0428 The Warsaw Uprising (Poland 001—new)

Warsaw Travel Blog

 › entry 53 of 201 › view all entries

And so next morning I wake up in my 4th country in as many days... 

 

I’m excited about Poland.  Reaching the Polish border on foot was the “high water mark” of my Summer of 2000 adventure and since then I’ve been itching to explore the country properly.  Now at least I’ll reach the capital, which is a step in that direction...

 

I reach the bus station and step out to the cold early morning wind--  even though it’s the middle of August... As I chill out in the lobby a little bit to try to get my grounding I do pick up a bit of a sad, heavy vibe to this place.  Seeing people’s expressions I don’t get the sense that everything is happy and rosy and everyone is revelling in Poland’s economic progress.

..

 

I continue on down a long, dingy passageway through a suburban train station. And then out the other side.  From there I can see the skyline not too far off, so I decide to head that direction on foot. 

 

I hike through an area that’s a mix of low cost residential neighbourhoods, empty fields and rusty industrial... not a whole lot to see... and then suddenly I reach a major boulevard, and I’m in the middle of Warsaw.

 

It has a much different feel than any other European city I’ve explored.  A lot of shimmering skyscrapers--  some of which have some pretty cool designs--  and in between them, rather monotonous looking apartment buildings which look like leftovers from the Communist era.

.. It feels a bit like an American downtown than a European one.

Of course, I know a bit about the history of Warsaw, that it was pretty much levelled to the ground in World War II so I wasn’t expecting a whole lot.

One structure that really had caught my eye coming from train station at first looked like an enormous cathedral with the highest spire in the world...but once I got closer, I realized that it’s actually a skyscraper, topped off with a clock tower and spire... It’s one of the few proud structures of Communist times here in Warsaw... Looks a bit grim and out of place amidst ambitious glass and steel buildings around... and ironically, the main floor is now a multiplex cinema!

 

I finally find a place to prop up my camera away from the shifty looking fellows milling around the green around in front, and take a video clip...

 

I continue on the Warsaw massive main train station/shopping district with its labyrinth of passageways...

 

I’m almost giving up hope on finding much of any history here in Warsaw, when I reach a cheerful, old fashioned street on the north side of town.

  Nothing spectacular, but it feels very warm and friendly in contrast with the rest of the city. 


So I continue on this street, heading west.  I take another clip in a little plaza in front of a Copernicus statue… I explore an interesting old two level church--  go up the stairs to the main sanctuary, or go down the stairs to a grotto like shrine in the basement…

 

I veer off south a little bit to check out the commotion in a large plaza.  It looks like some sort of military presentation with soldiers marching in formation and then standing at attention before a guy making a speech… Three or four curious tourists watching over to the side…


This is the “new” Polish military parade… not quite as impressive as it was in the old days I’m sure…

I continue on to explore a large park with a beautiful fountain, a pond and a columned graffiti covered memorial of sorts, and statues lining the walkway…

 

After France, Germany and Austria, Poland’s capital has a distinctively “non-empire” feel to it.

  The architecture and monuments don’t tell the tale of a nation who aspires or ever aspired to take over the world.  It’s sort of a nice comforting feel…  And it’s kind of nice to not see hordes of tourists everywhere for a change…

 

From the park I head back up north and there reach a beautiful plaza with colourful buildings in the background.  I have reached Warsaw’s “Old Town”, a small section of the city that was painstakingly rebuilt to look like it did before World War II.  I must say that I’m quite impressed.  You’d have to be a bit of an expert to be able to tell that it’s a rebuilt town.  

 

It’s a very pleasant little walk… I reach a castle on the other side--  which does look a bit more fake--  and then the city quickly switches back to monotonous modern architecture…

 

Down below is the river… it doesn’t look like there’s much to see on the other side so I decide to head on back.



I chill a bit near the castle wall.  There’s a Polish girl busking with her guitar with a sign that reads “I’m saving up money for my holiday”… It’s a much more pleasant image than “I need money to eat” and maybe gives a glimpse into a future more middle class Poland

 

Soon after I come across the very sobering “Warsaw Uprising Memorial” with plaques detailing the heroic struggle to drive the Nazis out of their city--  and how the Allies chose to not back them, and allow them to ultimately be crushed by the much better equipped Germans.

 

Postnote…

Later I have a chance to chat with a Polish fellow at a hostel in Paris and have a chance to ask some of my questions…

 

“How do Poles feel about their history?”

 

“There is a Polish Pride,” he told me “but it’s not about great conquests or empires, but rather about our ability to stay strong and make a comeback from the worst of situations.

  We’ve been invaded, conquered and betrayed--  but we’re still standing…”

 

“How do Poles feel about World War II?”

 

“Even more than anger at the Germans, there’s an anger at our allies for betraying us.  We’ve been betrayed many times in our history, and that still causes a bit of a distrust towards other countries…”

 

“And how do Poles feel about the Communist Era?”

 

“Most older folks paint a rosy picture saying things were much better back then.

  They had secure jobs, secure incomes and pensions and people could even go on vacation every year.  With the fall of Communism, they lost that sense of security.  Older folks have managed to convince many younger folks that things were better back then too… But things are changing now.  Some Poles who went west looking for jobs are now going home because they realize they can find jobs in their own country…”

 

 Back to Warsaw

 

As I wander around the mix of modern skyscrapers and ugly Communist architecture, I ponder on the contrast between Paris and Warsaw--   which some claim was once as beautiful as Paris  Both cities were threatened by the Nazis.  The French opted for a quick surrender and as a result their beautiful capital remained unscathed… the Poles fought heroically to defend their land, and their capital was razed to the ground…

 

Which of the two made the right decision?  People still make jokes about the spineless French being so quick to surrender… But then again… Would Paris still be getting 20 million tourists a year if they hadn’t?

 

Anyways…

I could wander around Warsaw some more, but I think instead I’m going to try and get outside the city and check out small town Poland for a bit more accurate view of the country…

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Warsaw
photo by: EmyG