170903 Warsaw Old Town (2)

Poland: First Impressions

I took an almost 9 hour flight into Warsaw and landed shortly after 8am on a cold, rainy, Sunday morning.  I’m not sure if it was because it was relatively early, or whether it was because of it being Sunday, but the airport was quite empty and I had a hard time finding the ticket booth for the train to have someone validate my Eurail Pass.  In the end, I decided to just purchase a train ticket separately and make my way to the city as soon as possible.  I had plans to continue onto Krakow later that day, so I decided to store my luggage at Warsaw Central instead of lugging it around with me while I explored the city.  There are actually two ways to do this.  The coin operated ones were the first ones I saw and I noticed it cost 16zł for a mid-sized one.  The problem was, I only had a 500zł bill because I hadn’t had a chance to use any money yet.   In the end, I had to go make a small purchase in order to get the right amount of change for the lockers.

After locking my suitcase up, I made my way outside and immediately regretted it.  I never thought to check the temperature before leaving Warsaw Central, which turned out to be a lesson I had to learn.  One quick look outside and you could see that everyone was dressed very warmly in scarves and fall jackets.  I made my way back to into the station and that was when I noticed a manned luggage station, very close to the coin operated ones.  The manned station is located almost directly from the stairs that take you up to the main floor of the train station and the price for one piece of luggage is only 10zł.  Since this option didn’t require me to go and find more change, it worked out much better. 

After walking around and getting lost for a while, I finally made it to Łazienki Park for the free Chopin Concert.  Unfortunately, I found out that it was cancelled due to the rain, which didn’t make any sense to me.  It was drizzling and not very consistently either.  Plus, the pianist and the entire performance area was covered, so I’m not sure why there was a need to cancel it.  There were certainly enough people around that it would have still been worthwhile to hold the concert.

I was a bit frustrated as this was one of the things that I had been looking forward the most to.  Chopin has always been one of my favourite romantic composers and it would have been a wonderful experience to sit in the park and hear his music.  Reluctantly, I got onto a bus and headed towards Old Town to wander around for a bit.

Warsaw’s Old Town appears to have frozen in time.  The medieval architecture makes it feel like you have been taken back in time.  But on the other hand, modern musical benches playing Chopin’s music also line the streets, which makes for an interesting mix of old and new.  On a nice day, it would be wonderful to wander up and down each street.

After a brief stop in the Old Town, I decided to head back to Warsaw Central to take the train to Krakow.  I hadn’t slept very much on the plane and wanted to get to Krakow early so that I could have a fresh start the next day.  Upon arrival, I lined up at the ticket office to purchase a seat reservation, since this is a requirement for Polish trains.  When it was my turn, the lady saw me and immediately said “no English, go opposite” pointing me in the direction of the Passenger Services office.  Once there, a lady who spoke almost no English at all attempted to help me.  I had read online that although reservations are required, they are free if you make them at the ticket office, but the lady asked me for 43zł for a second class reservation (my Eurail pass was for first class, but apparently that was sold out).  She couldn’t explain to me why I needed to pay and just rudely insisted that I do.  Well, I wasn’t going to sit there and argue with her as we clearly weren’t getting through to each other, so I just paid the 43zł and moved on.  I’m not sure if it’s just the culture, or the lack of communication, but I found this woman to be quite rude and the experience added to an already very difficult first day.  In hindsight, it wasn’t even that bad, but everything was heightened, likely due to lack of sleep.  I also blame it on trying to adjust and acclimatize myself to a new country in cold, rainy weather.

Thankfully the tides changed and when I arrived into Krakow, everything started working out really well.  Perhaps it was due to the 1.5 hour nap I took on the train?

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