Old names in use
In emerging Warsaw international hotel chains buy various old hotels, renovate them and change their names or add own chain name to the old Polish name.
Keep in mind that many locals (including taxi drivers) don't use or even don't know the new names. So, don't ask your taxi driver to be picked up to Meridien Hotel (full official name is: Le Royal Meridien Bristol Hotel). Say Bristol instead. Don't say Sofitel (Sofitel Victoria) but Victoria hotel. Well, the best way to avoid confusion is to take and show hotel visit card. Anyway, just in case you forget it, the taxi driver will probably ask an operator and other taxi drivers through the radio where is that strange Meridien or Sofitel hotel.
- Luxury Travel
- Business Travel
No air-condition and heat!
From time to time summer in Warsaw is hot, for me very hot with maximum temperature exceeding 90 F (32C) which is good weather for lying with no move on a beach under umbrella with refreshing wind from the sea. But such hot days are definetely a nightmare for Warsaw sightseeing. The 1-2 weeks wave of heat happens once a few years only (in June - August) but you may experience a few hot days each summer in Warsaw.
Keep in mind that air-condition is not a commonly used invention in Warsaw. Well, bank, government offices, supermarkets and shopping malls are aircontioned but most hotels except those 4-5 stars have no air-con as well as most taxis/cabs, all city buses, trams etc. All fancy restaurants and surprisingly quite many medium-priced ones as well as pubs/bars are air-conditioned probably because of a lot of cigarette smoke to remove. Keep in mind that many (most?) locals smoke and only some restaurants (always fancy ones) offer non-smoking rooms.
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
In the middle 1990' I went to a Turkish restaurant. It was shortly after my trip around Turkey when I fell in love in Turkish cuisine. My meals had only Turkish names but they were neither Turkish nor Polish. God knows what meals their "creative" cook prepared. Only my bill was fat. Something similar happened to me with Italian and Greek food in Warsaw as well.
As for what is called Chinese food (all SE Asian food is often called Chinese in Poland) simpler and cheaper place, better food. The best was that one cooked in small kiosks on a street close to the Russian bazar and stadium (Stadion X-lecia).
Generally if you choose top, luxary ethnic restaurant you should give real ethnic food but expect to pay a fortune as for Poland. My conclusion is to skip ethnic and fast food restaurants and look for good Polish food available in local restaurants of each prize category.
FAT SAUCES AND MAYO
Warsaw cooks especially in cheaper and medium-priced restaurants tend to make thick and fat, flour-creamy sauce and top meat and potatoes with it. Ask the waiter not to add any sauce or serve it in a seperate pot. Lucky you if she/he understands you haha. The cooks tend to add a lot of mayo-based or/and fat cream-based sauces (of numerous unknown recipes) to all salads as well.
Tipping is expected but not obligatory and even not customary among locals except in a fancy restaurant. Usually locals pay round sum 5% - 10% over the one on the receive. Excuse, usually you can't pay a tip by a card but by cash only. The reason is still strange financial law or rather lack of clear law rules about tips. Some crazy layers and politicians (we should export them, do you want any? :-) confuse tips with bribes or want to tax them.
DON'T SAY THANK YOU :-)
When you put cash on the table and are going to give a change do NOT say "thank you" to yoyr waiter. It traditionally means that you don't want any change. In that case you might have waited for a change by the restaurant closing :-).
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
Rarely very cold or very hot weather
Poland is often wrongly located somewhere far east in Europe, close to Russia and even Siberia :-), thus it's regarded as a very cold country. Haha, once I was asked where to find Polar bears in Poland, once whether we have any summer.
In fact Warsaw is located in the heart of Europe approximately on a half way between Paris and Moscow and only 5 hours 40 min. (by train) from Berlin, Germany while almost 21 hours from Moscow, Russia. So, the climate is perfect for signtseeing, not very rainy, mostly pretty warm in summer and mostly mild with moderate snow fall in winter. Check Warsaw average (month by month):
- maximum temperature
- minimum temperature
- 24-hr. average temperature
But I have to warn you. Once a few years we have very hot (over 32C = 90F) 2-3 weeks in summer and more rarely very cold 2-3 weeks in winter (below -15C = 5F). The winter 2006 seemed to be the coldest ever with temperature dropping down below -20C (-4F) and with heavy snow falls. Well, it took a few up to 24 hrs to remove snow from streets and make traffic a bit faster and safer. Anyway, our city bus came only 2 min. late. We couldn't call a taxi for some time as all lines were busy and we had to get more expensive hotel taxi. We had -29.5C (-21.1F) one night which was the lowest temperature I remember. The highest one was +36C (97F). But... these are very, very rare extremities. Well, in cold weather I at least may dress warmer and concentrate on visits to indoor attractions. The hot weather in a city without common air-condition works worse for me :-).
Check 10-day weather forecast for Warsaw and do enjoy whatever it is:-).
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
For the early birds
Being on holiday (and only that time :-) I used to be quite an early bird starting sightseeng at about 8 am or earlier unless I take part in a good party by late night. If my accommodation doesn't offer any breakfast or caffee I start a day from looking for a place to eat something and drink caffee. Well, I was dissaponted in many countries and cities finding everything closed, in Prague, Czech for example but never in Krakow, Poland.
In Warsaw, hmm... being before 10.00 am, I hardly found only one open place for breakfast in the Market Square - the patisserie Bazyliszek open from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. Open my pictures to see VT-gang searching for morning food.
It seems that Warsaw businesswomen and businessmen and their employees love to sleep long in the morning. Exactly like me, although me not on holiday. Those locals who start to work at 9.00 am are slow and somewhat sad about their early awakening, I guess, especially on Saturday or Sunday. Try to be understanding for them if possible :-).
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
Watch for furious dogs :-)
First, let me say what is furious dog ("wsciekly pies") in Poland:
- 1 part raspberry syrup
- 3 parts well chilled Polish vodka
- 2-4 drops of Tabasco sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper
Fill 1/4 of a small shot glass (25 g) with raspberry syrup. Slowly pour vodka over it. The vodka should form a separate layer (use a small spoon to guide vodka to the surface of the syrup). Add drops of Tabasco or a pinch of Cayenne on top. Drink in one gulp. (source: below; in pub Lolek it is called Furious Dog in English and costs 8 zl/2.1 euros).
Tasia taught me how to drink it correctly ---> mix and fast drink in ONE gulp. Thank you, Tasia :-). Options in the local custom tip.
Well, I have to warn you that this drink is addictive and an unusual and funny way of ordering drinks in pub Lolek (you have to make a trip for them) may encourage you to order more shots at once. Then... one by one and you may (just first 5):
- take pictures similar to the last one (open it),
- ask the musicians to play what you like: U2 in Tasia's and my case (warning: they are not allowed to take any money, they are already paid by the pub!),
- forget that you ordered roasted potatoes in the seperate coal grill room/tent,
- confuse a waitress by a bar by taking her pictures,
- switch language to not your native one and speak with your natives in a foreign language.
Cheers! Do enjoy! One more Furious Dog, please! :-)))
- Budget Travel
- Luxury Travel
Warsaw is a city of dog lovers but few of them live in houses with gardens. So thousands of dogs are taken for walks in public places every day. Nobody minds that if they are kept on a leash or even if the well-behaved ones run freely. But dogs, like all creatures, need to defecate, and, what's worse, don't mind doing this in public places: mostly on the lawns but sometimes on the pavement. Most dog owners wait till they have finished but then walk away, pretending that nothing has happened. Very few clean after their dogs. The result is obvious. So be careful, especially getting in or out of a car or walking in grassy areas - it is there that accidents happen most frequently.Related to:
- Travel with Pets
Check the hours!
If you're going to walk all the way over to the Jewish Cemetery, be sure you check the hours so you don't arrive after 1pm on Friday, the only day that it closes that early. I was a little frustrated when I arrived just a few minutes late to a locked gate.
Krakow's main square actually has the most pigeons anywhere in the world outside of St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, but there are plenty of the pesky little poopers here too. Watch yourself when walking below them or wear a hat!
When looking for batteries, try not to buy from the Ticket offices situated close to the Metro and at various points around the City. The batteries i purchased from one of these shops lasted a whole one day, then gave up the ghost. And i payed 10Zl for them.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Study Abroad
Mind the gap
The underground is a great, if only partial, solution to Warsaw's traffic jams. It is accessible to wheelchair users and mothers with children in pushchairs as there are lifts at all the stations. However, actually getting on the train may prove tricky, particularly if wheelchair users want to do it without any help. There is a gap between the train and the platform big enough for the wheel of a wheelchair or a pushchair to get stuck in. I have seen it happen. Fortunately, the girl in the wheelchair was being pushed by her mother. If there had been no one to help her, she would have been in real danger. There have even been cases of people getting their feet in the gap, though no serious accidents have been noted.Related to:
- Family Travel
Beware of ticket inspectors trying to charge you a "special tax". We were caught without a ticket as we could not find anywhere to buiy one and needed to get back to our hotel. We were caught and were asked to pay some absurd tax of about 120Zlotny each. We managed to negotiate them down to about 40 between the 3 of us, which he pocketed of course.Related to:
- Budget Travel
The crazy wather
The wather might be crazy!!!! You can never really tell when it`s gonna rain- even in the summer!!! So beware!!! ;) We always laugh at meteorologists, because they can never get it quite right. So don`t listen to whatever they say and always bring an extra layer with you.
Toilets are not always free
One thing I discovered in Warsaw is that many establishments do not have free toilets. Even at restaurants where you are a paying customer you may still have to pay to use the toilet. More than half the toilets seemed to be free, but it's a good idea to keep some change in your pocket in case you have to pay for one. The typical going rate was one Zloty (about 25 cents US).
Be careful a) carrying beer b) being drunk, if the police think you are too drunk, it is possible you will be thrown into the drunk tank, I've not heard of it happening to too many foreigners but I met an Aussie who had had this problem, he wasn't even that drunk (or so he says) apparently, the only thing to drink is peed in coffee. I suggest if you go out with friends, that at least one of you stays sober :-)
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