Warsaw, capital of Poland, is an example of triumph in the face of adversity. Occupied, then destroyed in WWII, it has kept re-inventing itself. The Nazi’s, on fleeing the city, at the end of the war, set charges in the buildings to blow it up and reduce it to rubble. Perhaps it was a perverse payback for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943, when the Polish Jews repelled the Germans, or it bore out the animosity and loathing between the two races. Upon liberation, the communist regime was set up by the conquering soviets, and the city was rebuilt. Our local walking guide confessed his grandfather had laboured under a german regime during the war and the Soviets after, having never worked for himself and din’t even own his own home.
It is a city of contrast, rich in history, albeit a rebuilt one. A visit, to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, built on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, is a sobering one. The Warsaw centre for Contemporary Art, was worth a visit. The day I was there I was lucky enough to experience a recital of classical music, in one of its galleries. The inner City is home to modern, stylish, edifices and retail businesses, whilst further out you experience the urban sprawl and suburban corridors, of most large cities.
In pursuit of a local flea market, we chanced upon a romany encampment with attached market. I sauntered through the stalls, nothing of real interest, lots of seconds and damaged goods. This area, placed in the shadow of a new train station, and modern sports ground, hinted at Warsaw’s less salubrious side.
The re-created old town had cobbled streets with an elderly female flower seller at each corner, minstrels peddling love songs on their mandolins, and pedlars of traditional food. Cheap vodka, was a supermarket staple, $10 AUD, for a quality bottle but sadly the 4 zloty ( $1.36) shop was closed and I could only gaze in frustration at the riches within, through the darkening windows. What also shocked me was the high level of destruction of the buildings still evident from WWII. Pock marks, gun shot and shrapnel holes, and half collapsed buildings abounded with no visible signs of re-building in place.