Monday 14/12/15 to   – Warsaw

The walks through Warsaw and surrounding districts are a treat every time we go out. So much to see and experience…… the changing colours of Autumn, the beautiful old and newer buildings, the people, the food, culture, history and so the list goes on.

On one such expedition, we found a small section of the original Warsaw Ghetto wall. It was very sobering indeed to stand in this place, so close to the wall. There were a number of plaques, one of which was especially significant for us.  Three bricks have been removed from the wall. One was sent to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, another to Houston in America and the third to Melbourne, Australia.

The view from our flat window is ever changing, and we never tire of it!

Parcel ‘under’ the tree
Parcel ‘under’ the tree

Decorated our little flat, so it feels a like Christmas, even though we are so far away from our loved ones.  We received a couple of parcels from home, which sit in anticipation under the Christmas tree.


Our live Christmas tree
Our live Christmas tree

Our Christmas tree is a small artificial one that Jacko & Jadwiga left for us, but having always had a real tree every Christmas…… well, just had to have something real, so bought a little Poinsettia to decorate, and it came up rather nicely.

December is going by all too quickly..  Two weeks before Christmas, it is cold and overcast,  dark by 3.30pm,  yet we were like school kids, excited at the  prospect of our first snow in Warsaw.

First snow .... just a little
First snow …. just a little
First snow....ever so light
First snow….ever so light

So with the coats, scarves and gloves we set off for a walk. It was very, very light at first, then gradually became a little heavier. It melted quickly however, and what did remain on the ground looked more like a heavy frost, but we were happy.

The old town is just beautiful with the lovely Christmas lights and decorations both by day and by night. The dormant, leafless trees now transformed to images of beauty with the white lights at night. How they get them on every branch is amazing, but the effect is spectacular.

The Christmas markets are fun to walk, while we sip warm mulled wine and taste the many new and different foods. It is cold, but people are smiling and chattering happily. The skating rink set up in the middle of the Old Town square is just a picture with the coloured lights!

We caught the train to Krakov from  17th to the 21st December, to see their Christmas lights and markets. We had an awesome time there and did lots of sightseeing, so much so that we will do a separate blog just on Krakov, a little later. Our conclusion was that Warsaw had by far the best Christmas lights / decorations, whist Krakow’s Christmas market was the winner by a country mile.

The train ride back from Krakow was ‘interesting’. We walked about 10km each day whilst in there, which was not helpful for the flu virus I developed. So much so, that by the time we were on the train home, I was a sniffin, snortin, sneezin mess! Get the picture??

We had a small compartment that seated 6 people, only us in there.. Perfect. Just before the train left however, a young chap came in. Really…. had I been him, hearing the coughing, sneezing etc, I would have made a B line for another compartment. To his credit he stayed. The conductor came  to check tickets. He then asked for our ID, just as a nasty coughin, snortin, sneezin fit hit. I was trying to cover my mouth, blow my nose and get our ID all at the same time, when the conductor (very hastily and in a tone of total distain) said.. ‘umm don’t bother’. …….  mmmmmmm wonder why????

Spent the next few days ‘confined to barracks’ while Span walked Warsaw in search of more Christmas pics. He  certainly got some beauties as per the Christmas lights blog and these also. He climbed the bell tower of St Anna’s Church, where he took some great pics; he then waited until sunset for some more.

He also went to the Military museum….

And the train museum……… Ahhh shucks.. I missed them both!!!!!

We did not have a white Christmas  as we had hoped, however it was still quite cool with a temp of -6 degrees on Christmas Day, whilst at home in Australia it was a very hot 39 + degrees. Spent a lovely day talking to family  and friends at home, with the grandkids showing us  ‘what Santa had brought’.   It was so good to be able to see and talk to them. The wonders of modern communications certainly does close the distance somewhat.

We had lovely gifts from home…. Strides and Hobbsie sent us the Aussie gift pack; John’s sister Sue sent an Aussie gift pack….. vegemite being a key ingredient of an Aussie gift pack when overseas.  Bec, George, Wills, Janet, Charly, Ashly and Kate sent us a fabulous family gift pack, so we would have something to unwrap.  The best thing was a talking book on Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Bec, George, Wills, Janet, Charly, Ashly and Kate each read a page, and we could listen to them as we turned the pages…. such a very special gift when we are so far away… it made our Christmas.

Marta, Robert and Anya
Marta, Robert and Anya
Now that’s a Christmas tree
Now that’s a Christmas tree

The evening was spent with friends here in Warsaw, and tasting more lovely Polish foods and drinks. A big Thankyou to Monika, Robert, Marta and Anya for making us so very welcome. Thanks also to their friends, and especially Monika’s sister, Iza, who made sure we very amply sampled the wonderful variety of Polish foods and drinks, a lot of which she had made.. .. yummo.

The week between Christmas and New Year was fun, as is every day here. Lots and lots more walking and sightseeing; Warsaw never fails to surprise and delight us.

It is fun to watch people as they skate happily… they make it look so very easy!!

New Years Eve was a blast… Literally!!

We had been hearing spasmodic BIG Bangs all week, and did not realise they were BIG crackers going of.  Because we can no longer buy crackers / fireworks at home, it did not occur to us that this was what we were hearing. The fireworks and crackers started as soon as it got dark, around 4pm, and were still going as we headed out around 7pm.

Russian building with skating rink in front
Russian building with skating rink in front

With the temperature at a ‘balmy’ – 9 degrees, we rugged ourselves up and headed out. First to the Russian building to watch the ice skaters and have a burger, before heading to the Old Town, then to the Warsaw  National stadium, where the main event was to be held.  There are skating rinks set up in many locations, and it is just so lovely to watch. Those that can skate certainly do look graceful, whereas those who can not…… umm  not so graceful!!


Skating rink in National Stadium
Skating rink in National Stadium

Warsaw’s main stadium  (the National Stadium) is about the same size as our Rod Laver arena, and also has a retractable roof. It is used mainly for football, but has been converted to 3 small ice skating rinks for the winter.  There were many people enjoying the ice when we visited and watched!!

We were told the stadium was the place to be for the main new Year’s Eve event and fireworks display. We arrived there around  8pm, and the crowd was just beginning to gather. The stage was huge and  beautifully lit for the open air festivities which had already begun.


People enjoying Mulled wine, food and vodkas before the fire works
People enjoying Mulled wine, food and vodkas before the fire works

We stayed for about an hour before heading back towards the Old Town for a warming mulled wine in the Old Town square.  Then it was off to the bridge over the Vistula river, where we thought would be a good vantage point for all fireworks. From here we could see the fire works at the stadium as well as those in the Old Town….. … and we were not to  be disappointed.

Our vantage point for the fire works - beautiful full moon
Our vantage point for the fire works – beautiful full moon

It was so beautiful on the bridge, with a lovely full moon showing off the Vistula river and National stadium so beautifully.  The only negative was that once we got there, we had about forty minutes to wait, and the  -9 degrees must have dropped by a few more degrees with the wind chill from the water. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……. It was BLOODY COLD!!!!


As the crowd gathered  on the bridge before midnight, the  two couples people beside us, very kindly shared their bubbly, which was such a lovely gesture indeed. The only words we had in common were ‘Happy New Year’, accompanied by BIG smiles both ways.

At midnight, the fireworks went off….. in every direction. Every time we herd a bang or a fizz and turned, fireworks were going off. Many on the bridge had brought their own too, so there were pops, and bangs  everywhere. We have NEVER seen or heard so many fireworks and in so many directions… simply spectacular and  absolutely memorable!

As we walked back through the Old Town, there were still some fireworks going off in the main street and also the remnants of a ‘very good time had by all’.

What a fabulous, cold but memorable New Year! We had walked 11 km, and it was still -9 degrees by the time we arrived home, so had some ‘medicine’ for the cough….. cherry vodka, it works a treat! The fireworks and crackers around our flat continued to go off until at least 4.30am, but we loved it!

Bad hair day!!!!
Bad hair day!!!!

Last pic for December… Span experiencing a wee bit of static electricity…

Another year done n dusted as they say. Time does go by way too quickly, we have now been away 9 months. It is hard to believe we are at the halfway mark of our trip! Yikes!!!!