Actual flying time from Manila to Warsaw was about 14 hours. From Manila to Amsterdam is 11 hrs 40 minutes, and from Amsterdam to Warsaw is 2 hours. You land in Warsaw Chopin Airport. (Named after Frédérick Chopin, Polish composer and pianist whose father was French.)
Arriving in Warsaw gave me a little jolt, I must say. I got stalled at the immigration counter, and the officials talked about me when they saw me bearing a Philippine passport. That was understandable. That was the height of the Avian Flu scare here in Asia. Unfortunate for me, the Philippines was in their watchlist. You start to feel really queasy when you know you are talked about in a language you don’t understand.
When I finally got my clearance, I tried to find my way to the busses that took passengers to Central Warsaw, where my hotel was located. The elderly lady at the tourist information counter was very helpful, and she gave me instructions in somewhat understandable English: “You take bus no. 175. It goes straight-straight to center Warszawa. You count 3 circles, and after, when you come to 3rd big circle with many big sign post, you go down. There your hotel. Ok?” She drew me a sketch pointing out the exact location of my hotel, and handed it over to me. I thanked her for her cordiality and assistance. That sounded very straight-forward, right?
For non-Poles, counting three circles meant, 3 rotundas. That was what I did. But all the rotundas we passed were big, and looked alike with so many big billboards. I alighted at the bus stop on ‘3rd big circle.’ I looked around, but I did not see any hotel. At the bus stop, there were three elderly ladies. So I asked for some assistance. Two of them hardly spoke any English, save for the last one who knew ‘some English.’ She told me that my hotel is still at the next big circle. I took the next bus, and when I alighted at the following big circle, I found my hotel.
Warsaw Centrum Building.
Warsaw, modern as it is, seemed a little laid back compared to other Western European cities. It is a ‘postwar city, which was practically annihilated during WWII. Its handful of historic precincts have been meticulously reconstructed. After the war, it became part of the countries under the iron curtain for several years (1945-1989). Notwithstanding, a decade after the fall of communism, it has become Poland’s most cosmopolitan, dynamic, and progressive urban center. It is a blend of old and new, respecting tradition but racing towards the future.
Warsaw is also like most European cities with a lot of museums and historical landmarks. What caught my attention though were the churches. I marveled at all the beautiful church architecture. The outer and interior designs blend both neo-gothic and baroque styles, while the rituals follow that of Rome. Very interesting indeed.
Everywhere you go in Warsaw, you can see priests and nuns in the street. And it seems to me that practicing Catholics there are really devout. I stumbled upon a group of children preparing for their first communion in one of the churches. They were being catechized by a priest together with their parents. And all of them were listening attentively. When the priest told everyone to kneel for prayer, everyone did so and prayed very fervently. It was very inspiring.
Another thing to note about Warsaw, and probably about Poland, is that they have a Jewish subculture. Unfortunately, the Jews have been greatly reduced due to their extermination during the last world war. But traces about them still remain. Jewish quarters and ghettos still abound, and yes, even Jewish cemeteries are places that tell so many stories about them.
One final note about the Poles – they are rather good-looking, but they rarely really smile. Their faces are serious most of the time.
For those who have the opportunity to travel, go visit eastern Europe. And if you have a choice, make Poland first in your travel plans. You'd love it there.
For complete information, go to --
The official website of Warsaw
ul Marszalkowsca at night.
. . . . .
This entry was written by CBB. He took this trip in May 2003.
CBB is guest-posting in my blog upon my invitation to share his travels.
More stories from him in the coming weeks!
Auschwitz and Birkenau
One Day in Krakow