Today was the first day of our family trip to Poland. The trip officially began at the Newark, NJ airport. This was a central location to the four of us and has good flight options to Poland. There’s something exciting about beginning an adventure with everyone converging on a single location. I traveled from Virginia, one of my sisters from Philadelphia, another from Connecticut, and my mom from New Hampshire.
Thanks to my mother’s generosity, we flew business class on Lufthansa. This sinfully luxurious flight began in their well-appointed lounge with a help-yourself full bar and impressive cafe. This is where the four of us met and toasted what we all knew would be the trip of a lifetime.
The plane was so spacious that we all got nearly a full night’s sleep on the red-eye flight. We connected in Munich and went from there to Warsaw, landing at the Chopin Airport.
Our guide, Radek was there to greet us and drive us to a quaint hotel called the Boutique Bed & Breakfast. I would definitely recommend this quaint and charming spot. While it is a modest hotel, it is very well-suited to the personality of Warsaw.
We checked in, got settled and immediately hit the streets for a guided walking tour. Our professional tour guide was Pawel “Paul” Szczerkowski and he had the knowledge of a college history professor. The tour he gave us was the story of Warsaw with all of its historical underpinnings.
It began with a monument that is a palm tree sculpture in the middle of “Aleje Jerozolimskie”, or Jerusalem Avenue. It is 50 feet tall and a surprising sight in this climate. The intention was to place this element of the Israeli landscape in the center of what was once a thriving Jewish community.
We saw many relics of Soviet/Communist rule, including a retro favorite that has lasted beyond the communists, the “Bar Mileczny”, or Milk Bar. These were originally inexpensive self-serve cafeterias, known for the lack of customer service that comes from a guaranteed job. Today, however, they are still inexpensive and widely popular.
We saw a 150 year old cafe called Cafe Blikle, where a young Charles De Gaulle ate every day when he lived upstairs for a year in the 1920’s as France and Poland worked together to fight the Bolshevik war. He was said to favor Blikle’s Polish donut, but our tour guide told us he knew a place around the corner where we could get the best donut, the pączki (pronounced something like “ponch-key”).
We went to a small window on the street called Cukiernia Pawlowicz, and I will tell you that this was one memorable donut! Still warm, and just really perfect in every way!
From there we walked to Plac Kopernica. This is the entrance to the Polish Academy of Sciences with an impressive sculpture of Copernicus. In front of the statue, laid in stone is a scale model of the solar system he discovered, that is, as far as Saturn.
We walked a long time and worked up both an appetite and a thirst! It was finally time to enjoy my first pirogue in Poland!
These went down quite well with the help of some Polish beer! I was so thirsty I drank half of it before i remembered to take a picture!
As we walked and learned, we were reminded repeatedly that during World War II, Warsaw was completely destroyed. This marvelous city has been restored, and many of these magnificent buildings are less than 75 years old. Even the “Old Town” in Warsaw is new!
The history is multi-layered and we will return to Warsaw next week but for now, enjoy a few of the better pictures I got on this beautiful day!