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Top 5 things to do in Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw may not be your typical ‘beautiful city’ as some other Central European capitals are famous for, but if you give it a chance and are prepared to explore its…

Warsaw may not be your typical ‘beautiful city’ as some other Central European capitals are famous for, but if you give it a chance and are prepared to explore its inner beauty, you will realise it’s a city full of energy. Ninety percent of the city was destroyed during WW2, and the Warsaw you will see today is still a result of the vast damage it suffered during the war, especially after the reconstruction and remodelling of its architecture. Even the famous ‘Old Town’ is actually fairly ‘new’ as it’s only about 40 years old, but due to its amazing reconstruction it has reserved a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Warsaw also provides a great twin centre holiday with Krakow, giving you the chance to really see the best of Poland.

Everybody asks me how many days are enough for Warsaw, and two are probably enough if you want to see the major attractions and places of importance in the city, but note that the longer you stay the more you will discover and fall in love with. No matter what, Warsaw today represents a vibrant and cultural city that definitely deserves a visit during your journey through Poland, because its finer features do eventually stand out.

So let’s start. Top 5 recommended things to do in Warsaw include;

DISCOVER THE OLD TOWN

This is the best place to begin your sightseeing in Warsaw, simply because this is the oldest historic district of the city and the location of Warsaw’s most important landmarks. At the entrance of the Old Town you will discover the Royal Castle, where I definitely recommend you a visit as you will learn a lot about the history of Warsaw’s Old Town. The palace used to be an official residence of Polish monarchs, which after WW2 was totally demolished, today stands as a red brick building serving as a museum after the reconstructed interiors were finished in 1984. I recommend you grab a ticket and have a wonder through its impressive interiors at one of Europe’s most important royal residences. (Regular ticket: 22PLN)

Right in front the Royal Castle you can find a 22 meter high column, which is known as the Sigismund III Vasa Column. The column was moved from the previous capital of Poland, Krakow, to today’s capital city Warsaw. During the Warsaw Rising the column was demolished by the Germans but was repaired and placed four meters away from the original place.

Walking further from the Castle Square you will move into the heart of the Old Town Square, which is filled with tourists enjoying the architecture, artists and numerous cafes and restaurants nearby. The Old Town Square is the most famous for the statue of Syrena (Mermaid), which is a symbol for Poland’s capital.

The Old Town is also home to one of Warsaw’s oldest churches, which is St. John’s Cathedral, famous for it’s neo-Gothic pieces of architecture. When heading north you will spot the Barbikan. The Barbikan represents the remaining relics of the historic fortifications that once encircled Warsaw, and it is also the border between the Old and New Town.

What surprised me is that sometimes we simply do not pay attention to the details and are only attracted by big things, but if you look deeper, you will find many of Warsaw’s hidden sights in the Old Town and you may even spot some of the original bullet marks caused during WW2.

WARSAW RISING MUSEUM

Without a doubt, this is a MUST visit for anyone who is travelling through Warsaw! Dedicated to the Warsaw Rising of 1944, the museum officially opened its doors in 2004, and very quickly became one of the most popular museums in Poland. For an individual ticket of 14 PLN you can see the hundreds of exhibition items, photographs, films and other educational material. For 2 PLN, you can see a 3D movie titled “The city of ruins” which you should definitely do after visiting the whole museum grounds to have a better understanding of how Warsaw looked after WW2. As soon as you step in the museum the clock goes back to September 1st, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. As you explore the museum, you chronologically go through the stages of the war and see the affects it had on past and present Warsaw. One of my personal highlights was a scale model of the Warsaw sewers which were used for transportation and communication during the Warsaw Rising for the city’s citizens. If your interest is perked by history, I recommend before visiting Warsaw to watch the film titled “Kanal” by the Polish director Andrzej Wajda, as the movie documents the history behind Warsaw’s sewers during the Rising. After viewing the movie, personally my understanding and interest was enhanced whilst visiting the museum. Plan to spend about 3-4 quality hours here.



PALACE OF CULTURE AND SCIENCE

The Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw

The tallest building in Poland, the Palace of Culture and Science, is usually visible from most parts of the city. The palace itself represents a ‘gift from the Soviet people’ and it was commissioned by Stalin himself. The building wasn’t initially accepted by the Polish people, and even today many Poles hate it as they consider it to be a symbol of Soviet domination and refer to it as a “Russian Wedding Cake”. Today it serves as an exhibition centre and office complex, and also offers cinemas, theaters, museums, bookshops, conference halls and more. So you are probably wondering, why should I go there? Well, for the price of 20 PLN and after a lift ride with a lift attendent, you can admire Warsaw’s panoramic view from the viewing platforms situated on 30th floor of the building. If you are interested in learning more about the Palace of Culture and Science, there are numerous travel agencies who give a whole tour of the place.

THE FRYDERYK CHOPIN MUSEUM

The Fryderyk Chopin Museum

Wherever you are in Poland, you won’t escape the name of one of the most famous Poles; Fryderyk Chopin. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this museum, because to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of classical music. However, my impressions of the museum were really good in the end and here’s why. This is one of the most interactive museums I have ever visited, and as you move through the museum, the technology and features of the museum sparks your interest more and more, which is obviously a positive thing for those who are not much in touch with classical music. You can see many of the autographs, notes, works of art and personal items of Chopin in the museum. From the moment you enter the museum you will learn about the begin’s of Chopin’s life, see where he travelled during his life, and you will finish the route by visiting the big black box which represents his death. And that moment when you sit and listen to his works, accompanied by animated video, and feel like you are in a fairytle, you know this museum is a success. No matter how old you are or what your tastes are, there is something for everyone in the museum! The museum is also very family friendly and it even has a kids play area.

EATING AND SHOPPING

Polish pierogi

As the capital, Warsaw offers a vast variety of not only traditional restaurants but also international cuisine. A must in Poland is to try one of their most famous dishes; Pierogi. These dumplings are prepared in many ways and filled either with meat, cheese, spinach or various other fillings. Before your main meal, try the Polish barszcz which is a vegetable soup, although there are many variants of recipes on offer. If you are not really keen on the most popular Polish drink, vodka, maybe you’ll enjoy having a Tyskie beer to accompany your meal. Try the Zapiecek restaurant for pierogi.

Before you leave Warsaw, a little shopping is in order for some local souvenirs and some traditional Polish arts and crafts. Check the Cepelia store and Desa store, as they offer the biggest collection of traditional souvenirs in the capital, and even amber which Poland is famous for worldwide. When looking for amber, check out some of the designer shops located in the Old Town as they usually have bigger stock on offer and are specialized in selling just amber itself and not souvenirs. And don’t forget to check out this guide to Krakow too!

Have you been to Warsaw? What are your personal favourites? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂



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21 Free Things to Do in Belgrade, Serbia

The capital of Serbia is an inexpensive place to visit by European standards and it’s often listed in the top 10 budget friendly European destinations. Public transportation is cheap and…

The capital of Serbia is an inexpensive place to visit by European standards and it’s often listed in the top 10 budget friendly European destinations. Public transportation is cheap and most of the attractions are completely free for visitors. Also, Serbia’s new national carrier,  Air Serbia, offers various new lines to many destinations with affordable prices. The free things to do in Belgrade are divided into two groups: guided tours and individual sightseeing.

Guided tours

Attend a free walking tour of Belgrade

There are two types of tours on offer: the Downtown walking tour and Zemun tour. The first tour is led by Željko, a graduated geographer of the Belgrade University, and lasts about two and a half hours. I recommend it because Željko is really enthusiastic about his job and besides learning some basics about the Serbian culture you will even get an opportunity to taste homemade rakija and other treats. All tours start from the Republic Square.

free Belgrade walking tour

Book a Belgrade greeter

This is a free service provided by the Tourist Organization of Belgrade, which is trying to connect local volunteers with travelers. You can hire your own greeter, who will be glad to welcome you and show areas of your interest.



Do sightseeing by Tram

Another tourist sightseeing free of charge. If you happen to be in Belgrade on Friday or Saturday don’t miss this tour because it’s very interesting and insightful. Note that there is a limited number of spots and you should go to any Tourist Information Center with your ID and apply for the tour.

For more info click here.

If you prefer individual sightseeing…

Hang out with Belgraders

Locals are open to foreigners and are happy to connect with anyone. Book a Belgrade greeter or check CouchSurfing for local events.

Explore the Belgrade Fortress and take a look at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers

Kalemegdan park, Belgrade

Visit the Montmartre of Belgrade

Skadarlija, Belgrade

Get lost in Zemun

Gardos, Zemun

See the Republic Square

Republic square, Belgrade

The epicenter of the city which is impossible to miss. This is a favourite meeting point of Belgraders, a place to say hi and bye.

Stroll down Knez Mihailova street

Knez Mihailova street

Visit the only remaining mosque in Belgrade – Bajrakli mosque

Bajrakli mosque, Belgrade

Hang out in the Academic park on the Students’ square

Academic park, Belgrade

Visit the Belgrade City Museum

Residence of Princess Ljubica

Free entrance every first Saturday in a month. On the photo is the Residence of Princess Ljubica.

Visit the Cathedral church

Cathedral Church Belgrade

And the largest Orthodox church in the world – the Temple of St. Sava

Temple of St. Sava

Have a walk by the rivers

Beograd Beton Hala

Go to Ada Ciganlija

The favourite greenery spot of Belgraders, also known as “Belgrade’s Sea”, has an 8km long gravel beach that offers refreshment in hot summer months. The entry is free for the pedestrians and you can discover the lake in circular path by walk or opt for many recreational activities available here.

Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade

If you’ve got some spare time in Belgrade, go to Avala mountain

Avala mountain Belgrade

Visit one of the markets

Belgrade has about 34 markets and most of them are open green markets. These are good to explore and search for organic food that you can buy directly from the producer. There are also flea markets (New Belgrade one is the most famous), that of course mostly sell useless stuff, and fake or second hand goods, but are interesting for exploring.

Zeleni Venac Market

Attend Belgrade Beer Fest

Belgrade Beer Fest 2013

One of the most popular festivals in Serbia. The festival entrance is free.

See the ruins of buildings left from NATO bombing

ruins of buildings left from NATO bombing

Explore Savamala neighborhood

savamala belgrade

If there’s anything else you wish to add feel free to comment below!

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Serbian wine story with Gvozden Radenković

In this interview session of EuroTribe, I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Gvozden Radenković, who is the Head of the Vineyard-Growers and Wine Producers` Association of Serbia….

In this interview session of EuroTribe, I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Gvozden Radenković, who is the Head of the Vineyard-Growers and Wine Producers` Association of Serbia. Before you start reading this interview on Serbian wine, be sure to check their official website too.

Enjoy reading!

1. What is a typical “Day in the life” of a Serbian winemaker?

It’s a hard working day. There is only one month in a year when growers and winemakers have no work in the wine cellar or in the vineyard, and it is January. Pruning of the vineyard starts in February, and we have many operations to undertake until the September harvest. The work does not end there. Until year’s end we devote ourselves to creating a new wine.

2. What is the biggest hurdle for the wine business today in Serbia?

The obstacles are numerous. Our country went through 20 years of terrible political turmoil and economic shock, which led to the devastation of vineyards and destruction of large industrial wineries. The gaping hole in the market has slowly been filled with the emergence of small boutique wineries. The problem is that the State institutions offer hardly any help to this branch. The signing of various international agreements opened our market to uncontrolled import of wines from all over the world, from countries with national strategies regarding wine that is being hyper-produced with extremely low production costs. Our own product has thus become uncompetitive even in the domestic market, let alone abroad. Having said this, you can only imagine the situation with the export.

3. What are the challenges that wine makers are facing? Is it finding right people and training them, logistic issues or something else?

In the first place, wine makers and growers are dependent on atmospheric conditions. It is, as we say, a kind of industrial plant under the open sky. It may be that some years bring a poorer quality of grapes, some years bring better, and some years can pass without even a harvest. All these other problems you listed are present because this branch of industry has not been taken care of for years. Besides the present lack of staff, there are many other problems, such as difficult collection of receivables. However, it is the problem we face in our market in all segments of the economy.

4. Nowadays, consumers are more aware of prices, so how can wine be a competitor to other types of alcohol?

It is a very tough struggle. Producers of spirits and beer, because of its massive sales have large marketing budgets, and even the strong global wine brands have difficulties to cope with such a strong campaign. In our country, it is even more difficult because small wine producers have almost no marketing budgets and the low purchasing power of the market dictates higher consumption of cheaper products.

5. You’ve mentioned that only 50% of the Serbian wines can be found in restaurants. What is the key for this solution? Should we as the citizens opt for a Serbian wine next time we go to a restaurant or is it up to the owners of these objects to include more domestic wines?

I’m afraid you have misunderstood me. I said it the Ministry of Commerce should adopt a law that would make sure that wine lists in restaurants feature at least 50% of domestic brands. We had this law a long time ago and this is nothing new. Moreover, similar practice is present in the neighboring countries that produce wine and thus protect their product.

6. What has been the greatest achievement of the association so far?

Our association has existed for only five years. But we are proud to have participated in the adoption of the new wine law. We are also the organizers of a major international fair, held in Belgrade, as well as of several local wine events. We actively try to introduce Serbian winemakers to various international institutions, as well as to gather and organize easier export to foreign markets.

7. Which markets will you be focusing in the future?

As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, now we are not competitive in the markets of Western Europe. The reason for this is not the quality of our wine, as there are prestigious awards won by our manufacturers on world competitions in recent years to prove that we have an excellent product. The reason for this lies only in the high production costs in Serbia, due to the absence of any government support and subsidies. For this reason we are forced to turn to the markets of the former Soviet Union and China. They are interested in our wines and they can accept our prices, but in these markets we have a problem with large quantities they need, and that we don’t have.

8. How do you see the ideal collaboration with the Ministry of Economy?

In the past five years, the Ministry of Economy has helped us a lot in mapping wine routes in Serbia and installing proper traffic signals. This has helped increase interest of consumers for wine tourism and cellar tours, which in turn directly influenced the increase in sales at the site. I hope that in the upcoming period, the ministry will continue with the same and greater efforts to promote wine tourism.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Only a bottle of an excellent Serbian wine 🙂

Gvozden, thank you so much for giving us some of your time to take part in this interview!

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A guide to Timisoara, Romania

So you are thinking of visiting Romania’s third most populous city? This guide to Timisoara should help you out. Timisoara can be easily reached from many locations like Budapest or…

So you are thinking of visiting Romania’s third most populous city? This guide to Timisoara should help you out. Timisoara can be easily reached from many locations like Budapest or Belgrade (click to read “Belgrade to Timisoara by train“). The name of the city comes from the river Timis that flows to the south of the city and this is the main center of the historical Banat region. It’s a small city and one day is more than enough for exploring it.

SIGHTSEEING

The best way to start sightseeing is by grabbing a map of the tourist attractions at some of the tourist information centers in the city.

Timisoara tourist map

As you can see the map suggests some routes that you can opt for. I suggest you opt for route 3 simply because you will see more attractions. Timisoara is known as the “City of parks” in Romania, so it has a special park route as well. You will most probably start your sightseeing from the Victory Square. From here you can easily visit the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral which is one of the symbol buildings of the city. It’s also one of the biggest churches in Romania.

the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Interior of the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Victory Square has many buildings in the “1900s style” with great architectural elegance. One of the most notable buildings in the square is the Culture palace which houses the Romanian Opera House. It was devastated by two fires and rebuilt again. The auditorium has 600 seats. Timisoara is actually the only European city that has state theatre in three languages as it also hosts the German State Theatre and the Hungarian State Theatre “Csiky Gergely”.

Culture palace Timisoara

Culture palace

By exploring the city you will notice that street art is an important part of a city’s culture. Timisoara also hosts annual “Graffiti and Street Art International Festival” in September with the aim to represent street art works on great and visible sufraces. For more photos click here.

Timisoara street art

Besides Victory square another important square is Unirii. You can see the Holy Trinity Monument here, in baroque style. The three sides show bas-relief with scenes from the plague epidemics which occurred from 1738-1739.

Unirii square Timisoara

Unirii square

One of the most beautiful buildings is the Baroque palace which dates back to the 18th century. Franz Liszt held a concert in the baroque room of the palace in 1846. The building had various names and functions: it used to be the President’s Palace (18th century), headquarters of the Timis Banat and Serbian Vojvodina Governor and since 1984 it has hosted the Art museum.

Serbian Orthodox Vicarage and Serbian Orthodox Church are another important landmarks of the city. The building of the Serbian Vicarage is under the administration of the Serbian community since 1865 and it hosts an old religious art collection.

Serbian church Timisoara

Interior of a Serbian church

Theresia Bastion which used to be a fortress during the 18th-19th centuries is another interesting landmark.

Theresia Bastion Timisoara

Theresia Bastion

Eat/Drink

The local cuisine is influenced by Hungarian, Serbian, German and Arabic specialties.

There is a great Lebanese restaurant in the Victory square called “Beirut”. Shawarma here is really tasty and cheap! You can spot Hungarian kürtőskalács everywhere and Serbian pljeskavica is also quite popular.

Also, you will find many street stalls selling sandwiches, kebab, french fries etc. with great prices.

I recommend a visit to Bierhaus to enjoy a nice beer. There are more than 50 types of beer available here, so you won’t have a problem picking the right one. If you want to try Romanian beer choose Silva or Timișoreana.

Accommodation

There are not many hostels in Timisoara. I’ve stayed in Downtown Hostel which is located in the Victory Square. The hostel is small but cozy as it has three dorms: one of eight beds with shared bathroom, one double-bed room with private bathroom and one twin room with shared bathroom.

It also has a social room and a chill out balcony. But the best part of this hostel are the staff. Great place to enjoy your stay and I absolutely recommend it.

downtown hostel timisoara

Downtown hostel

Downtown Hostel in Timisoara

The walls of the balcony

If you have visited Timisoara, feel free to leave your suggestions below.

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Timisoara Street Art In Photos

Timisoara street art- Timişoara is the third most populous city in Romania, located in Banat in the western part of the country. The city has many attributes and is known as…

Timisoara street art- Timişoara is the third most populous city in Romania, located in Banat in the western part of the country. The city has many attributes and is known as the “City of lights” and the “City of flowers and parks” which is totally justified.

But Timişoara also hosts annual “Graffiti and Street Art International Festival” in September with the aim to represent street art works on great and visible surfaces.

It’s a nice idea to refresh the urban landscape, even more considering that this is a small city. Take a look at some of the works;

Timisoara street art
Timisoara graffiti
Timisoara graffiti
Timisoara graffiti
Timisoara street art
Timisoara street art
Timisoara graffiti

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Belgrade to Timisoara by train with “Banat Special”

So you want to go from Belgrade to Timisoara or the opposite direction and are thinking of the best way to do it. At the moment there are no direct…

So you want to go from Belgrade to Timisoara or the opposite direction and are thinking of the best way to do it. At the moment there are no direct lines between two cities, which means that you will have to make a stop in a small town called Vršac.

The best way to do it is by train, which leaves two times a day from Belgrade and from Timisoara. The distance between two cities is about 160 km and the journey will last four hours.

Serbian Railways has a special offer called “Banat Special”, with round trip tickets costing 14 euros. This is great, considering that a round trip ticket by bus between Belgrade and Vršac costs 1365 RSD (11 euros).

*UPDATE* The international train line between Vršac to Timisoara and vice versa, is suspended from August 1st, 2017. 

 If you are going from Belgrade to Timisoara…

 Trains to Vršac depart from BEOGRAD DUNAV station (Belgrade Danube station), NOT from the Central Railway station. As already mentioned, there are two daily departures so you have two options;

1) To catch the morning train which leaves at 07:19 and arrives to Vršac at 09:10. Then from Vršac you can catch a train to Timisoara which leaves at 10:18.

2) Or to catch the afternoon one which leaves at 16:20 and arrives to Vršac at 18:09. From 18:40 you can catch a train to Timisoara.

Belgrade Vrsac train

Serbian train operating between Belgrade and Vršac

Belgrade Vrsac train

Interior of a Serbian train

This is a modern train, the only downside is that it stops in almost every village, which makes the journey slower.

 When you arrive to Vršac, the train for Timisoara will be waiting for the passengers. This is a very small train stop and it’s not possible to buy any food or drinks at the station, although there is a kiosk right in front of the main entrance to the station.

Vrsac Timisoara train

Train to Timişoara

This train has less stops so it travels faster through Romanian teritory and its final stop is Timisoara NORD train station.



 If you are going from Timisoara to Belgrade;

 You also have two options;

 1) Catch the morning train which leaves Timisoara at 06:50 and arrives to Vršac at 08:52. Then catch the train for Belgrade which leaves Vršac at 09:44.

2) And afternoon option: Leaves Timisoara at 15:38 – arrives to Vršac at 17:45. Leaves Vršac at 18:45 – arrives to Belgrade at 20:37.

Vrsac Timisoara train

Romanian train to Timişoara

Romanian train is also quite modern and travels faster as there are no frequent stops, although the heating system didn’t work.

Vrsac Timisoara train

Interior of a Romanian train

Things to remember about Timisoara NORD station:

 1) Toilets are locked (at least they were in early morning). Hopefully situation is different during the day.

2)  Don’t buy food at train station. It’s of bad quality and questionable health. So definitely grab something in the city before you arrive to the station.

And of course, always check the actual timetable and ask if there are any works on the railway. However, when buying a ticket you’ll surely be informed about that. You can check the timetable here. Just type (Beograd Dunav – Vršac; Vršac – Timisoara NORD).

 Safe travels!

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67 Comments on Belgrade to Timisoara by train with “Banat Special”

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