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Published: March 7th 2015
The UK Labour Party has recently announced a Battle Bus as part of their pre-election campaign to highlight and promote women’s issues. There is nothing unusual in that perhaps, except that the bright pink bus drew more attention than any of the background policies behind the initiative. The colour has had more success at Warsaw’s Modlin Airport and the bright pink Scania advertises itself amongst the grey surroundings of the old military airstrip. We had tickets for the 13:50 and we were not sure whether this was the 13:30. The driver seemed unconcerned and 40 minutes later, we were deposited in front of the Soviet architectural masterpiece in central Warsaw that masquerades as the Palace of Culture. At this point, I am normally scolded for selecting a hotel that is too far to walk from the drop off point. In this case, bonus points were instantly secured and the Novotel was clearly visible on the intersection. At 31 floors, it was quite difficult to miss.
We had paid extra for an executive room on an upper floor and our lofty perch gave us a view across the clouds towards the city tower blocks. On a good day it was no
doubt worth the extra, but on a miserable drab Saturday afternoon it probably wasn’t worth the investment. We ventured out and set off for the Royal Route marked on our map. The post-war reconstruction of Warsaw had allowed the opportunity for the inclusion of wide avenues, so crossing the road involved descending into the subway and the subterranean world that is often located beneath ground level in Eastern European cities. We alighted next to a shopping parade, which featured those well-known Polish brands – TK Maxx and Marks & Spencer! The pedestrianized shopping and restaurant area fanned out on to Nowy Swiat – home it seemed to the more luxurious of western brands.
Blue lights flashed in the distance and nothing appeared to moving on the street. A small demonstration of 300 people were flanked on to a side street by their accompanying police escort. The reason for the demonstration remained a mystery. The focal point had been the Presidential Palace. A series of photo boards reliving the events of the Kiev lined the pavement. A couple of ceremonial soldiers looked disinterested and wished they were elsewhere, rather than standing out in the cold. They both scowled. I decided
against taking a photograph on that particular occasion. The University entrance was understandably quiet on a Saturday afternoon. A series of expensive looking cars waited outside the executive frontage of the Hotel Bristol. There was a distant view of the National Stadium across the Vistula River, as we approached the Royal Palace and the start of the Old Town.
The red brick façade of the Royal Palace looks quite impressive on face value and I am sure it would have looked even better in good sunlight. Alas, the street scene of Warsaw is a bit like a Hollywood film set illusion. It looks old, but isn’t really. The destruction of the majority of central Warsaw as the Second World War came to a close left 95% of it in complete tatters. The Old Town looks old too, even to the extent of buildings being marked up with dates like 1749 and 1781. It is pretty enough, but missing something. We passed along streets selling the usual tourist shopping essentials and a wide selection of over-priced amber products. I say over-priced based on comparison after a recent visit to the deepest south-east i.e. Przemysl.
A skating rink was set
up in the Old Town Square. On the basis of only 3 customers, it wasn't the biggest draw in town. Perhaps winter was over? A large pile of snow was evident next to rink, although it seemed that this was ice maintenance rather than recent deluges of the white stuff. A coffee was in order. We studied the options and moved on through to the "New Town". It was perhaps more accurate to describe as the reincarnation of the "New Town", so it was possibly older than the "Old Town". The amber shops were the constant. We dismissed an expensive looking Belgian chocolate shop serving melted offerings. The expensive looking Belgian beer cafe looked more interesting and popular. I hadn't come to Poland to drink Belgian beers, even though the bottles were possibly more competitively priced than the supermarket back home. We found our "local" in the aptly named Polyester Bar - refreshingly man made. After the coffee, the other half decided that Zwyiec was the beer of choice. I already knew that and skipped the coffee. Strong, but tasty. 9 zloty a go! It wasn't exactly a Przemysl prices, but we were in the big city now! Another beer?
Why not! It was a slightly longer walk back to nearer base. We had been experimenting with a new app for twisting photos on the tablet. If we had stayed for a few more, the app wouldn't have been strictly necessary. The one constant with Poland - the beer is fall over juice. We dined on pizza. It was not the logical choice, but there would be plenty of time for perogis another day!
I have skipped the next day. I felt a day with the Legion was a worthy blog in it's own right. We had so far been on the hoof, but I figured that a trip to Wilanow might just be too far for the step counter. Bus stops in central Warsaw seem to have the obligatory machine for ticket purchase. We chose the only one without. The kiosk was on hand to provide the necessary merchandise. We avoided risk and got a 75 minute zone 1 ticket - 4.40 zloty. Wilanow - the Polish Versailles - is about a 25 minute ride on Bus 180 south following the river. The start of the journey was at the lower end of Nowy Swiat, where the rich
(and not so famous) would find a Louis Vuitton shop and a Ferrari dealer. The rest of the trip was mainly tower block land, although we did recognise our pre-match meal venue form the previous day. We alighted at the terminal at Wilanow. The Wilanow Palace was visible over the road. I believe Sunday has free entry, but the pull of the Pepsi Arena had been too great. We paid 25 zloty for entry to the Palace and the Gardens. The majority of visitors seemed oblivious to the ticket booth at the entrance and proceeded to be pointed back towards the payment. The place was clearly a draw in the summer, but on a bleak Monday morning, customers were at a premium. Wilanow has the key ingredient of being original i.e. the fighting factions in 1944 and 1945 missed! A summer photo would probably do the place justice, although mine don't. The other half continued with her app on the tablet and created a new illusion.
The weather took a serious downturn in the afternoon. It rained cats and dogs when we got back into the city, which kind of put the rest of the afternoon into disarray. We
resisted the temptation to head on to the Zywiec with a coffee, but only until it stopped raining.
Tot: 0.126s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 11; qc: 28; dbt: 0.018s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 4;
; mem: 1.3mb