Today was our last full day in Poland, but we made the most of it with a full day in Poland’s largest city and its capital, Warszawa (Warsaw). In the course of the day, we logged nearly 9 miles of walking, but we sure did a lot and saw a lot. We started out with a half-hour walk to the iconic Palace of Culture and Science, a building that was a “gift” to the Polish people from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, built in 1955. We headed to the 30th floor of Poland’s tallest building to enjoy the view. Of course, Poles have mixed feeling about this “gift” from the tyrant who stole their country (with complicity of the Allies: Britain, France, and the USA), and kept it under Soviet domination for 45 years. But Poles take it all in stride. Some colloquially and irreverently refer to it as Chuj Stalina (“Stalin’s Dick”). it’s also said to have the best view in Warsaw—because you can’t see it when you’re in it! Nonetheless, I think that today it’s accepted for what it is, an interesting piece of architecture . Poles know how to give and take a joke, but the view from on top is indeed spectacular, and so worth it.
Our next stop was a walk which included parts of the old Jewish Ghetto from World War II, and a visit to the relatively new and award winning POLIN–Museum of the History of Jews in Poland. Wow! It is a really well done, modern, interactive experience. We chose to do the self-guided tour. It was superb. The history of the Jews in Poland is nothing short of amazing. While so many countries in history shunned and persecuted the Jews, Poland actually welcomed them and protected them, along with other religious minorities. There has always been some tensions between ethnic groups, but nowhere else in the Western world was such tolerance seen and even mandated by law.
But then came Hitler, the Nazis, and World War II. Hitler found his Jews there to kill, nearly 3 million, as well as millions of Poles and others. We all know (and should remember, and never forget) that story. The museum is very well done, and well worth a visit.
Then we headed back the old town, but first had a stop at a Monte Cassino monument, and then at one commemorating the Warsaw Uprising. Never forget.
Finally, we were back to old town. We entered via the Barbican and toured that and the old wall, and spent the rest of our afternoon/evening in and around the old square, with some drinks and then a fine Polish dinner. Warszawa is really a great city, in so many ways. In future posts I’ll reflect more on different aspects of our rip to Poland. It had indeed been amazing. And I’m anxious to return, sooner rather than later.
I will be back!