Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Fall Break trip to Warsaw, Poland

As M started senior year of high school, we asked what places were on their EU bucket list. M said Poland and Ireland (while I am the typical American genetic melting pot; Polish, English, and Irish are my predominant three, we had already visited we had two more countries to go). When my dad visited us in 2013, he and I went to Warsaw for a long weekend. We had looked into trying to find the villages where his grandparents (my great-grandparents) had been born in and they were in three different directions in four different villages. My dad didn't have a favorite grandparent, so we opted to just explore Warsaw. This trip, since we had a week I did a little digging and found a company, Polish Origins Tours, that specializes in genealogical research and would coordinate the routing, driving, hotels, and would be available to help with translations. Perfect! 

The kids got a week long fall break, M had the SAT exam on Saturday, so on Sunday took the 1.5 hour flight and were in Warsaw before lunch. We did some sightseeing around Warsaw on our own for a day and half at the beginning and a nearly day at the end of the tour. (The tour company offered to set up everything for us in Warsaw, but we opted to do use hotel points for lodging and do our own thing around town). This post highlights the fun we had in Warsaw, I will do additional posts as we head out of Warsaw for the tour. 

As I mentioned, we were in Warsaw before lunch! So we dropped our luggage at the hotel and walked up the street to the bar mleczny (milk bar) my dad and I had eaten at. It was good, so why reinvent the wheel. We actually ate their twice during this trip. Milk bars are a more traditionally soviet era dining establishments. It is somewhat cafeteria like with traditional quick lunch foods. Yummy and inexpensive. Again, we spotted the crosswalk that was a shout out to Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, Frédéric François Chopin.

We explored on foot around where our hotel was (it was a lovely rainy autumn day). Throughout the city you will see markers in the sidewalk of the Ghetto Wall. The wall was put up in the 1940s and surrounded a neighborhood that was predominately Jewish. The Germans then proceeded to starve those trapped inside (a daily food ration of less than 200 calories). It's always good for there to be reminders of horrific historical events.

We walked around a park and found a dolphin fountain.

Of course, there was the always visible Palace of Culture and Science (built by Stalin during Soviet occupation). 

Lovely view of the downtown area and city.

The next morning, we had booked an hop on/off bus. It worked out well since the weather was rainy off and on again. We probably stayed on the bus more than usual as it was dry.....

The weather cleared for a bit and we hopped off and explored the Old Town area. 

Clarissa still likes mermaids and we spotted some of the Warsaw mermaids. The mermaid is the city symbol and has several legends (she was a mermaid in the river, since we are far from the sea). 

We walked down some of the little alleyways around Old Town. We found an antique shop. You always wonder how authentic things are....but sometimes there are things you might have a need

While Richard and M were in the antique shop, Clarissa and I explored the brick defensive walls (likely built around the 1280s to replace the wooden wall) and the Warsaw Barbican (gate built in 1540 to protect Nowomiejska Street entrance). We found some apples falling from the trees.

Luckily in modern times, you can easily walk through and around the gate connecting old town and new town.

We had lunch in Old Town. I introduce Richard and M to the most delicious handmade pierogis for good, they just melt in your mouth.


I always love spotting iron signs that indicate what the store is....I assume this is (was) for a tailor shop. 

The entrance to the Royal Castle near the other end of the city wall.

Crossing the Vistula River. The Vistual River is the longest river in Poland and the ninth-longest in Europe at 651 miles long (1,047 kilometres). It starts close to a tripoint between Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia and runs past Kraków, Warsaw, and Toruń to Gdańsk where it dumps into the Baltic Sea.

The Monument to the Heroes of Warsaw, aka Warsaw Nike, is a monument to those who died in the city from 1939 to 1945, especially those that participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising.

The Obelisk Drogowskaz - a kilometer marker showing distances to other Polish and European cities. 

For dinner that night, we partook in drinking chocolate (because vacation calories don't count?). I opted for dark chocolate with raspberries, Clarissa had milk chocolate, M had white chocolate with pop rocks, and Richard couldn't decide so he had the sampler with dark, milk, and white chocolate.

After our Polish Origins tour, we had an afternoon and morning left in the Warsaw. We made the best of our time by having some more pierogis (naturally). I opted for a different method of preparation this time and did fried instead of boiled.

We enjoyed seeing the city at dusk (which was pretty early in October). 

The next morning, we headed back up to the hotel pool and enjoyed a sunrise swim over the city.

We then picked up some breakfast (aka drinking chocolate) before making our way to the airport.

When asked if they enjoyed the trip, this sign sums up the consensus.

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