Sunday, 8 July 2018

Postcard from Warsaw, Poland

Greetings! Back in May and early June, I took a trip to the Baltics and Poland. I shared a map of my itinerary here. You might like to see some photos and read about my fun time in Tallinn here, in Riga here, and in Vilnius here.

From Vilnius, I headed south by bus towards Warsaw, Poland's capital. The distance is about 468 km (292 miles), the longest of the three bus rides that I took on this trip. Similar to the rides through the Baltic countries, the road condition from Vilnius to Warsaw is very good. Again there is no passport control at the border since Poland is also in the European Union. The weather continued to be warm, with a small chance of showers in the forecast for my first morning in Warsaw.

QUICK FACTS:

Poland is much bigger geographically and has significantly higher population than each of the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). Located in Central Europe, Poland's population is about 38.5 million people. Its official language is Polish, and its official currency is the Zloty. Warsaw, Poland's capital, is a sprawling city with about 2.8 million people.

After having spent about a week in the more relaxing Baltic capitals, I kind of braced myself for the bustling pace of an urban centre. Fortunately, I arrived on Poland's Children's Day, Friday, June 1, and most of the local residents were enjoying the long weekend so Warsaw was quieter and had less traffic than normal.

WARSAW'S TOP SIGHTS: Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Warsaw Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has suffered almost complete destruction during World War II and survived. Today it's a bustling tourism hub with its cobbled streets, reconstructed medieval buildings, and lots of Polish eateries and shops.



At the entrance to Warsaw Old Town, the Royal Castle, the former residence of Polish kings, is located in the Castle Square. This massive brick building is a copy of the original blown up by the Germans in World War II.

The Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland

A covered walkway links the Royal Castle with St. John the Baptist Cathedral. Originally built in the 14th century, St. John's is steeped in history. The last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, was crowned and eventually buried here. The details in the stained glass windows are simply amazing.

St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Warsaw

Stained glass in St John Cathedral

The Old Town Market Place is the centre and oldest part of Warsaw Old Town, with a mermaid statue. This medieval square was blown up by the German Army immediately after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and was reconstructed after World War II.

Mermaid statue in Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw Old Town Market Place
 
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a monument dedicated to the unknown soldiers who have given their lives for Poland. It is open 24 hours, and the guard is changed every hour.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw

Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes is a memorial that honours those who died during the unsuccessful Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.

The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes

Green park space in former Warsaw Ghetto

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a museum on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The Hebrew word Polin in the museum's English name means either 'Poland' or 'rest here'. Within walking distance from the museum is Umschlagplatz, the departure point for Jews transported to Treblinka, with a memorial to the more than 300,000 dead. I'd encourage visitors to spend time exploring this neighbourhood and visit the museum which has a beautiful interior design and excellent exhibits.

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

POLIN words on the glass panes

Lazienki Park is the largest park in Warsaw. Lazienki was acquired by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski in 1764 and transformed into a glorious park complete with palace, amphitheatre, and various buildings. Within the Lazienki Royal Gardens, there is a massive bronze sculpture of the famous Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, Frederic Chopin. It was here that the brief rain showers caught up with me and you can see the rain bubbles in the reflecting pond below the Chopin statue.

Chopin Statue in Lazienki Park, Warsaw


If you're a Chopin music fan, the city of Warsaw has brought Chopin to the people by placing fifteen musical benches at key sites connected with his life. Made of cast iron and polished black stones, these Chopin benches feature a button which when pressed play a thirty second of Chopin melodies. They also come equipped with a route map, brief explanations in Polish and English as to the site's relevance to Chopin, and a bar code which when scanned, you'll be rewarded to free access to Chopin music, facts, figures, and photographs.

Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland. It was constructed in 1955 as a Soviet 'gift' to the people of Poland. With 3,288 rooms, if one was to stay in a room each night, it would take about nine years to go through the building.

Palace of Culture & Science, Warsaw

WILANOW PALACE:

In addition to exploring Warsaw historic centre, I also took a side trip to visit Wilanow Palace, known as 'Polish Versailles'. The Wilanow Palace is one of the most important monuments of Polish culture. It was built in the late 17th century in Baroque style as a summer residence for King Jan Sobieski III. It survived the two world wars that swept through Poland and has remained unchanged from the 17th century to the present day. I'd encourage visitors to spend at least half a day to visit the Palace, its lovely gardens, and surrounding park.

Wilanow Palace, Warsaw, Poland





POLISH CUISINE & UNIQUE SOUVENIR:

During my stay in Warsaw, I had delicious dishes at the various eateries. I remembered to take photos of the beet salad, soup, and dessert but forgot to take photos of the pierogies (filled dumplings)!




If you're into shopping for souvenirs, there are many shops in the Old Town. Something unique is the striped flint stone usually designed with silver. Amber is also popular here.

MY CONCLUSION:

I greatly enjoyed my first visit to Warsaw, Poland. It's truly remarkable that Warsaw has not only survived virtual destruction at the end of World War II but thrived. As a result, there are many fascinating neighbourhoods and landmarks to explore. Although I chose to walk when I was there, Warsaw has two subway lines, an extensive bus and tram network, and some dedicated bike paths. Excellent museums are available to interpret its complex history, from the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto to the joys of Chopin's music. I hope you enjoy reading my trip recap and viewing my photos.  

Did any of the information or photo surprise you? Would you add Warsaw to your list of cities to visit? I would love to hear your thoughts.

48 comments:

  1. Hi Natalie, I've never visited Poland but we are now thinking of a Russian river cruise so perhaps we could combine both. My daughter and her husband attended a wedding in Poland. His best friend from school married a Polish girl and the wedding went for three days! As always your photos and travel thoughts are so enjoyable. Have a great week!
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. Thank you, Sue, for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoy this post and my photos. Combining a Russian river cruise and Warsaw sounds good. I saw a Polish wedding at Warsaw Old Town Square and another one at Wilanow Palace, both sites are popular for wedding photos.

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    2. Hi Natalie, thanks for sharing at #MLSTL this week. Always lovely to have you join us. I will be sharing on SM. Have a great week!
      Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    3. Thank you, Sue, for hosting and sharing on SM. You have a great week, too!

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  2. The food and sights look incredible. So glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Thank you, Ness, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

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  3. The reconstruction of of Old Town Warsaw from its nearly complete destruction was certainly an amazing feat. I had the good fortune of visiting the Old Town while on business in 1999 and have been longing to return again to explore more deeply. So I thank you for taking me back there. What I would give for some of the unexpectedly yummy food there that I found (especially the Pirogues). You’ve captured the place beautifully in your pictures. You transported me back to the Old Town. And I so enjoyed seeing the grounds of the Wilanow Palace as I was unable to visit during my stay in Warsaw. But for me, it was your picture of the Green Park space in the former Warsaw Ghetto that captured my attention most; sending chills up my spine. Will we ever learn?

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    1. Hi Lisa - You're so observant about the green park photo, it's amazing! My heart and mind were heavy when I walked in the former Warsaw Ghetto area, saw the Monument and POLIN museum. I was thinking about the atrocities and people sufferings. That green park calmed me and gave me hope. I took a few photos there to remember those moments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Hi Natalie,
    In answer to your questions, I knew nothing at all about Warsaw so I learned lots through your post. Thank you! It's not a city I would choose to visit - the architecture and art are too classical for my tastes - so I'm glad to have seen some glimpses of it through your eyes.

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    1. Hi Karen - My pleasure to share this post. Classical art and architecture are not for everyone. Fortunately we have many other art forms to enjoy. Thank you for stopping by.

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  5. It's so beautiful! Thanks for sharing your insights. I knew very little before this post, so winning.

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    1. Thanks, Melissa, for stopping by. It's my pleasure to share this post. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

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  6. Another place I have on my wish list for visiting.

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    1. Thank you, Emma, for stopping by. The UK is a fantastic base to explore other European cities. I hope you get to go and check things off your wish list. Have a beautiful day!

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  7. My great grandparents emigrated to America from Poland and I really enjoyed reading about your visit. I wish I could’ve gone when I lived in Europe but that was before the wall came down and command sponsorship would not allow it. Maybe someday. Thanks for sharing your trip.

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    1. Thank you, Kim, for your visit and comment. I really enjoyed my time in the Baltics and Poland. I hope you get to visit Poland and maybe your great grandparents' home town.

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  8. This is an interesting city. I have never been there, but I have read a lot about it, especially in relation to WW2. I hope to visit Warsaw someday. You certainly make it look worthwhile!

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    1. Thank you, Michelle, for stopping by. Your knowledge of Warsaw will become so alive when you get to visit the city. Maybe you can add a side trip to Warsaw when you're back in Europe.

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  9. How lovely and interesting. We hope to visit Europe soon, a river cruise would be wonderful. I enjoyed this post so much!
    #MLSTL
    Lori Jo

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    1. Thank you, Lori Jo, for your visit and comment. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. A river cruise sounds lovely!

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  10. Natalie, your photos of Warsaw are excellent. I hadn’t realized that the city is so large. Nor had I expected it to be as beautiful as your photos show it to be.

    Jude

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    1. Thank you, Jude, for your comment. Yes, Warsaw surprised me in a nice way with its size and rebirth.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your pics and words of your travels. It is always of great interest. Poland and particularly Warsaw are places I know about and have read about in some depictions of what life was like there for Jewish families in WW2. An Australian actress has Polish origin and she went back there for the TV program about ancestry and she found it both amazing and upsetting.
    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week's optional prompt is What Is Courage? 29/52 Denyse

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    1. Thank you, Denyse, for your comment. Warsaw impressed me with its determination to survive and thrive.

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  12. Hi Natalie - great photos as always and it was interesting to see all that Poland has been through and recovered from. I'd forgotten about it being the home of the Warsaw Ghetto - a stark reminder of human suffering in that monument.

    Visiting from #MLSTL and to let you know I've shared this on my SM xx

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    1. Thank you, Leanne, for stopping by and sharing on your SM. Warsaw certainly has a complex history.

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  13. That is a place that I have always wanted to visit. Thanks for sharing. #MLSTL

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    1. Thanks, Patrick, for stopping by.

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  14. What an amazing trip! I am Polish and I would love to go visit some day.

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    1. Thank you, Amy, for commenting. I hope you get to visit Poland.

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  15. I love to read of your travels. Since I will probably never make it to Europe I can visit vicariously through you.

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    1. I love to share my travels so it's a win win :) Thanks, Victoria, for stopping by.

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  16. Warsaw looks interesting. I love the mix of not just new and old, but reconstructed. We saw a lot of that in France too and it's a reminder that the history lives on.

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    1. I was quite impressed with the reconstructed efforts in Warsaw, especially after I saw photos of how destroyed it was after WW2. Thanks, Jo, for stopping by.

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  17. Poland is on my bucket list- such a cultural and historical hub!

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    1. Agreed. After visiting Warsaw, I'd like to visit other parts of Poland in the future. Thanks, Amy, for your visit and comment.

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  18. Sigh. Another beautiful and varied part of the world I am yet to visit. Thank you for opening my eyes again this week, Natalie.

    In the meantime, I am taking small steps into Europe with a trip to Berlin in the planning stages for later this year.

    SSG xxx

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    1. A trip to Berlin sounds exciting. Happy travel planning, SSG, and thank you for stopping by.

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  19. I have to admit I've never thought about Poland as a holiday destination and know little about it but the pics are beautiful! #teamlovinlife

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    1. Thanks, Deborah, for stopping by. All European countries seem to have lots to see and do, regardless of which one I visit so I just pick a new-to-me destination.

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  20. I would love to see all of Eastern Europe, particularly the grim history of Warsaw in Poland would interest me. Thanks for the overview. #TeamLovinLife

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    1. One advantage to visit Eastern Europe is that it's currently less crowded and mostly less expensive than Western Europe while still offers lots of history and things to see and do. Thanks, Kathy, for stopping by.

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  21. Great pictures, thanks for the tour! I love the old architecture.

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    1. Thank you, Betty, for stopping by and commenting. It's my pleasure to share my travels and photos.

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  22. Warsaw appears to be another European city where there is a lot of diversity in sights and a lot to see and experience. I had no idea they kept their currency despite being a part of the European Union.

    You had an amazing trip, Natalie. Each town/city seems to be on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. Thanks for sharing your trip overviews and beautiful photos. I can totally see why the Polish Versailles is called that way.

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    1. Hi Liesbet - My trip to the Baltics and Poland exceeded my expectations. It's simply amazing to explore four UNESCO World Heritage cities. I'm happy to share my overviews and photos here. Thank you for giving me your feedback. I greatly appreciate it.

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  23. What an astounding place with so much history to tell. Loving your tours and information.

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    1. Thank you, Alicia, for your comment. Happy to share my travels and photos.

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