There are many perks to living in central Europe, but arguably the best one (besides the bread, wow the bread) has to be the opportunity to travel randomly, spontaneously and flexibly. This past weekend we planned to go to Bruges, Belgium but after seeing it would rain all weekend long (whoever likes rain over snow in winter should come live in Rheinland), we canceled and rebooked to Warsaw in about 5 minutes.
Poland – a country we wanted to check off the list but not the cheeriest European destination. We visisted the Uprising Museum first, which gave us an idea of how ridiculously devestated the city was after World War II. Something like 85% of the city was flattened so present day Warsaw is a mix of grim soviet structures contrasted against the beautifully reconstructed Old Town. Luckily, we stayed steps away from Old Town, in a historical hotel built in 1901 which miraculously stood tall amongst the rubble around it after the wars. Our room even overlooked the Presidential Palace below, the site which saw the Warsaw Pact signed and Chopin’s very first concert (at 8 years old!).
Sunday saw the first real sun we’ve enjoyed in about 2 weeks. We took advantage of it by strolling to the city’s central hangout spot, Lazienki Park. We were impressed by the huge statue of Chopin, where they hold free outdoor concerts in the summer. We also took a tour of the nearby palace where the marble interior reminded me of the opulence at the Newport mansions. After dodging the seemingly thousands of birds circling the park, we headed to a traditional Polish restaurant. Here we enjoyed the absolute best pierogis and garlic shrimp flambéed right in front of you. Incredible authentic Polish experience!
Since we attempted to be Polish by eating at 5pm, we returned to Old Town to spend the rest of the night at a bar serving local craft beer. They even had IPAs and porters, which are not the easiest to find in Europe (especially Germany…so many lagers). The bartender impressed us with stories about the poland beer festival held every year with a special featured brewery. Last year it happened to be The Alchemist to give Europeans a taste of Heady Topper (local but rare Vermont beer for those not from New England)!
We couldn’t leave the city without climbing some stairs for a view from above, so we visited St. Anne’s Church and observatory the next morning. The 15o steps to the top were a piece of cake for us, but did induce a little dizziness before we reached the top. We were rewarded with a fabulous view of Castle Square!
We rounded out our trip by eating, what else, some more pierogis!