Due to the Russian roulette of the UK Travel Corridor Green List I found myself unexpectedly making a stopover in Warsaw last month.
Flexibility seems to be the name of the game for travel during COVID-19. I’d gone to Slovenia via Venice for work and was keen to stick to green countries on the way back and avoid crappy airlines like Wizz or Ryanair. So I ended up with a 20 hour layover in Warsaw.
Poland has never really been on my travel hit list for some reason, and with little time to research I landed in Warsaw with zero expectations or plans.
There is something kinda nice about not planning every second of a trip, not having a set itinerary and just letting the city unfold in front of you. I’d forgotten how delightfully disorientating it is to be somewhere where you can’t speak the language and have no idea what is round the next corner as well as that reassuring feeling that as long as you know the name of one good bar you’ll be alright and have fun.
That one bar was The Roots Cocktail Bar & More, a cool little cocktail joint just past the Ogrod Saski park. I would have loved to sit inside the bar but capacity with social distancing was reached so instead I took a seat outside and explored the menu.
I enjoyed a Peanut Colada – a rich, nutty take on a Piña Colada and was happy to find the place also served food. My expectation of bar food is always pretty low but this place really overdelivered. The Truffle French fries and Chill shrimp hit the spot and I treated myself to a deconstructed boozy meringue dessert and a Dream On drink (an elegant mix of vodka, paprika infused vermouth and mead) before I called it a night as it was getting nippy.
The next day I woke up to explore the city some more and started with a stroll past the Palace of Culture and Science – a beautiful building that dominates the central district I saw illuminated the night before. Designed by Lev Rudnev, it was a symbolic gift from the Soviet Union to Warsaw during reconstruction efforts and combines modern construction techniques with nods to traditional Polish decor and is impressive.
With no one to please but myself I indulged in a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, wandering an art gallery makes for an ideal Saturday in my book.
Free to enter, they had an interesting exhibition on about the Penumbral age, and art in the time of planetary change composed of artistic works from the past 5 decades based on observations and visualisations underway on planet earth.
I attempted to visit the Museum of Vodka which was sadly closed, before strolling through the old town and just enjoying whatever came into view. This monument dedicated to child soldiers made me stop and pause for a moment.
I got a ticket to the Museum of Warsaw – for a whistle stop history lesson. This is a city that has been battered and ravaged by natural disasters, wars, uprisings and seen huge changes in population, occupation and state affiliation and through its changing capital city status.
I learn more about history through travel than I ever did in school, I still can’t believe in the UK we have to choose between humanities subjects at 14 or so, when both history and geography is so crucial to our understanding of the world.
I can’t quite comprehend the level of destruction described here as 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed by bombs in WWII and the old town market square painstakingly reconstructed.
So after another short stroll my 20 hours in Warsaw was up and I jumped in a cab back to the airport to return to London, having safely stayed within the crucial green list.
My initial impression of Warsaw, is that it’s a surprisingly pretty city with lots to offer in the way of culture and plenty of green space for a big city -there’s around 20,000 ha of green areas. There’s a new shiny side with skyscrapers and tall residential and commercial buildings and a quaint old town. It is cheap as chips and has at least one banging bar I could happily stay in all night.
I think I’ll be back to explore more sometime, 20 hours was not long enough, but it has certainly whet my appetite. I wonder in what other unexpected direction the UK’s notorious green list will take me next…