Dumplings in a new old town…Warsaw

Possibly the best place in Warsaw to watch the world go by is on the monument steps opposite the royal palace. From here you can watch the bored novelty balloon sellers trying to sell the helium filled angry birds, nervous looking Mormons on religious converting missions, over enthusiastic tour guides hawking for business and even the odd irritated local weaving through them all, all set against a backdrop of a grand palace, cobbled streets and even a river beyond. There may be nicer places to spend an afternoon in Warsaw, but I’m not sure if we found them…

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The old town in Warsaw in a bit different from the ones we had seen previously on our journey through Europe, mainly for the fact that the old town wasn’t actually that old! During the second world war, the city of Warsaw was almost completely wiped out, along with a huge amount of its population. The city was so destroyed that the soviets almost abandoned it and thought of moving the capital elsewhere, however, over the last 50 years the old town has been lovingly recreated according to original plans and pictures, so that now you would hardly know it had been damaged at all. The new-old streets now play hosts to hoards of tourists who roam them, eating ice creams and looking for places to eat delicious dumplings. Way to go Warsaw!

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Our first side trip from all the people watching was to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which surprisingly, tells the story of an uprising in the capital during the second world war. The museum acts as a fitting reminder of the sacrifice of the Polish people and a country ill-fated to lay between Germany and Russia, with loads of personal stories and real artefacts, however its real impact may have been slightly diminished by the mass amount of people sharing the museum space with us. See, on a Sunday in Warsaw most museums are free, which is excellent for the backpacker budget, but it does mean that every other cheap skate in town will be there to share the experience with you. None the less we still learnt a lot from the exhibits, and enjoyed running around the recreated sewers and ogling at the full-sized plane on show….

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As has become tradition for us in these European cities we joined one of the free tours to explore the city with a local, and set off to see the ‘alternative’ side of Warsaw. This involved heading across the river to the “dangerous” right bank, Praga…or so the stereotype goes. This is the working class district of Warsaw and the only part of town that remained slightly intact after the war, but the hipster mob have started to move in, creating quirky bars and graffiti in their wake. We wandered around the rundown state-owned apartment buildings, which once belonged to the jewish inhabitants of the area before they were forced to flee or put into the ghetto, while our guide told us stories of the past splendour of the area before it was occupied. As we explored our guide kept repeating “this is the most dangerous part of Warsaw!” but really apart from some broken glass and one beggar it seemed alright to us…

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With our final few hours in the city, we sun bathed on the roof top garden at the University library, with great views down to the river and back up to the spires of the old town, before jumping on a bus south to Krakow…

R&E

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