Cześć! From Warsaw
Another interesting train journey…..a bit faster……couldn’t quite count the sleepers as they passed by…..
We arrived at the hotel and went hunting and gathering…..just the essentials, beer….and some milk, sunglasses for Barbara (others got scratched) and antihistamines for me: something was making me sneeze! We stood at the front of the hotel, which direction, straight ahead, A-left or B-right…..we’ll take A….should have taken B, that’s were all the shops were.
We walked around in an ever increasing ‘business district’ which was starting to close down for the day…….finally an optometrist….sunglasses ticked off the list. We then came across a chemist….. antihistamines is such an easy thing to ask for in a foreign country, after some Academy awards acting and sign language, we had the sneezing medicine……still no milk or beer. We spotted someone carrying groceries, we must be close. We found the supermarket and made our purchases and somehow got back to the hotel, crossing over the brick foundations for a part of the Warsaw Ghetto, and stowed the loot! Another walk for coffee….this time we’ll go ‘B’…two streets later, shops, restaurants, bars, coffee and cakes.
After coffee we made our way down the street to what looked almost like a ‘Disney fantasy’ city. Brightly coloured buildings all shapes and sizes, spires and towers reaching skyward towards the white puffy clouds in the bright blue Polish sky. We had reached the ‘Old Town’! It was amazingly beautiful and was a hive of activity; many street stalls, buskers, tourists, us and the huge Royal Castle on the right side of Castle Square. The square has seen many dramatic scenes during its history with patriotic demonstrations. A particularly brutal riot occurred there in May 1982 while Poland was still under martial law. It was also the place where, in 1997 Bill Clinton gave a speech welcoming Poland to membership of NATO.
We made our way through the little thin ‘cobbled’ streets, each corner we rounded revealed more and more amazing sights, amazing buildings, town squares, outdoor restaurants, churches. Many buildings have stories and pictures of John Paul ll. Further along the winding little alleys there are more town squares complete with restaurants and drinking houses. We came across another beautiful little church and convent that was rebuilt after it had been destroyed by the Nazi’s during the occupation. During the war the nuns had provided sanctuary for many.
The next day we visited the amazing Royal Castle. We entered the first room to see a video presentation of the history of the castle from 1939 to 1945….the screen was blank except for some writing in Polish and an accompanying English translation…….’In a moment will begin the video, history of the Royal Castle 39-45, and a countdown clock.’ At about one minute to go, one of the security attendants approached us and asked, ‘you speak English……right?’….’yes’…’Can you tell me’ as he pointed towards the writing on the screen….’Is that grammar right for English’…..we replied, ‘not quite…..the video presentation of the history of the castle from 1939 to 1945 will begin in a moment’. With that he clenched his fist and punched the air…’I KNEW IT!!…’thankyou’ then rushed off. We presume to re-assert his long held belief that the translation was incorrect…..we made his day!
The video began, pre-war footage of the people of Warsaw going about their daily life, Poland had regained its independence in 1918 following 123 years of partitions. Watching the video you could almost feel the optimism and joy of the people as they went about their daily lives, the accompanying music also portrayed the sense of the happy times. After such a long period of suppression the people were happy, for 20 years, the good times continued, a bright future filled with hope and a better life…until the devastation of the German Occupation in 1939…..The entire city of Warsaw was literally destroyed, the castle was bombed and plundered by the German Army, Hitler ordered that the Castle be razed to the ground by the beginning of 1940, holes were drilled in the walls which were plugged with dynamite. Protests from Italy stopped the immediate destruction of the Castle however, after the Warsaw uprising, the order to destroy the building was carried out. Between the years 1945-70, the Communist authorities delayed and stopped the rebuilding of the castle, however in 1971 fundraising began and in 1980 re-construction of this amazing building began, the interiors were open to the public in 1984.
The second video was as powerful as the first, watching footage of people returning to piles of rubble where once there was a house and home. People stood at the front of the bombed remains of their homes holding their face in their hands, obviously devastated, but then one by one they would pick up tools or use their bare hands and to begin the enormous task of re-building their beloved Warsaw. Polish people all over the world have every right to be extremely proud of the achievements of those people and subsequent generations in the re-building their beautiful city.
The Warsaw Rising Museum, which we also visited, is also very impressive and powerful. It tells the story of the Rising, which cost more than 200,000 Polish lives. There are movies, peoples’ personal stories and historical facts all with photographic evidence. All the captions are in Polish and English. It would be very easy to spend days looking at all the exhibits.
In the city centre stands one of Europe’s tallest buildings, Palace of Culture & Science, built in the early 1950’s as a ‘gift of friendship’ from the Soviet Union. The building was an unwanted gift but at 230 m tall, it’s hard to hide it away. Great views of Warsaw can be seen from the viewing platform at the top. A huge amount of construction is taking place in the centre of the city as the Metro line is expanded.
Thankyou for all your good wishes for our grandson Jack, he is so gorgeous!
Lance and Barbara