Warsaw, the post-war capital

A Youth Backpacker in Europe

Chapter III Part I

Poland, the post-war capital

City: Warsaw
Country: Poland
Currency: Polish złoty (1€ = 3.4zł)
Travel dates: 30 Dec 2007 – 2 Dec 2007
Accommodation: Nathan’s Villa Hostel
Travel buddies: Egon, Clare, Rahma, Siddharth, Stella, Meghan, Paulina, Pia, Kim

Caption: Palace of Culture and Science of Warsaw

I was finally leaving Scandinavia. Don’t get me wrong. I am not implying Scandinavia isn’t a good place to visit. In fact, I think it is a very unique piece of land where you can literally put off even the slightest flame of security. People in this region are annoyingly wealthy that it would be completely intolerable if story about burglary is heard.

By having said that, my sense of security had surged to its highest level when I boarded the airplane bringing me to Warsaw, Poland. It is indeed quite discriminative to have possessed this unfair perception towards polish people. However, the idea of travelling to Eastern Europe was really leaving me with an uneasy feeling, at least initially.

However, judging by my first glimpse to people of Poland during my first casual walk on the street of Warsaw, I was deeply surprised by how well-dressed Polish people were compared to Scandinavians. Let’s first put aside the question whether the street parade of fashion were originated from expensively branded stores, or whether they were exclusively made of greatly elevated quality, the fact that these people were stylishly groomed really put me into embarrassment with my previous seemingly bias label.

However, being extremely cynical, I didn’t loosen my security level and was guarded my personal belongings with the tightest security level possible throughout the entire trip. In fact, my utmost important tip to my fellow travel mates is to assume everyone to be hungry snatchers and that the need to guard your possessions with life is achingly crucial.

Caption: Old Town of Warsaw (left) and high street of Warsaw.

Geographically and “strategically” situated between the German domination and the Russian ascendancy, Poland, and of course its capital Warsaw, was historically under the mastery of these two power blocks during World War II. The city was completely vanished and was deemed to be the most severely damaged city in Europe during the war.

Warsaw today is of course freed from the devastating war. However, the visit to the capital left a very vivid impression in my mind that the scars of the war are still clearly crafted on the face of Warsaw. Despite the clearly distinguishable recent booming construction industry with enormous amount of modern high rise buildings, it is definitely not challenging for one to trail the footprints of war, say for example, by following the absolutely contradictory destroyed monuments scattering around the corners of the city next to some five stars hostels.

If that is insufficient, the more sarcastic scene in Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science. It is stunningly attractive especially when it is brightly illuminated with decorative lights all over the four facets of the building at night, and was indeed a landmark impossible to be missed even if one is suffering cataract, since it is located in the heart of Warsaw.

Caption: Contrasts between old and new.

The controversial of the building, which explains the reason why Polish people have never appreciated its aesthetical value, is owed to the fact that the Palace of Culture and Science is a “gift” from the Soviet Union. Despite the fact that it is the tallest building in Poland, the inception of the monument is clearly not welcome by Polish people since its presence is only an obscene reminder of the catastrophic war.

By adopting the simplest grid and somewhat unorganised development plan, the modern town of Warsaw is obviously less attractive compared to Stockholm and Oslo. However, it is exactly this need to develop the capital at the fastest pace possible after World War II that is ironically contributing to the charm of Warsaw. One would still be able to fully immerse himself in the touch of war by walking through the less famous streets in this modern concrete jungle.

However, if the search for ancient flavour is the desire, then a visit to the Old Town would be necessary. Old Town of Warsaw is ideally connected to the New Town with a massively crowded boulevard which pretty much highlights the higher end living in Warsaw. But to be honest, I didn’t find myself to be extremely attracted by the somewhat artificially developed Old Town which is still under reconstruction. However, it is certainly another face of Warsaw no one should miss.

Caption: Inside Warsaw Uprising Museum.

Yes, until this stage, you would have probably realised searching for the taste of war was my main goal in Warsaw. Therefore, I would really like to recommend the Uprising Museum. It is by far in my life, the only museum which I didn’t find it a form of torture. The museum is highly interactive and that it turns back time to World War II. Every little corner in the museum is fully utilised to illustrate the hardship and pain Polish had undergone during the war.

I specifically like the children corner where you will get the first hand experience to the life of small kids during war period. Staring at the mannequin of a small kid of maybe 10-year-old who is holding a machine gun and with soldier helmet on, with a polish song singing by a bunch of polish children lingering in the background, it is definitely the perfect moment to deliver the message to why war should be at all mean be eliminated from the world.

Caption: Inside Warsaw Uprising Museum.

Maybe it is wise for me to stop colouring Warsaw with the greyish colour pencil which I deliberately named it war. Similarly to other capital, Warsaw is not left behind with its effort in nature reserve. Lazenki Park, located not too far from the centre, is a humungous park. It is definitely the perfect picnic area during summer time. But I wouldn’t say my visit during winter was a bad one as the slushy snow had incredibly added a unique loneliness mask to the park.

Warsaw, from being perceptively taken as unsafe to amazingly fascinating, it is definitely a venue which I highly recommend. All the side dishes regarding restaurants, funny stories and special events happened in Warsaw had been intentionally wiped out from the scene. Well, as a genius reader, you definitely know it means it is coming in as part II. Stay tune to find out more.

Caption: Some scenes in the Lazenki Park. It does look cold and lonely during winter time.

P.S.: After a constant search for a few months, I still fail to get the song sung in the video by a bunch of small kids in the Uprising Museum. Anyone up for the favour?

Caption: Some other scenes in the Lazenki Park.