02/06/2011 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

My first impression of Warsaw was how well built the place was. The city is very much a celebration of the versatility, beauty and strength that can be found in concrete. Yes concrete is an excellent building material, but don’t build a whole city out of it.

Perhaps I am being a little harsh, after all Warsaw was almost entirely destroyed by the Germans in 1944 following the Warsaw Uprising and had to be rebuilt from scratch. Warsaw is sometimes known as the “Phoenix City” because it has risen from the flames.

The first thing you see upon leaving Warsaw Centralna is the Palace of Culture and Science. If you include the spire it stands at 231 metres tall. Construction of the building took place between 1952 and 1955 and was a gift from Joseph Stalin to the people of Poland (although Stalin died before the building was completed). Although not a particularly attractive building it looks very unique and imposing against the Warsaw skyline.

The Palace of Culture and Science.

It was already dinner time by the time we checked in at the hostel, so Chris and I asked the unreasonably attractive receptionist to recommend us a restaurant. She recommended a traditional Polish eatery a short walk from the hostel, though given her good looks she could have recommended McDonalds and I’d probably have gone along with it.

The menu at the restaurant was based almost entirely around dumplings. It seems you can have dumplings with just about anything and I eventually settled on salmon and camembert. Chris and I were also pleased to find all the staff in the restaurant were excessively good looking, which did cause something of a distraction for most of the evening and also meant that we had to stay there for as long as possible. Consequently a lot of Tyskie was consumed that evening.

After breakfast the next morning we visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which contains the remains of a soldier killed during World War I. The tomb was guarded by two angry looking Polish guards who looked less than impressed with how close I was standing to the tomb.

From there the two of us took a stroll through Saxon Garden and on into Stare Miasto (Old Town). The Old Town is the main tourist destination, possibly because it is the only attractive part of Warsaw. Along with the rest of Warsaw it was completely destroyed during World War II, but has been rebuilt in the original style and using as many original materials as possible. Regardless of my thoughts about the rest of the city, there is no denying the hard work that has gone into beautifully restoring the Old Town.

The Old Town Market Place

After stopping to eat a slightly distressed looking burger we headed for the Warsaw Rising Monument and the Warsaw Ghetto Monument. Although it is difficult to describe (or imagine) the horrors that took place in Warsaw during the Second World War the two monuments are a fitting tribute to the strength of the people of Poland.

Thanks largely to Google Maps we struggled to find the Warsaw Rising Museum, which at one point looked like it might have been located in a shed. Anyway, we found it in the end and spent most of the afternoon their educating ourselves on the events of 1944. To give a brief overview the Warsaw Uprising began on the 1st August and lasted for 63 days. During that time the Home Army (resistance fighters) received little in the way of outside support, yet they were able to take control of large parts of the city. Controversially the Red Army (who were pushing through from the east) did not enter the city until the Home Army had been defeated and what remained of Warsaw razed to the ground. It is estimated that 15,000 Polish troops and between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civilians were killed in the Uprising. Soviet troops eventually liberated Warsaw on 17th January 1945 from the retreating German Army.

Although from a historical viewpoint the museum was extremely interesting Chris and I felt that that the exhibits were laid out in a rather confusing way. Instead of being set out in chronological order the museum presents a mishmash of information which is a bit confusing if you aren’t too familiar with that period of Polish history.

In the evening Chris and I struggled to translate the Polish menu at a restaurant and so decided to play it safe and get some steaks and chips accompanied by a few pitchers of beer. We reflected on the days events and planned what we would do at our next destination, Kraków.


Entry filed under: Poland. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Prague Krakow

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