On arrival Warsaw seems larger than life! Especially compared to teeny tiny little Venice that I have become so accustomed to. The skyscrapers do just that! After getting the bus from Modlin Airport to the city centre and sleeping the whole journey my first view was the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a powerful testament to Polish historicism and American art deco high-rise buildings. The structure, designed by Soviet architect Lev Rudnev, is in fact the tallest building in Poland and the 8th tallest building in the European Union at an amazing 237metres tall!
Whilst I wandered around the palace and the central station trying to get any bearings in order to find my hostel, the people all seemed very friendly, especially the many who seem to have assumed I am Polish and start talking extremely enthusiastically at me! It is a difficult language, and of course one is always thrown from their comfort zone when they realize that they speak exactly zero percent of the native language! Luckily everyone I have needed to speak English does…so far consisting of the man at the ticket desk for the bus, and the barista in the coffee shop when I retreated to find wifi; admitting that you are hopelessly lost and thus underprepared on the first stop of your trip is a blow made softer by coffee.
The Old Town:
Approaching the old town is remarkable as the normal, modern structures suddenly cut away to the colorful and quaint architecture of the old town, meticulously rebuild following tragic events in this city’s complex history which led to the destruction of the original 13th century buildings.
Despite it not being strictly original, if you ignore the modern advertising dotted around and many tourists with modern technology like cameras and iPads, the horse and carriages and the toy town facades could make you believe you had taken a step back in time.
A thought that kept running through my head as I navigated my way around this city was that I could live here. It is a city that has everything: history, culture, beauty, every shop and service you could need, and a huge variety of things to do! Having met some erasmus students who are lucky enough to spend the year there, I found myself a little envious that they get to know this cool, diverse and stimulating place over a long period of time compared to my 3 days!
I wrote in my journal that it was a “quiet” city. Anyone else reading this would think I am either deaf or wrong! But what I know I meant was that it is a very content place, with an atmosphere of contentless and laid back attitude. There was something very peaceful about strolling down the clean and open streets which are all so spacious – again, this is possibly my comparison based upon life in Venice!
For me, the greatest thing about Warsaw was that it is, as I said before, a city of all. It could appeal to everyone – from the quaint attractiveness of the old town to the aesthetically pleasing functionality of the modern parts of the city. But despite being great, Warsaw didn’t boast about it as much as other capital cities tend to, with souvenir shops on every corner selling obnoxious items with WARSAW printed glaringly on everything from tea towels to shot glasses!