Posted by: englishdubai | December 9, 2006

Shopping, Chopin and Terracotta Armies

I visited Warsaw on only one previous occasion over nine years ago. I clearly remember taking the impression that the old town was beautiful, the people were friendly and it was still very much an “eastern bloc” country. Last week on my visit I still found the old town to be beautiful and the people friendly but now Warsaw has undergone dramatic change and feels like a modern European city which is developing at a quite staggering rate.

On arrival at the new international terminal of Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport I was surprised at how quick it was to get through – however I still had to go over to the old terminal to find an ATM for some Zloty.

On driving through to the hotel I was startled by the number of new modern buildings and hotels that had sprung up in the interim nine years. The Palace of Culture and Science still dominates the city central skyline:

I was presenting at the quarterly partner “Akademi” – this was held some 150km outside of Warsaw in a resort location called Spala. I can imagine in the summer the forest location would be very nice but in the depths of the winter it was a little bleak. The local team did a great job with the event and had high attendance though like last week in Moscow it can be tough to listen to four hours of presentations not understanding a single word.

On my way back from Spala to Warsaw some of Poland’s growing pains became evident. The road system struggled to meet the demands placed upon it and a single accident on the main dual carriageway back to the city sent the Taxi driver on a rather adventurous route across the Polish countryside. A journey that should have taken one and half hours was doubled but I had fun talking to the driver in a strange mix of broken English and German.

A little weary from the journey back, I was determined to see more of Warsaw in its new form. So hopped into a cab and went to visit the newest Mall in Warsaw – Blue City:

I am kind of spoiled when it comes to Malls living in Dubai – but with over 250 shops it certainly had a lot space to have a good window shop. What did catch my eye was the exhibition on the famous Chinese Terracotta army – something I have always been fascinated by. I paid my 20 Zloty and had a fun 20 minutes looking at the replicas:

After that I headed to the Old Town Quarter. I certainly started to feel very Christmas-like when I saw the huge tree outside the Royal Castle:

and the square had a number of the restaurants with decorations on – in the summer the square is packed full of chairs and tables. Winter tells a different story:

With the aid of my Ski Dubai hat on – I kept walking around and took a couple of photos of some impressive buildings. St Anna’s church:

Not sure what this building is – but I liked the look of it…

I had a very pleasant trip to Warsaw marred slightly by the fact that it is a long journey from Dubai with a three hour layover in Vienna. It is hard not to draw a comparison between Warsaw and Moscow – as a English speaking westerner, Warsaw wins on the user friendly side of things as English is widely spoken, it feels safer and is much cheaper. Either way I look forward to return trips to both cities.


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