Finally made it to the last city on our tour from May. Whew! Warsaw is a fun place to visit and a great way to finish off the trip.
To keep the time line intact, after the morning we visited Auschwitz, and gotten completely soaked and frozen, we soberly piled back onto the bus and headed north.
I think this was the only time in the whole trip I got annoyed. I was upset that we didn’t really get a chance to change clothes because all the luggage was under the bus, and logistically we didn’t have time for the break. Being cold and wet does not make Kat a happy camper! (I did survive obviously).
Jasna Gora Monastery:
Our next stop was very short one and bizarre for us because we didn’t really know what we were in for until we got there. We stopped in Czestochowa, Poland to see the Black Madonna or Our Lady of Częstochowa or The Queen of Poland. This painting is both Poland’s holiest relic and one of the country’s national symbols.
According to tradition, the icon was painted by Luke, the bible’s Luke, on a tabletop built by Jesus himself. John Paul II made pilgrimages to pray here numerous times and so do many Polish Catholics once a year.
We didn’t get very close to the painting. The monastery was packed. I have never seen a church this full of people. Worse than trying to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. It reminded me more of being at a concert near the stage, with people throwing the occasional shoulder to edge a little bit closer.
Here is the best photo we got:
Yes, it’s the painting in the center that you can’t really make out, behind the bars. Check out the Jasna Gora Monastery site for a better photo and more information.
On to Warsaw:
In the afternoon we arrived in Warsaw and had a city tour, similar to all the other cities on the tour.
One thing was very evident about our city guide in Poland. She loves Frédéric Chopin, the famous Polish composer. By the end of our tour, we knew gossip about Chopin’s love life. Juicy stuff too! He’s a well known guy in these parts to say the least, the Warsaw international airport is also named after him.
Here’s D at the Chopin park:
Moving across town by bus, we also visited war memorials:
The tallest building in Poland, the Palace of Culture and Science:
That evening we visited a former royal palace and listened to a piano concert (playing Chopin of course). Romantic building, no?
Flowers and peacocks at the entrance:
A picture of me with the pianist:
Our second day in Warsaw we got to wander around Old Town.
Old town is famous for numerous reasons, one being it is the oldest part of Warsaw and the traditional market area of the city with shops, restaurants, bars and terraces. Another is that this city had to be almost completely rebuilt after it was destroyed in WWII as part of a German terror bombing campaign. By the time the bombings were finished 85% of the city was in ruin.
To rebuild, old architecture drawings were used and the rubble was sifted for reusable materials and decorative elements, which were reinserted into their original places. Here’s one example:
For lunch we decided to try something Polish; we ended up at a restaurant that served just periogi.
Do you know pierogi? Essentially they are half-circle shaped dumplings that are filled with various sweet or savory fillings.
D and I had never had them before so we were all eagerly awaiting our orders:
All together, since sharing ensued, we tried five different fillings – meat, mushroom, potato, sauerkraut (my least favorite), and apple pierogi for dessert. Condiments for our pierogi included a small serving dish of crumbled bacon in fat (so not healthy) for topping the savory pierogi, and a cream sauce for the apple pierogi. For the first-time pierogi eater I would recommend the meat filling. It reminded me, ever so slightly of ravioli – at least for the filling.
We roamed around town for the rest of the afternoon, shopping and relaxing in the same area.
Amber is a big export for Poland and you see it everywhere in shops in Warsaw. I’m terrible when it comes to buying souvenirs but I did buy a pair amber and silver earrings here that I liked.
We met up with our tour guide and driver later in the evening. We all posed for a last photo in front of an antique controller for the first escalator in Warsaw:
Everyone was going separate ways the following day, either for more travel or homeward bound. Quite a few people would stay on the tour bus that was returning to Berlin and would take their flights from there. Some were flying out of Warsaw directly like us, and a few people were continuing other travel in Europe.