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What to do on a wet weekend in Warsaw
"The weather doesn't look too bad," one of my companions notes as we touch down in a moderately sunny Warsaw in mid-October. "Don't get too used to it," a travelling England fan interjects, "it's going to chuck it down tomorrow."
And chuck it down it did. On the following day we duck into a restaurant for lunch to escape the insistent drizzle. "Are we going to get soaked tonight?" I ask our guide, referring to the evening's imminent World Cup qualifier between Poland and England. "Not at all," she beams, "the Polish national stadium has a retractable roof. It's state-of-the-art, the only one of its kind in the world," she says proudly.
Obviously, dear readers, the football authorities decided that for such an important game on the international stage, they wouldn't bother closing that state-of-the-art roof all day despite the drizzle soon turning to rain and then to a full-on downpour by 6pm.
This makes as much sense as Rooney, having paid top dollar for a hair transplant, shaving his head!
By the time I arrive at the stadium an hour before kick-off, my companion and I already guess the game will be cancelled as we instantly spot the standing water on the pitch. Nearly two-and-a-half hours later, when the stadium looks ready for water polo, the fans are told the match will be postponed.
The National Stadium - isn't the roof lovely?
So, those with enough cash to similarly postpone their homeward-bound flights may be in need of some tips on what to do (and not to do) with another few days in Warsaw. Here are some dos and don'ts if you find yourself in the capital with no plans:
DO remember to close your hotel room windows before you go out. In the middle of October in central Europe, it's not unlikely that there will be a spot of rain!
DON'T forget your waterproof clothing even indoors. The roofing work isn't all it's cracked up to be round these parts.
DO take disappointed kids to the Centrum Nauki Kopernik museum (the science museum named after Copernicus). With a million visitors a year, and rivalling London's Science Museum in scale and scope, it's always lively and there's enough practical , hands-on fun to keep children happy until a *ahem* rescheduled football match.
Centrum Nauki Kopernik museum
DON'T hurry. You can see the best of Warsaw's sights in only a few days, so take a leisurely strole down the Royal Way, the route between Lazienki Park and the Old Town, along which most of the city's main sights are located.
DO drink vodka. The locals will look at you like you're either mad, rude or a wimp should you dare turn down even your tenth shot of the local speciality. Hey, it may end up being 'watered down' anyway!
DON'T be vegetarian. It's still an alien concept to most Poles. As a hippie veggie myself I get used to questions like, "Do you eat fish?" but in Warsaw I had a baffled restaurateur ask me, "But do you eat ribs?!" It seems that foods with a high bone-to-meat ratio are considered a meat-free option in mainstream eateries.
DO go on the hunt for red squirrels in the Lazienki park. While the influx of the ubiquitous grey squirrel has decimated the UK's native red squirrel population, Warsaw's pastoral public space boasts an abundance of these inquisitive, cute critters. They're perfect for a photo shoot.
DON'T go on the hunt for relics of the Red Army. Unlike places like Berlin where the ex-soviet influence has become something of a nostalgic tourist attraction, the Poles have less fond memories of Red rule and it's neither a popular topic of conversation nor are there any museums commemorating that period in Polish history.
DO - go to the Warsaw Rising Museum. Documenting the actions of the (literally) underground resistance army during WWII, this wonderfully-themed and rendered interactive museum boasts a 3D cinema deconstruction of the war-ravaged city (of which 85% was destroyed in the war), a full-size German bomber suspended fron the ceiling, and a reconstructed sewer system in the basement to show how the subterranean resistance lived. At 3,000 square metres, it would take 24 hours to see and read everything. So that should keep England fans occupied until the postponed World Cup qualifier.
DON'T believe everything you're told. Just as I shouldn't have been so gullible when I was assured the match couldn't be rained off because of the ingenious stadium roof, don't be fooled by the Old Town's name. Though it looks the part and is now a UNESCO protected site, the entire Old Town was destroyed during WWII and what you see today is a reconstruction of around the same age as the New Town.
For a taste of genuine old Warsaw cross the river to the run-down Praga district. Though poverty is prevalent and it has some crime problems, the crumbling red-brick architecture has a certain cosmopolitan charm that the rest of the modern city lacks. Local markets selling everything from flick-knives and firecrackers to wedding dresses vie for space with trendy-looking antique shops, so it's clearly an area on the way up... and if you're running low on cash after an unplanned holiday extension, the food is dirt cheap too.
James flew to Warsaw as a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office. For more information on Warsaw or Poland in general, you can visit the website or contact the tourist board on 0300 303 1813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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DO drink vodka. The locals will look at you like you're either mad, rude or a wimp should you dare turn down even your tenth shot of the local speciality
It would be rude not too
Also the beer is not bad very strong
Travelling fans have reacted angrily after England's game with Poland in Warsaw was postponed at the last minute last night due to a waterlogged pitch.
"It's an absolute disgrace. The roof could have been closed hours ago. I've paid a fortune for flights out from England and now it looks like I'll have to do it all again!!!" said one Poland fan.
How rude of you Mr. James Draven. And you call yourself a journalist? Ha!
If this article is all you know about Poles it is advised to read, read a lot.
You must have some emotional problems to make fun of someone's' misfortune.
You are embarrassing Brits by being so rude and mean.
I feel sorry for you.
Hope you get better and do better in your life.
I think you have a bit of an old fashioned and patronising view of Warsaw and Poland. The rain occurs frequently in the UK. Warsaw currently has the so called "golden autumn" weather with temperatures up to 20C and sun! Your tales of vodka drinking goes back to communist days. Perhaps the British stag parties in Krakow are what you had in mind. You can see the best of Poland in a few days? You said yourself 85% of Warsaw was destroyed during the War. With Churchill handing over Poland to Stalin for a 40 year dose of debilitating communism it's a miracle Warsaw has even a few days of worthwhile sightseeing for bored British journalists. Next time you are in Poland try a Zywiec beer. It is my favourite.