Back in March, I took a little last-minute getaway with some of my university friends to celebrate my 21st birthdays in style, with the same group of people that I travelled to Munich with last Christmas. It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision for us, as most had our third and final year exams just around the corner, along with student budgets were stretched to the maximum, we settled for one of the cheapest places to fly to in Europe, which just so happened to be the Polish capital.
At the crack of dawn on a cold, snowy Monday morning, we shot down the M25 in an attempt to beat the commuter traffic, en route to Luton. The day was full of firsts for me, starting off with the fact that I’d never flown from a London airport other than Heathrow before. Birmingham is usually quiet regardless of what time you fly, and even Heathrow to a certain extent is quite calm due to the sheer size of the place. Luton, however, was nothing short of chaos in comparison. Less than two hours after entering the doors, by the time we boarded our plane I already knew I hated the place. All of us had decided to stay at our friend house near Wood Green the night before as we knew we would need up at 5am to catch our flight, apart from Matt who annoying had to work a late shift back in Coventry that he couldn’t get out of, and decided he was going to drive down early in the morning, park the car at the airport and meet us in departures instead…or at least, that was the plan, reality was somewhat different.
As we set off from Bounds Green, we realised that no-one had heard from him, and he wasn’t picking up his phone. It soon became apparent that he’d managed to oversleep. It turns out that had it not have been for his dad waking him up, shoving him in the car barely dressed and being able to pay for the parking fees online so Matt didn’t have to worry about it when he arrived, he honestly wouldn’t have made it to the flight on time. In fact, having somehow managed to check-in his bag and blag a fast-pass through security at the same time, he managed to make it with less than 2 minutes to spare, and even had to have a flight attendant run with him down the jetway for the doors be kept open for him. Upon boarding, he received a standing ovation not only from us, but some rather tipsy Polish men sitting in the seats in front of us too, who I’m pretty sure hadn’t got a clue what was going on anyway but just wanted to join in on the fun. We were flying with Wizz Air, another first for me, which just so happens to be the world’s most magenta airline (if you don’t know what I mean, click here) and I have to say that they pretty much saved our skins, and went out of their way to made sure Matt made it on time…bravo for customer service!
Despite travelling in late March, when the first signs of Spring have usually come and gone back at home, most of the city was under 6 inches of snow due when we arrived in Warsaw due to an unusual cold snap which hit most of both Eastern and Western Europe. The airport is about a 25 minute bus journey from the city centre and ticket machines are easy to locate outside, but I’d definitely recommend looking up what bus you might need in advance of your arrival, because the busyness of the terminal can be pretty daunting when you first get outside of arrivals. Amusingly for me, not my travelling buddies, the buses are all bendy buses, a long-lost travelling wonder machine of my youth which I’ve missed so much since they were taken out of service in the UK (or in the Midlands at least!), which were amazingly high-tech; National Express need to learn a thing or two. They are all equipped with interactive maps telling you have far along the route you are, time until the various stops and names of the stops as you arrive at them. Honestly, they were the things of dreams, and spacious enough for you to not bother other passengers with your suitcases too, so as long as you know where you’re getting off, you’re good to go.
We eventually arrived in the city centre, stopping just outside the Palace of Culture and Science, allowing us to get our whereabouts to find our accommodation. We’d booked into the Oki Doki hostel, and amazing youth-orientated hostel in the heart of the city. Thanks to a guide book’s map, and only one wrong turn, we made it in one piece after just 10 minutes walking, which would have been quicker had we not have had to dodge to and fro some road works which were going on at the time. Set in a side-street, away from the hustle and bustle (and pneumatic drills) of the main road, Oki Doki is bright and colourful, with each room having its own theme. We were put in the 8-person cycling-themed room as there were 7 of us travelling, with only one night of the four we were there seeing us joined by another traveller, despite how busy the hostel was as a whole. Their website doesn’t do the rooms justice at all, and it’s actually been named regularly in the top 5 hostels to stay anywhere in Europe, despite only costing us each around £30 for a 4 night stay. The staff were incredibly friendly, especially Bojan, a Serbian tour guide extraordinaire who looked after us throughout our stay.
By the time we had finished unpacking, having a wander around the local area, and making the most of our first trip to the hostel’s ‘Happy hour’, we were all starving. We decided to play it safe food-wise, so we headed down the road to the Figga Pizzeria-Trattoria, which we’d spotted on the way to the hostel earlier in the day. Keen to start the holiday off in the right fashion, it was beers all-round, and even though they managed to forget my dinner (twice), it was actually a really lovely place that I’d definitely recommend to anyone visiting the area. By the time we left, it became apparent to us that we’d managed to keep them open for well over an hour after they should have closed, hence why their service had been a little haphazard, but I’m sure the boys’ bar tabs made it worth their while.
Tired, tipsy (some more than others!) and with a new-found liking for Warka Radler, we headed back to Oki Doki for a few drinks in the on-site bar. The vibe of the hostel is incredible and socialising is encourged. After making friends with some Brazillian travellers, we headed back to our room for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the next day’s early start; a walking tour of the former Warsaw Ghetto.