Warsaw (Warszawa)
My experience, the trip and facts about Warsaw

Skylines and views

Sródmiescie: Centrum/The modern city center

Sródmiescie: The old quarters in downtown around the university

Stare Miasto/Nowe Miasto: The rebuilt old city center

Wola and Ochota: Just west of downtown

The parks: Park Lazienki, Saxon Garden and Park Ujazdowski


Warsaw Chopin Airport

Warsaw by night


Population: 1 705 000 (3 350 000)
Capital of Poland
Year visited:
2008 (June)
Native name: Warszawa
City rights: Turn of the 13th century
State: Masovia
Area: 517 km²
Tallest building:
Palace of Culture and Science (230.7m to the spire, 43 floors)

Warsaw, the capital and largest city of Poland, and one of the 10 largets in the EU, is a city full of surprises. It is a city where east meets west. Worn, grey office buildings from the commie times stands side by side with tall skyscrapers in glass and steel, while the old city center with its narrow streets and a small town feeling of the old times have been rebuilt since the bombings of World War 2. It is one of the most hiscorically important cities in the whole Europe. Warsaw is also one of the cities in that has the most number of skyscrapers in the EU, together with Frankfurt, London and Paris. Most of all these tall buildings are centered around Palace of Culture and Science, a gift from Stalin that is the tallest building in Warsaw, so many Poles dislikes it while it is a very popular tourist attraction. Vistula (Wisla in Polish), Poland's largest river, flows right east of the city center. The city has both many buses, trams and a subway system. It is easy to get the feeling that the small old city center is surrounded by the "new" city center, Sródmiescie, which has mostly modern buildings. There is also a part of the "old town" that is called the "new town", that should not be confused with Sródmiescie. The confusing thing is that there is not only a "new town" that is an old town, there is also an "old town" in the new town, because the east part of Sródmiescie, just west of Powisle were the university is, is filled with beautiful old historical buildings.



I was visiting Warsaw with a friend, as the first part of a week long trip also including Krakow and Budapest. Some things where exactly like I excpected, while some things were different. Overall, I found the city was great and the people were friendly (many Varsovians even tried to speak a few words in English, especially young people), but there is no place in the world that has just positive sides. Our hostel, Oki Doki, was situated right in the modern part of the city center, it was so close to Palace of Culture and Science that we could see the uppermost part of the building from our room! The hostel was ok (we had a private room painted in a blue sea color), there were free internet access and the breakfast was included the first day, but it was really a pain to walk 5 floors upstairs (no elevator!) with heavy bagage in the heat when we arrived after our flight!

There was a larger number of old grey highrises in the city center than I expected, I thought they were only built in the outskirts (like in Budapest and Krakow). But it didn't disturb me, I think the mix of the many styles make the city very interesting. In the outskirts, near the airport, there was also alot of rundown and buildings, some of them seemed abandoned. We took the bus from the airport, that is not far from the city center. The bus was one of the modern ones (red and yellow, just like the trams). One of the first things we experienced after arriving in Warsaw, from the bus window, was a violent car accident, and that was after we had just stayed only 10 minutes in the country! And I remembered I have heard rumours of people driving like crazy in Poland, it made us think we should avoid sitting in a car while in Poland. However, we didn't see anymore accidents after that, and we found out that the traffic was not that bad, except for the fact that the drivers rarely stop for pedestrians and that people really park everywhere where there are an empty space.

One thing that really surprised us what that the city has became even more capitalistic than expected. Everywhere you could see huge commercial ads, of a size that is even rare in America. Large shopping centers, brand stores. international hotel chains and headquarters of international companies are popping up everywhere. And many new large and tall buildings are under construction and old buildings are being renovated so the city will probably look completely different in 10 years. But in some way, especially when you go to a museum or look at rundown buildings or ruins of old buildings, WW II and the Soviet regime still don't feels so far away. The weather was really good, it was sometimes even too hot, and mostly sunny in our 3 days in Warsaw. Despite being in the city for such a short time, we manage to see pretty much, we really enjoyed our stay in the fascinating Polish capital.

The room at Oki Doki Hostel, in the heart of Warsaw´s city center.


From Warsaw to Krakow:

First we were tavelling from Warsaw to Krakow by train, a very slow train that we captured around 1 PM. This journey took 5 hours in a hot and narrow compartment that we had to share with 4 other people. The journey became better when it became cloudy and I stood by the windows and watched the landscape, that was a mix of forests and fields. It was mostly flat, but when we got closer to Krakow, it became more hilly. The largest cities were the train stop were Radom and Kielce, both cities have more than 200 000 inhabitants, have a tall church in the center and commie blocks in the outskirts. The ticket was very cheap, I think it costed 50 zlotys (about 16 euro) or something like that.

From Krakow to Budapest:

We was almost in chock when we heard that the short trip between Krakow to Budapest (that would take about 4 hours in Sweden), should take 11 hours! So we decided to take the night train to kill some time.

And we had to share an even more narrow sleeping compartment together with a nice old Englishman, that talked to us a lot about WW2 and his religious experiences. 3 beds were located on top of each other and the uppermost was located right behind the ceiling with no views and there were no seats anywhere if you were not able to sleep. The train went through both Czech Republic and Slovakia, but as it was dark and we were sleeping (though it was hard to sleep on the train and I was somethimes awake)

Except for some railways, some trains, some warehouses and trees in Brno and Ostrava and Slovakia I didn't see much. I think the train passed through Bratislava too. Early on the Friday morning (around 8 o´clock) after having very little sleep, we reached the outskirts of Budapest.

Warsaw Frederic Chopin International Airport (formerly Okecie). We arrived in this large modern airport after a short flight from Copenhagen. It was hot and sunny when we arrived. Chopin is by far the largest airport in Poland. The airport is just a short bus trip away from the city center.