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Published: August 13th 2016
WarsawDay 200 Friday 5th August 2016 – Vilnius to Warsaw
Old town of Warsaw
A respectable time for a bus 10.35am so had breakfast packed and opted for a taxi instead of the 30 minute walk. We got the last two seats together on the bus but they were right at the back luckily they don’t sell the middle seat so they are only 4 people across the 5 seats. Unlucky for us two young guys trying to be oh so cool sat next to us with their full size backpacks (ours were safely in the bus hold) and guitar, in South America it had been ukuleles and they all thought they could sing. As they sat down they said “damn we thought we would have the whole back seat to ourselves and hope you don’t mind we often break out in song” – oh NOOOO living hell, I (Shelley) smiled and said “that’s OK I have earplugs” not sure they knew what to make of that. Well they seemed to forgot that we were there and next I had a backpack in my lap which I don’t know how seemed to fall on the floor. Not sure why but
one of the guys decided to get out a roll of thick sticky tape and started to tape pieces of paper together well the noise was annoying but I just turned up the volume on my movie but it obviously drove other people mad and finally a man stood up and screamed something which in any language meant “shut up”.
The next stop two of the tallest men I have seen one with hands the size of dinner plates, hopped on the bus and sat in the aisle seats in front of us and proceeded to drink heavily while trying to chat the young girls in front of them up. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse “dinner plates” saw the guitar and asked the young guys to sing, “NOOOOOOOOOOO”, one took up the offer and he was OK except the guitar cover was thrown on my lap and again somehow it fell on the floor a little further down the aisle just not sure how things that are in my lap one minute seem to be flying through the air the next. Well the poor young thing must have worn himself out as the
next thing he was a sleep and guess where his hand was in my damn lap so I was nice and gently picked it up and placed it back on his side. A few minutes later it was back and he was having a dream, it was twitching and feeling my upper leg OMG, this time it mysteriously went flying. He woke up confused looked at me and said sorry and went straight back to sleep.
We finally made it to Warsaw after 8 hours and the bus stopped only a few blocks from our hotel so we ran off the bus not quite screaming, got our bags and hot footed down the road away from that bus. Now I should let it slip we are staying at the Hilton here we got a great deal that we could not turn down. After a quick shower we went in search of food and we finally settled on a Pizza/Pasta place, hope we find something better tomorrow as all the places near the bus terminal and shopping mall seem more expensive than the last three countries. We decided to sit in the outside section to get the cool
breeze after the stuffy too close for comfort bus trip. It was lovely sitting there with just a few dark clouds then it just poured and poured so it was a rush inside for dinner. Day 201 Saturday 6th August 2016 – Warsaw
Woke to light rain and dull skies, we walked down for breakfast and there was so much food and so many choices, there even was a waffle making machine. Waddled back to the room and got things together as we are taking the dirty clothes sightseeing today. The first stop was a nonexistent laundromat that is clearly on a map we have, oh well we will wander around a bit – Oh there what is that could it be – no, just a drycleaners. Did more research via google and found one twenty minutes in the opposite direction and this one did exist and the lady was very nice and explained to everyone how the machines worked and I mean everyone, today is obviously washing day and the place was full. So that is how we spent our first day in Warsaw with about 10 other people
and their dirty laundry. It was raining by the time we left so spent a couple of hours chilling in our room reading and blogging.
Once the rain eased a bit we headed out to get a feed and finally settled on a restaurant that seemed okay but unfortunately only had “craft beer”. So sorry for the people that think craft beer is the “bees Knees”. But frankly paying twice the price for half a beer just sounds like a false economy, give me VB any day. Meal ended up being fairly bad and the guy at the next table actually sent his meal back and refused to pay for it, so not a great choice of restaurant. Day 202 Sunday 7th August 2016 – Warsaw
Michele got me out of bed with the exciting news that we would be visiting Baroque Churches today – F#%!^(MISSING)ing great, lets sleep in. Breakfast was an absolute joy to eat except for people who thought it was acceptable to push in front of the line up to get coffee. Seriously do not push in front of me when the morning
coffee is involved – if only I had that taser.
Finally hit the streets of Warsaw and first on the agenda was something Michele really wanted to see, the “Chopper” museum. Well that’s what I thought she said and I contemplated a museum full of custom motorcycles or a museum dedicated to “Chopper Read” but unfortunately it was a museum to Frederick Chopin, damn my bad hearing. Before I visited his museum all I knew of the man was that he was pre Beatles, and that he played the fiddle or the pianola. The museum was thankfully free today and was full of lots and lots of interactive things to turn a dull and boring topic into – well, even more dull and boring. Did learn that he was a composer and is now a decomposer and that his writings look very similar to the scratchings of our chickens back home. I am positive that if classical music is your thing and that you can read music this museum would be Nirvana (Nirvana as in Utopia as opposed to Seattle based Grudge), as for me it was 45 minutes of my life I will never get back.
Chopin's chicken scratches
From “Chopin hell” we headed down into the heart of the old city and along the way found an interesting display detailing the sorry recent history of Warsaw. Display boards along the footpath detailed in words and photographs the destruction and reconstruction of Warsaw during and after the war. Warsaw suffered perhaps the worst destruction of any city in the second world war, not only in physical damage but in population deaths. The Jewish population was utterly decimated by the Nazis and the large battles against two populace uprisings left the city completely in ruins. The Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw was leveled to the ground (literally) and after the Warsaw uprising of 1944 Hitler wanted the city wiped off the map, and therefore nearly every historic building was dynamited. Thankfully when the Soviets took control they allowed a building program that encouraged the rebuilding of historic buildings so that the old town looks similar to what was there before. The old town does look great “but” it isn’t 1852 but 1952. Nothing really wrong with that, and it is great that Warsaw has a vibrant tourist district.
Today was some sort of push bike
Old city gateway
race thing and all the streets were cordoned off and it was a hassle trying to get around and there were speakers everywhere with a commentator screaming out results. The Baroque Churches Michele wanted to see ended up being a problem, with initially them being closed due to the Sunday mass but then later the St Anne’s Church was having a wedding. We did end up visiting the “Church of the Holy Cross” which was as expected a horrible gaudy piece of over blown Gold encrusted nonsense but does contain Chopin’s heart.
Walked back to our hotel and then headed back out again to an English Pub around the corner for a few beers (Scott) and a lemonade (Shelley) and a feed before returning home for packing and an early night. Moving onto Berlin tomorrow a destination we have wanted to go to for a very long time. Warsaw for us was never a big thing for us to see but was just a means to get to Berlin and yesterday with the rain and chores to do it was a bit depressing and drab, but today it was fantastic. So great walking the old city being
Tallest building in town
amongst the crowds, noise and colours of a vibrant city, this place isn’t so bad. Day 203 Monday 8th August 2016 – Warsaw to Berlin
Up an out of bed at 5.30, and don’t we both hate these early rises when travelling. We never seem to sleep well when we have an early start and we were both awake at 4 keeping an eye on the clock in case the alarm doesn’t go off, but it did. Luckily the hotel breakfast starts a t 6 so we could get a bite to eat and also grab extra for our bus journey. Booked out and asked the hotel to phone for a taxi and she looked out the window (reception was on the second floor) and said “oh there is one across the road just go out there and get it”. Of course by the time we got down it had taken off and so had to wait another ten minutes till another went past.
It was a twenty minute drive out to the bus station and we then had to wait another twenty for our
Streets of Warsaw
bus. The bus company we are going with today is Polski Bus, and we were both really annoyed that when booking the tickets we couldn’t reserve specific seat numbers, so when it came to board it was an absolute scrum to get onboard so people could grab the best seat. As long as Michele could get an aisle seat it didn’t matter much to us but one woman wanted the very front window seat and just pushed everyone out of the way and then sat on the stairs so no one could get past her and then screamed at the conductor till she got her way. Seen a lot of selfish rude people in my life but she takes the cake – again I was wishing I had that taser.
The bus journey today was perhaps one of the worst we have ever taken, worse than even those old cramped buses in Bolivia. The leg room today was appalling and there was no air con and no opening windows or roof vents so the bus was an absolute sauna. We heard other people complaining but nothing changed and we just cooked for the entire 10 hour journey.
Old town from the heights
The bus stopped at a few towns along the way to let people off and on and there were a couple of cigarette stops but otherwise it was a human microwave. The trip was supposed to be 9.5 hours but we hit roadworks and had to get past a car accident just outside Berlin so it took longer – always the way with the bad bus trips.
Left Warsaw at 8 in the morning and got to Berlin at a bit past 6. Staggered off the bus wringing wet in perspiration and feeling so relieved to be out in the cool air. Grabbed our bags and walked ten minutes up the road to the U-Bahn (metro) station to get the train into town. No ticket sellers only the vending machines but thankfully you could switch them to English so it was an easy process to get a couple of tickets. Metro trains run every 5 minutes and it only took twenty minutes to get us into town and to near our hotel. Staying at the Hotel Gat point Charlie, which is right near to Checkpoint Charlie. Spent twenty minutes lining up and then checking in to our
Old Town Plaza
room which is small but good value to be this close into the city. Had a well deserved shower before hitting the town to find somewhere for a beer and a feed. Ended up settling in at a Vietnamese restaurant that unfortunately had an Australian group nearby that was so loud and obnoxious that we hardly spoke in case someone thought we were with them. We found out that one of them has extremely long pubic hair this is the first time we have heard a man bragging about that but we’re very relieved to know that he shaved them off, why he thought everyone in the restaurant needed to know these details. Good news was that Shelley finally broke her drought and had her first beer since Athens, but restrained herself at two. Walking back from the restaurant we were surprised how everything was closed or closing up, not the Berlin we were expecting. Day 204 Tuesday 9th August 2016 – Berlin
I don’t know why but big bus trips always wreck us the next day and it was hard for us to fall out of bed
at 9 in the morning and could have slept till midday – must be getting old. Did our calls home and then hit the streets for a long casual walk around town to get a feel of the place. Picked up an expensive coffee and sandwich along the way for breakfast which was still cheaper than paying for breakfast at our hotel and then found ourselves at the Brandenburg Gates. Must say they are a bit like celebrities – smaller in real life. My mental image of the gates was off this dark stained hulking structure that became the centrepiece of the Berlin Wall, much different to the clean warm coloured stone gate that is now swamped with tourist and selfie sticks.
Down the road from the gate is the Holocaust Memorial, which was opened in 2005 as a memorial to the murdered European Jews. It covers a large area and contains 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete columns set on undulating ground. The idea is that as you walk through them it allows you to contemplate the enormity of loss. I can actually understand the concept, and can sort of feel being surrounded by these large concrete columns you
can feel a sense of heavy oppression and perhaps at times almost lost amongst it. Interesting concept that allows you the freedom to feel what you want from it, but today it seemed like most people were interested in taking selfies. Lots of children were playing hide and seek amongst the columns but perhaps that is a good thing too, that they can find joy on such a sorrowful site.
Almost on the next block was the site of “Hitlers Bunker” which appropriately is now a carpark. Shelley thought it should have been turned into a public toilet but if the rumours of Hitler’s “sexual turn ons” are true he may have got off on that. Weird standing at a spot so steeped in myths and history, standing with hundreds of other tourists in sunlight and thinking of what it must have looked like back in 1945. It is sort of a touchy subject but a big believer they should have left the bunker as it is rather than erasing it, I know there would be a small lunatic fringe that may worship the site but it is where the mad rat was bottled up and spent
Brandenburg Gate horses
his last miserable days, and I think it is important to remember that he was human, he did exist and we should stop his type of madness ever getting control again. I feel there is very little tangible evidence personally of the evil bastard and that he is almost becoming unhuman or mythical, and I feel it is important that to keep him “real” – there ends the sermon.
After that insight into the dark history of Berlin we went off shopping at the Berlin Mall and the streets around. Shelley was looking for a hairdresser that could fix her hair after what the guy in Yerevan did, but was also doing a lot of looking at shoes and handbags. Couldn’t find a decent hairdresser so went back to the hotel and did some more research on the internet and also asked at reception at the hotel. Took the reception recommendation and walked half an hour onto the other side of town to a place that was uninterested in doing Michele’s hair so it was then a 45 minute walk in the other direction to a place I found that was exactly what the doctor ordered. Michele
Reichstag glass dome
was happy with the place and made a booking for tomorrow afternoon so we could now head off and get a drink and a feed. Wasn’t happy with the choices around our hotel and so headed off for another twenty minutes to the area around Kottbusser which has a huge Turkish community, where we were able to get a few beers and a kebab. Tomorrow we will we start to hit the museums of Berlin, something we are both really excited about.
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