Warsaw, Poland Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Warsaw, Poland

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Warsaw has incredibly cheap beer. It has loads of other things too, but let's take a moment to revel in this one astounding reason to visit. Warsaw has incredibly cheap beer. God, that sounds good.

If you're not convinced, consider these other attractions in Poland's capital:

  • In the middle of the city is the enormous and ghastly Trade Centre, donated by that nice Mr Stalin and all the comrades of the Soviet Union. The best view of the city is to be had from the Trade Centre, as it's the only viewpoint from which the Trade Centre cannot be seen.

  • There are some great night clubs in town, all very much in the late '60s, early '70s style. Some play host to excellent contemporary jazz, and the street cafés can be brilliant in the summer.

  • The central book depository is an absolute must. Go and see the inside, go and see the outside and get a lift to the top for the views. Be thorough: it's worth the effort.

  • The park containing the tomb of the unknown soldier is delightful and very touching. Allocate more time than you think you'll need for this trip.

Warsaw should not be confused with the similarly-named Walsall in the West Midlands, England. Clever observers will be able to spot several differences. The first and most important is geography: while Warsaw is often described geographically as 'in Poland', Walsall is not. Another key difference is that, while Warsaw has the 'Warsaw Pact', Walsall has the 'Walsall Illuminations'. Both places have their charms, but families who wish to delight under the glow of hot wires sealed in a vacuum should go to Walsall, and those who want to go to Poland shouldn't.

All tourists to Warsaw1 should be warned about the taxis. They happily clock up fares even when not moving so those on a tight budget may wish to get out if stuck in one of the rush hour traffic jams.

Generally, the city is fairly cheap. The going rate for a Big Mac meal in October 1999 was 80p so there is no need to starve2. There is a market for bargain hunters, just outside the ŒPalac Kultury I Nauki. The building that houses it is well worth a visit in its own right since it was built as a monument to communist ideology. Most of the locals don't like the reminder but loathe the idea of destroying a 30-story building. There is a lot of old architecture to go and have a look at. Although much of Warsaw was flattened at the end of the war, they have done a good job of rebuilding the major public buildings in the old style.

Another hint for tourists is to find a map before venturing out, especially if you don't speak Polish. Finding someone who can speak English is next to impossible, and Polish isn't a language you can even guess at.

1And perhaps even to Walsall.2Unless you intend to survive on Big Mac's alone in which case you should make sure you have adequate medical cover in your travel insurance.

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