LAST DAY. No! Sad!
But alas, it was our last day. We were determined to make it a good one. And then end the day “lit like a Christmas Tree,” as Brodie reminded us every 15 minutes.
We started the day off with a city tour. This one had its high points and low points. Our guide was very sweet, but very quiet, and could go on for a very long time on any subject. Some was interesting, but other stories dragged on. But we got to learn some interesting history and to see some cool stuff. She started by letting us know that a good amount of the city was destroyed during World War II, and that a good amount of Warsaw’s population died in the war as well. That being said, the portions of Warsaw that remain today are the portions that were rebuilt by the remaining population with money from their own pockets, considering they didn’t get any reparations for the war under communist watch.
Speaking of communists, one of the first things we saw on the tour was the tallest building in Poland, which was intended to be a palace for Stalin during his reign in the USSR. He’s a terrible communist.
We also got to learn a lot about older Polish History. For instance, Poland had a monarchy for a long time, and unlike most monarchies, the monarch was voted among the members of nobility. And the kind didn’t have to be Polish. You could pick a lord from Sweden, call him up and be like, “Hey wanna be the king of Poland?” And he’d be like “Sure!” and then hop on over and put on a crown. This carried on until the 1790s when Poland was partitioned and taken over by Prussia, Russia, and Austria respectively. Thus began the era of Poland being kicked around by literally everyone else.
We weren’t planning on walking through one of the city’s main gardens, but due to a lack of sufficient parking, wound up having to walk through it to get to our bus. It was very lovely, and I got to see one of my favorite sites of the tour: a crowd of Austrialian Contiki tourists losing their shit over seeing a squirrel for the first time. The poor lil guy was swarmed by cameras and excitement. I nearly fell over laughing. I can’t judge completely though, I’d do the same thing if I ever saw a kangaroo, and then they’d judge me.
Within the gardens were a couple of statues and buildings erected by some kings and whatnot. There was also a statue of Chopin, who the city claims as one of their national heroes. Apparently Chopin died in France, but he asked that when he died to have his heart returned to Warsaw, for your heart should be in an area that you love. So now Chopin’s heart just hangs out in a Warsaw Cathedral. Y’know. Like you do. Now the city honors him by having benches throughout the city where you press a button and they start playing a Chopin piano concerto. Cute right?
We hopped off the coach at the memorial of the famous Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jewish populations were forced to live before deportation to death camps. Poland historically had a very high population of Jews, considering it was a country that actually had many Jewish protection laws, while in many other countries they faced discrimination and deportation. In fact, in Hebrew, the name given to Poland can be translated to “place of rest.” But, as I’m sure you can imagine, during World War II, in very close proximity to the death camps, a very high population of the Warsaw Jewish people were destroyed. The buildings that formed the ghetto were knocked down, as they were left in shambles, and didn’t really serve a purpose in modern Warsaw. Instead, they replaced the ghetto with a Jewish museum, which is what we saw there. Hearing about all those stories dug up a little bit more emotion in connection to Auschwitz. I feel like I would have gotten more of out Auschwitz if we’d have gone to Warsaw first.
We finished our tour in Old Town. Our tour guide pointed out the pillar in Castle Square of King Sigmund, who was regarded as a national treasure to move the capital from Krakow to Warsaw. If you recall from a previous post, our Krakowian tour guide Ewa was still pretty salty about that. Of course in Warsaw, he’s a great guy! He gets his own spot on a pillar!
After a nearly three-hour walking tour, we were ready to take it easy and wander aimlessly. Brodie, Katy and I did some souvenir shopping, got some more lody, (which had become an addiction at this point), and then decided to go for a carriage ride. We’d seen horse drawn carriages in just about every city since Vienna, so were finally tempted to board one on the last day. It was probably a good thing, too, considering Warsaw was one of the cheaper cities we’d visited. It probably would have cost triple in Vienna. It was a lovely ride. We felt like Polish princesses as we processed town the cobblestone streets of old town. Our cabbie was nice, too. He pointed out a couple of cool landmarks as we passed. I asked him what his horse’s name was, and he told us. Unfortunately it was something unpronounceable, let alone spellable, in Polish, so you’ll never know what it was.
After our horse-drawn adventure, we went off in search of caffeine. We found a quiet little outdoor café and helped ourselves to some iced lattes. Another group of Contiki friends passed by us on their own adventures, and Rossene wound up hopping groups to join us. We sat there a while, talking about Bananas in Pajamas and all kinds of other weird Australian things so that Katy (from Belfast) and I could be educated in their ways. It had started raining a bit so it was nice to be shielded from the elements under the café umbrellas.
We soon took the bus back to the hotel so we could have a rest and a shower before our last night out on the town. Once we’d relaxed a bit, I joined Katy and Brodie in their room for a mini dance party and makeup party. Once we felt beautiful, we were ready to hit the town for our last evening out. On our way out, we stopped by the bar to start our night with a glass of Prosecco. We intended to each get a glass anyway, but somehow wound up buying a whole bottle. Oh well, at least it was cheap. We also joined Bec, who has a tradition of “shimmying” in all the locations she visits. We were oddly in sync without any practice, so stay tuned, we plan to start a girl band soon.
We went to a Polish restaurant for dinner, which was pretty good. Three courses again- a mushroom and noodle soup, roast duck potatoes and salad for a main, and a white Swiss roll for dessert. Originally we were supposed to be paying for drinks, but then we found out that the restaurant had included them, so we all got free wine!
We boarded the coach to head just a few minutes down the street to the nightlife street in Warsaw. Upon leaving the coach I fell off of the bus literally ONTO Emma. Like if she had not been there I would have scuffed my forehead on the sidewalk. Sorry, Emma. That makes three tumbles down the stairs for this trip. I know you’re proud, Mom.
After a walk by a protest against the Polish president (apparently he’s trying to force the entire Supreme Court to retire), we found ourselves at the first bar of the evening. We thought they were having a “ladies drink free” promotion in their club downstairs, but then it was upstairs, and then they were getting mad at us, so we left that place after about ten minutes.
Then we went to a shot bar. So, the currency in Poland is the zloty. 4 zloty equals 1 Euro, so one zloty is like a 25cent piece. The drinks at this location were known as “5 zloty shotties,” which, in American currency, is like a shot for $1.40. Them’s cheap drinks, folks! On top of that, they were fun! The first one was called a “Harry Potter,” in which alcohol was poured on the bar with all the shots lined up behind it. Then the bartender would throw (I think it was cinnamon?) into the flames to make it spark like he was casting spells. Then the shot was I think just orange vodka which was a bit much. But the crowd favorite was the “Girl Scout” Shot, in which the shots are poured, you’re handed a marshmallow on a stick, then the bar gets lit on fire again. You roast your marshmallow, then when the fire dies you take your shot. Eat half of the marshmallow, do the shot, then the other half. Super tasty, and fun! Who doesn’t like roasting marshmallows?
After some time at the shot bar we moved over to another bar called “Funky Jim’s” which was just kind of a standard bar. It’s around then that people started saying their goodbyes. One by one, we were dropping like flies. Considering the early departures of many flights, we considered these goodbyes our last ones from many of the friends we’d made on our happy little tour. There were lots of hugs, and lots of emotions.
Around 12:30, we headed over to Room 13, one of the bigger clubs in Warsaw, which was just down the street where we started. Our group had shrunk a little bit, but we still had about 20-25 people. Emma had previously made a deal with one of the bouncers to let us in, but once we got to the door, the girl there basically told us “No you guys can’t come in, my manager said no.” With fire in her eyes, Emma asked to see the manager. He came over and was basically like “Oh, yeah, no, you guys are fine. Just come in a few at a time.” We all gave evil eyes to that first girl as we waltzed by. We’d all kind of wanted to see Emma beat her down, but we weren’t lucky enough to witness such glory.
We got a couple of drinks (which were free! Ladies night! Whoo!) and danced to a few songs. The club was fun but we’d definitely had better music in Prague. After dancing there for a bit, Emma took her leave. This one was sad. Emma was like “Mom” for the past two weeks, so her leaving felt like the true end of the trip. We all got a little teary-eyed. Rossene told me that I was “Mom” now. I don’t know how I became the most responsible one in the group at that point. I can’t even walk down stairs.
After a few dances, Rossene, Brodie and I headed out as well. We hugged goodbye everyone left in the club, then headed down the street. I thought we were looking for a taxi, but it turned out that Ros actually had McDonald’s pulled up on her map app. Brodie almost died upon walking into the place, as her heel got caught in the welcome mat and she practically went flying forward. After some fries, ice cream, and wrestling with the door to the restroom, we were ready to climb into bed.
We hunted for a cab and were soon on our way home. Of course Brodie had to be the one to read the street name, considering she’d studied Polish in college and knew how to read it. If I had been responsible for that, we would have wound up in Albania or something.
We said goodbye to the Contiki bus, then hugged Rossene goodbye in the elevator and poured ourselves into bed, exhausted from a fun evening in Warsaw as well as 13 days of adventure in Eastern Europe.