Warsaw and a glimpse of Vienna — a 2017 recap (Part One)
As 2017 nears its end, I have to admit that when the year began, I didn’t quite expect that it would top 2016 — which for me was a crazy rollercoaster of a year, in which I managed to visit 12 countries, had unique (both good and bad) experiences, met a lot of people while also managing to reconnect with old friends that I hadn’t seen in years. Some of my travel dreams came true in 2016, so I hoped that the same thing would at least partially repeat in 2017.
What I got this year was more of the same from the previous one, although less dynamic, but however it was more turbulent in any sense of the word. Being late December now, the total number of countries that I visited during this year were 11 — some of them repeating from 2016, while others I visited for the first time. (with especially the last quarter being fantastic)
January is usually always slow for me — basically being a month when the weather is cold and it means that you have to survive the holidays — with a lot of alcohol and food, attending contentious family gatherings that I’ve never been a fan of and the usual work-to-home routine. However, it’s also a month when most applications for conferences, workshops, summer school etc are being posted so for me it is also a time when I draft the general plan of how the year is going to look like.
So during the second part of January I was excited to find out about my first destination in 2017 — it was Poland! A trip to Poland has been long coveted for, as it was the only Central European and Visegrad country that I hadn’t managed to visit before. Plus, I had a lot of Polish friends that I wanted to reconnect with, since with some of them I hadn’t met up since 2007 and 2008 (the years that I was doing the Work and Travel student programs).
So after few unsuccessful applications for programs that were held in Poland, the prize came in the form of a four day TechCamp program in Warsaw. Of course it was winter so I had no illusions that this trip would be the most pleasant one, but what I got in return was a wonderful experience that I would repeat at any time! The bonus surprise during my first trip of the year was that on the way back from Warsaw to Skopje, I had a five hour layover in Vienna — another city that I hadn’t been to before so it was a perfect opportunity (although a short one) to get a glimpse of it!
With the flight to Warsaw being schedule for February the 14th — I was definitely in a romantic mood to fall in love with yet another new city (considering that the previous year I declared my love and willingness to live in another 5 or 6 cities I visited).
Arriving in Warsaw on a cold night, I did not waste any time and after I had gotten to my accommodation (Mercure Hotel in the centre of the city) I immediately went out to meet some of the people from the TechCamp group! We met at this sort of traditional restaurant Zapiecek where we feasted on tasty polish dumplings (pierogy), mulled wine and local beer, while also having a few laughs with the waitresses who were dressed in traditional etno outfits and didn’t speak a word of English (I wasn’t sure how come since most Polish people I know speak perfect English). I guess that this was a one of case.
I won’t get into much too details about how the trip went, and instead will just list several highlights of it. First — during those four days in Warsaw I met some wonderful and inspiring people!
There was Kamenko from Slovenia, a fellow ex-Yugoslav and a great guy who is into marketing and has a very interesting blog about his daily life in Ljubljana and about interesting moments that occur to him.
Kamenko was also the one who advised me to make a short tour of Vienna since I was doubting that four hours would be enough (but they definitely were), so I owe him a beer and kebaps for this advice!
There were also my fellow journalist colleagues — Mirna from Croatia and Emirjon from Albania, awesome people! With Emirjon we later applied for a joint project that ultimately was rejected, but however it was an opportunity for me to learn how to write these projects and it is something that I value as a positive experience nevertheless.
Part of the group were fellow Balkanians, Rali and Alexandra from Bulgaria and Julian from Greece, with whom we had lots of laughs and drinks while in Warsaw. Last but not least, Tiko from Georgia and Alex from Ukraine were also great, and although I promised that I would visit them in their countries later on during year — I will have to do it in 2018 (Georgia and Ukraine now on top of my agenda for the next year).
During my stay in Warsaw, I also managed to reconnect with couple of Polish friends that I hadn’t seen in a while.
With Gosia, whom I met at a conference in Belgrade in 2015, we went to a couple of bars around Warsaw as she knew some interesting and not so conventional places, and with Artur, who I was seeing again after close to a decade (the previous time being the summer of 2007 in Marco Island, Florida) on my last day we went on a mini tour around Warsaw, walking a lot and catching up on a time which seemed that has passed so fast, although it was 10 years. Together we visited several parts of Warsaw with interesting architecture and different historic meaning, as well as some good restaurants.
My impressions of Warsaw? Great city with a lot of history, mostly tragic having in mind the circumstanced that the country was in at the time — in the middle of two of the biggest and most important events of our time, The Second World War and the Cold War.
I was impressed by the old town and the fact that it was authentically rebuilt after the destruction during the Nazi invasion and subsequent occupation. I also had the chance to visit the Polin Museum — which chronicles the history of the Jewish community in the country.
One thing I regretted the most is that I kept postponing to go and see the famous Palace of Culture and Science — a controversial Stalinist skyscraper, in fact a gift from the Soviet leader to the Polish people.
I went there on my last, when the city was under a deep fog (something similar to how Skopje also is during the winter) and I didn’t had the chance to get a further glimpse of the tower. Therefore, I promised myself that I would visit Warsaw once again soon and that then I would get a good glimpse of it.
Word or two about the TechCamp progam — met a lot of contacts, heard a lot of interesting project proposal and most important — I learned about how mobile journalism is actually the future of journalism, and that online tools and applications can be more useful than professional cameras in certain situations.
After a tiring but fulfilling five hour walk with Artur, the second part of my departure day for reserved for Vienna.
Since we had the same flight with fellow journalist colleague Emirjon, I asked him if he was up to visiting the city while he had the layover in the airport, but he didn’t feel like it or maybe thought that four hours would be enough to get to the city and then back to the airport.
Nevertheless, I was determined to go to the city centre, so the best option to do so was with the CAT train, which takes precisely 16 minutes to get to the centre, and not a second more! Having in mind that the journey to the centre and back was 32 minutes, and I lost another half an hour at airport terminals, I had maybe two and a half hours for a short sightseeing tour or Vienna.
With my feet still aching from the walk around Warsaw, I managed to get to the famous Stephanplatz, to have a glass of mulled wine, and to admire some of the old and prestigious Vienna architecture.
The city definitely is posh and classy and I can understand why a lot of people from the Balkans love it and live there! After the short but insightful walk around the centre of the city, I rushed go to back to the airport and arrived just in time for my flight to Skopje. This way, my first trip of the year was completed and overall it was a successful one.