Warszawa 2007

The capital of Poland, which shows some of the most visible evidence of the post WWII rebuild.

Warszawa (Varshava - aka Warsaw) is the current capital of Poland (although those in Kraków may argue), having replaced Kraków (Krakoof - aka Krakow or Cracow) in 1596. Like Kraków, it has an old city just outside its centre, with the "new" city which is actually quite old - well, everything is new when it is just built - just outside that. Beside them is the current city centre, then around all of them is the current residential area of the city.

At the end of World War II (WWII), the retreating Germans bombed Warszawa, blowing most of it to pieces. 85% of the buildings were destroyed, including all of those in the old city. The Poles then began a ten year project to rebuild the city, and they clearly have done an amazingly good job. The old and new-old cities were lovingly recreated with most of their old architecture, taken from photographs and memories. The only give-aways are the building materials, which do not always match the originals.

Being under communist dictatorship, residential areas did not receive the same loving care. The residential districts were built as quickly as possible, tower block after tower block, identical rabbit hutches, all are equal. The current city centre, however, was given several new buildings, in the communist style. Grand public buildings to dominate the views, blocking out the older Polish architecture. Public office above all. Remember who you serve. The Polish population hate them; an eyesore and reminder of their oppressors, that they have not been able to block out yet.

We spent three days in the city, in the midst of a heatwave. It was unbearable. Worse in the trams and busses. At least we finally had a proper bath, and reduced financial requirements.

We were treated to real Polish cooking and some more typically poish dishes; white barszcz (barshch - aka borscht) - like żurek but more sour, Polish sausages, Beef with boiled noodle dough, miseria (meeseree'a) - cucumber in sour cream, and salads made with soured gherkins. Oh, and of course tea without milk (sugar and lemon don't cut it, sorry). Polish hosts have a custom to make sure they prepare more food than you can possibly fit. That is their way of making you feel welcome, and we were made to feel welcome. This conflicts with the British custom for guests, which is to always eat whatever is prepared for you, no matter how much. I had to abandon my country's customs.

But after three days, we wanted to go somewhere, and do something. Since it is unlikely I shall be in a position to do so again any time soon (yes, it was mainly for me), we changed to a different track, to visit one last place before heading home.