Warsaw

Warsaw Castle Square
Castle Square with Sigismund’s Column in centre and Royal Castle to the right
rooftops and birds
For New Year’s this year a group of us decided to go to Warsaw, Poland. I hadn’t planned on going at first, seeing as I wasn’t working many hours and post-Christmas is that miserable time where you are forced to stretch your budget beyond belief. Eventually though I was convinced by friends that Poland was affordable, and was offered part of the ticket as a Christmas gift from my parents. I felt this was a unmissable chance to travel with a different group of friends from normal, and a group I have really enjoyed reconnecting with since my return to Sweden.

Balloons in Warsaw Castle Square
Warsaw Castle Square
Warsaw couple
Balloons at Warsaw Castle Square
Initially I was nervous when the attendance list for this trip seemed to creep upwards each time I checked. My four friends from school turned into a group of fourteen, including my new boyfriend. Now I’m no stranger to travelling in large groups. Multiple trips to Paris with the French Society (dedicated member throughout university despite no parle the français), and a couple Prague trips with 8 beer-guzzling mates sharing a room has left me prepared for the worst. I know to split into groups to avoid aimless wandering around searching for neutral feeding grounds for too large a group with many different tastes. Luckily everyone was very laid back and flexible, so I think everyone got to see what they wanted to, and we were able to meet up all together for a few drinks and meals. Travelling is always an interesting test on any relationship, especially a new one, so I was relieved to feel completely at ease and able to enjoy myself. Our rather sizable group of semi-strangers and old friends got along really well which always helps! 
intricate fencepeach and pink apartment
pink, black and white building
I want to open a candy shop in the black and white gallery above with pink window frames (♥) and live in a pink apartment building with a balcony. It’s like something from a Wes Anderson film, so dreamy!

pigeon doorway warsaw
Pod Gołębiami – created in honour of a woman who settled here after the war to feed the pigeons living in the rubble
Warsaw rainy streetfeet and cobbles
warsaw mermaid sign
85% of  Warsaw was destroyed during the Second World War. The centre of the city, and Old Town has been nicely reconstructed (some of it taken from meticulous paintings by Bernardo Belotto, an Italian cityscape painter) however the outskirts consists of grey blocky buildings hastily built during Communist-rule. If you go to Warsaw you should take the free guided tour, it explains a lot behind the patchwork that is this city which is important in a place with such a tragic history. A history that we must never allow ourselves to forget.
warsaw mermaid statue
The Mermaid of Warsaw, defending her city in the centre of Old Town Square
bronze old town warsaw
Bird’s eye view of Old Town
warsaw milk bar
pickle sandwich and vodka
During the tour we warmed up with some borscht and żurek at a bar mleczny (“milk bar”). These were commonly visited by workers as they offered affordable and satisfying meals for a few złoty. Included in the guided tour is a traditional shot of polish vodka, with a snack of lard and gherkin sandwich. Surprisingly ok-tasting once you get over both ingredients, and the burning taste of vodka in your throat. I doubt I will be adding lard to the shopping list anytime soon though! 
fridanoodle with champange
NY-Eve I wore all second hand; a H&M mini jacket and a studded Topshop shift dress (perfect for the gold confetti dance floor I ended up on) – picture borrowed from Ania
New Year’s Eve was fun as I got to see my friend Ania from uni who was visiting family in Warsaw. We had a great catch up over an…interesting dinner menu (the food reminded me of when Rachel attempts to make dessert on Friends) It did include good dessert and champagne so I can’t complain! We watched the fireworks from a bridge, then headed to a Great Gatsby-themed party. Unfortunately a few of our friends didn’t make it, so after a long day we called in a night and headed back to our room sleepy, but clear headed. 

palace on the water

Pałac na Wodzie (Palace on the Water)
birds and trees

 On New Year’s Day, after a lie-in and some breakfast, me and the boyfriend went for a walk around Łazienki Park. There were thousands of crows flying in large groups from corner to corner of the park. It felt like a Hitchcock film by the sheer amount of them but the wave patterns their coordinated flying made was mesmerising. We also did something I have never done before, went to the gym on Jan 1st! My inner couch potato is still in shock over this, but what a great way to start the year! 

praga warsaw building
cydr
mulled beer
We decided to take a trip to Praga, a district of Warsaw that was not as heavily bombed and which features more original architecture. Also a place where very few Poles from the centre go, despite it being one tram stop/bridge/10 minute walk away. Unfortunately we got there a bit late so didn’t see much, but settled for dinner at a cool bar/restaurant. This provided a great opportunity to try mulled beer, which is served hot. I was picturing something like mulled wine or butter beer. It tasted more like a beer-flavoured mulled cider. Still, very drinkable in cold, cold, wintry Warsaw weather. 

– Quick side note, vodka and beer is cheaper than water in Poland. But there were less drunks on the street than Britain, not sure what that says…  
old fashioned telephone
beer
crowd in night
On the last day we had some beers in a local beer dive, intending to use it as a meeting point we ended up spending the rest of our evening there. It was a great night and was a nice way to leave Warsaw. It’s a city that has overcome countless travesties and is finally beginning to experience a deserved revival, but it still remains modest down to its core. People don’t bend over backwards to please tourists. They remain true to themselves (sometimes grumpily so) despite the growing interest in their city, and I respect them for that. I can’t think of a better place to end a trip than in a bar where all you really need to provide is a handful of złoty for a beer and a bit of yourself for some shared laughs with friends. 

I would definitely recommend a visit, although as the local tour guide advised, it’s worth to wait until summer!There is a lot to Warsaw that could be overlooked, but our tour guide  gave a lot of insight into the history of the city. 

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