Europe | Poland | Warsaw – Warsaw is full of surprises
I wasn’t expecting old town Warsaw to be so beautiful. The Germans did a good job of flattening it during WWII, but the Poles did a superb job of stunningly rebuilding it. It looks like it was finished yesterday. My preconception was that Krakow was the beautiful city and Warsaw was an industrial metropolis. Krakow was nice, but I liked Warsaw better. Maybe because it didn’t rain. As much.
There are also some splendid parks, guys dressed as death who stand still all day on street corners, the ginormous Palace of Culture and Science which looks like it was transported from Gotham City but was in fact a present from benevolent Uncle Joe Stalin, and my favourite place in Poland, the milk bar near the hostel.
It works like this. You go in and order at a counter near the door in either Polish or sign language and pay and get a ticket. This you bring to a nearby hatch. You hand it over and watch the ugly old Polish woman cook your breakfast. Through the window you can see about 30 pots, cauldrons and tureens all spitting and steaming furiously. There’s steel shelves and vats full of raw materials like potatoes, bread and milk. Sweating, wrinkled Polish women with their sleeves rolled up revealing heavily muscled arms scurry about. It looks more like a laundry than a kitchen. My glasses got all fogged up. But the food is good and very reasonably priced. My scrambled eggs, bread rolls and mug of coffee set me back about a euro. You sit at little tables on little stools. The clientele is usually male, alone and desperate looking. I felt right at home. It was way more interesting than all the museums and castles in Warsaw put together. But nothing like Clockwork Orange.
The hostel was a bit of a disappointment. It was clean, and the staff were friendly, but there was a curfew. At 11PM they lock the door and you’re sleeping on the street. There were 2 English guys in my dorm and we decided to experience authentic Polish nightlife by having a few beers and a kebab, but we had to cut it short and leg it home. I did meet an Irish girl who went to school 5 minutes from where I grew up. It is, indeed, a small world.
I spent a few days getting my visas for Belarus and Russia sorted. The Belarussian embassy couldn’t have been more helpful. Once I showed them my invitation I had my visa in half an hour. There was no fee. The Russians weren’t as accomodating. They wanted me to wait a week. That I could not do. The only way around the problem was $100. Which hurt. I don’t understand paying for visas. Why should I have to pay money so I can go and spend more badly needed money in a country. And anyway, they should be paying me. Yeah. Well I’d soon find out whether it was all worth it.