I hadn’t planned to visited Warsaw, but after the rain in Krakow and the depressing house I stayed in (proof that not all csers are fun), I just wanted to hug an old friend. And after I had found a bus ticket for 35 zl (€8/ R80) the deal was set.
On Friday afternoon I hopped onto a red Polskibus and headed into the Polish countryside. The trip was great, but before I wax lyrical on the fields of wheat and veggie gardens we passed, I have to exclaim over the bus. It had seat belts! No, that wasn’t it. It had Wifi. For free. While we were moving. That totally blew my mind! Wifi on a moving bus! I’m still reeling.
Back to the actual bus ride. Krakow is a small city so we were quickly out of the city limits and the houses there were much bigger and most have beautiful veggie gardens. I also saw many people working in fields alongside their houses. The countryside I drove through was a patchwork of fields, forests and villages, all with a church spire rising about the roofs. I did try to take some pics but they’re never any good from a moving bus window.
The ride was only about five hours and by 9:30pm I was hugging Paulina, a Polish friend I had made while she was working in Joburg last year. By 10pm I had a glass of wine in my hand and was teaching some girls how to hula hoop. And by 1am I was dancing, beer in hand, at a quirky bar somewhere in the city. The night unraveled from there and we continued to dance and chat and laugh while the sky grew lighter. We stopped for breakfast around 6am in a spot overflowing with party people, and then walked home as others were heading to work. It was a fun night.
Staying with Paulina was exactly how I like to visit a city. She gathered some friends and we spent Saturday cycling across the city to visit a local fashion/ design show. On the way we passed football fans on their way to the stadium for that night’s match. The Euro 2012 championship is on now, and it’s being played in Poland and the Ukraine. We skipped the live match and watched Poland vs Czech Republic at a bar in a park. The game was pretty dismal and Czech beat Poland 1-0. After that there was only one thing to do: drink our troubles away. There was beer and raspberry vodka and the night got so wild that Paulina ended up in hospital with a broken wrist. Perhaps not the best end to the evening, but it’s going to be a great story to tell!
Ah my poor friend. But testament to her positive attitude, by the next day she was out with friends and even took me for a walk and an ice cream around the Old Town. Warsaw was almost completely destroyed during WW2 and the dual occupation by Germany and the Soviet Union. Few centuries old buildings remain, and the Old Town, with it’s narrow buildings and cobbled alleyways, is small reminder of the splendour of the historic city.
The Warsaw Rising Museum tells the story of the city’s occupation and destruction. It is a great museum – interactive, beautifully presented and clearly tells the story of how the city’s insurgents and civilians fought against the occupation. You can also watch a 3D movie that reconstructs what the city looked like in 1945 when only 1000 of its 1.3-million occupants where living there.