Monday, March 28, 2016

Wandering Around Warsaw

It was a chilly Tuesday, and while the season was changing from winter to spring, the weather remains as frigid, with the mercury level continuing to plummet closer to negative numbers.
I’ve been walking around the city for the better part of the day and after passing through several quiet streets, imposing 13th century style buildings, and picture-perfect houses, I have just confirmed what I have known in my heart to be: Warsaw, the largest city and capital of Poland, is one of the most charming cities in Central Europe. 
No kidding, Warsaw doesn’t get enough credit as travel destination. 
The Marie Curie Museum
I’ve been on a road for several days, before I arrived in the city, and along he way, I have met fellow travelers hitting the backpacking circuit. Unfortunately, very few people I met, were headed to the same direction. Most talked of the big flashy cities in Western Europe such as Paris, Barcelona and Berlin among others. 
No offense to these cities, which I know, are also awesome, but I have always wanted to discover a whole new side of the continent. 
It’s a good thing that I have had inside information before I went on my European journey.
My friend Michal giving me a tour of Warsaw
As a couchsurfing host in Manila, I met an awesome Polish couple Michal and Marta, two years ago. They talked of the wonders of the city and invited me to come visit their city. More than that, they are some of the nicest people I have met in the traveling circuit.
It took a few months of saving money, a lot of research, and determination and courage, since none of my travelers friends were really that much into the off-the-beaten path thing, but I finally soldiered my way to Warsaw.
The rewards are just too awesome, for what I have discovered is a modern city, that is proud of its culture and history, with people very welcoming and friendly, I instantly felt home. 
Blue Skies near Warsaw
Situated at the banks of the Vistula River, Warsaw is the crowning jewel of Poland. It is cultural, economic and tourism hub of the country and it continues to defy expectations in terms of economic growth and tourism arrivals. About 15 million people visited Warsaw in 2013, that is three times the visitor arrivals in the Philippines. 
Take a stroll downtown towards the city center and you will be amazed at the  numerous malls and shopping district.
But the main attractions remain to be those that reflect the storied past of the city. These include the Warsaw Uprising Memorial in Wola district. It houses mementos from the bloodiest war in Polish history, during which nearly 200,000 civilians perished. 
Krasinsky Square
 There is also the Uprising Monument that stands boldly at Krasinski Square.
The Little Insurgent or Maly Powstaniec is  a statue depicting a young boy wearing an oversized helmet and carrying a rifle, is an understated monument located along Podwale Street inside the old city walls. 
The highlight of Warsaw, for me, is its Old Town or Stare Miasto.  A reconstruction of the original, this features 13th century buildings following Gothic and late Renaissance styles. It is part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites 
Courtyard of the Royal Palace
  Another charming building is the Royal Castle also found in the Old City Walls. 
Wilanow Palace
 The Polish royal residence, the Wilanow Palace located in the city’s Wilanow district is also a sight to marvel. This aroque castle was built in the 17thcentury for King John III Sobieski
The Syrenka and I
 At the very center of Warsaw’s market square, you can find the “Syrenka” or the Mermaid Guardian of the city. Old legends say that the mermaid is named Melusina, who was saved by the local people, and remains to be the city’s main protector. 
I fell even more in love with Warsaw as I finally get to know them.
All around me, locals would smile at me in silent welcome. After all, it’s not everyday that they see someone from the Far east visit Warsaw. I would ask someone for directions, and he would go to extra lengths to assist me. One kind lady, even walked me to the nearest train station, after getting helplessly lost.
I would dine and have cakes at a corner cafe and the waiter would ask charmingly where I am from and would genuinely show interest in my city, even though their own is such a majestic city that’s just hard to forget. 
I stayed in Warsaw for only two days and all those times, the weather just kept on getting colder and colder, once even giving me a chance to experience sleet. 
But contrary to the weather, the city and its people are super warm, I just couldn’t help but feel at home. My stay was super brief, but definitely sweet. And if there is ever a chance to come back, I would definitely grab it.

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