Warsaw Old Town (+ the train to Berlin!)

After an all-day bus ride from Vilnius, we arrived in Warsaw. We’d both been here before on business trips and hadn’t seen much beyond conference rooms and generic hotels. I have to be honest that our impression of Warsaw was not great, so we only planned one day stopover. We decided to stay in the center of the Old Town to see the ‘most scenic’ (and most touristy!) part of the city.

Unlike all the other cities on this European part of our trip, Poland doesn’t use the Euro. We didn’t want to take out local currency (called “Zloty”) for only 24 hours, so we challenged ourselves to only pay by card. It wasn’t a challenge at all. Every place took cards, some even used the ‘touch only’ feature (which doesn’t always work with international cards) so you don’t even need a PIN or to sign. Too easy! Let the eating + drinking begin!

We stayed at The Castle Inn, a super quirky hotel across from the castle. Each room was different and ours was decorated with really bold comic book art. Zak was very happy. It wasn’t my favorite room.

The taxi from the train station dropped us off here – and we just walked across the pedestrian bridge to our hotel, which is the white building straight ahead in this picture. On the left you can see the ruins of the old city wall.

Warsaw Old Town is small, but really picturesque! Tons of cafes, restaurants, bars and little souvenir shops (and a couple interesting antique shops too). We had such low expectations we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. It was exceptionally warm the evening we arrived (in the low 50s!) and we went out without jackets on … it felt like summer! (Only to us who are used to the siberian climate – the locals still wisely wore coats.)

One thing I love about Europe in winter (and no, it’s not the ubiquitous gray sky…) is how so many cafes will have blankets and heaters so you can have your coffee outside, even if it’s chilly!

Outdoor cafe with blankets and heaters in the main square.

After the overdose of dumplings in Mongolia, Zak has his appetite back for them, and was very happy to have pierogi filled with pork or ricotta cheese.

Pierogi dumplings in Warsaw

Our hotel didn’t include breakfast with our room, so we set out to find a local cafe. I did a bit of TripAdvisor research and found “SAM“, a restaurant specializing in local and organic food (I can’t resist places like that! And they’ve been non-existant for most of our trip)  It was a 15 minute walk out of the Old Town to the restaurant…

Warsaw was so nice. We walked down a hill with a great view, through older looking streets and across a park (which is probably beautiful in the summer)

Here’s our food (yes, I guess I’m one of those people who takes pictures of our food before eating … at least on this trip!)

My breakfast. Egg, Avocado, Toast and Hummus, with some really potent spices on top. And a fresh glass of beetroot/ginger juice. I haven’t had food like this since we left Hong Kong (and rarely there…)! So it made me very happy.
Zak’s breakfast was inspired by middle eastern cuisine I think – eggs cooked in tomatos and lots of spices and other veggies.

Anyway, that’s all we’ve got for Warsaw. But we enjoyed what we saw of the city (admittedly not much!) – I think there is a lot more there to explore and would definitely be a worthy weekend-trip. Although we stayed in the Old Town, that might have been a mistake. Old Town felt like it was only there for tourists. Yes, it’s beautiful, but we got the impression the locals weren’t hanging out there (unlike Vilnius, where the old part of the city is still the living/working center) We’d both be happy to return to Warsaw anytime, and would stay in a different area to check out the local scene (+ food!)!

Off to Berlin!

And after that – it was back to train travel, with a 6 hour train from Warsaw to Berlin! We’re getting really good at entertaining ourselves on trains.

Exciting shot of the first class carriage on the Warsaw-Berlin train.

We booked first class tickets, and the carriage was almost empty. We had comfy seats, and they gave us free coffee/tea, a Lindt truffle and a packaged muffin.

Of course, we had to try out the dining car for lunch…

Dining car on the Warsaw-Berlin train
My dining car meal: beef cheek with barley and beets. We noticed many restaurants serve barley as a starch instead of rice or potatoes. It must be the local crop. Zak had soup and pierogi!
And some really tasty apple strudel for dessert!

As we zoomed through the Polish countryside, it surprised me how rural it was. There’s no more snow (or slush!) and you can really tell we’re entering into Western Europe…

There’s only one week left of our trip – and it doesn’t seem real that we’ll be back in London so soon. (With lots of fun tasks like unpacking ahead of us!) Next up is a few days in Berlin (a city we’ve both wanted to visit for a long time) and Amsterdam, before catching the Eurostar back to London!

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