Sunday, 17 March 2013

Day 2, 6th March 2013

Woke reasonably early today, with a full day of sightseeing planned. The first stop was the Złote Tarasy (Golden Terraces) shopping centre near the main station, as Dad wanted some batteries for his camera and we also needed to exchange some money. Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice I can give about travel in Poland is ALWAYS exchange your money, or as much of it as possible in Poland after your arrival. You will always get a better exchange rate than in your own country, and often will be able to get a better rate the more you exchange if you ask. As an example, at the time of this trip, travel agents and exchange centres in my town were offering 4.50zł to the £1, where-as those in Warsaw were offering an average of 4.72. It may not sound like much but it does make a difference.

Inside the Złote Tarasy shopping centre
In any case, we were rather impressed by the shopping centre, furnished inside as it was with lots of green plants and a curiously curved glass roof - and all in the shadow of a huge guitar from the Hard Rock Cafe and the Palace of Culture and Science. Nevertheless, we didn't hang about here for long and made our way towards the remains of the Ghetto wall that can be found in the city. They are quite difficult to find, located at Sienna Street no. 55 (Ul. Sienna 55). You can enter if you're lucky from the gate on the street itself, but the best and easiest way is to go to the next junction with Twarda street (Ul. Twarda) and then immediately turn left on to Złota street (Ul. Złota - Street of Gold) and you will walk past some shops. In between the Marcpol delicatessen and a clock-makers shop is an inconspicious gate that actually has signposts leading to the wall remains, saying 'Miejsce pamięci' - literally, Place of Memory.

The Palace and Culture of Science and the Hard Rock cafe.
From here it is easier, and you can exit after the second wall fragment you can exit back onto Sienna street, from where it easy to make your way back to the centre by turning right. I found myself thinking perhaps it is a good thing that it is not easily accessible and requires some effort to find - it is not a place that is bustling with tourists, and it shouldn't be. This is a place where due respect is required and a quiet contemplation. It is eerily quiet given the proximity to one of Warsaw main streets, al. Jana Pawła II (John Paul II Avenue) but this only augments the possibilities for quiet reflection and contemplation.

A stone with a Jewish star left in tribute to victims of the Holocaust. 

Following this sombre detour, we made our way to the Warsaw Railway Museum (Muzeum kolejnictwa) which my Dad wanted to see. Entry costs 12zł (around £2.50) and there is an indoor exhibition with lots of model trains and railway memoribilia, and, perhaps most interestingly for rail enthusiasts, a significant outdoor exhibition with many old locomotives to explore and photograph. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit for visitors to Poland is the one remaining war train that is stored here, complete with a cannon built into it. One can only imagine the horrific uses to which it was put, but it makes for an interesting change to the more everyday passenger service locomotives to be found here. On the way out, I picked up a small booklet with pictures of the trains on show and information on each of them (that I will have to translate) for my Dad. Nonetheless, it made for an inexpensive and interesting souvenir for him.

The only remaining war train in Europe.
Upon leaving the museum, we took a tram back to the central station and the shopping centre in order to buy a few necessary food items in the supermarket here. We had decided rather than splash out eating out, tonight we would buy some nice items from the supermarket and cook a nice dinner in the hostel. Since Dad's stomach had been playing up over the past few days, we didn't go for anything heavy and just bought some nice Italian pasta and sauce to make a simple dish - we weren't doing very well on the Polish food front up to this point, but this would soon be rectified.

A water fountain for filling up trains at the Railway Museum.
After this we made our way back to the hostel, cooked our food and settled in for the evening, only nipping out for one drink onto New World street for another of those famous 4zł drinks. Time to call it a night!

Link to day 3:

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