Like all train stations in Europe, the Warsaw train station is no exception. After walking out of the train station you find yourself thrust into the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. Even here in Cologne, the main train station is situated directly next to the famous Dom Cathedral, and is in the middle of everything. It is also more than just a train station as there is shopping and restaurants inside where non-travelers might have an interest as well. So, this is also how the Warsaw train station was.
My first impression of Warsaw was amazement at how big the city was. After chugging along hours of endless fields and crops through Poland, one may not expect to find such a big development out so far from everything else. The next thing that hit me was the language. Very seldom is it that I have found myself in a situation where I do not know a single word of the local language, and hearing Polish all around me was very strange. Polish sounds very much like Russian, and does not stem from Latin, so every word sounds extremely unfamiliar to me.
Before I talk about what I did, I would like to give a little bit of history of Warsaw and Poland. The city’s history dates back all the way to the 9th century, but what is most important when visiting Warsaw today is in some of it’s most recent history. Poland became an independent country in 1918, and later in 1920 defeated the Russian Red Army defending Warsaw. During World War II, Poland suffered the most casualties of any country involved at over six million Poles, half of whom were Jewish. After World War II, Poland fell off of the map and was then controlled by the Soviets. Poland remained Communist, and still not independent from Russia until 1990, when Communism fell and Poland elected it’s first parliamentary president. Much of what I saw in Warsaw greatly reflected it’s rich and dark history.
I am extremely lucky that I was there visiting with Anna, because for one thing, she is the best tour guide one could ask for. Before my arrival she had prepared herself with several books, and pamphlets all about Warsaw, and the different sites to see. After visiting her very nice apartment, she took me out into the city by way of the underground metro to take some pictures, and see some of the important sites of the city. We walked throughout the old town that had been carefully reconstructed since WWII. We saw the President’s Palace, saw ate a real Polish lunch, and she showed me some of her favorite places to visit. We ended our sightseeing with a climb up to the top of the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a huge skyscraper, constructed as a government building from the Russians, and now has been turned into a museum. At the top, one can look out and get a beautiful view of the city.
After all of our sightseeing, we made it back to Anna’s apartment, and at dinner with her sister, and a friend of theirs. After that was one hectic night on the town. First we went to a friend of Anna’s apartment, and had a few drinks. I think I should have known that the Polish drink of choice is plain old vodka. After that, we went back out into the city where we found ourselves in a club for a short time before heading back, getting some rest, and getting ready for another day of full activities. All of that will be in part three of my trip to Warsaw.