Q is for Q – You have to feel sorry for the letter Q. Not terribly popular in the English language, it is pretty much completely ignored po polsku. It is in the Polish alphabet but it’s one of those strange letters you might not even bother saying on your way from A-Ż. My “Great Polish-English Dictionary” goes directly from “pyzaty” (chubby, full-faced) to “rab” (servant, slave). It doesn’t even have a ‘Q’ title with “nie ma” written underneath. Looking at the index of my DK Eyewitness guide to Warsaw, there is only one entry for ‘Q’ and that is “Qchnia Artystychnia”, which is a restaurant I mentioned earlier as being a good place for kaszanka, or indeed anything. The restaurant can be found at the rear (possibly originally the front?) of the Ujazdowski Palace which any taxi driver will be able to find for you. When you end up in the car park, make your way round to the other side (facing you in the picture below), it is not exactly well signposted. Just to give you a clue, it is about 15 minutes walk from the Sheraton Hotel and right across the street from Łazienki park. More on this general area can be found below under ‘U’.
The palace today is primarily given over to the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art. We have wandered around the museum a few times and, although some of the exhibits leave me cold, it is generally a rewarding experience and gives more evidence of the artistic talent that can be found in Poland. There is a shop where you can buy things of a ‘modern’ verging on weird nature made by students and artists. In browsing for this article, I found this article about the new Modern Art Museum to be built next to the Pałac Kultury as part of the master plan to revitalise the centre of Warsaw. [pause while I laugh my arse off] Well, reading this article is very enlightening. Firstly in the way that it shows exactly the kind of development that is badly needed around the PK. Secondly because it gives in the last paragraphs an insight into the political nonsense that stops any development happening and is still happening – start year 2006-2007 – yeah, right! I know it is easy and popular to have a go at politicians, but Warsaw really does need to get its act together on all this stuff, and fast.
R is for RAJEWSKI, Czesław – who, as he was one of the architects, I am using as a lame excuse to talk about “Stadion Dziesieciolecia”, “Tenth Anniversary Stadium” or as everyone in Warsaw knows it, “The Russian Bazaar”. This was built in 1954-5 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the end of the war, or more likely, 10 years of soviet rule. It has been little used in its lifetime, most notably perhaps being the opening ceremony of the World Festival of Youth in 1955. After that it gradually fell into disrepair until in around 1989 when it became Europe’s largest open-air market. Today it remains as a marketplace, the sleaziest in town and indisputably the place to go if you’re looking to pick up a second hand AK-47. It might also be a good place to buy software at surprisingly low prices, but I wouldn’t know about that. You can find the stadium on the other side of the river in the Saska Kępa area.
S is for STREET MARKET– These pop up all over Warsaw but the one I’m best acquainted with is close to Hala Mirowksa on Al. Jana Pawła II, just the other side of Elektoralna. It is not a daily occurrence and I’m afraid I don’t know on which days it does occur so you’ll just have to go every day and hope for the best! The general idea is to spread a blanket on the pavement, or if you’re a rich trader you can set up a little folding table. On this you spread your wares and wait for the punters. It is a bit like a garage or boot sale but for people who can’t afford garages or boots. The range of items on sale is what you expect to find when poor people sell whatever they can find to other poor people.
T is for TYLMAN van Gameren – Another architect but this time one who was instrumental in the design of numerous, mostly Baroque and Neo-Classical, buildings, primarily palaces and churches in Warsaw and throughout Poland. As the name suggests, he was Dutch, born in Utrecht and then fell in with the Polish hoity toity of the time, mainly Prince Lubomirski. The list of his works is impressive. The ones I am most familiar with in Warsaw are St Casimir’s Church in the new town square, Krasinski Palace close to the monument for the Heroes of the Uprising, which now contains antique prints and manuscripts for the National Library and the small hermitage building at Łazienki park.
U is for UJAZDOWSKIE – This whole area is a good one to take a walk around. The street itself is home to numerous government buildings, embassies & palaces. There is also Ujazdowskie park on this street which is my second favourite after Łazienki (which is accessible from further down the street). There is a very nice walk to be had from Łazienki park, past Ujazdowskie Palace and then winding your way around the back of the Sejm (Parliament) and then further, behind the Sheraton Hotel all the way to Aleja 3ego Maja from where you can cut up to Nowy Swiat and continue along to the old and new town squares. One of, if not the, nicest walks in Warsaw. Probably about an hour one way.