After a false start, Warsaw charmed me.
Before, when I thought of Warsaw, I think of what one of my tour guides in Krakow said near the beginning of the tour:
“So, this is the English tour,” she announced. “But I must ask… is anyone here from Warsaw?” All of us foreigners shook our heads. She surveyed us, carefully and unsmiling, then announced, very seriously, “Good.”
I admit, the first time I went to Warsaw, I was a bit underwhelmed. The mermaid crests everywhere were a cool touch, and the Chopin museum is fabulous. However, it just didn’t feel… well, very authentic. Wide streets, modern buildings, not enough trees: it felt much more like an American city than a European one. An unfortunate effect of having been blown up and rebuilt during and after WWII. As for Poles themselves, they seem a bit disdainful of their capitol city. It appears to stem from it being the center of political power (no one, in any country, really trusts their politicians). Also, when it was rebuilt after the war, bricks and materials were trucked from other cities. While Warsaw rebuilt itself, it did so at the expense of the rest of the country.
However, this time, Poland’s capitol won me over. I showed up in Warsaw after nearly a week in Gdansk, and aside from going to the Communist museum, had no set plans. The Museum of Life Under Communism was small but fascinating: an old apartment decorated as it would have been behind the Iron Curtain, complete with newspapers, kitchenware, children’s toys, and even a Russian singer playing on a record in the background.
After the museum, I decided to explore this unfamiliar part of the city— and found myself in a lovely, huge, sprawling park, Park Skaryszewski. A small lake, clear enough to swim in, and some pretty statues had me wondering how I missed this place the last time. In the same neighborhood is Dolce Vegan. The photos don’t do the food justice; a savory vegan mushroom quiche, and a lovely chocolate cake, all gluten free. Also, the cafe had a relaxed, breezy atmosphere.
Loving Hut is a favorite chain of mine (I’ve written about them twice before, in Prague and Paris.) Always good, reliable service, tasty, filling vegan dishes, inspired by Asian cuisine (and paired with Polish-style vegetable salads.)
I also made the fabulous discover of Krowarzywa Vegan Burger, which has both vegan and gluten-free veggie burgers. While veggie burgers used to be my go-to menu item, giving up wheat has kept them off the table for me. Therefor, when I saw they had both gluten free buns and patties, I got one for there (the warzywex) and one to go (the tofex), which I happily devoured on the train.
Savory, well spiced patties piled with fresh crunchy lettuce, topped with condiments made in-house and flavorful buns that hold up great, this is a place I would definitely go to again.
Also, on my last day in Warsaw, I took a Communist-themed walking tour. Hearing the stories of bustling stores that once had long food lines, seeing the places people protested the Soviet regime, and hearing the story of the apartment building where Picasso painted a mermaid: the stories of the city breathed life into the staid, gray, imperial-looking Soviet realism buildings.