Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pennsylvanians Polka Through Poland

Warsaw in 14 Pictures
St. Patrick's Day Weekend in Warsaw
March 15-17th

You the Reader:  "Wait, Dan, you went to Poland for St. Patrick's Day weekend?  Why not Ireland, since you're so close?"

Standard RyanAir Wing Pic
Great question and one that led to many discussions between Vicki and I.  We opted for Warsaw over Dublin since we lived in Ireland for six months last year, so we felt funny going back when there was so much more of Europe to explore.  Don't get me wrong, Dublin is amazing; one of my favorite cities IN. THE. WORLD. and I would recommend EVERYONE "to go to there."

Immediately after we booked our RyanAir Flight to Warsaw, I researched the locations of the Irish Pubs in the vicinity of Warsaw. For the record, there were three within stumbling distance of our hotel.  Even though we were headed to Warsaw for a Pierogi-Kielbasa bender, I was determined to have a pint of the black stuff in Polish/Irish Pub.

The Highlights From Our Paddy's Day Weekend in Poland:
(Before I begin, a big shout out to my good friend on Twitter and fellow blogger @escapebrussels for all the fantastic Warsaw tips! Follow her and check out her blog because she's cool & knows where to find good pierogi)

Low light pic Hotel Bristol
  • The Hotel Bristol (Krakowskie Przedmieście 42/44): One word: Amazing.  Beautiful hotel and a great room with views of the Presidential Palace.  Plus it's right in the center of Warsaw and just a short walk to Old Town (check out the video below especially if you like furry hats).  If you stay, have a night cap in their Column Bar, fun cocktails and great atmosphere.  

  • Browarmia Królewska (Kroleska 1): Our lunch stop on our first day.  It was just a short stroll from our hotel.  We were in search of beer and pierogis and this place delivered, well eventually.  The service was crazy slow, but we couldn't complain -- the pierogis were delicious and the shots of Zubrowka were insanely good.  Oh, and the waitress says to me at the end when she looked at my credit card: "Your surname is Polish."  I responded: "Why yes it is."  She seemed very confused as to why I was in Warsaw.  I confused her even more with saying we were from America but now living in the Netherlands, and we were in Poland to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  

  • The Warsaw Uprising Museum (Grzybowska 79): This came highly recommended and I can see why.  A wonderful museum and sobering experience (even after a shot of Zubrowka). It's a bit difficult to put our visit down in words, so put this on your list when you visit Warsaw to get what I mean.    

    Figured it was creepy to get pic w/ actual waitress
  • Zapiecek (multiple locations):  So nice we ate here twice, at two different locations.  The first night, we went to the one at Swietojanska 13 and loved it.  Very small, but it was warm and very homey like.  The hot wine was delicous and a perfect winter warmer.  The next night we went to the Nowy Swiat 64 location and gave it another try because we were in love with their menu (and someone else was in love with the waitresses, he'll remain nameless.)  Go here and order everything, especially the bigos that comes with a shot of vodka, no joke. 
I have no idea, I blame the bigos.
  • Free Walking Tour Warsaw (Meets 12pm at Column of Sigismund III): One of the greatest travel lessons we have learned while touring Europe, is that Walking Tours are the best way to see a city and get advice about customs, practices and restaurants.  These tours are even better when they're free, well sort of.  It's customary to give the guide a tip after the tour, but you decide on the amount.  Whatever city in Europe you are visiting do a quick search for "Free Walking Tour (insert city)" then pack comfortable shoes and you're good to go.  Here's a quick look at one of the spots included on our Warsaw Tour. 

  • Molly Malone's Irish Pub (Krakowskie Przedmiescie 41): I know you were just waiting for an Irish Pub to show up on this highlight list, well here it is.  Something I learned while living in Ireland is how the Irish value the art of story telling.  So here is my best attempt at a story:
"Two Americans sit down with an Scottsman and a Russian in an Irish Bar in Warsaw,, it's not the start of a joke, it happened and it was a blast.  One of our favorite parts of traveling is meeting people and hearing their stories.  On a friggin' cold Friday evening in Warsaw, Vicki and I walked into Molly Malone's.

The Pub was packed; not an empty table in sight.  There was live entertainment that night, a Polish-Irish band..  BTW they did a kick ass version of Alana Mile's "Black Velvet."  So looking like two lost kids Vicki and I circled the pub defeated because there was no place to sit and enjoy the band.  Then we spotted a couple at a table with some space for two.  So we built up some nerve and asked in our best broken English if we could join them.  They acknowledged and allowed us to join.

There was a slight awkwardness at first, after all we did crash their date.  But our order of two shots of cherry vodka peaked the interest of our table mates.  At first they thought we were doing Jager.  We explained how we became fans of Polish flavored vodkas on our trips to Krakow and Sopot.  Then before I knew it we were ordering rounds of shots for the table.  The evening continued with good conversation set to a great soundtrack.  It was the perfect start to Paddy's Day weekend."  

  • Pierogarnia na Bednarskiej (ul. Bednarska 28/30): Found this place during my research for Warsaw.  The TripAdvisor reviews really delivered.  This place was great.  Delicious sour rye soup and amazing pierogis.  All served up fast and cheap. I wrote a Trip Advisor review of this place.  You can read it here.
Vicki leaving her "tag" on Na Bednarskiej"
  • Our First Raccoon.  You have to watch this to believe it.  

  • Irish Pub (Waski Dunaj & Piwa):  I stumbled upon this pub while wandering the side streets off Market Square while Vicki was shopping.  It was closed when I walked by at first, then later we walked by again and the doors were open; intrigued we ventured in.  And did we venture. We went up and down a series of dark steps until we found ourselves walking into a tiny bar area.  We weren't that impressed at first, then a server approached us and asked if we wanted a table, she then led us through another labyrinth of stairs and we discovered the place was huge, and in Irish pub style there little nooks set up with tables and even a stage.  Great place to sip a few pints while watching VH1.  Seriously they were cranking VH1 classic on the TVs (they lost a point for having TVs in a pub, that' s a no-no according to Irish standards; but they were playing Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" so I let it slide).  Good to taste Guinness again, but Vicki and I both agreed it was served a tad cold.  Yup, we've turned into our worse fear: Guinness snobs. Sorry.  
  • Pub Arkadia (Market Square, look for little door with a green light).  Watch our experience.
  • St. Paul, the Apostle of the Nations (Radna 14) This Parish holds an English speaking Mass on Sundays at 11:30am.  It was a wonderful experience, not only because it was the first English Mass we'd been to since January; but you could feel a real spirit of community among those present. Something we've been missing while abroad.  At the end a woman from Ireland in the choir serenaded the congregation with some Irish ballads, it was really moving and made me want a Guinness so bad.  
  • Ducks on Ice:  Ladies and Gentlemen, ducks on ice...

  • Blikle Cafe (Nowy Swiat 35): We couldn't leave Warsaw without trying Pączki or otherwise known as Polish donuts. Delicious.

  • Presidential Palace (Krakowskie Przedmieście 46/48) We discovered that the Palace is open for tours from 10am-4pm on Sundays.  We didn't know this at the time however.  Here's the story.  

There's a rule Vicki and I follow when ever we travel, it's simple: 

"When you see a long line...GET IN IT!"

Normally this little nugget pays dividends, however in the case of the Presidential Palace, well, not so much.  We were on our way to get a pint of the black stuff when we saw a large crowd outside the Palace and a line.  So following our own advice we got in it.  Very cold and very confused we tried to figure out the deal with the line.  I asked a lady who I thought was in line, but she looked startled by my question and shook her head.  Hmm.  Then she pulled her friend over to help us, apparently her English wasn't as good as her friend's.  So we put together that we were in line to see the Palace and we didn't need a ticket.  The line was moving at a snail's pace because they were only letting groups of 10 or so in every 5 minutes.  By our calculations we were due to stand in that line for over an hour.  

As we got closer to the front, we saw security taking things from people then looking at a list. Were they handing in tickets? Did we need tickets?  Vicki went to investigate, apparently all we needed was a photo ID and our Pennsylvania Driver's License would count.  But we still couldn't figure out why they were taking IDs then looking at a list.  Did these people have reservations?  To calm our fears, I jokingly said they were checking a list of war criminals who were not allowed into the Palace.  Then we saw an older lady get rejected from the entrance, she didn't look like war criminal   I then devised a plan; if we were rejected I would just use the "But my surname is Polish" card to see if that would help.

About an hour land twenty minutes later we arrived to the security checkpoint and guess what?  We got in.  All that worrying for nothing.  Once you were inside you had to go through the standard security/xray screening.  Getting barked at to remove my belt in Polish was the highlight of that experience.  I stood there like a deer in headlights (I've been doing that a lot the past few months.)  

Finally, we were ushered into a large room where there was a large circular table and many chairs with name plaques at each seat. Everyone was looking and taking pictures. Being the naive tourists who read nothing on the Palace prior to the trip; we were left staring and wondering.  So we asked if there were any guides or signs in English.  "No!" the woman replied, "Only Polish tour." Alrighty then.  But that was fine, afterall we were in Poland
So we followed along and took in the sites of the Palace trying to pick up a Polish word that we recognized. Would you believe our guide never mentioned at all "pieorgi" or "Sto Lat.  Our overall experience, eh...not quite Buckingham Palace, but still nice. Don't think it was worth an hour wait in the cold, better weather maybe. 

  • St. Patrick's Day Guinness(es) Back at Molly Malone's: As crazy luck may have it we bumped into our table mates again at Molly Malone's.  But this time they crashed our date.  It was too funny, what are the chances.  
Paddy's Day in Poland

Let's see, did I miss anything?

Oh yeah....

I threw some kielbasa in too.

Hope you enjoyed sharing our story.  


  1. The best so far Dan, I missed you and Vicki doing the Polka though. I loved the guy in the red hat and red cape, was he supposed to represent the Polish Santa. But a racoon for a pet, that beat it all for me, I' rather a little poodle named Mocha or Tinka.

  2. Love it...the raccoon video was the best!

  3. Thank you for the shout out! I love the post and soooooooooo glad you had grat time in Warsaw! :):):):):)