We’re up for an early start on our second day in Warsaw, being Monday most of the museums are closed (including the Fryderyk Chopin museum, partly closed for refurbishment until June 2014) so we plan a long walk across the city. Coming from Praga we brave the chilled wind on Śląsko-Dąbrowski and get right in the Old Town.
What a glorious place! Typically beautiful and colourful Mittel-European old town, its atmosphere is even more dense because of the early morning crisp air – we’re probably the only two tourists around receiving sleepy looks of the first people opening their shops – and because of what we’ve learnt the day before at the Uprising Museum: this Town is in fact anything but Old, razed by the Nazis as revenge for the revolution attempt, it has been successfully rebuilt following as model some paintings by Bellotto, a relative of the more famous Canaletto, dating back in the 18th century. According to some senior citizens the result was even better than it was before.
From the main square we walked north along the only two streets with a easily pronounceable name: Piwna and Freta. Here you can find the museum dedicated to Marie Curie, another famous child of Warsaw and, a little outside the Old Town, the dramatic Monument to the Uprising. With this our history lesson can be considered closed.
We are now on the northern side of town and it’s time to head south, looking for food. To do this we pick the easy way taking Krakowskie Przedmieście, a large boulevard leaving the Old Town main square. This big street, continuing into Nowy Swiat, doesn’t have more charm than any high street full of fancy shops anywhere else of the world but it’s perfect for orientating across the heart of Warsaw and it’s within easy reach from most of the main attractions. One of those is surely the University of Warsaw, a beautiful building, dating back to 19th century, which has seen two centuries of eventful Polish history and lived through all of its tragedies. It can be reached by a majestic iron gate and has an annexed library with rooftop gardens offering a great view of the Vistula river.
Heading south we walk past the monument to Copernicus, determining the beginning of Nowy Swiat which, despite the name change, is not much different than Krakowskie. We speed up because the restaurant we’re looking for, Zapiecek, is at the other end of the avenue. We actually find another branch of this small local chain along Nowy Swiat, as we did earlier in the morning in the Old Town, but the one we’ve chosen is told to be characterized by a somehow authentic, if a little bit kitsch, rural décor. And there it is, our Zapiecek, perfectly meeting the expectations with it’s cosy dining room and kind waitresses clad in traditional dress and speaking good English. Here we indulge on pierogi trying different combination of filling and cooking methods: a platter of 9, either steamed or pan fried, can feature 3 different kinds of pierogi. We also tried a remarkable goulash on a bed of buckwheat and a sausage, less memorable but still delicious. A platter of pierogi, a beer and a main came for roughly £7/8 each, bargain! And no, we didn’t eat all of this in one meal, we also went back the next day before taking the plane.
After such a hearty meal it’d be a good idea to have a stroll in the park. It’s not far walking from the restaurant, but we worked out a quick route by bus with the jakdojade app, as the last part approaching the park is a big unattractive highway. We’re talking Łazienki Park, the biggest green area in Warsaw a very fascinating space rich with vegetation and buildings. The botanical garden is closed during winter but we were compensated with the view of a frozen pond where ducks and gulls were gingerly skating around.
Walking back we entered a concealed area running parallel to Nowy Swyat. Suitably called Secret Gardens it’s accessible through some gates, at the number 22, but if the gates are closed there’s a passage from the road Smilna, first on the left. The area is pedestrian and very small but rich in bars with a sparkly vibe. Being there in winter we didn’t see the area at its best but it’s worth visiting it anyway, even if just for the ROA graffiti…can you find it?