Back in late September, Fern had a business trip to Warsaw, and the kids and I decided to join him to spend a weekend there. When the idea first came up, I will admit I thought, “Warsaw? Shouldn’t we meet in Krakow?” I had visions of dingy, depressing, Soviet era buildings and nothing to do. Thankfully, we decided to take the opportunity to go…and I’m so glad we did as I do think this city is a hidden gem. I’d go back again without question.
The kids and I flew out after the school bus dropped them off at home on a rainy Friday evening. Paris traffic was so bad, we almost missed our flight. However, just a quick hop over Germany later, we made it to Warsaw (a 2 hour flight from Paris). We were staying at the Sofitel Warsaw Victoria hotel, and Fern had arranged for a driver to meet us at baggage claim. Easy peasy.
If you ever find yourself in Warsaw, I’d highly recommend this Sofitel. The staff was absolutely amazing. Friendly. Service oriented. They went above and beyond in every way to make sure that we were happy in our stay, and presented us with several little surprises along the way. Upon checking in, the kids’ room had been stocked with its own candy buffet, and Fern and I had a beautiful Pavlova, some champagne, and a Polish cookbook. I was almost overwhelmed with the generosity.
As it was quite late when we got to the hotel, we grabbed a snack at the bar and, after sampling all that delicious candy and the Pavlova, we went to bed so that we’d be ready to tour the city the next day.
Our Saturday in Warsaw started in the old town…specifically, at the Royal Castle. Now, this area of Warsaw is a UNESCO world heritage site, but absolutely none of this area is more than 40 years old. You see, the vast majority of Warsaw was completely leveled during WWII. The castle itself was bombed when the first bombs of WWII rained down on Warsaw 80 years ago, in September of 1939. The remainder of the castle was blown up by the Germans during the Warsaw Rising of 1944. The castle was painstakingly rebuilt using a combination of 17th century plans, old photographs, and other remaining plans. Many of the original pieces of art were recovered after WWII and were reinstalled in the castle. Wandering through the inside, you’d never really guess that it reopened in the 1980s. It was stunningly beautiful, and the Old Town is just super charming.
After wandering through the Castle and Old Town, we were hungry, and went in search of some good Polish food. During his time in Warsaw ahead of us, Fern had found a restaurant that I still can’t pronounce…Kieliszki na Proznej…and thought it was so good we should head there for lunch so the kids and I could try it as well. Let me tell you, if you thought Polish food was all bland sausages, cabbage, and potatoes…then this ain’t your momma’s Polish cuisine! It was delicious. Light. Delicate. And after months of living in Paris and dealing with the French standard of service…the high service standards found all over Warsaw were very welcome.
After lunch, we figured we’d continue to steep ourselves in WWII history, which is so indelibly intertwined with the history of the Polish people, by visiting the Warsaw Rising Museum. I will admit that I knew very little about the Warsaw Rising prior to visiting here. It was fascinating to learn more about Poland’s part in WWII, and sad to see how ruthlessly the Polish people were treated by both the Germans and the Russians. However, what spoke to me through this museum, and being able to juxtapose that with the modern Warsaw I saw, is the resilience of spirit of the Polish people. I cannot imagine having to live through the horrors that the 1940s residents of Warsaw endured, and felt very grateful to have been born and raised in a country that did not have to recover from such horrific destruction and loss of life.
On our way back to the hotel, we did a little bit of shopping, and ate a quick bite of dinner. We’d walked a lot, kids were tired, and we were looking forward to our final day of this short weekend trip.
Our last morning in Warsaw was spent just wandering around and taking in the sights, including the Warsaw Barbican, one of the few remaining relics of the fortifications that once circled the city. We also were able to cheer on runners in the Warsaw Marathon, which wound through the city on this day (including a group dressed like Roman gladiators). Warsaw is a very clean and pretty city, the people are friendly, and hospitality is taken very seriously. The exchange rate between the Polish zloty and the dollar/euro is very favorable, making it a great city to spend a quick weekend in. We’d highly recommend a visit here, especially for any of our friends who are WWII buffs.