Thursday, June 27, 2013

Where to go in Warsaw (Poland)

Warsaw, the capital of Poland is a amazing city is full of surprises. You will find it exciting, educating and inspiring.

As I wrote in my introduction, the people of Poland and Warsaw have not had an easy life - broken up in the 1700's only to rebel, then overwhelmed in the 1st World War and again in the second. The capital has emerged again with a beautifully re-constructed Old Town that is a testament to the love the people feel for their country.

You can take a Warsaw tour with a knowledgeable local guide, who is eager to tell you all about Warsaw's turbulent past and show you the best of its present-day delights. Begin your day with coffee in hand as your guide leads you through the cobblestone streets of Old Town, past Baroque palaces, numerous Gothic churches and masterfully reconstructed tiered houses. Stop for lunch in the lively Market Square , filled with street vendors, cafes, shops, galleries and some of Warsaw's top restaurants. Be sure to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum at the edge of the former Jewish Ghetto, where you can learn about the intense Polish struggle to liberate Warsaw from Nazi occupation during World War II.   Here are some of the highlights you should see.

1. Royal Castle
The Royal Castle (Polish: Zamek Krolewski) in Warsaw is the official residence of the Polish monarchs, located at the Plac Zamkowy, at the entrance to Old Town. The King's personal offices and the administrative offices of the Royal Court of Poland were located there from the 16th century until the Partitions of Poland in the late 1700's. In its long history the Royal Castle was repeatedly devastated and plundered by its neighbors.

2. Palace of Culture & Science
The Palace of Culture and Science (Polish: Palac Kultury i Nauki, also abbreviated PKiN) in Warsaw is the tallest building in Poland, the seventh tallest building in the European Union, and the world's 187th
tallest building at 237 metres (778 ft). The building was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science (Palace Kultury i Nauki imienia Jozefa Stalina). It is used today as an exhibition center and offices. The visitor should be aware that the building has been controversial from its beginning. It was hated initially because it was considered a symbol of Soviet domination - some of that negative feeling persists today. Some argued that the building destroyed the aesthetic balance of the old city and imposed dissonance with other buildings. You decide.

3. National Gallery of Art
Zachęta National Gallery of Art is the oldest exhibition site in Warsaw,  with a tradition stretching back to the mid 19th century. It is located in the heart of Warsaw, next to the Saski Park, and in the immediate vicinity of the University of Warsaw and the Academy of the Fine Arts. The origins of Zachęta can be traced back to 1860, when the Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts was founded in Warsaw.

4. Old Town Market Place
The Old Town Market Square (Stare Miasto or Starówka in Polish)  is the most historic location in the city and the most popular of Warsaw's tourist attractions. If you are only in Warsaw for a short trip, then the Old Town is a must-see location. A visit to the Old Town is worthwhile just to take in the Medieval architecture and the character of the Old Town Market Place with it's abundance of cafés, restaurants and bars. At times, it is difficult to believe that the whole area is in fact a near-total reconstruction as the original was destroyed during the second World War.

5. Lazienki Krolewskie Park- Palace Complex
The park and palace complex at Łazienki are one of the most beautiful of this type in Europe. Established
in the 17th century, the landscape gardens feature many interesting architectural elements, the most important of which include the Palace on the Island built for King Stanislaw August Poniatowski – Poland’s last monarch. It served as his summer residence and was famous for the Thursday dinners.

6.Wilanow Park-Palace
The summer residence of King Jan III Sobieski and then Augustus II as well as subsequent aristocratic families is an excellent  representation of European Baroque at its height and a homage to the former greatness of the Republic. The palace is surrounded by a magnificent, two level Baroque Italian garden and a romantic park in English style. Wilanów is the venue of important cultural events and concerts. The former stables house the Poster Museum.

7. The Grand Theater
The Teare Wielki or Grand Theatre is in my opinion the most beautiful building in Warsaw and believe me it has a lot of competition. The theater's neoclassical facade is stunning with beautiful art work and five
stallions which seem to gallop atop its roof. The Theatre plays host to the National Opera and guest Ballet Companies from Poland and abroad dance their way on the biggest stage in all Europe. As you can see, it is amazing at night.

The Box Office is open Monday - Friday 9.00am - 7.00pm
Saturday - Sunday 10.00am - 7.00pm

8. Warsaw Uprising Museum 
Commemorating the Polish struggle during World War II, the Warsaw Uprising Museum collects interactive exhibits, photos and video to document the city's war years. It opened its doors to the public in 2004. It is one of the city's most innovative and popular attractions, and a must-see for history buffs. Located just a kilometer away from the Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel, the Warsaw Uprising Museum is a popular stop-off point.

I hope this will help and have a great time! 


Friday, June 14, 2013

History of Poland

Poland was first inhabited by tribes in prehistoric times. Like most of Europe, tribes gave way to Monarchies and Christianity. The first Polish monarch reign began in 1024. A constitutional Polish monarchy ran from 1370 to 1493, then in 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth era began and lasted until 1795 when internal political struggles and external enemies brought an era of decline and partition.

The once powerful monarchs gradually lost power
and the State was eventually partitioned by the more powerful Austria, Prussia and Russia.

The Polish people didn't give up on independence, resulting in an uprising against the Russian Tsar. Poland then regained it's independence after the First World War, but became the first to fall against the German and Soviet attack at the beginning of the Second World War. Many thousands of Poles served in the armies of the Allied Forces. During the war 6 million Polish citizens were killed by Germans, 2,5 million were transported to labor or extermination camps. After World War II, Poland became a satellite of the Soviet Union, under a communist regime. The uprisings in 1956 and 1968 were suppressed. In 1978 Karol Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II. In 1989, led by a reform movement called Solidarity, Poland became the first Eastern European state to break free of the Communism.

The economy of Poland developed into one of the most robust in Eastern Europe. Poland joined NATO on May 27, 1999 and the European Union on May 1, 2004.

If you need more information, I recommend these books, since I just gave a overview.


Friday, June 7, 2013

How careful should you be going to Poland

Crime in Poland is on the decline and the police are more prevalent and responsive than ever before. However, you should take steps to ensure your safety.

Don’t become a victim

Petty crime such as pick pocketing is known to occur and is usually directed at foreign tourists. Prime pick pocketing areas include busy tourist attractions as well as train and bus stations. Be especially careful during the tourist season and in high traffic areas. Late night trains where tired passengers often fall asleep are a favorite of pick pockets. The rules are the same everywhere.
  • Don't become alone at night in dark places
  • Don't go into isolated or poorly lit areas and don't use ATM's in poorly lit areas
  • Don't carry your wallet in the open
  • Don't carry more cash that you need that day, leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe
  • Don't leave your belongings in airports, train stations and other highly trafficked areas 
  • Don’t buy counterfeit merchandise. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, but by purchasing them you could also be breaking local law.
Be a smart traveler. Remove the temptation - visible luggage or personal items from cars when parking, especially near popular tourist sites. The American Embassy has learned of some cases where travelers discover a flat tire and someone immediately volunteers to assist. Capitalizing on the distraction, an accomplice meanwhile steals valuables from the vehicle.

The criminals are getting smarter

Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise world wide. In this silent crime you may not even know that you have been a victim until much later. The traveler can do a few things to protect themselves:
  • Be observant of your surroundings. If you are using ATM's, public computers, or even your own smart phone or tablet, look to make sure no one can observe your usernames and passwords.
  • If you are using a public computer don't get sucked in with an offer to help with the local language and always log off and shut down before leaving.
  • Don't use a debit card connected to your primary checking and savings accounts. If these are lost or stolen, your accounts can be drained. Rather, use a credit card where your exposure is only your credit line.

If you become a victim

If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. They can:
  • Replace a stolen passport;
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape;
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want they will can contact family members or friends; and
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
They also maintain information on their website on where to get help in child abuse situations.

US Citizens be aware

Recently, two American teens were accosted by a young Polish men in Warsaw. These incidents happened over separate weekends, in the vicinity of the Wilanow Bus Stop, at approximately the same time of the evening. Luckily, during both incidents no one was seriously hurt. The local police are aware of the crimes and have promised to take appropriate measures to address this situation.

The US Embassy has the following recommendations for you to consider.

  • Avoid known criminal hang-outs such as large parking lots near closed businesses, bars, quick-marts, etc (local police report that crimes of this nature increase substantially after 10:00 P.M.).
  • Limit activities in the vicinity of the Wilanow Bus Stop in Warsaw and surrounding area. The police have identified this area as having criminal activity.
  • If you must transit an area known for criminal activity, use a mode of transportation which will limit your exposure.
  • If you are approached by a group of individuals, depart the area as quickly as possible. Do not engage the individuals in any type of confrontational behavior.
  • If you have an emergency in Poland call 112. 112 is a European Economic Community initiative to provide a one telephone number contact for ambulance services, the police, the fire service, air and sea rescue and other emergency services available within a specific country (such as mountain patrol). The 112 telephone number is designed for use in emergency situations but is reported to be unreliable in Poland. Instead, dial 997 for police, 998 to report a fire, or 999 to summon an ambulance.
  • The US Embassy in Warsaw is located at Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31. Contact options are:
    • Phone - (48)(22) 504-2000
    • Fax - (48)(22) 504-2688
    • Consular Fax - (48)(22) 627-4734 (only checked during normal business hours)
    • Website -
  • The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is located at Ulica Stolarska 9. Contact options are:
    • Phone - (48)(12) 424-5100
    • Fax - (48)(12) 424-5103
    • After-hours emergencies only 601-483-348
  • A Consular Agency providing in Poznan is located at Ulica Paderewskiego 7. Contact options are:
    • Phone - (48)(61) 851-8516
    • Fax - (48)(61) 851-8966
Be safe!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Things we always say

You can limit yourself by the story you have created about you. Here are some simple examples of how the story we have created about ourselves can limit us:
I am no good at math. I have never been able to dance. I am not a very good writer. I am very stubborn. I don't sleep well. I am very moody. I struggle with my weight. My English is not good. I am always late. I am not a very good driver. I can't see without my glasses. It is hard for me to make friends. Money seems to slip through my fingers.

The moment you become aware of what you are saying, you can delete these things and rewrite your story!
Rhonda Byrne