Summer,  Travel

First Day in Warsaw

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i’ve been jonesing to go to warsaw for years now. there’s so many preconceived ideas of what it’s like there and i couldn’t wait to see it for myself.

to best appreciate warsaw, you have to take into account it’s strange history. it looks so new in many areas because almost the entire city had to be rebuilt from the ground up. this is why to me, it seems so much of a modern mish-mash. i still don’t quite know what warsaw wants to communicate to the world; what it wants its grand message to be. (below, the famous palm tree)

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it’s not necessarily the grey dreary city you’d always think about though. in fact, one of its greatest boulevards, nowy świat (new world, above) reminded me of downtown disney. really, especially at the main southern intersection with aleje jerozolimskie. i got a distinctly americana vibe from its colorful one-storey storefronts with striped awnings catering gifts, chocolates, and pączki to the masses. yep, pączki (pronounced ponch-key). i’d never heard of this great polish donut before warsaw, to which alex (being a michigander) exclaimed, “they have pączki?” apparently in michigan (with a relatively high polish-american population), they keep the polish tradition of buying dozens of them every fat tuesday. but of course, they’re twice as big in michigan as in the homeland.

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a. blike’s definitely the place to go for this delectable rose-jelly filled donut with candied orange peel on top. also the place to go to pick up your bulk tins of kusmi tea. or maybe that’s just me. great, now i want a pączki when all i’ve got are koblihy.

nowy świat is a great place to start a walking tour of the city– it’s really the unter den linden of warsaw with loads of interesting sights per square mile, heading due north all the way to the old town. and what a contrast it is! especially the old town square which i found to be one of the coziest in europe. it’s truly warsaw’s living room, and i could really just hang out there on one of the benches, gazing at the mermaid fountain (syrena, the symbol of the city) and listening absent-mindedly to the street musicians for a good hour or two. it was one of those places that alex had to drag me away from. (why does that always happen? it’s never the other way around!)

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warsaw’s little living room is the coziest square in europe– i’m just going to go ahead and make that assertion right now. i found it interesting that all the buildings that make up the square actually lean in a little bit, so they’re not standing completely upright.

much like berlin, another city that was reduced to rubble after world war II, i was struck by the quiet  phenomenon of people living their lives among loads of monuments and memorials around every corner and down many a street. maybe something really big or important happened on your street, and yet you go about your day– go to the grocery store and go to work without even noticing it. the past becomes just another sometimes forgotten marker in the hum and buzz of present life. (below, a memorial to the warsaw uprising, umschlagplatz, & a war memorial)

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the first full day in this great city was full of walking and exploring, just like it should be… absorbing the history of the city while keeping a feeler out for the general atmosphere of the city. we saw the white and gold interiors of church of the holy cross (where frederic chopin’s actual heart is kept!), the strange and empty pilsudski square, hangin’ by the coolest fountain in ógrod park, and the colorful house of a certain famous polish scientist.

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the above is the birth house (and now a museum) of marie skłodowska-curie, normally known as just marie curie or madame curie, as she was also part french. warsaw is the place for history buffs.

for travel tuesday today, the topic was a place that was somehow unexpected. i have to say that warsaw didn’t really surprise me much– it was very much as i expected, which is a good thing. the humanity of poland. the workaday neighborhoods. the kind people. the new places to discover. but i have to refer back to zakopane as a place that was completely unexpected to me. hop over and read why!

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…and i’m quite excited to announce that adventurings has been named expat blog’s blog of the month for september! there’s a little interview about how i got started on this expat adventure here if you’re interested.

lastly, i leave you with warsaw’s old town celebrity: sad inline skates panda. he’d cry until someone came to take a photo with him and leave a coin, which is a pretty good business model… i don’t think humans can stand to see a sad panda.
happy travel tuesday! more warsaw and poland goodness coming this way shortly.

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