So last time, I left it as I was headed to the railway station to go to Poland to meet Beth. And just so you know, this is Beth. She’s featured on this blog before, specifically in this post.
She gets excited about flamingos.
Berlin Hauptbahnhof is a huge railway station with at least four levels, so leaving Maddie to go and catch a train meant I left super early to make sure I didn’t miss my train. It meant I ended up being an hour and half earlier. Course, the aforementioned hugeness of Berlin Hauptbahnhof meant there were plenty of places to sit.
When I finally got on my train, the only people in my compartment were me and nice old polish man, who trusted me enough to keep an eye on his suitcase while he went down to the dining car to get breakfast. Yeah, this train was early enough that people hadn’t had breakfast before getting onto it. When we crossed the Polish border, our compartment filled up, and a mere six ish hours after getting on the train I was getting off a train onto Polish soil.
Starbucks was getting in on the welcome committee.
The first challenge was to try and find Beth when neither of us had phone signal, but we managed and had quite a squealy reunion in quite a busy railway station in Warsaw. Our second challenge was figuring out how to use the metro system. After asking one of the “we’re here to help” people, we managed it, but it is all down to the woman who helped us, despite her limited English.
Getting out of the tube station the first thing we saw was Marks & Spencers. Not so impressive. But then the second thing we saw was the Palac Kultury I Nauki or in English, Palace of Culture and Science.
It kind of looks like a rocket, don’t you think?
After nearly getting hit by a tram as we tried to cross a dual carriage way and a tram line at the same time, and discovering that I can’t use google maps, we ended up at the hostel, which was up too many stairs. We stayed at the Mish Mash Hostel and it was really nice, and the wifi there is the best wifi I have ever experienced. I have the best priorities.
All the cool graffiti.
So we spent our first afternoon wandering around Warsaw, and it’s a really attractive city. I mean, they have spires and domed churches and Copernicus Square is super cool. So Copernicus was a scientist, who suggested that the sun was in the centre of the solar system, which is, as I’m sure you’re aware, the actual state of things. He’s a very important astronomer and mathematician, and so he has a whole square named after him with a statue of him in the middle and the solar system on the floor. It’s really cool.
That’s Copernicus in the background. The statue not the people going about their lives, obviously.
We also found an open air concert and chilled there for a bit, and basically all was well in Warsaw. It didn’t feel super touristy and in fact, it’s not. Krakow tends to be where people head and I hear it’s beautiful. Warsaw felt like a place real people live. Ugh, that sounds so pretentious. What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t like London in that in the centre there’s a hundred and one things to do and see, and shops on every corner hitting you over the head with the fact that you’re in London, London, did you know? Warsaw felt more like Birmingham in that, yeah there’s stuff to do, but if you just want to wander round, maybe do a few things, that’s fine.
The University Library is super ivy covered.
On our second day, it absolutely tipped it down. We hit up a bakery because the secret to good travelling is to buy cake for breakfast, and then, in an absolute downpour, we made our way to the Copernicus Science Museum.[HYPERLINK] Of course when we got there, it was chock-a-block of school students and we were told that there were no more tickets left at all. For the whole of the day. So we shrugged, walked round to the planetarium, bought tickets for the evening.
When I say we bought tickets, I should probably explain what happened when we tried to buy tickets. Firstly, we had to wait for the screen to flick back to the English screen time because neither of us speak Polish. Not an issue in and of itself except for the fact that they appeared to work on the basis that no-one spoke English so the English menu flashed up for less than five seconds at a time. Then, when we’d finally picked something, the helpful cashier told us it was for kids. Normally this would not stop us, but he was attractive and I got flustered because I wanted to look cool, and I’d already had to go “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Polish. Do you speak English?” So I picked something else at random. To which he replied, “that’s for kids as well.” And in the end he picked for us. Because it was the only way it was gonna work.
Outside science exhibits are the best. Even when it’s raining.
Outside of the science museum there are interactive exhibits and we spent about an hour jumping on pavement xylophones and trying to figure out how various displays worked. Then, because we are nothing if not children, we went to the zoo. In the rain. We saw so many animals, but I think the highlight was the bison. Well, for me it was the highlight. I think the elephants were the highlight for Beth. Either way, despite being sodden, we had fun.
The laziest lion I have ever seen.
Afterwards we ended up in a café slash pub slash something for food. And then, after Polish beer and interesting goulash, we headed all the way back to the Science Museum for the planetarium show, which was a show of stars without explanation but with live musical accompaniment. I cannot lie, I fell asleep. Which you may or may not remember is somewhat of a theme for me, as I fell asleep in the planetarium in Jena. Beth was very amused by my uselessness, and says that the planetarium was awesome.
Goulash is one my favourite things discovered while travelling.
Our third and final day we headed back to the science museum and we actually got in this time! Yay! The museum was amazing. Seriously seriously amazing. There’s a robot that writes poetry and a comparison of different methods of drawing waters and various logic puzzles.
It wrote poetry! Bad poetry, but poetry nonetheless.
And then we ended up in the fourteens and over section, which was super cool. There was a ton of computer based experiments, and they were really interesting. There was one about how to tell if someone is lying, and one about how much you react to gross images. There were ones about how you say something is more important what you actually say. We spent so much time in that section, because it was amazing. By the time we came out of the section, we had the energy to pit ourselves against animals – My grip is not as strong as a boa constrictor and Beth can’t hang from a tree as long as an orang-utan. Then a lovely polish guy explained to us the experiment in the main atrium which is about proving that the earth spins. And we ended on that high note.
This proves the earth spins. #factz
After a long day at the science museum we headed back to the hostel to summon up energy before heading out for beer and pierogi. Pierogi are essentially pastry dumplings with stuff inside them. They are also tasty, though I feel like they need gravy. But most things taste better with gravy, so yeah…
Om nom nom
After food, we headed to the Palace of Science and Culture. Remember I mentioned it at the beginning? Because you can go up it and look across the city. And on some days, you can go up it at night. Which is what we did. There was a rock concert going on below it and we whiled away at least a good hour, marvelling at the beauty of Warsaw in the dark.
Purple spaceships are the best kind of spaceships.
Warsaw was really great, not least because I was there with one of my best friends. It’s an attractive town, has really great food and there’s stuff to see. As a linguist (yes, I did just write that), I felt embarrassed every time I had to say “I’m sorry. I don’t speak any Polish, do you speak English?” and was always relieved when invariably the person went “Yes, but not much.” Happily everyone spoke enough English to help us out, except for one lady who I’ll get to in my next post (It’ll be about Budapest guys. Tell your friends). But we did get talked at in Polish a lot. Thankfully everyone was really quick to pick up on our blank faces and was really lovely about helping us. So yeah, don’t expect everyone to speak English if you ever go. We tried to at least learn thankyou, but we mangled the pronunciation so much, we really confused the locals. As a language-y person, I felt really bad about not speaking any Polish, but a year abroad has made me much more confident to go ‘look, I’m sorry that I don’t understand.’
So yeah, Warsaw. Good place. Handsome place. Enjoy.