Before the research for this trip started, Warsaw was just known to me as the capital of Poland (thanks to all the school GK Quiz preparations) and through the Warsaw Convention which regulates the liability for International Travel! Thanks to my research and our visit, Warsaw has earned a special place in my books forever!
I chose Poland as one of our destinations for our 2015 Summer Trip as it is a relatively less visited country amongst the other illustrious European countries plus more importantly the cheapest flight option available was for Warsaw! I planned just 2 days here as I had read they were sufficient for basic exploration. It was the Day 1 and Last day destination during our trip.
Warsaw is called Warszawa in Polish. It is the capital and largest city of Poland. It became the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland when King Sigismund III Vasa moved his court from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596. Along with the German invasion in 1939, the massacre of the Jewish population and deportations to concentration camps led to the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and to a major and devastating Warsaw Uprising between August and October 1944. For this Warsaw gained the title of the “Phoenix City” because it has survived many wars, conflicts and invasions throughout its long history. Most notably, the city had to be painstakingly rebuilt after the extensive damage it suffered in World War II, during which 85% of its buildings were destroyed. The historic city centre of Warsaw with its picturesque Old Town in 1980 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Vistula River flows through the city adding further beauty to it.
Day 1 of our Trip ||| Friday 10th July 2015
We landed in Warsaw through a KLM Flight from Kuwait via Amsterdam. I had asked our hotel Aparthotel Stalowa52 for an airport pick-up which was duly waiting for us at the Arrival Gate; before leaving I bought a local internet SIM card to stay connected in Poland considering my internet “addiction”!
We checked into our Hotel room named “New York”, freshened up and then straightaway left for our Lunch which I had booked at Delicja Polska, a Polish restaurant in the Old Town. Our food extravaganza had to begin with a new cuisine and nothing could be more apt than Polish cuisine.
The moment we stepped out of our hotel it started drizzling and we thought this was God’s way of starting our trip with his blessing! We got Abhay snugged up in his hoodie jacket, went to the Tram stop which was just 100 metres from our hotel and boarded the tram towards the Old Town which is called Stare Miasto in Polish. We reached the restaurant and were welcomed warmly by the staff. As expected and as always we were pretty hungry and just could not wait to bite into some hot food! It was getting very dark outside and soon heavy rains started.
I had read a lot about the Polish steamed Dumplings named Pierogi and duly ordered them, they were stuffed with farm cheese & potatoes and served with sour cream; perfect for the weather too. I ordered a Guinea Fowl dish for main course for myself which was served with Chestnuts, Green Pistachios and cooked in Red Wine Sauce. Bandita ordered Halibut fish with black tagliatelle, zucchini and red pepper sauce. The meal was incredibly delicious and thanks to the wonderful service, the first meal of our trip was a real special one! And both of us sample new type of meats!
We then went to the Sigismund Column to join the Free Walking Tour but it was drizzling plus it was very windy so all the members took refuge in the Train Station and waited for the tour to begin. I was there when the introduction was given and it started to rain very heavily so we decided not to join as it didn’t make much sense to walk in that crazy weather specially with Abhay! We waited for almost 40-odd minutes for the rain to end before starting our own personal exploration tour of the Old Town! Abhay was getting a bit cranky due to the long travel so he decided to take an hour-long nap in his pram while we roamed around and clicked some selfies!
He woke up and it started to rain again so we took refuge in a coffee shop to enjoy some hot latte and stay away from the rain! Abhay became a star of that café and was treated with hot milk in a small cup just for him! The coffee was the perfect partner in that rainy weather and we enjoyed the cozy interiors too!
Later we went to the main square where Abhay ran behind the pigeons, enjoyed the live performances of the street artistes and had a real good time! While he was monkeying around we enjoyed the gorgeous view and the beautiful weather. We had come from the 50 degrees heat of Kuwait and the 14 degrees weather of Warsaw was the best thing we could have got on Day 1 of our trip! All this while the sun kept playing hide & seek with the clouds continuously and it kept on drizzling/raining intermittently but we were not worried and had a ball in the old square! There was a sudden downpour once and we got wet as we could not run to a covered place in time! Crazy times indeed but lots of fun nonetheless as we miss the rains way too much living in Kuwait!
I had booked a French cuisine restaurant for Dinner as this was one cuisine which has been long pending in our list; we missed a French dinner by a whisker during our Cyprus Trip but this time I was determined! We reached the restaurant half wet, quite exhausted and grossly underdressed for the fine dining & upmarket restaurant named Bistro de Paris; we were warmly welcomed into the restaurant and the best table was booked for us with a Child’s seat in place too! We felt a bit awkward looking at other guests dressed in suits and what not but our sartorial never affected the quality of the service of the restaurant staff. They were courteous, helpful and offered us quite a number of complimentary dishes too!
The food was a long and beautiful journey! This was the first time we were having French cuisine and were really excited about it! We ordered the famous French onion soup, Ravioli filled with salmon and cheese and Scallops with broad beans and pepperoni to begin our meal! And we got the Roasted French dumplings filled with tuna fish and cheese complimentary! We ordered just one main course item – Roasted Duck Breast cooked in orange sauce with asparagus as we were quite full! We decided not to order desserts due to this reason but our ever so courteous waiting lady staff gave us the Apricot Cheesecake complimentary which was quite tangy and perfectly sweetened as per our liking! The food, the service, the interior design, the quality of their staff all ensured this became one of the most special meals of our trip! No wonder this has the 11th rank out of 1401 restaurants in Warsaw and it showed all the way through. Thanks a lot for the food and the beautiful memories BDP Team!
After this special and sumptuous meal we walked to our hotel and crashed like there was no tomorrow! Next day’s plans were quite special too.
Day 2 of our Trip ||| Saturday 11th July 2015
We woke up at 9 AM, packed our stuff, got ready and had our breakfast at the restaurant. We stuffed ourselves as the planned lunch in Krakow was many hours away! We checked out and went to the Warsaw Central Station named “Warszawa Centralna” taking a Bus. Thanks to a strange rule we had to buy a ticket for Abhay (zero cost) for him to take the high speed train to Krakow. I went to the counter but the lady there could not speak English; thankfully one old man helped me in getting the ticket from the customer service office. Poland has recently started high speed train service named EIP – Express InterCity Premium; these are new bullet-nosed high-speed pendolino trains and one can reach Krakow from Warsaw in just 2.5 hours at an average speed of 180 kmph in quite an economically priced ticket!
The journey was quite picturesque too passing multiple Polish villages across their quaint-little homes and vast grasslands which were quite pretty! Abhay once again had a ball roaming throughout our compartment and he made a new friend from Belgium! The Belgian family was seated in the first class compartment right next to us and he just didn’t want to leave her!
We soon reached Krakow and started the next leg of our trip (Would cover this part in my next travelogue post)
Day 15 of our Trip ||| Friday 24th July 2015
We were back in Warsaw after taking an overnight train from Prague on the penultimate day of our trip as our flight back home was booked from here. We reached the Hotel (I had booked the same hotel where we stayed on Day 1) at 9 AM and thanks to the reception lady our room was ready for us to move in! This time our room named “Lemon Tree” was on the 4th floor and was quite spacious and thankfully had an Air Conditioner! Yes, we were literally dying to experience one as none of the places we had stayed so far had an AC so this was a definite high for us! We freshened up and crashed for 4 hours to get some much needed sleep.
The lunch was going to be Spanish this time! I had booked a restaurant named Casa Pablo in the new town and we reached there taking a bus. The place was quite empty considering it was a weekday afternoon so we got special attention from the entire staff! We had Spanish food during our Cyprus trip in Limassol and this was the second time we were having a meal at a specialty Spanish restaurant.
We ordered Cordobese style chilled tomato soup with baby eels and some weird sounding meat, Grilled green peas soup with olive oil and Fried calamari with garlic alioli foam for starters. In the main course we ordered just one dish – Spanish rice with seafood, caviar and piquillo chilli emulsion. For me the dessert item was the best – Tocino de cielo – caramelized egg yolks with honey whipped cream and pistachio ice cream; incredibly awesome!
Another fascinating part about this restaurant was the way to reach the restrooms! Nothing less than a treasure hunt! It was quite a maze route and I forewarned Bandita about the same too!
And then the last agenda of Warsaw; one which I was so anxiously waiting for! I had booked a session at a shooting range named PM Shooter to end our trip with the best possible high! I have shot weapons in India and here in Kuwait – quite a variety too – pistols, revolvers, mousers, sniper rifles, carbine and automatic rifles too but there were 2 weapons pending which I dreamt firing – AK 47 and a Shotgun. And finally I was going to fire them at this range so you can imagine my excitement.
We reached PM Shooter through a long walk after getting lost atleast 2 times; good old misnavigation habits never die hard even with a smartphone equipped with GPS you see! Bandita was quite tired by the end of the walk and wanted me to finish the session quickly but once I entered the range my excitement knew no bounds!
I started with firing 20 rounds of AK-47, the assault rifle made infamous by global terrorism and a long standing wish was finally fulfilled not that I had some any other motives than some friendly sports shooting!
Next up was the Beryl – a Polish 5.66 mm assault rifle and is a standard issue rifle in the Polish Armed forces. Then I fired a GSG-5 Assault Rifle which is often confused as the MP-5 thanks to the similar appearance!
It was followed by another popular rifle – The Russian made Baikal MP161K which has a small bore and 0.22 LR Caliber. It is a very durable and precise rifle but I didn’t enjoy this firing experience though; it wasn’t loud plus didn’t have much recoil too!
And then the Hollywood Gun – the wildly popular Shotgun! I felt like a Hollywood Mafia henchman firing this particular weapon! The pump action is such a crazy experience and when the bullet pops out it gives a real special feeling. The gun I fired was a 20-inch barrel Mossberg 500 persuader model.
Next up was the Tommy Rifle! The Thompson submachine gun (nicknamed the Thompson or the “Tommy Gun”). It became infamous during the Prohibition era in the US in early 1900s and was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals. It was used by Polish Armed Forces during WWII (bought from British Army) and by resistance fighters during the Warsaw Uprising as well. The experience was very special indeed; lying down on a makeshift wooden ramp and shooting at the target!
Next one was the PM-63 RAK (short for Ręczny Automat Komandosów — “commandos’ hand-held automatic”; the abbreviation itself means crayfish in Polish) which is a Polish 9×18mm submachine gun. It combines the characteristics of a self-loading pistol and a fully automatic submachine gun and in effect is an early personal defense weapon.
Last but not the least was Daniel, a very special Polish hunting rifle and it was specially recommended by the instructor to end my session and he kept it as a surprise till I fired the first shot! The recoil, sound and the impact of this rifle was the maximum and a group of 6 other British shooters were shocked too! Everybody said “I want to fire this too”! The design of this rifle is based on the Russian Mosin rifle and is used by the best shooters. If you miss the target once then your day is done thanks to the loud noise of this weapon!
It was impossible to say which was the best experience amongst all the weapons I fired as all of them were really special and I had wanted to fire them since a very long time! I consider myself very lucky to have got this opportunity. Thanks to PM Shooter for the incredible high!
Our hotel was 2 kms away and all the while we walked I was jumping up & down and it was hard to control my excitement! I was on a proverbial high late into the evening and blabbering non-stop into Bandita’s ears!
We went back to our hotel and finished the final bit of our packing before going for the dinner at the Hotel’s restaurant named ArtBistro 52 which is located at the Ground Floor in a garden. We wanted to have an early dinner and didn’t have the energy to go anywhere that is why I had planned a dinner at this particular restaurant. They serve International Cuisine and had a lot of interesting items on their menu plus there was a playing area for kids where Abhay had a whale of a time!
We ordered a Turkey Liver Dish for the starter (another new type of meat for us) and a Lithuanian cold soup to begin our meal; never had any Lithuanian dish before so I had to order this one! French Burger with smoked chicken and fresh French Fries plus Grilled cod with mashed potatoes, spinach plus grilled veggies were the main course items. It was quite a delicious & heavy meal and our Warsaw Food experience on a good note indeed.
We went back to our room and slept as we had to wake up at 2:30 AM in the night. I had booked a cab to the airport 3:30 AM for our 6 AM flight. We reached the airport in time, checked in and then waited to board our AKLM Flight to Amsterdam.
Even though we didn’t spend much time in Warsaw but we had a very comfortable & enjoyable stay. Thanks to all the restaurants, perfect weather, excellent public transport system and our hotel for making our 2 days in the city enjoyable.
So till the time we meet again…
Cheers to life…
Till then ride safe and have safe sex…
Hasta la Victoria Siempre…