Category Archives: Culture

Discovering Warsaw’s History on Foot

In recent days, I managed to take in some free walking tours that took me around the city and discussed a variety of topics. With several tour companies offering similar services, you simply select the tours that best match your schedule. These tours have something for everyone whether you’re into World War II history, the Jewish experience, modern-day alternative Warsaw or a foodie trail.

Personally, I took the alternative Warsaw tour, Jewish tour and the World War II historical tour. My knowledge of history is seriously lacking, so these tours combined education with sightseeing. Being able to see firsthand what’s inside history books is an experience you can’t forget.

Many stops on the tours took in memorial sites and monuments raised in the name of the fallen. Etched in the pavement where a Jewish ghetto wall once stood are dates so that no one forgets what happened there. Parks in the middle of the city have raised hills of grass under which lies the rubble of fallen buildings. Reminders of the past stand stoically amidst the hustle and bustle of this modern city.

Yet it seems that despite all the hardship the people of this city and nation have endured in the last century, they continue to look forward. Houses of worship and pillars of education stand with open doors for people seeking wisdom. The educated are no longer persecuted. Thought leaders aren’t dragged from their homes and shipped away. People are free to pursue their interests. It’s an incredible thing that I’ve just taken for granted. It’s only when listening to the stories of the past that I really understand how lucky we are today.

After spending more than eight hours a day on foot discovering Warsaw, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. A second, in-depth visit is definitely warranted as I haven’t really been able to get out of the city or even experience what it’s like to live here as a local. To be honest, I haven’t even had time to taste the local delicacies or check out the nightlife. All I’ve had time for between tours is a quick bite at a café and an early night in so I can get up and do it all again in the morning. All too quickly, it’s time to move on to Krakow.

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Street Art in the Praga District

Just a quick post of some street art in the Praga District. It’s definitely interesting to find such huge murals in the older section of the city, one that has many original buildings. But, I guess this area is also the “alternative” area, the “dangerous” area where tourists shouldn’t venture alone. I don’t really know how true this is (especially during the daytime), but I guess this is where you’d find this type of art. It was a nice surprise.

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Impressions of Warsaw

As I look around Warsaw, it’s difficult for me to imagine that Nazi Germany bombed this city to the ground in World War II. Warsaw is alive and bustling, the capital of Poland and the most prosperous city in the country.

Of course, almost all the buildings are from the post-WWII era during which the country was ruled by a Soviet administration. Some of the buildings, like the Palace of Culture and Science, show the Communist authority in its Eastern Bloc design.

The city is split north-south by the Vistula River, which travels through several countries before opening into the Baltic Sea. Today, when you cross the river from Warsaw’s Old Town to the Praga district, you can find pre-WWII buildings complete with bullet holes and all. This area of the city remained mostly untouched by air raids during the war and the destruction campaign that was ordered as Germany withdrew its hold on the city.

In Warsaw, I finally felt like I was in a European city. That’s not to say that the other countries I visited aren’t European, but somehow Warsaw just fit my idea of “Europe” a bit better. I look forward to getting to know its history more intimately through walking tours and am anticipating my visit to Auschwitz in a few days.

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