October 26th-November 9th 2013. Gdansk, Warsaw, Zakopane and Krakow.
26.10.2013 - 09.11.2013
Here is my latest slightly delayed post for a two week trip to Poland I did last October/November.
Day 0: (Travel):
So I left my home town of Nottingham on a National Express Coach to Stansted. I left knowing that my suitcase was about 2kg overweight as I was flying with Ryanair and only had 20kg allowance, however I knew if I could get it out ok, I would be able to get it back as coming back I flew with easyJet with 23kg and unlimited hand luggage. So once arrived at the airport around 5am I attempted to weigh my case to doubly check that my scales were correct and that I had to either wear 2kg of extra clothes or stuff as much as possible into my Canada Goose coat pockets. However Stansted would prefer you pay £1 to weigh one suitcase and so turn all the digital scales on the conveyor belts of which was annoying as I had no English money. So just had to guess at what to take out, once I put my case on the conveyor though it only weighed 18.5kg so asked if I could transfer some things out of my hand luggage back into my case as this was now overweight due to having to shift stuff out my big case, the woman said yes and told me to just move to the side, so once again I messed around getting irritated with the padlocks and zips and a security guard watched me mess around opening both cases ect before deciding to come and tell me that I couldn't unpack there as it was where people were queuing, except it wasn't, it was a closed check in desk not due to open for another hour! But anyway I finally got my case through and got through security. The flight was pleasant and we landed in Gdansk around 10am.
Day One: 26th October:
So I decided to get a taxi to my hotel from the airport as I had read they were really cheap, which they were. I paid just over 50 zloty to Gotyk House on Mariacka Street. The drivers didn't speak much English but with a pen and paper they will get you where you need to be, remember your in Poland so people speak Polish and I think people need to be more grateful and thankful when they do come across English speakers whilst abroad as I think it can be taken for granted sometimes and generally expected that people should speak English. Anyway I was dropped outside Gotyk House which is a very beautiful old building on a very beautiful street in the heart of Gdansk. My room was ready so I unpacked and settled in.
Around 11:30am I headed out to begin exploring and walked down to the start of the 'Royal Walk' which begins at the first gate. I then followed the route stopping for lunch in Subway (I am a fussy eater so prefer things that are in my comfort zone) it was raining, but managed to get some nice photos. At the top I came out near the river and followed left down to the Crane which in all reality is pretty unspectacular but is of course a symbol of Gdansk and does just seem to fit right there by the river. Across on the other side was the Soldek ship. There were many ships around and seagulls which just set a really nice atmosphere despite the bad weather. I carried on along the river and walked back in the direction of the central station, following the road past Ibis down to the Memorial to the shipyard workers which was really poignant and stood out boldly in contrast. I entered the shipyard where their are some structures which appear to have been made out of bits of old ships. The museum was closed as it was Saturday so I walked back stopping at one of the supermarkets 'Biedronka' and getting a sort of picnic type dinner to take back to the hotel as I was really tired having not slept for over 36 hours due to travelling so wanted an early night. I actually was in bed by 4pm and slept right through until 7:30am the next morning!
Day 2: Sunday 27th October:
I awoke this morning after sleeping right through from 4pm until 7:30am, I could off actually slept longer but I had said I would be down for breakfast for 8am and so had to be ready.
I had breakfast which was really nice, it consisted off a basket of different breads with ham, cheese and different spreads like jam and soft cheese to choose from and also a yoghurt with either tea or coffee.
I left the hotel around 8:30am and caught the bus to the Music Academy where I then crossed the road to where the Westerplatte bus stops, upon checking the timetable there was only one bus due that day which was luckily 20 minutes from the time! Arriving at Westerplatte you start with various time lined information boards documenting the history off the island. It is fascinating how the first shots of WWII were fired here and yet is pretty much unheard off unless you research things to do in Gdansk! There are also things here like remains of old bunkers and ammunitions sheds. One of the ruins can be walked around and is half collapsed which gives off a really eerie feel and you can only imagine the stories that once took place. There is also a large monument which if climbed gives off great views of the surrounding area. There is a small shop serving hot drinks and cold snacks and also a souvenir stand. Luckily there were many buses departing back to Gdansk so after around an hour I headed back to the train station to get the train to Sopot.
The trains to Sopot leave very frequently even on Sundays, so managed to get on one straight away, the journey takes around 20 minutes or so and it is clear that once out of the station in Sopot which direction to go to get to the main street of the Town. The atmosphere was that off a proper seaside town with the great atmosphere that England now lacks due to tackiness. It was beautiful, I walked down the pier which again although drizzling with rain gave off a really lovely atmosphere. The sea was incredibly calm, almost no waves at all. I then backed back down to the beach and dared to brace the freezing conditions of the Baltic Sea by paddling, it isn't called the Baltic for nothing! However within a minute or so I noticed that lots and I mean LOTS of Jellyfish were being washed up millimetres from my toes as they were hard to see against the sand, which probably was why people were giving me strange looks, so I quickly hopped out and put my shoes back on. I then found a dry patch of sand and sat just watching this beautiful, clear, clean ocean for around 45 minutes. By this point it was beginning to get dark and I was still tired so decided to head back to Gdansk for another early night. I didn't see much of Sopot but it was beautiful, I think it would be a lovely place for families. Another picnic dinner in the hotel and in bed by 6pm!
Weather today was pretty much drizzle all day.
Day 3: Monday 28th October:
So today I woke up and got ready again for another 8am breakfast. I didn't leave the hotel until around 10am and headed to the Roads of Freedom museum, unfortunately this was closed due a mistake of my own for misinterpreting polish week day names. It was a shame as I was looking forward to this but instead caught the tram to Brzezno where I sat on the beach a little while watching the sea gulls before catching another tram two stops up and walking round to the beautiful, little old lighthouse. It was closed and I knew this before going, but wanted to see it. It was quite small but very fitting within Gdansk and had a lot of character. There was an information board on the wall outside depicting it's history in English which was interesting. After this I didn't have anything left to do and was really ready to get to a big city so decided to have lunch and then walk around the small streets surrounding Mariacka, looking in shops and just taking leisurely time to enjoy the atmosphere. I actually ended up back at the hotel for 3pm, but needed to pack and needed to be up for 4am so an early night was much appreciated.
Overall I enjoyed Gdansk and glad that I went however I feel I am more of a city girl and enjoy having lots to explore in terms of shops ect, so was ready to leave. I would come back again with others but not as a solo traveller. I would recommend this beautiful town to anybody on a first trip to Poland as I am really glad I visited and did thoroughly love every minute even if I didn't actually do much!
Day 4: Tuesday 29th October:
So this morning I awoke around 4am to get ready to leave for Warsaw. After packing and getting ready I left the hotel around 5am and walked the 10 minute walk (15 minutes with my two suitcases) up to the main train station, it was dark but there were plenty of people around so didn't feel any unease about walking at this time of the morning. The train left at 6:20am ( I like to be early!) and took around 6 hours to get into Warsaw. Once at the main station in Warsaw I felt quite excited to be in a big city with lots to explore. I caught the bus two stops, getting of at Constitution Square and taking the 5 minute walk to Globetrotter Hostel on Aleja Wyzwolenia. At first it isn't apparent where the hostel is, as it is inside what appears to be a block of flats, I had written down it was number 10 and then noticed there was a sticker on the door. I was checked in straight away and the room (8 person dorm) was clean and spacious with plenty of plug sockets and lockers. The hostel itself looks like it was possibly once flats and therefore gives it a nice homely, cosy atmosphere. There was also a kitchen with everything you could possibly need including free unlimited tea, coffee, juice ect.
Anyway I was really eager to get out and explore so caught the tram up to the Old Town starting at Castle Square which I must say is incredibly beautiful! I walked down the road where the orange colour wall is (part of the Barbican I think) to the Statue of the Little Insurgent, which is very moving and sends you all cold. If I am right it is based on a thirteen year old boy who fought in the Warsaw Uprising.
I then continued backwards to Castle Square, browsing the stalls full of hand made gifts. I walked down Krakowskie Przedmiescie, looking in shops and stopping off at Starbucks, I continued in the same direction cutting down one of the streets leading onto Marszalowska. It was still early and so decided to explore the area around Marszalowska and the main station, looking in shops, buying gifts ect before walking back down to the hostel and stopping at a restaurant called Secado (I think) they had open kitchens and different styles of rooms. I ordered chicken and homemade fries with salad and fennel, I don't like fennel, but the rest was delicious and really affordable. I was in bed for around 9:30pm.
DAY 5: Wednesday 30th October:
So I got up around 9am this morning and as I was getting ready there was a guy sat at the table and said to me 'your not Polish are you', and I said 'no' and he said 'you look very western that's why' and I said 'yeah I'm English' and he then replied 'we love the English but the English hate us, you say we take all your jobs and benefits and are over running your country, I suggest you go back to England, there's nothing here for you to see I hate this country, it's rubbish I would go to England to if I wasn't scared of being bullied in the street' ect ect, I was just like what am I supposed to reply to that!? Haha, I just made my excuses and left as soon as possible! I don't personally have anything against anyone who lives in England, does it really matter what country your from? I don't think it does. Anyway I started the day by catching the tram to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, there is lots of information and very sad pictures. It gave me a much better understanding of what the Uprising was all about and how bad a situation Poland was in. I do recommend visiting here as it is very informative and takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.
Afterwards I caught the tram up to the Memorial to those who were deported and murdered in the east which is a very gripping memorial and speaks for itself. It is lots of crosses on top of a sort of train wagon with various names wrote on the rails. I then walked around to the Ghettos Heroes monument which is just outside the new Jewish museum which isn't quite ready yet, again another memorial which serves it's purpose. I then walked down to Plac Bankowy where I attempted to visit the Tomb of The Unknown soldier, however the whole area was cordoned off due to retiling of the square and could only catch a glimpse of it. I had then planned to visit the Jewish Historical Institute, by this time it was nearly 3pm and it closes at 4pm so knew I had to be quick! So I headed in the direction and unfortunately missed the turning onto the correct road and ended up walking about 45 minutes in the wrong direction! I did pass various interesting points along the way, including the sign for where the old Warsaw ghetto used to be, a old bank with bullet holes along the side and various other monuments and signs. My feet were really hurting and I was becoming tired and knew if I did find it, it would be pointless as it would be nearly closed, so disappointingly I headed back to the centre around the main shopping area (Zlote Tarasy) and did some more shopping, had dinner and headed back to the hostel for 9pm.
DAY 6: Thursday 31st October:
This morning I left the hostel around 10am and walked the 5 minute walk to the Gestapo Headquarters museum. It is small and takes less than an hour to get around, however I found this was the most moving and 'best' museum I visited whilst in Warsaw. You start by watching a 5 minute presentation which gives details on how trials were performed, reasons for taking people there and how they were treated, very moving. There are then a few interactive computer type things that give lots of easy to read information with diagrams and moving pictures. You can also see some of the cells. I highly recommend visiting here, very informative and gives a real sense of the terror that was once about.
Afterwards I headed up to Pawiak Prison which was used during the war and also beforehand too. The main room was things I already knew from visiting other places but would be interesting for someone with little knowledge about events during the war and the type of things that happened to people. You then can walk around the different cell like rooms which give good interesting insight to what actually happened in Pawiak during the war with artifacts and stories ect. Again it didn't take too long to walk around but is a must for anyone interested in what happened during those terrible years. I bought a book from here, I haven't had chance to read it yet but was really cheap and seems to have lots of information on the history.
After here I walked about ten minutes up the road to the Umschlagplatz memorial. It is situated where the Nazis used to deport people from the ghetto ect, not much too see but it does it's job and is a beautiful place.
I then continued up the road to the Arkadia shopping centre where I had some lunch and browsed the shops before catching the tram back to the centre and then another tram up towards the Copernicus Science Centre. This place is amazing, I love things like this and feels it brings fun and excitement to a trip to balance out the more interesting, knowledge related history places. It was mainly interactive and had a separate section for adults which made you learn a lot about yourself through interactive experiments based on you. It would be a great day out for a family and could spend the majority of the day here. Very fun, efficiently run and highly recommended.
By this time it was getting quite late, so headed back to the centre to have dinner before returning to the hostel to prepare for my last day in Warsaw.