Hej! It’s Bran here. A short introduction of myself: I’m an ESD Junior embarking on term 6, specialising in Business Analytics. At SUTD, I’m in Tennis and SUTD Scratch!, and i enjoy learning about people from different cultures!
Well so where we last left off, Swedish A1 language classes concluded after 3 intensive weeks, and all of us passed!
Following after, we had a break of vacations and decided to travel together to Poland & Berlin, which are both 1 hour away from Stockholm by plane respectively.
We took a Flybuss (bus service that transports you between the city center & various airports in Sweden) and subsequently a SGD$40 easyJet flight to Warsaw, Poland! It was a one and a half hour flight, and it was liberating to cross into Poland without a need for our passports to be checked. I guess that was one of the main reasons why exchange students travel so much while on exchange in Europe, its just so convenient!
Upon arriving in the Warsaw city central, we were greeted by the famous Palace of Culture and Science. It’s the tallest building in Poland and holds political significance dating back to Stalin’s era. It was seen as a gift to from the Soviet Union to Poland, and finished construction in 1955. We were really fortunate to catch an amazing sunset, definitely an insta-worthy photo!
We arrived at our Airbnb, which was right next to the Palace of culture and science, and it was a splendid apartment for the price that we paid!
There’s a saying that when you are in Poland, you have to have a Polish Vodka, and boy did I find out why that was true. We decided to head down to a supermarket to check out the prices of the alcohol, and a bottle of vodka was going for 20 Zloty (SGD$7.50)! It was a really wet day, so we decided to head into the nearest restaurant we could find. We chanced upon a Hungarian restaurant, and this was hands down the BEST beef goulash I have had. The sauce was so yummy, not overly sweet that it’s overpowering and the little kick of spice did invoke memories of the spices back home in Singapore
It was a really wet day in Warsaw, and we visited one of the many catholic churches in Warsaw, being a country that is 90% catholic. I was marveled by the architecture of the buildings, which were simply picturesque. I feel it really speaks to me about the role of religion in Poland, where religion has been the source of unity for many years of political and economic challenges that the country has faced in the 20th century and before.
Based on my friend’s recommendation (Thanks Jacob!), who saw my insta story that I was in Warsaw, we visited a cafe in downtown Warsaw! The breakfast served was largely European/Mediterranean, with an additional benefit that it costed only 1 zloty to add a latte to your main. We wolfed it down and were thoroughly satisfied with both the price and quality!
We stopped by the Chopin monument in Lazienki Park where the was a piano concert going on despite the steady and persistent drizzle. It was enlightening learning about Chopin’s contribution and love for his native country, Poland, to the extent that he composed many songs for his country and instructed his ashes to be buried back in his Poland upon his death.
Lunchtime came, and we unanimously decided to go for some traditional Polish food. Hence, we went to a traditional ‘milkbar’ for some cheap and delicious food. ‘Milkbars” refer to very traditional deli-style restaurants that serve cheap food that are largely milk-based (hence the name), and the reason they are so cheap is due to the government funding they receive.
We had the famous beetroot soup (definitely have to possess a cultivated taste for it), carrot soup, pork loaf and pierogis (traditional Polish dumplings). The meal fed the 4 of us, and it cost only SGD$12!
After googling, we realised that the Warsaw Uprising museum had free entries on Sunday, hence we proceeded there. It was interesting learning about the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and understanding more about how the Polish people felt a strong sense of nationalism and desire to fight for a Poland that was ran by Polish people.
We had our most non-polish dinner at Barn Burgers, where they served really American-style burgers with thick, juicy beef patties.
We started the day with Crepes + scrambled eggs/Pancakes served with a sunny-side up and coffee. It worked out to SGD$6 per person for a really tasty brekkie! I would recommend this place to anyone who is looking for a cheap place to eat at!
Following this, we proceeded to join a free yellow umbrella walking tour around Warsaw to learn more about the history of the town! It was really sad and fascinating at the same time to learn that 90% of the old town of Warsaw had been destroyed by the Germans during WWII, but the Polish people resolve to pick themselves up after the war culminated in the old town that you will see in the following pictures! Truly a respectable and admirable feat!
A Picture of us in Warsaw old town!
We also learnt about the origins of how Warsaw got its name. In polish, it’s called Warszawa named after a fisherman Wars and his mermaid wife, Sawa. Legend has it that Sawa was a mermaid whom Wars fell in love with, and he captured her and placed her in the fountain, as we see in the picture above, to prevent her from escaping. The symbol of the mermaid has come to defined the city, with the mermaid being seen as the defender of the city, albeit that didn’t actually happen in reality as seen in WWII…
Our next stop was the Jewish museum! At the museum, we learnt a lot about the origins of the Jews, their culture and beliefs, how they settled down in Poland from the 13th to 16th century, as well as the horrifying experiences they had to go through during the holocaust.
Thanks to Jacob, we ended up at another awesome place for food! On Mondays, 1 litre of beer costs only 9 zlotys/$3.38 SGD and a pork schnitzel, which was at least 2 times the size of my face, costs only 17 zlotys (SGD$6.38)!
Our happy faces when we were greeted with our pork schnitzels!
Beautiful skyscrapers & graffiti around town
We spent the rest of the evening walking around the town, and credits to Russ for taking these amazing photographs! In the last photo, it depicts part of the wall that remain from WWII. This wall was erected to distinguish the ghettos where the Jews were housed from the rest of the population, and it was scary just to think that it only happened 50 years ago…
With this, our trip in Warsaw came to an end and so we moved to our next destination!
After being on the plane for an hour, we arrived in Krakow, the old capital town of Poland, south of Warsaw. We did not have a proper lunch as food at the airport was largely too exorbitant. Hence, we stepped into this restaurant really famished, and ordered ourselves a feast. We had a meat platter, which included traditional vegetarian Polish blood sausages, as well as a fish platter! The incredible part was that this meal which served 4 people only worked out to SGD$16 per pax and we were so stuffed
We had a walk around the city center, and went to the old market where we purchased souvenirs! There was an Albanian cultural concert going on too, and it was interesting to learn more about their culture!
The next day, we took a one and a half hour bus ride at 7.10 am to Auschwitz concentration camp. This was truly one of the most solemn places I’ve been to, knowing that millions perished on this very ground on the basis of their identity as a Jew. For more details on Auschwitz, do check out Delin’s post!
The millions of shoes that were tossed after the Jews were gassed..
Names of all the reported Jews who were killed during the holocaust
We joined a city tour in Krakow after returning from Auschwitz, albeit this tour was not as good as the one we had in Warsaw..Nonetheless, we still learnt about the traditional city of Krakow, and a point of interest was how they punished criminals. For example, a shoplifter would have his hair shaved off the first time he committed an offence, one arm cut off if he did it again and finally burnt alive if he still committed the act again. It was interesting to learn about how the medieval punishments were so brutal but I guess they did get their message across XD
On day 6, we arrived at Krakow airport an hour early, unfortunately we were informed that our flight was delayed by 1.5 hours. This was really bad news as we had been hoping to spend more time in Berlin.
We boarded our Air Berlin plane, which turned out to be a really cosy propeller wing plane! Upon arriving in Berlin airport, it was our first time seeing people from so many nationalities, and I feel that Berlin is truly a cosmopolitan city just like Singapore!
Jamaican food that we had for dinner
The next morning, we visited the iconic Brandenburg Gate! It was great to be in the presence of such an amazing monument. We were lucky that we left the house early too, and I was able to get a good picture with the gate!
We proceeded by foot to the Berlin Victory Monument which is at the heart of Berlin city. I was really thankful that I was able to get a student price to go up the monument, but climbing 18 stories was indeed not a joke.. It was really interesting though that they had a museum section that displayed all the major sites of attraction in Europe such as the Leaning tower of Pisa, Cologne Cathedral etc.
Here’s a section of the Berlin Wall found at Checkpoint Charlie that has been preserved till today!
A snapshot of the 6 different chops I received at Checkpoint Charlie for 10 Euros!
We proceeded to have the all famous currywurst! Apologies for the half-eaten photo as we got too excited and ate it without taking a picture first We also had a kebab from the famous kebab store that started the kebab culture across the whole of Europe! Thankfully, we queued for only 30 minutes as the usual waiting time can stretch up to 2 hours at times..
After that we proceeded to one of my favourite parts of Berlin, essentially the Berlin wall with many different paintings on it! It was really beautiful seeing the the different ideas of people all expressed on the wall.
We topped the day off with my favourite burgers I have tried in Europe thus far! The beef patty was super juicy, a definite recommend
In our final day in Berlin, we started the day early to visit the famous Berlin Cathedral Church. This included a climb up to the top where we gain a bird’s eye view of the city. It was useful possessing a student card again, as we got discounts for entry again.
For our last lunch, we decided to go ASIAN! We visited a Vietnamese place recommended by my dear sister, and it was great getting a taste of chilli padis again! I think I had one too many though because I walked out of there perspiring profusely…
Nonetheless, it was time to go home (back to Sweden) and get ready for school, which Russ will be sharing more in the next post!
Till next time! Ciao!