Kapoors Year 7: Europe/Ecuador/Peru travel blog

The 'Gift Of Friendship' From The Soviets, The Palace Of Culture And...

It Dominates The Skyline Of Warsaw, And During Our Visit, Hosted The...

We Much Preferred The Culture On The Streets Of The City, Interesting...

This Was A Little More Jarring, But Interesting Just The Same

On Our First Morning We Walked Over 10km From Our Apartment To...

For The Other Four Days, We Took Buses To Three Crosses Square...

All That Walking Makes A Person Thirsty, We Stopped For Lunch And...

Near The Train Station We Noticed People Standing And Selling Clothing, The...

A Controversial Fake Palm Tree Stands On Jerusalem Street, Where Christmas Trees...

We Turned From The Palm Tree, Admired The Nearby Flower Beds And...

It Was A Fabulous Sunny Day And Everyone Was Out Enjoying The...

A Famous Pole, Copernicus, First Proposed That The Sun Was Stationary And...

The Famous Venetian Landscape Painter, Belloto, Painted This Scene Of 18th Century...

The Holy Cross Church, In The Painting, Houses An Urn Containing Frédéric...

Pope John Paul II Referred To This Statue Of Christ, Which Survived...

This Statue Commemorates The Archbishop Of Warsaw, Wyszynski, Who Took A Stand...

The Warsaw Pact Treaty Was Signed At This Palace In 1955, Creating...

Today It Is The President's Official Residence, However, Not All Presidents Choose...

Across The Vistula River Stands The New National Stadium It Hosted Games...

What A Surprise And Delight To Come Upon The Exquisitely-Restored Old Town,...

The Original Royal Castle Was Blown Up By The Nazis Towards The...

Donna Asked For A Photo To Remember this Moment, We Were All...

This Building Houses A Tourist Information Centre But It Was Packed With...

Donna Tried Going Inside To Get Some Brochures, But I Took Photos...

Tired-Looking Horses Stood In The Evening Light

Here's A View Looking Back Across Castle Square And South From The...

We Plunged Into The Narrow Streets Leading To The Old Town Square

It Was Fascinating To Look Above Our Heads And Admire All The...

It Was Dark In The Lanes, But The Setting Sun Still Lit...

Here's A Shocking Photo Of The Destruction Of The Old Town Square...

So You Can Imagine Our Delight When We Entered The Square And...

The Mermaid Statue In The Centre Of The Square Has Become The...

To My Surprise The Old Town Buildings Were Reflected In The Water...

I Could See The Name Of The City Engraved In The Granite,...

We Spent The Rest Of Our Time Admiring The Buildings And Their...

The Door Of This Church Has The Most Unusual Figures Emerging From...

Every Where We Turned There Was Something Different To Admire

We Enjoyed A Little People-Watching Here And There As Well

I Love The Old Clock Faces In European Cities, Can't Get Enough...

We Walked By This Building After Having Dinner And Heard Rocking Blues...

Whenever I See A Red Bike, I Try And Take A Photo...

This Building, Near The End Of The Old Town, Is One Of...

How Old Is New Town And How New Is Old Town, Puzzling...

That's New Town Just Outside The City Walls Of Old Town, But...

This Barbican (Fortification Above A Gateway) Is A Sign That We're At...

In A Quiet Corner Outside The Gates We Found This Monument To...

After Being Overwhelmed With The Large Details Of The Historic Buildings, We...

We Had Picked Up A Brochure With A List Of 27 Mermaids...

The Photos In The Brochure Helped Us Locate More Mermaids, But We...

That Didn't Stop Us From Admiring This Decorated Window

Or This Quaint Sewer Cover, I Don't Think I've Seen One Quite...

It Was Great To See Souvenirs Other Than Amber And T-Shirts

On Another Day, We Visited The New Town After Lunch And Discovered...

The Winner Of Two Nobel Prizes Was A Polish Citizen, Another Surprise,...

As We Admired The Highly Decorated Buildings, It Was Not Lost On...

There's No End To The Creativity Shown On Some Of Warsaw's Buildings,...

A Distant One To Show The Façade, And A Close Up To...

After Another Great Meal In Another Old Town Restaurant, We Made Our...

It Was Sunday Evening And The Blues Bar Was All Quiet, Too...


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BACKGROUND

In the interest of expediency, here are some excerpts from the Lonely Planet - Poland chapter on Warsaw:

Kraków may have the beauty and Gdańsk the seashore, but Warsaw has the culture, the energy and the action. Poland’s capital was flattened in WWII and, ever since, the city’s been racing to replace what was lost. After 1989, that pace accelerated, and central Warsaw today has so many booms, cranes and construction sites, you’d think you’d landed in Beijing.

Sprawling Warsaw may be an acquired taste and your first impressions straight off the train may not be positive. But the vibe and drive of Poland’s capital are infectious if you give it time. Warsaw’s history has had more than its share of ups and downs. But like the essence of the Polish character, it has managed to return from the brink of destruction time and time again.

The first semblance of a town sprang up round the beginning of the 14th century, when the dukes of Mazovia built a stronghold on the site of the present Royal Castle. In 1413 the dukes chose Warsaw as their seat of power, and things went swimmingly for over 100 years until, in 1526, the last duke died without an heir. The burgeoning town – and the whole of Mazovia – fell under direct rule of the king in Kraków and was incorporated into royal territory.

Warsaw’s fortunes took a turn for the better after the unification of Poland and Lithuania in 1569, when the Sejm (the lower house of parliament) voted to make Warsaw he seat of its debates because of its more central position in the expanded new country. The ultimate ennoblement came in 1596, when King Zygmunt III Waza decided to move his capital from Kraków to Warsaw.

The Swedish invasion from 1655 to 1660 as not kind to Warsaw, but the city recovered and continued to develop. Paradoxically, the 18th century – a period of catastrophic decline for the Polish state – witnessed Warsaw’s greatest prosperity. A wealth of palaces and churches was erected, and cultural and artistic life flourished, particularly during the reign of the last Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski.

In 1795 the city’s prosperity was again shattered. Following the partition of Poland, Warsaw’s status was reduced to that of a provincial town. When Napoleon rolled into town in 1806 on his way to defeat in Russia, things started looking up. The warring Frenchman created the Duchy of Warsaw and the city became a capital once more. The celebrations were brief, however, as in 1815 Warsaw, and much of the rest of Poland, fell under Russian rule.

After WWI Warsaw was reinstated as the capital of newly independent Poland and the urban development and industrialization begun in the late 19th century continued. By 1939 the city had grown to 1.3 million, of whom 380,000 were Jews who had traditionally made up a significant part of Warsaw’s community.

German bombs began to fall on 1 September 1939 and a week later the city was besieged; despite brave resistance, Warsaw fell in a month. The conquerors instantly set about terrorizing the local population with arrests, executions and deportations, and a Jewish ghetto was built. The city’s residents rebelled against the Germans twice; first came an eruption in the Jewish ghetto in April 1943 and second a general city uprising in August 1944. Both rebellions were crushed.

Warsaw’s German occupiers did a good job of following Hitler’s instructions to raze the city after the Warsaw Rising – at the end of WWII, about 15% of the city was left standing. So complete was the destruction that there were even suggestions that the capital should be moved elsewhere, but instead it was decided that parts of the pre-war urban fabric would be rebuilt.

According to plan, the most valuable historic monuments were restored to their previous appearance based on original drawings and photographs. Between 1949 and 1963 work was concentrated on the Old Town, aiming to return it to its 17th and 18th century appearance – today not a single building in the area looks less than 200 years old. So complete was the restoration that Unesco granted the Old Town World Heritage status in 1980.

The Royal Castle took a little longer. It wasn’t until 1971 that reconstruction began, and by 1984 the splendid Baroque castle stood again as if nothing had happened. Although the brick structure is a copy, many original architectural fragments have been incorporated into the walls.

The authorities also had to build, from scratch, a whole new city capable of providing housing and services to its inhabitants. This communist legacy is less impressive. The city centre was, until quite recently, a blend of bunker-like Stalinist structures and equally dull edifices of a later era, while the outer suburbs, home to the majority of Warsaw’s inhabitants, were composed almost exclusively of anonymous, prefabricated concrete blocks.

The city’s skyline is still marred by ugly high-rises, but things have improved markedly since 1989. Newly constructed steel-and-glass towers have begun to break up the monotony, and the city outskirts are steadily filling up with aesthetically pleasing villas and family houses. Warsaw may never regain an architectural landscape that truly appeals, but considering all it’s been through, it’s doing a great job rectifying things.


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