A Week in Warsaw – May 2015

Poland’s Capital city was largely destroyed in WWII, but Warsaw continues to rebound and is rich in National pride.

Chopin

Lazienki Park in central Warsaw was a highlight for us.  It is quite expansive with many great walking paths under huge shade trees.  As beautiful as the park is, its best feature was a Chopin concert in an open-air ampitheater under a modern sculpture of native-son Frederic Chopin.  The performance by one of Poland’s leading concert pianists on a sunny afternoon with gathering rain clouds truly was a delightful and moving experience.  One could sense the pride of the local citizenry who packed the grounds and park benches to share the moment.  Not to be missed, the concerts run from May through September on Sunday afternoons.

Located between Russia and Germany, Poland and Warsaw certainly have seen their share of conflict and struggles.  That complex history is still felt everywhere.  For example, Stalin’s ominous skyscraper — the Palace of Culture and Science — still dominates the skyline.  For a good, albeit touristy, orientation to the city and introduction to its unique history, we recommend a double decker bus tour.

To fully understand the city’s present, it’s important to appreciate its past.  For history buffs, a visit to the Warsaw Rising Museum is recommended to learn about an important yet tragic part of Polish history.  The museum is modern with a dark feel and a somewhat confusing flow.

The National Museum (MNW or Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie) is one of the largest museums in Poland.  Founded in 1862, it is also one of the oldest museums in the country.  In addition to an extensive collection of Polish art, the museum includes a collection of the European Masters, all presented in unique, thematically organized exhibits.

Mark joined a group at a cooking school to participate in a pierogie cooking class, learning how to construct different types of pierogies, including dessert pierogies.  This was followed by an informative lesson in Polish vodka and spirits.  It was the Poles, not the Russians, who invented vodka.  Sampling the many different styles of vodka is a Polish tradition that is well worth the time and expense.

Old Town is the oldest part of the Capital city and a source of national pride.  The interesting architecture is an accurate restoration of a cherished part of Warsaw which was nearly completely destroyed in WWII following the Warsaw uprising.  There are many small shops strongly geared toward tourists, including jewelry shops featuring – quite expensive – amber.

In Old Town, be sure to check out Lapidarium Jacek Kilinski, a unique Antique dealer/store with relics of the Russian occupation. Also a back room with Nazi and Red Army paraphernalia.  Definitely worth a visit.

Nowy Swiat (literally New World) is a great, upscale shopping destination, complete with restaurants and bars.  You’ll know you arrived when you see the city’s famous plastic palm tree!

Walking tours of the Royal Route, a former communications route, now a route linking historic landmarks, are available and may be of interest.

As this trip was part business for Mark, and part pleasure for both of us, we stayed at two different locations.

Hotel Bristo – is a lovely, luxury historic hotel located in the heart of Old Town.  On a sunny day enjoy the outdoor patio for cocktails. 4 1/2*

Regent Warsaw Hotel – a very comfortable hotel, geared toward the business traveller.  Near Lazineki Park. 4*

We recommend the following restaurants:

Atelier Amaro –  A unique, very expensive dining experience with very artistic and creative nouveau cuisine, seasonal ingredients paired with Polish vodka and spirits.  Located in Lazienki Park.  This is the place to see and be seen in Warsaw; we dined next to Donatella Versace and her family.  4 1/2*

Belvedere Restaurant –  An elegant and romantic restaurant surrounded by exotic plants, in a serene setting in Lazienki park.  Exceptional Polish cuisine and wine, with price tags to match.  Highly recommended. 5*

Restaurecja u Fukiera –  Traditional Polish cuisine in a romantic setting off the plaza in the heart of Old Town.  Service and food were exceptional.  Highly recommended by the Hotel Bristol for good reason.  4 1/2 *

Restauracja Polska Rozana – In additional to Atelier Amaro, this is another of Warsaw’s top restaurants.  Polish fare in a romantic and feminine location (the exterior of the building is pink and the interior is filled with fresh flowers, soft lighting, music and fine linens).  A short cab ride from Old Town.  4*

Boathouse – This restaurant and wine lounge in an expansive park-like setting on the bank of Vistula River.  Mark and his colleagues enjoyed a Polish celebration with traditional dancing and an authentic smorgasbord/pierogie feast.  It was a great experience and they were made to feel welcome.  4*

Krolewski restaurant & pub: Loctated in the square of Old Town, this is a great place for a cocktail al fresco in Old Town.  One of a number of similar establishments.

Safe travels!

… Mark & Dana …

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