Thursday 13th Oct.
A completely lazy do nothing day. We did not even leave the hotel room and thoroughly enjoyed the rest.
Friday 14th Oct.
A drive into Warsaw to see the sights. Initially we were disappointed in Warsaw until we found the Old Town. It was beautiful but it was actually relatively new, here’s why:
Warsaw’s short history has been a very difficult one.
Warsaw is one of the youngest cities in Europe and the earliest settlements were in the 10th century. The old town of Warsaw was built around the end of the 13th century. The city only became capital at the beginning of the 16th century, taking over from Krakov due to the remote location (of Krakov).
In the late 17th and early 18th century the city suffered from invasions from Sweden and the plague. At the end of the 18th century, Poland was divided between Prussia (Germany), Austria and Russia. Warsaw itself being part of Prussia.
This did not last too long either. Napoleon Bonapart (France) kicked Prussias butt and Warsaw was freed in 1807. Then it was the Russians turn to kick Napoleons butt and in 1813 Warsaw ended up with another new boss.
Then came the end of first word war and finally Poland was free to determine itself. Then along came Adolf on his 1939 world tour and took charge. The Germans held the country in an iron grip but the residents of Warsaw (and Poland) kept an underground war going that was to some degree controlled by their government in exile in the UK. In 1944 the Russians, along with what part of the Polish army that managed to escape to Russia when Hitler marched in, had moved back into Poland and were on the river bank opposite Warsaw. The residents, thinking they were about to be liberated, rose up against their German occupiers and for 63 days a battle ensued between them whilst the Russians made no attempt to cross the river to help. Hitler eventually crushed the rebellion, known as the “1944 Warsaw Uprising” and then set about completely destroying the city after removing all the occupants.
In all about 350,000 Jews were killed either in the Ghettos or gas chambers. During the uprising 150,000 civillians were killed along with 40,000 Polish fighters and about 25,000 Germans.
After WW2 Poland found itself squarely in the zone taken by the Russians and another oppressive regimen.
In 1989/90 the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) finally freed Poland and the country has now joined NATO and is now in a rapid reform and is a mix of two cultures, East and West.
Following the end of WW2 the residents of Warsaw set about rebuilding their city. The Old town was rebuilt virtually exactly as it was before using original drawings so although it looks old, in reality it was only finished in about 1960. But what a job they did...
|Old Town Warsaw in 1935 (not a bad photo for the era !)|
|Old Town Warsaw 1945 after some German modifications.|
|Old Town Warsaw 2010 - the square is where some of the following photos were taken.|
The first thing we came across was the memorial to the unknown soldier. These memorials always have an effect on me.
Next stop, Krakov........
|karen outside the memorial|
|This is the first time I have seen soldiers guarding the memorial - they should all be like this|
|My Dad was at Monte Casino during the war. He never spoke of it.|
|The Palace of culture and science.|
|Monument to Adam Mickiewicz - nicked by the Germans in 1942. When it was recovered only the head and top of the torso were useable. The rest had to be reconstructed.|
|As we entered the Old Town, there was an old style market in full swing.|
|This is the Old Town square. It is all new, although you would not know it to look at it.|
|And some more|
|And yet more|
|This restaurant was on the edge of the Old Town square. It has been host to several heads of state including the monarchs of Spain and Danemark. Oh, and that gobby hag, Naomi Campbell.|
|The meal we had cost only £40 including drinks. Not bad for the poshest place in town.|
|The memorial to the 1944 Uprising. The Poles could not build this until 1989 after the Russians pulled out.|
|And this is the memorial to the collapse of the Uprising. Sad but true.|
|The city is a different place at night.|