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.