Trip to the Capital – Łódź Day 8

Very groggy from my early start (and late night), I soon found myself on a train to Warszawa, the Capital of Poland. The tickets cost 28 zl each way, and, unfortunately, there was no discount for international students. The experience itself was still worth the cost. This is my third trip to Poland, totalling almost 30 days in the country, and I had not yet set foot in the Capital. Apalling.

On arrival at Warszawa Centralna, you’ll find yourself thrust into a busy city centre. On either side are rows of shops and restaurants. Straight ahead you’ll see the Palace of Culture and Science, a controversial gift from the Russians. Some see it as a symbol of Soviet control, while others recognise it as the landmark of their city. Either way, if you have the time, head inside and explore the exhibitions of technology. The building also contains a Tourist Information Centre if you’d like advice or directions on where to go.

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I had a different idea. I purchased a ticket for the City Sightseeing bus at 54 zl for students (60zl for adults). Valid for 24 hours, this ticket enables you to hop on and hop off at your convenience. But be warned, the bus arrives in two hour intervals so if you don’t spend that long at each attraction or go over that time, you may find yourself stranded at the bus stop.

The bus has two different routes, the blue and the red line, and with headphones provided by the driver, you can relax and absorb the history of the city in ten different languages. If you want to go on both routes, just stay on the bus once the tour is over as it alternates (hence the two hour waiting period).

I rode the bus halfway through the red line to the POLIN Museum of the History of the Jews. Polin, a Hebrew word, means “rest here” and the building sits on the former site of the Warszawa Ghetto. This museum is incredible in providing a full-on multimedia interactive experience, tracing the history of the Jewish community from thousands of years ago all the way to today.

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Tickets are 25 / 15 zl. They also offer a variety of group and family discounts if you’re travelling with others. I would highly recommend the Audio Guide at 10 zl; this could easily be shared with a partner to save costs as the volume is very loud. Without it, you won’t learn nearly as much from the exhibitions as they are more interactive than educational.

Having spent an hour and a half inside, I made the decision not to wait for the bus, and instead made my own way to the Warszawa Uprising Museum (which was the next stop anyway). The Museum is entirely free on Sundays, which is both good and bad. If you arrive around lunchtime, you’ll find most of Poland queued up outside the door. I would aim for the late afternoon or bite the bullet and pay to see it on a different day. At 18/14 zl per person (£4/£3), the peace and freedom to wander through at your leisure instead of being shoved and jostled is worth the cost.

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I then travelled back to the POLIN Museum. Thanks to the long queues, it was the four hours later and the bus arrived to pick me up. I continued the tour, passing the Old Town with the Royal Castle, the Music Theatre, and various churches along the way. We then switched to the blue line, where the highlight was the National Museum. At only 1 zl for those under 26, I suggest visiting now while you’re still young.

My trip to the Capital finished with window shopping in the Galeria next to the train station. After a quick meal, I jumped on board and headed back to Łódź.

It was a short visit, and I know I only brushed the surface of Warszawa’s history and culture – but that just gives me an excuse to come back another day!

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The White Factory – Łódź Day 7

Erected in the years 1835-1886, the White Factory is an example of beautiful industrial architecture, and also hosts the Central Museum of Textiles – a must-see for anyone wishing to discover what made Łódź how it is today.

Saturday is a day of free admission for the permanent exhibition, or you can choose to pay the entrance fee to gain access to everything the museum has to offer. This ticket costs 10/6 zl, and, in my opinion, is worth it just for the lovely artwork and tapestries.

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The museum can seem like a maze to newcomers, but I suggest starting at the top and working your way down. On the first floor, there’s a corridor leading out of the main building which will take you to the exhibition of old sewing machines and other bits of machinery. You can then leave through the back entrance and find yourself in the courtyard, where a passageway brings you back to the museum entrance.

Once you’ve explored inside, don’t forget to wander through the exhibits in the Open Air Museum. These are accessible only with a ticket from the Central Museum of Textiles, but are included in the free ticket. The church and House no. 6 are only available at certain times of the day (every 2 hours) so try and time your visit right.

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Before 1990, Łódź’s economy was heavily based in the textile industry, and so this museum is very important in reminding locals and tourists of Łódź’s origins, before it grew into one of the most multicultural and industrial centres in Europe. Textiles put Łódź on the map, and they wouldn’t be where they are without it.

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Down in the Sewers – Łódź Day 5 & 6

Down in the sewers where nobody goes, there’s the Muzeum Kanału which is really popular with the locals, and simply involves a twenty minute tour of the underground. This was my first stop yesterday as it’s easily accessible by public transport.

Most trams travelling through the centre stop at Legionów – Zachodnia. If you then follow Legionów towards the massive statue, you’ll reach Plac Wolności. There’s a building on the right that belongs to the Muzeum Miasta Łodzi and this is where you can buy the tickets to the sewers.

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At 6 / 4 zl, it’s definitely worth it. My tour guide took us round once as a big group, then let us wander through a second time at our own pace to snap a few photos. Just make sure you’re not claustrophobic and, again, if you don’t speak Polish, I’m afraid you’ll just have to listen and nod your head throughout the tour.

Once you climb back out again, take a moment to admire the massive statue I talked about. Plac Wolności, which translates to Freedom Square, is basically the centre of Łódź. The market square was given its name when Poland regained independence in 1918 and the monument was built in 1930. The German occupation demolished the monument in 1939 and renamed the square Deutschlandplatz (Germany Square). By 1960, after World War II, the monument had been rebuilt identical to before and it became Plac Wolności once more.

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Plac Wolności lies at the top of ulica Piotrkowska, the main shopping street. At this northernmost end are where there are plenty of bargains to be found, with lots of cheap multi-purpose stores for you to pick up some souvenirs to take home. Don’t head down to the shops just yet.

The square is also home to several other museums. If you head back to the place where you bought the sewer tickets, you’ll find the Muzeum Farmacji. Sponsored by Professor Jana Muszyńskiego, the museum recreates a nineteenth century pharmacy. I was luckily enough to stumble in on an English tour (ask at the desk for details) which made the experience much more entertaining. Our guide even demonstrated the methodology in the production of drugs by creating pills from plasticine. Admission is 6/3 zl but if you can organise a guided tour, it’s definitely worth it.

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The last museum round the square is the Muzeum Archeologiczne i Etnograficzne. This hosts my favourite exhibits so far. The cost of a ticket is 9/6 zl or free on Tuesdays (unfortunately, as you guys know, I was at the zoo on Tuesday). The first part of the museum is dedicated to old foreign and local currency which is interesting enough, but it only warranted a few glances as I walked through.

The next exhibit really grabbed my attention. Apparently, Poland is home to four glacial fields and in the youngest one, remains of civilisations have been discovered. You’ll find old pottery, rugs, weapons, and even skeletons on display, along with various mineral rocks found on archeological digs.

Once you’ve been torn away from the dead bodies, you’ll stumble onto the final floor. Here, you’ll walk through display after display of traditional Polish costumes and homes throughout the centuries. A true rounded experience of what it means to be a Pole.

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After this museum, you could head onto the shopping street and spend the rest of your day browsing the wares of local stores. I didn’t. I hopped on a bus to the Herbst Palace, part three of the Museum Sztuki exhibits that I visited yesterday. Yes, the 1 zl ones. Remember when I told you to buy a three part pass? That only works if you’re visiting them all on the same day which is probably a good idea. For me and other under 26 years olds, it barely makes a difference. Oh, and did I mention that the Herbst Palace has free admission on Thursdays?

If you take bus no. 96, as Google recommended to me, you’ll be dropped off in the middle of a run down estate. Try and stick to the main roads and you’ll soon find the way. To avoid this confusion, find a no. 77 bus instead which stops right outside the Palace. Head inside and enjoy the incredible scenery.

Herbst Palace is home to a museum of furniture and other rare collections, an art gallery, and a beautifully maintained garden – not to mention the obligatory cafe for visitors. Take your pick or visit them all, it’s up to you. I spent the most time in the garden, updating my Instagram with some pretty photos.

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For dinner that evening, I visited the most amazing restaurant, Impresja, on ulica Radwaska. It is pancake heaven. There are so many different fillings available from sweet cheese to mexican to greek to oreos. Topped off with delicious sauces, and all for under 12 zl (£2.50), who could say no?

Seriously, guys, the lady who runs this restaurant is the sweetest person. It’s open 8 to 8 throughout the week, 8 to midnight on Friday, and continues on a similar pattern throughout the weekend. And it’s always deserted. It’s such a shame that the locals don’t visit more often, which means she only snags the occasional passing tourist. My hotel happens to be round the corner, but at only a ten minute walk from the main shopping street, it’s absolutely worth the effort.

I spent most of Friday sorting out some admin work for my blog, purchasing a few souvenirs and presents for my family, and then revisiting Impesja for another fantastic dinner. Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, I’ll be off to visit the Open Air Textiles Museum.

Four in One – Łódź Day 4

This was a day aimed at making the most out of this trip and getting to see everything Łódź has to offer. So naturally, I needed to create a plan.

Using my favourite travel guide, In My Pocket, and the local Łódź tourist website, Turystyczna, I compiled a list of everything. The monuments, the parks, the museums etc. Gotta catch ’em all.

Then I researched those to find opening times but, most importantly, prices – especially whether any days had free admission. And ta da! My itinerary was born. After a lazy morning at the hotel, I headed out to Stare Polesie. This is an old part of town home to most of the Łódź museums and easily accessible by tram or bus.

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First stop of the day was the Muzeum Miasta Łodzi. This is perfect for any traveller looking to learn about the history of Łódź. Tickets normally cost 12/8 zl, but on Wednesday it’s free. There are several exhibitions available: one on Jan Kirski, helpfully translated into English, one on art, and one on old technology and music.

I then spent about half an hour touring the park next door, Park Staromiejski. If you look around, you’ll find several interesting statues and monuments. Cross the road to the smaller part of the park and follow the path to the monument of the Decalogue. A statue of Moses carries the tablets with the Ten Commandments to commemorate the death of the Jews. Before World War II, a synagogue was built here but it was burned down by the Nazis in November 1939.

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The park sits adjacent to the Old Town Square. There’s not much to see there, but they sometimes have decorations up to celebrate various events. Now if you head back to the museum and continue along the road, you’ll come across Manufaktura – a leisure complex and shopping mall aimed at preserving the best of Łódź. It’s also home to the Museum Sztuki (no. 2), a historic venue filled with 20th and 21st Century Art.

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Tickets cost 10/5 zl, or 1 zl if you’re under 26, but if I were you, I’d purchase the pass to all three arts museums, which costs only 16/8 zl or still 1 zl if you’re under 26 – bargain. Once you’ve finished exploring the exhibits, head down Ulica Gdańska and you’ll soon find Muzeum Sztuki (no. 1). The art here focuses more on housing and architecture, but it’s still entertaining to wander round.

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Also on Ulica Gdańska is the Muzeum Tradycji Niepodległościowych w Łodzi. Bit of a mouthful, but when it’s free and explores some of the darker roots of Łódź, then it’s worth the trip. Learn about the military, the prison, and the development of caricatures as a popular form of artwork.

With sightseeing finished for the day, I headed back to my hotel to relax and enjoy the Poland v USA Olympics volleyball match, which we lost 3-0. Oh well. Better luck next time?