My 9 day visit to Poland was planned as at least a two part journey, this first trip focused on northern Poland anchored out of Warsaw and took a counter clockwise route via the train system to stops in Bialystok (bʲaˈwɨ.stɔk), Gdansk (and neighboring Sopot), Torun, and back to Warsaw. Someday I will return to Poland for the southern reaches, with Krakow definitely in my sights.
Having finished up my journey to the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle the day before, my early flight to Warsaw on Sunday was eagerly anticipated. The 2 1/4 hour flight from London was pleasant, and upon arrival, getting into Warsaw via a 20 minute train from the Chopin Airport was a breeze. I was pleased that the ticket machine was English language selectable and with fairly straight forward directions.
Fortunately, I was able to book a hotel close to the Central Railway Station Warsaw (Warszawa Centralna) so the walk was only 20 minutes. My first glimpses of downtown Warsaw revealed an interesting mix of gleaming office buildings and grey, Communist-era apartment blocks. BBC’s Lindsey Galloway writes on Warsaw; “Once known as ‘The Paris of the East’ for its Baroque beauty, Warsaw saw more than 85% of its buildings destroyed amid the ravages of World War II. Despite its past hardships, Poland’s capital city continues to rise from the ashes – and its once-famous elegance can still be found by those who look beyond the surface.”
My early views below of downtown Warsaw, with the Palace of Culture and Science looming as the tallest building in Warsaw. It was gifted from the Soviet Union with a construction start in 1952 and lasted until 1955. The underground Metro (M) entrance is also shown in contrast.
Below is a close up of the Zlota44 condo building.
I would spend 2 nights in Warsaw and another 2 nights upon my return from my circular journey of nothern Poland before flying back home to Ottawa via London, UK. I ventured on foot during my Warsaw explorations and was able to see some of the key “must see” sights.
Old Town is a labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets, ornate building facades, and picturesque plazas. Once one of the country’s architectural pearls in addition to being its cosmopolitan capital, the Old Town was entirely rebuilt after the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and the symbolic rise from Warsaw’s ashes from the ruins of WW II.
Zamkowy Place in the Old Town, with the Royale Castle to the right.
Royale Castle (and seen in the feature image at top of blog post)
Old Town Square lined with richly decorated burgher houses. During the 15th century the Old Town Square was home to Warsaw’s Town Hall. In this Square is Warsaw’s best loved monument – Syrenka, the mermaid, was cast in 1855.
In the Old Town Square is Warsaw’s best loved monument – Syrenka, the mermaid, was cast in 1855.
What I found amazing was the large number of guided tours for children, outnumbered the adult groups that day. They were all well behaved and attentive.
St. John the Baptist Cathedral
St. Anne’s Church
Inside St. Anne’s Church
Barbican – Defensive walls that once protected the city, the structure dates from 1548. Today it serves as a bridge from New Town to Old Town.
Gnoja Góra (Compost Hill) in Old Town of Warsaw was once the rubbish dump, and at one stage was renowned for its healing properties – people with obscene amounts of money would actually come here to be buried up to their necks in rubbish in a supposed cure for syphilis. Now it’s a small knoll with a vista overlooking the Wisla River.
The Warsaw Ghetto and Uprising
I was in Warsaw during the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The building as it looks today (see previous photo of the historic photo) here at 55 Sienna, downtown Warsaw. The Ghetto wall fragment is in the backyard of this building.
Nothing too conspicuous but you can see the remnants of the Ghetto brick wall behind 55 Sienna, downtown Warsaw. Very little remains of the ghetto today, but the area did cover 1/3 the size of the city of Warsaw (mainly Mirów/Muranów and the Wala districts, plus parts of the city centre). The really need a guide book to find these places, some not well marked.
The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes which commemorates the first Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
Mila 18 Bunker – A grass mound and monument marks the spot where the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was lead by the Jewish Combat Organization and where many of its fighters were buried, including the leader. The Nazis discovered the bunker on May 08, 1943, but despite their use of tear gas, some did escape but most chose to commit suicide by ingesting poison rather than surrender. Their bodies were never exhumed after 1945 and the site became a war memorial.
This monument marks the spot where around 300,000 Jews were loaded on cattle wagons bound for Treblinka. The Nazi commandant in charge of the deportations lived directly opposite on Stawki 5/7 Street.
Ulica Próżna (lit. Empty Street) is a historical street in Warsaw, Poland. It is the only former Warsaw Ghetto street still featuring as many as four tenement houses. Currently under restoration. Very little remains of the ghetto today, but the area did cover 1/3 the size of the city of Warsaw (mainly Mirów/Muranów and the Wala districts, plus parts of the city centre). The really need a guide book to find these places, some not well marked.
The Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East is a monument in Warsaw, Poland which commemorates the victims of the Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II and subsequent repressions (text from Wikipedia)
Interesting artwork downtown Warsaw
Metro station for local train cars
Tomb of the unknown soldier (to the right), located at Piłsudski Square, the largest square of Poland’s capital
Tomb of the unknown soldier
A monument commemorating the victims of a presidential plane crash in Smolensk, western Russia on April 10, 2010. It was unveiled here on the eight anniversary of the crash. The monument is situated on Piłsudski Square in Warsaw city center and displays the names of all the victims.
The Piłsudski Square is located in front of the 15–hectare Saxon Gardens