In between a week at Angloville and meeting up with a tour group on 6 August I will be on my own in Warsaw for 5 days. I am a 56 yo woman, been to Europe several times before, etc. Planning on getting with a room via airbnb (or the like) so I feel less 'alone.' --with hosts that have reviews that saw they like to spend time with their guests. I do have RS Eastern Europe and a Poland guide book, so I am aware of the tourist sights. Anyone with an suggestions for my time there, especially any that would lead to more 'back door' interaction with Poles?
This is a bit of a tough one (I'm Polish but since I have family there it's hard to answer from a tourist's point of view)... perhaps you could go on one of the free walks that are led by locals or students (if they're available), or take a private tour led by a Polish docent? That way you could have some contact with locals. Also, do check out any local newspaper for activities going on during your stay where you can mingle with others - there probably will be some museum or gallery events going on. Perhaps Tripadvisor may have some meetup possibilities as well. Whenever you are at museums or any attractions, take the opportunity to reach out and ask questions or engage in dialogue regarding the exhibit, etc. I hope your hosts also will have some ideas for you. I hope you have a great visit to Warsaw!
TY for your reply and the suggestions, Agnes--I see you are from Alexandria....I lived there for awhile until I married a Naval officer and it was off and away :) I am thinking maybe to take a day trip to Lodz or Lublin, if anyone has any suggestions or experiences.
I would recommend a day trip to Lodz or Gdansk (I have not been to Lublin so cannot comment) - both are great places to stroll and have a totally different feel from Warsaw. Lodz has more of an industrial feel (since it was a major manufacturing center) and Gdansk is a more Hanseatic, Baltic city. Look them up on Trip Advisor Things to Do to get a feel of what you may see there and determine if it interests you.
You can take a train to both from Warszawa Centralna and it should take about 2-2.5 hours. I do think you should reserve at least 3 (if not 4) full days for Warsaw, and use the remaining day for a whole day trip to another city.
I second the vote for a day trip to Gdansk, I was just there at the end of May and absolutely loved it--actually, I loved everything about Poland, definitely a country I will return to--I took the 6:30 am train from the Centralna station, arrived at 9:30, and even though the day grew progressively colder and there was a bit of rain it was a beautiful city to explore nonetheless.
The new Solidarity Museum is wonderful, about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, heading to the left as you exit. The Old Town--again a 10-15 minute walk but to the right as you exit-- has a unique architectural style and I also went by boat to see the Westerplatte. I took the 5:30 train back to Warsaw, about $26 US roundtrip.
Cindy, I've only been there once, but my experience was that along the main road leading to Old Town, Warsaw was as cosmopolitan and touristed (and nice) as any big city I've been to in Europe. Outside the touristed areas, much less English is spoken, so that knowing polite Polish greetings and thanks is appreciated and will open a lot more welcoming interactions. If you are looking for day trips, I would suggest looking for smaller, closer places to visit. My favorite place was a small town called Kazimierz Dolny southeast of Warsaw that is delightful and charming.
Stan's comment about Kazimierz Dolny is spot on - it's a lovely place to visit right on the river. I don't know about the ease of public transport to get there because it is rather small. I've been there several times, but by car.
A day trip from Warsaw...first choice is Gdansk, but if that's too far for you, then Torun.
I visited Majdanek Memorial, a short distance from Lublin. Profoundly moving, not visited by many people.
The Jewish Museum is now open in Warsaw, and I suggest walking the path of remembrance. The Warsaw Rising Museum (Polish Resistance) is very good, lots of schoolchildren during the school year.