen during WWII, the train car with crosses is called Pomnik Poleglych i Pomordowanych na Wschodize or monument of those killed in the east.
 Old town was also rebuilt after the war, but Poland was very careful to rebuild as close as possible to it's pre-war condition.  As a result this is one for the few reconstructed UNESCO sites in the world.
 Through out the old town is book stores, art galleries and restaurants.
 This is the central square of old town, it's amazing that these structures are about 50 years old.
 I'm standing in the spot where Eisenhower toured immediately after the war, he said he never saw destruction like he saw in Warsaw.  This area being a UNESCO site says a lot about the amount of effort made to restore this square.
 A Polish book store.  Something I noticed first in Japan, but it's amazing how many books exist that I'm not capable of reading.
 These kids were doing some sort of dance performance show in the castle square next to old town.  Bill Clinton also visited the square where these kids are dancing during a speech to welcome Poland into NATO.
 Bars and restaurants are super 'posh' in central Warsaw.  I stopped here for dinner.
 Pierogi's were good... you know, as good as in Chicago.
 Ryanair is a popular low cost carrier in Europe. They were nice enough to post maps all over Warsaw showing you places you can fly to from Warsaws smaller airport Modlin.  Right now I think Ryanair is the only airline serving daily flights from Modlin.
 This is the square outside Holy Cross church.
 Holy Cross church is special in that it is the resting place of Frederic Chopin's heart. I was going to tour the church but when I showed up here a mass was in session.  The mass was being delivered in Polish so I did not stick around very long.
 This is another church near Holy Cross.  This church is one of only  few structures that was not damage during WWII.
 Also through out the city are parks, both large and small.  This park is called Ogrod Saski.
 One thing nice about Warsaw is that they have a lot of foreign food and American chain restaurants. I was surprised to see that Pizza Hut is now serving salad and other non-pizza items.
One foreign food caution though, if you come from somewhere that has good Mexican food don't bother getting Mexican food in Warsaw.  Google reviews are mostly positive but I think people who made these reviews never been to a real Mexican town... Basically don't visit Warsaw because you are hoping to find good Mexican food.
 The machine to the left is an original, slightly modified printing press.  It was still being used to reproduce flyers that were made during WWII.  This exhibit was at the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
 My hotel seen from the Observation deck on the 30th floor of the building Stalin gifted to Poland.
 Inside that building is the Poland Science and Technology museum.  I decided to visit this museum since it was across the street from my Hotel and it was raining outside.  First exhibit inside the Technology museum was a Ford Model-T.  The sign explained everything possible about this car except for what it was doing in a Polish museum.
 The museum did have a great space exploration space with lots of reproductions of satellites and strong focus on US and Soviet partnerships.  
 This was my 3-day transit pass, I was really impressed that I did not lose it.
 Warsaw Chopin Airport had a bunch of nice looking airplanes being turned around at the terminal.
Sorry about so much discussion about WWII, but it's difficult to avoid when you visit cities like Poland.