Sunday, December 6, 2009

What a Place, Warsaw.

Two of our favorite European cities have been Poland's Krakow and Gdansk. Who would have thought Poland would be one of my favorite destinations? Certainly surprised me. But the exchange rate is terrific and everything is incredibly cheap yet steeped in history.

Exotic and unique at rock bottom prices. What's not to love?

Spotting a good travel deal we decided to try for a Polish trio and add the capital city of Warsaw to our list of Polish cities.
Exploring the city we found churches...And as you would have guessed we also found playgrounds!Connor was in her most loved environment! It still amazes me to see her play with children of every nationality. The Pole kids were welcoming and kind.
Go Connor go!
We passed the tomb of the unknown soldier just as they were changing their guard.
Warsaw's Old Town did not disappoint. Some don't think it counts as authentic since it was all rebuilt after the war. Poland's devastation in WWII was all encompassing - Warsaw's being some of the worst. But I found the colorful neighborhood full of charm and romance.
Warsaw is a city known for great music and musicians. We got a big kick out of the pianist plopped right in the center of a main square playing Billy Joel and other contemporary songs on his grand piano. Certainly difficult not to stop and stomp your feet just a little bit!
There was terrific shopping around Old Town. We saw Polish Pottery. Although I think the Netherlands outlet is better. It made me itch to go back and buy more of the fun pottery!
Warsaw's market square was one of the best I have seen. Very Eastern European.
And as festive as they come!
Warsaw was the site of several memorable uprisings during WWII. This monument honors the Warsaw Uprising (different from the Jewish Ghetto Uprising) in which the Poles tried to launch a surprise attack on the occupying Nazis. In the end a quarter of a million - mostly innocent civilians - lost their lives, the Nazis "won" only to have the Soviets swoop in and take the city anyway. I read that by 1945 nearly two-thirds of Warsaw's prewar population was dead. 2 of every 3 in a major urban metropolis. Imagine.
Poland is famous for their Bar Mleczny -"milk bars" so we decided had to partake!
When you see a "bar" in Poland, it doesn't mean alcohol - it means cheap grub. Eating at a bar mleczny is an essential Polish sightseeing experience. These cafeterias, which you'll see all over the country, are an incredibly cheap way to get a good meal...and, with the right attitude, a fun cultural experience. In the communist era, the government subsidized the food at milk bars, allowing lowly workers to enjoy a meal out. The tradition continues, and today, Poland still foots the bill for most of your milk-bar meal. Prices are astonishingly low and, while communist-era food was gross, today's milk-bar cuisine is usually quite tasty. We found one that looked appetizing and not too intimidating and ordered away. For $15 total all three of us ate like royalty!
Following a yummy - yet relatively healthy - lunch at the milk bar we headed to this famous bakery across the street. Serving for 140 years and now I know why! We had paczki, quintessential Polish doughnuts filled with rose-flavored jam. I swear they melted in my mouth. I could probably have had a dozen but we were good and only had one each. This place is worth the trip to Warsaw in and of itself! Mmmmm! I dreamed about these pastries!

Poland unfortunately gets dark very early in the winter - probably around 4 PM. Luckily our hotel was adjacent to a major shopping mall. It was one of the more interesting architectural feats I have ever seen with the glass dome and circular floor plan. I know it sounds silly but we couldn't have dreamt up a better evening out than dinner in the food court and shopping all around. Low prices, great selection and holiday lights to boot!
We found more playgrounds!

Warsaw surpassed all expectations. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together as a family and would recommend it along with Krakow as necessary stops in any European Grand Tour.

Below find a great 4 minute video by our European travel hero, Rick Steves. It recounts Warsaw's WWII history and will give you a good live peek at Warsaw.

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