Soundgarden Hotel, Warsaw, Poland ****

Stayed January, 2015

Wow, what a
different hotel!

Someone built their architectural dream, it seems. The elevator is dated 2012, so the hotel seems to be quite new. The ground floor is very spacious, the lobby only being separated from the cafeteria and the large restaurant by separating elements (calling them walls would be a disgrace).

Not only does the hotel depart from the norm on a stylish note, some long-established norms are tossed by the wayside as well. For example, you check in yourself at a kiosk. Seeing as there wasn’t any clear signage explaining this (at least not in English), I was a bit astounded when I waited for some sort of response from the two people behind the two screens on the rather small reception desk (they were busy with their computers doing I don’t know what) and was “swept away” by a third person coming out of seemingly thin air to go through the checkin process with me.

You end up typing a bunch of information in on your own (annoying with an on-screen keyboard), after which you’re supposed to be issued with a keycard - which failed. So off we went, back to the reception desk, to generate a new card. Luckily, the information I had entered was still in the system.

Honestly, while I’m a great fan of kiosk check-in at the airport, this is different. I’m not going to sit in an uncomfortable airline seat for two hours while being served stale coffee - I’m going to sleep here, shower here, eat breakfast here. Please, folks, let a person give me those three minutes required to check someone into their room!

While being shown to the elevators (there are only two for six floors of an estimated 16 rooms each - might make for some holdups during rush hour), i was given the standard “breakfast at this time”, etc. and informed that there weren’t any phones in the rooms - to get with reception, one should email it - or just go downstairs. Hm. As I found out later (from the TV - see below), they give you the direct-dial number for reception to use on your mobile. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I used a hotel room phone for anything other than dialing reception, so I’m really quite fine with this.

The only suggestion I have is to post the landline number somewhere, so you don’t have to search through the TV apps to find it. The inverse issue here is, of course, when reception has to contact you about something (lets say, a guest) - because they don’t have your mobile number, someone would have to come up to tell you. Odd.

The floors are named after styles of music or sound (with the 6th floor called “silence”), which is cute. When you exit the elevator, you face a huge screen showing a picture relevant to the music currently playing. My floor was the 2nd and it was called “Jazz”.

The next surprise is the room. It is actually quite small, yet arranged in a way that is very efficient with space. The bed, for example, runs along the window side (in my case to the street in front). The bathroom forms a block - very open due to lots of glass - that runs along the “hallway”.

There is a scythe-shaped, rotating table that you can use to either work on (it actually has two power outlets built-in!) or probably to eat breakfast in bed on as well. The “desk” also has the light control panel which gives you four options: “Full,” “Comfort,” “Night,” and “OFF”, as well as the buttons for the blinds. There is also a spacious (more tall than wide) closet that - unfortunately - only had three hangers and one pants clip in it.

A bit annoying is the absolute lack of a place to unpack your suitcase - I ended up putting it on the bed, something I abhor doing unless there is some sort of blanket on it that I’m not going to use. Neat is the large drawer under the bed made for your suitecase, though mine - and this is a rather medium sized one - just barely fit.

Lastly, there is a TV set into the wall opposite the headboard, which doubles as an info device / music player and ... access point! Yes, every room has an individual access point that you activate from the TV, which then gives you the SSID and the password to enter. I connected four devices successfully. Internet speed is blazing - really a plus!

Food & Drink
There is the “Sound Bar” that serves excellent Espresso. The restaurant looks like a self-serve (might be for lunch), but I was asked to take a seat and was served. The food I had (Pierogies and an interesting piece of prune pie) was very good. A bit disappointing is the fact that there is no local beer on tap (something I usually like to try), only import.

Next to reception there is a little “store” that sells a large variety of drinks, both bottled as well as dispensed - either via a very cool below-counter coffee maker (I’d seen this advertised in the US before) or a nifty wine and spirits dispenser. I couldn’t figure out how to work these, though - there is a slot for a card, maybe the room key. The display was in Polish.

St. Andrews Palace, Warsaw **

ul. Chmielna 30, Warsaw
Stayed Dec. 9-12.

First impressions count, but don't last with this residence. You enter a large and very nicely restored courtyard with a Café at the end. The courtyard ends in a relatively quiet dead-end street. Cars can drive here, but since there are lots of pedestrians, they do so very slowly. "Great", you think - "it's going to be nice and quiet". Wrong.

A courtyard setting like this works almost like a cave - any and all sound seems amplified and multiplied (echoes). All the windows of the apartment I had (No. 6) were to the courtyard, and boy is it noisy! From people having a good time in the smoker's tent of a bar around the corner to folks dragging suitcases in at 5AM, coming back from - apparently - heavy drinking bouts at 3AM in mid-sized groups and probably smoking one last cigarette while jabbering away, to people rolling in large something-or-others (garbage containers?) at 6AM - you'll hear it all in Dolby surround!

Add to that the incredibly horrid sound dampening quality of the ceiling - I actually heard the mobile phone of the folks above me vibrate - and of course, them stamping towards it. The first night, they continually re-arranged furniture (at least that is what it sounded like) only to go on an artistic spree lasting about two hours on the bed right above mine. On the third evening (when I was up quite late working), I heard massive movement of furniture not from above but from the long wall that ran along the left side of the apartment. My guess is that there is a restaurant behind that wall and they were moving tables and chairs for the next day.

Needless to say, I ended up sleeping with ear plugs the remaining time.

The apartment itself is quite spacious, there is a relatively large kitchen that - while offering four cups, three saucers, silverware and a cooking pot - offers no glasses or plates that you could use to eat and drink with. A little strange, that. It did have a large refrigerator (what on earth for?) that squeaked continuously.  And you're wondering where climate change is coming from. I turned the thing off to save power and my sanity.

The apartment is clean and in good enough condition, with some wear and tear here and there that isn't really an issue. The bathroom is spacious enough, though the shower has a very difficult to regulate, manual "mixer tap" and spews water not in a regular shower spray but rather in a few copious streams going in several directions. I never hit the right temperature during my stay, though - to be fair - I never got scolded or frozen, either.

The door, by the way, will not be a way a potential thief will get in - it is apparently made of steel and has a lock usually found on a bank safe, with claws leveraging into the door frame with every turn of the key (and you get quite a few turns, if you like). The key also reminded me of a safe key (I used to have one), but it was rather difficult to handle, since you have to insert it just the right way. Since even the lady at reception had issues getting it in the door, I didn't feel quite so bad. 

The place got snugly warm even though the outside temperatures were quite miserable, though it was warmer in the living room than in the bathroom, which sported a radiator of the type I've never seen before - quite exotic, but likely just too small to heat the bathroom properly. 

All in all, the noise situation from next door, above and the courtyard make St. Andrews Palace completely unacceptable to me. If you're used to sleeping in a dorm, you'll probably be ok - or if you tend to sleep with earplugs in (and like it) anyway. The location is quite good - you're not far from the central underground station, from shopping (which tends to be completely unattractive to me, since it's the same stores I get where I live - at the same prices) and lots of cafés and restaurants, though all of them are rather expensive, with pricing very near that of western Europe. You can eat and drink for very little in Poland, but not in this area.

Apartamenty Zgoda Warszawa by DeSilva, Warsaw ***

This apartment hotel is truly a mixed bag - there are aspects I really like and some I really dislike.

The positive: the location is quite good - you're within walking distance of a metro station as well as the central train station (well, I wouldn't want to drag my suitcase from there to the hotel). The room really is a suite, with a large living/dining room that features a kitchenette, a separate bathroom and a separate bedroom.
The accommodations sleep 3 (two in single beds in the bedroom, one on the couch, which can - apparently - be used as a bed), so there are three of everything: three chairs to the dining table, three plates, three glasses, three forks... 

The negative: when I arrived (late at night), all radiators were turned off and the entire place was a freezing nightmare. I don't get cold very easily, but I was happy to hop into bed wearing socks. I'd turned up the heat to maximum, but the water going to the radiators wasn't really hot, so they didn't put out enough warmth to really get the place cozy. It had a coldish touch until I checked out.

The carpet was a bit of a disaster: lots and lots of spots and bleached areas where - likely - something nasty had been removed (or had it?). I'm not a very finicky person, but I preferred walking around in socks as much as possible.

If I had to name the most negative aspect, it would certainly be the windows. At first glance, these looked modern, but quite obviously weren't. Noise from the relatively busy street below was not damped well - in fact, I double-checked to see if they weren't closed properly. Often, bad noise abatement also means poor insulation, which is likely the reason the place never warmed up properly. There is A/C (both in the bedroom as well as the common room), so you should be okay in the summer.

One quirk I've never seen in any other hotel: the closet for everything is right by the entrance of the appartment - somewhat strange if you're used to dressing in the bedroom.

Breakfast is OK but not spectacular and certainly not worth the equivalent of 10€. If you don't need the convenience of eating in the hotel, you'll find plenty of opportunities within a short walk of the hotel.

To summarize: you should be ok here if you can deal with the noise from the street and the carpet condition - in the summer. I really don't think you'll be very happy to stay in deep winter (during my stay the temperature was just above 0°C), because I doubt the place will get anywhere above 18°C.