Warszawa! Warszawa! Tak, tak, tak!

by Suw on May 16, 2006

(Started writing this on Sunday night, but didn't get the chance to finish it yesterday.)
Sitting in the crappy bit of Warsaw airport – Terminal Etiude, where EasyJet fly from – waiting for our flight home. The trip has been just great, excepting a slight bout of sunstroke on Saturday (I'm a fragile little thing), and I'm sad to be going home. Lovely food, good company, nice hotel.
T'Other and I were in Poland for the European Broadcast Union's Radio News Specialised Meeting, which I'll talk more about on Strange Attractor, and decided to stay a couple of extra days to see a bit more of the city than simply the interior of Polskie Radio. The EBU and Polskie Radio put on a guided tour for us on Friday afternoon, which was great. Really good guide who gave us a lot of information about the city that we would have had to dig for online otherwise.
Sadly, I didn't have either my Poland guide book nor my Polish phrase book, both of which ended up getting left in Dorset when I moved to London, just because of a lack of space. We looked for one at Luton Airport, but although the book store there had loads of Swedish guides they had nothing Polish at all. We ended up getting a pan-European phrase book, which covered about a dozen languages in precisely no detail whatsoever. Luckily for us, we stayed mainly in the tourist area, where everyone spoke English and the menus were bilingual.
Warsaw itself is a divided city, with many ugly blocks of flats and office buildings built since the war, and then the charming Old Town, built, as it happens, since the war. Ages ago, I was talking to Maciej Cegłowski and he was talking about how Warsaw has the newest Old Town in the world, and now I see what he means. According to our guide, 84% of Warsaw was flattened by the Nazis, and in the years afterwards, the Poles painstakingly recreated their original Old Town, or at least the building façades.
The Old Town itself takes up quite a bit of the town centre and, after a while, knowing that the vast majority of it is a facsimile, you end up trying to spot which bits are truly old and which bits aren't. In the Royal Castle, you can quite easily tell – the old bits are the dark bits. Elsewhere it's harder to tell. It felt a bit like being in that sci-fi short story (I forget what it was called or who wrote it) where a whole town is re-created on an advertising company's tabletop after a catastrophic disaster kills all the inhabitants. I started to look about me for signs that we were on a tabletop…
They have some pretty cool new buildings in Warsaw too, with various newly built skyscrapers that bring the centre of town bang up to date. The best one was still being built, and we're guessing it's an atrium. Looked hellish cool, either way, particularly from our hotel window, where you could see it sort of ooze down between the other buildings. Nice bit of architecture, that.
We stayed at the Novotel Warszawa Centrum, with a fantastic view of the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a pretty impressive building. With 3000 rooms, it would take a long while to go round, although we couldn't figure out which bits of it were open to the public and which weren't so we never made it past the foyer.
We ate in the hotel once, primarily because of the bizarre menu, which included things like 'cannelloni loves those porky cheeks'. The best one was on the dessert menu, where not only could I figure out what the dessert was, but also figured out the pun in the Polish version ('gin dobry' = dzien dobry = good morning).
T'Other and I had a really good time looking round Warsaw. It was a shame we weren't there longer, and that I didn't have my proper phrase book. It would have been nice to go into a few museums and explore the city a bit more, not to mention get out of the city into the countryside. Maybe next time. Photos are all on Flickr.

Anonymous September 7, 2007 at 6:11 pm

That is really bizarre menu!! I lived all my life in Warsaw and never seen anything like this! :)))
Greetings from London, Margot

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