Saturday 5 May 2018

Warsaw, Poland (Hampton by Hilton, Central Warsaw)

Today after breakfast I planned to walk down to the Old Town section of Warsaw near the river. And along the way, stop by the Palace of Culture and Science to check it out.

The Palace of Culture and Science (originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science) was completed in 1955 and was a gift by the Soviet Union to the people of Poland. It is a very tall building, one of the tallest in Europe, and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. I thought it was much older than it is because of the exterior.

After talking a few pictures of the building I walked toward the Old Town. Along the way I saw some sort of ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Pilsudski Square, the largest square in Warsaw. There must have been someone important in attendance, judging from the number of men wearing dark suits, dark glasses with ear pieces. Immediately following the presentation, there was a parade of fire trucks and related equipment that traveled from the square through the Old Town. I watched for a little while since the parade was blocking my path to get to Old Town.

Once in Old Town, which has been reconstructed after World War II, I walked around and took pictures of churches and the many streets that resembled old streets that I’d seen in other cities. Very well reconstructed. The large square had a variety of entertainment as I enjoyed a cup of tea and a yogurt.

I didn’t feel like walking back to the hotel and decided to take a taxi. Just beyond the coffee shop where I was sitting there seemed to be a taxi rank with taxis waiting for people to hire them.

I stepped into a taxi that seemed to be the first in line to accept passengers, explained where I wanted to go, and we were off. The route to the hotel seemed a bit off, but thought it was due to the paving of one of the major streets. We arrived at the hotel and it was then he said I owed him 400 zloty. Really? 400 zloty is about $120. I asked again and he said 400 and pointed out the rate chart on the window near my head. I then got a sinking feeling that I’ve been scammed. It only cost 40 zloty to travel from the airport to the hotel, which is much further away and tool much longer. I offered 40 zolty and he became irritated and started to drive off, I presumed to the police, but he said he was going to Old Town, or that is what he said. All I knew is that we were headed away from the hotel and my door was locked.

After I promised 200 he seemed to accept the amount and found me an ATM. I paid him the 200 zolty and he took off, but not before I got a picture of his license plate. I started to walk back to the hotel and would ask the hotel staff for advice. The walk gave me time to sort out my thoughts and I realized that this was a very small price to pay to learn an excellent lesson and to be grateful that I got through it in one piece and only paying 200 zolty ($60 USD). From now on I should make sure that every taxi I get in to has a meter and a license displayed. The hotel staff confirmed that there isn’t much I could do, even if I had the license number. They told of one of their guests was charged 120 zolty to go from the hotel to the train station, which is less the 1 kilometer away. Another lesson learned for me.

Tomorrow I’m walking, no taxi, to Old Mokotow, an old section of Warsaw that was not heavily bombed during World War II since it was a separate town at that time. It has many parks and, being Sunday afternoon, I’ll see many people enjoying walks with family and friends.

To see pictures: CLICK HERE

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