Monthly Archives: June 2012

What a mountain, what a beauty, Kilimanjaro

It has been a dream for me for a long time to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. This time the dream was about to be true. The world’s highest freestanding mountain with its 5895 meters was in front of me. The dormant valcano was within my reach. On our first African trip in 2007 we started with visit to Serengetti and Ngorogoro, as I described in an earlier post. The next to visit was the great mount Kilimanjaro. I described that as well in an earlier post, but this time I’ll try to go even deeper (higher?) and of course have much more pictures.

Machame gate

Machame gate, where we filled out some papers and got ready

We chose the Machame route, even called the whiskey route. It is a little bit harder than the easiest one, but still quite easy. We chose to walk it in six days. It showed to be a little of a planning miss, but we still didn’t know it yet. There wewre a lot of people at the gate, some tourists, some guides, some porters. Going to Kilimanjaro you must have a guide and at lest two porters, whether you like it or not.


Porters waiting in line

Out guide, Moses was a student and he loved Kilimanjaro and Tanzanian nature. I understand that. We saw our porters with our bags for just a few seconds and then they ran away. I mean ran. With about 20 kilos on their backs and another 20 kilos on their heads they ran to prepare meals and campsite for us. That’s luxury.


Our guide,Moses with Swedish reindeer-hat

Rain forest


A huge fern growing up. Looked like an ancient plant.

We started walking throgh the rainforest. It was green, thicks and very moist. At obe time it also rained. The plants were a little bit bigger then we are used to. The dark was a little bit darker and the rain a little bit wetter. The feelings were on thr edge and the expectations on top. One of the first words we learned was Pole, pole, meaning Slow, slow. We were not supposed to run. We were supposed to walk slowly, to get used to the height and the thinner air.


Trees with “beards”.

The higher up we got, the thinner the air, the thinner the soil, the thinner the trees. First we got out of the rain forest and came to area with smaller trees with white moss hanging from them. Later we got to tall bushes. At the first camp were only large bushes. We arrived at the campsite in the afternoon and before meal we were welcomed with nuts, pop-corn, hot chocolate and tea.

Nuts and pop-corn

Nuts and pop-corn


Berries found at the first campsite

The meals at the campsites were large, simple and quite good. There were lots of rice or pasta and most often chicken. Lots of carbs, so we could walk and walk and walk.


Porter running up that little hill

The second day we kept walking. There was not much talk or anything else, just slow walking. There are a lot of tourists on the mountain. We saw many of them at the campsites, some on the way, further up in front of us. They were probably behind as well, but we didn’t look back. Walking and not talking makes you forget the world, so I was not aware od other people. That’s good.


A white collared crow


Dried flower


The mist

The next day was foggy and misty. We felt tired and didn’t sleep so well. I think it was the height. My heart was beating really fast and when I slept, I slept very light and woke up easy. Not a nice feeling. Good that we had some time to get used to the height. When we woke up in the morning the tent was covered with frost. It was cold during the night. We were getting closer.


Frost on our tent

In the morning the clouds went away and finally we saw it, the great Kilimanjaro. It was so close and so far away at the same time. And we still had few more days to go. It felt better in the morning with the sunshine. I had a headake, almost as a hangover. I guess it was the height as well.


And there it was, first view of Kilimanjaro and the snows

This day we walked higher then the days before. We got up to about 4200 meters to the Lava Tower and down again. The Lava Tower looked pretty cool. t was a tower in the middle of otherwise flat terrain. Except the mountain of course. The environment felt hostile. It could be because of thr moist and fog that got back. I think that could be the clouds that we were walking inside. The toilets at this place were also really ugly. They were stinking a long way and a lot of people chose to go and do whatever outside the toilets, which made this place even worse.

Lava tower

The Lava Tower

After seeing the Lava Tower we walked down to the Barranco camp. It was a beautiful place with the view of the mountain and it’s snow on one side and the town of Moshi far down on the other.When we got there it was cloudy, but later the clouds blew away and the night with milions of stars was beautiful. I slept a little bit better now, but my heart was still beating faster then usuallt to compensate the lower level of oxygen.


View of Kilimanjaro from Baraco campsite

In the morning we started out just after breakfast and had the touthest day so far. We went to the Barranco Passm where we almost had to climb, looking down in a steep hole below us. The guides told us not to fall. Thanks!

going up

Going up

We walked and walked. This day was very long. Some groups decided to stay after a little more then half way. We only had our luncg there and kept on going. It was raining and it was cold, but we didn’t care. It just put one foot in front of the other. I was feeling tred, but quite good, but my friends were feeling the height sickness and they couldn’t rat so much. Not so good if you have to walk and walk.


The stones that we walken on were made of lava

The lava ground that we were walking on was not very stable, so we had to watch our steps and walk slowly higher and higher. In the late afternoon we reached the base camp. The tent were up already and we literally fell asleep on the spot. No energy left at all. We were woken after an hour or two to have dinner. It was a huge bowl of pasta that we just ate and fell asleep again. Energy need was enormous.

The guide woke us up at midnight. Now it was time to go. It was time to reach the top, to do what we came for. I wasn’t feeling too well. I felt like I had too little clothes, the warm clothes were too thick and too warm and most of all I was tired and wanted to sleep. And we started in the night. Every step was harder then the previous. We reached the snow and beyond. Every step I had to rest. Every step I closed my eyes and almost fell asleep. The decision to go back was not easy. It was the hardest decision on this trip. I told the guide that I may come up, but then I would not get down. Not alive. He tried to convince me, he told me:  I will carry you! But I went back down. Just to have another chance. Was it the right decision? I think so, but I regret it every day. Well, well, next time!

base camp

Finally at the base camp, the morning sun


View of the world down there

The same day we came all the way down. Down to the jungle, thw way that took almost six days up, took half a day down. Down in the rain forest we saw monkeys with white fluffy tails, we were back. Maybe we didn’t reach the top, but we managed to get there and back alive and the Kilimanjaro was as ours as it could be. This time. And next time I going all the way to the top.


Back in the jungle

Kilimanjro National Park became a world heritage site in 1987. Link to the site: Kilimanjaro National Park.

My grade to Kilimanjaro Natiomal Park is still five out of five, what else.



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The Big Five, rain and thunder – a marvelous visit to Serengetti and Ngorongoro (part 2 of 2)

Ngorongoro crater

We entered the Ngorongoro crater coming from the Serengetti National Park on a muddy road. The Landrover was almost sliding down and the beautiful scenery was passing by. The view wa fascinating and we were amazed. The animals in Serengetti were many and very fascinating and we didn’t expect so much more of Ngorongoro. It’s just a crater, even if it’s huge. We couldn’t be more wrong.


A group of elephants wandering


Topi antelope is not so small

Entering the crater we passed trees along the road, that looked liked large broccoli heads.  I mean, they were big, but with the huge crater in the background their size did seem small and not very special. The proportions became strange. We were very small, the crater was now our world.

Black stork

Black stork

secretary bird

Huge secretary bird

Down in the Ngorongoro crater we were welcomed by a number of birds. We saw storks, secretary birds, ostriches and others. We also saw Eland, the largest antelope in the crater. It was large. The view of storstorks warmed my heart a lot. During the European summertime, every time I visit Poland I look for those wonderful birds. Then they fly all the way to African summer and warmth when it’s winter in Europe. And there were they! In African heat when Europe was covered with snow.

White stork

White stork


Eland, the largest antelope in the crater



Of course there were zebras and wildebeests everywhere and smaller antelopes and I could write too much if I wrote about all of them specifically. All were special, but with so many at the same place it was hard to see every single one specifically.



Animals everywhere

Animals everywhere

Blue wilderbeest

Blue wilderbeest

Soon after entering the crater we saw two male lions, two males lying on a small hill in the middle of the road, just like that. Our guide Godfrey said that they must be two youg brothes, since grown up males wouldn’t be so near each other. They didn’t care. We were not the only ones to see the lions. A small warthog did as well and backed away into a small cave in a little bit of panic. And the lion didn’t care. Just amazing scene to witness.


Lion brothers

We went on. It’s needless to say that we saw animals. We saw very many. We also saw thunderstorm in the far end of the crater. It was fascinating to stand in the sunshine and witness a thunderstorm, not so far away. There was also a mini-tornado as a part of the storm. Like a totally different planet.



After a while we started to go faster. Godfrey got a message about a rhino in another part of the crater. And suddenly we saw it in the distance (number five out of five, we’ve seen the big five!. We stopped and watched. The rhino walked slowly with animals everywhere seemingly not caring about each other. But the other animals were carefull. The rhino was getting closer, maybe a little too close. Godfrey started the engine to drive away and them the rhino strted to charge at us. That’s because they’re almost blind and see the outline of the car. That could be an elephant for him or any other large animal. – was the explanation.

two rhinos

Two more rhinos

Driving away we happened to see four more rhinos far in the distance, one large and three small. A mother with the young? It’s a very special feeling to see those endangered animals. It’s special to see one, but four, that’s almost euphoric feeling.

vulture in a tree

Some vulture waiting for a meal in a tree

We also saw a leopard once again and a cheetah, both far in the distance. Our guide with his perfect eyes saw them and poited out for us, lucky bastards. And on the way out there were some vulture waiting for a meal in a tree.


Large elephant


View of the crater from above

The day was almost over. Leaving the crater we saw some vulture and few other birds, a cheetah in the distance and one more leopard, also far away. Finally, as we started on the way up there was a huge elephant in the bushes watching us.

crater in the morning

Morning view of the crater.

We spent the night at a lodge just above the crater with marvelous view, both in the evening, night and in the morning. I want for sure come back to this place.

Ngorongoro crater

Sunrise in Ngorongoro

We said good bye to Godfrey and went on. Next part of the journey was a Kilimanjaro climb. I’ve already written a post about it, but I’ll write more in another post.


Our happy guide, Godfrey

Ngorongoro became a world heritage site in 1979. Link to this site: Ngorongoro.

My grade for this site is of course five out of five:



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The Big Five, rain and thunder – a marvelous visit to Serengetti and Ngorongoro (part 1 of 2)

masai fabric

When I studied I used to work at the Modern Museum in Stockholm as a guard. As I love art and photography a museum was a perfect place. The work was mostly walking around the museum and watching that everyone behaved, answering questions and pointing out the toilet. Until one day I happened to talk to a person who later became a very good friend. We talked about travel. She asked me about me dream-trip. I said: Africa. Tanzania: safari, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. She laughed and said: Mine too! Let’s do it. And we started to plan.

Let’s skip the planning part. Few months later we were standing with one more co-worker in an aiport in Arusha waiting for someone to pick us up. One of us didn’t get the luggage (it got lost in Amsterdam) and we were all tired. Then we saw a nice-looking guy with a sign with our names. His name was Godfrey and he took us to our hotel.

Masai huts

Masai hut on the way from Arusha

The next day we got up early in the morning and took off. It’s time for adventure. We passed Arusha quite fast heading towards the wilderness. We went by Lake Mnyara that Godfrey just pointed out and we went on. We saw some Masai craftwork on the side of the road, some Masais as well huts, cattle and small villages. One time we had to stop when some animals, that looked like donkeys or zebras without stripes, were crossing the road.


Road block – stripeless zebras, or maybe simply donkeys

Finally we started reaching our final destination. We entered the Ngorongoro National Park on the side, but we didn’t go down to the crater. Not yet. We stopped and watched crater from above wondering what to expect. My idea was that I might see a zebra or maybe two and maybe, maybe an elephant. Or not.


First wild animal, a small cat, a serval

Suddenly I was disturbed in my wonderings by a cat crossing the road and hiding in the bushes. A real wild cat! This was a serval, a small wild cat with big ears. Pretty cool.


A zebra looking at all the other zebras and gnus


Not one, not two, but many, many, very many gnus, or blue wilderbeest


Beautiful savannah, adventure, here we come

Soon we saw more animals starting with two zebras, then more. And some wilderbeest and impalas and suddenly there were animals everywhere. We had lunch out in savanna by a tree watched by some antelopes and ostriches and then we entered the Serengetti National Park for even more animals. We saw baboons and velvet monkeys and a cat. We saw a marabou stork right in the beginning. Soon after that Godfrey got information on his radio about some lion, so we went there. There were a little bit too many safari cars, but the lions were real and cool and didn’t care.


A lizard waiting for a bug


A small impala with big horns

The animals were everywhere: wildebeest and zebras and antelopes and different birds and lizards. Just amazing. We saw impalas fighting, giraffes walking and eating from the top of the trees and elephants with their young.


Giraffes getting a meal from the tree tops


Elephant close up

My camera went: click, click, click, click and Godfrey laughed that it sounds like Chinese. It was the rainy period in Africa, which Godfrey explained: It rains one hour every day or half an hour. I could live with that.


Here comes he rain, it’s rain seasom after all

We saw impala, tapir and even more different antelopes which names are a mystery for me now. It was evening and we were heading to our place for the night, a very nice lodge. On the way there we saw a truck stuck in the mud. The lodge was nice, food was good, but it was poor supply. We learned later that truck in the mud was a food transport to the logde. We saw him the next morning in the same mud.

Stuck in the mud

Stuck in the mud

We saw also two lions sun bathing, pretty cool lizards and more wildebeests. Once again: animals everywhere. We went to a lake to see hippos. They were very many and once again very cool.


Two lionesses laying in the sun

Hippos can be tired too! One of the many hippos we saw, this one was yawning.

We had lunch and we continued. On the way we saw buffalo (two out of the big five). We saw some angry birds, vulture, some very cute warthog an finally a giraffe and then very many giraffes and elephants (three out of five).


We were watching, or rather being watched by this marvelous bufallo


We saw a few warthogs as well


There were more giraffes the second day as well


Akacia seemed to be giraffe’s favourite food. This one was not eaten on at the moment.

In the afternoon it was time for a big rain and for us to se a leopard (four out of five) . The leopard was very far away when we got there, but we saw it quite well with binoculars.


Leopard running from the rain


Heavy rain. At least we saw a leopard before it started.

The next day we saw even more animals of all kinds. And the green of the savanna was amazing as well. Africa is so much more than you can imagine. I love it. We saw more lion, more zebras, more giraffes. Zebras stand and rest two against each other with heads on each other backs, so they can watch if there is any danger behind. Pretty awesome.

Marabou storch

Marabou storch, can’t decide if they are pretty or pretty ugly, but they are pretty big.

Zebras resting

Zebras resting against each others backs.

We saw also a group of hienas laying in a pool of water. It was to cool down their stomachs, our guide explained. They eat rotten meat and the fermentation, that has already started continues in the stomach. To ease the pain and cool down the hiena lays down in the water. Sounds nice.


Hyeana cooling down in the water

We also saw a group of about fifty giraffes. That’s quite a few.


Fifty giraffes, maybe even more.

After Serengetti we went on to the Ngorongoro crater and national park, but that’s the next part.

Serengetti became a world heritage site in 1981. Link to this site: Serengetti.

My grade for this site is five out of five:



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Robben Island – not as captivating as Alcatraz, but stunning surroundings

Nelson Mandela's prison cell.

Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island.

Robben Island, a hot and inhospitable island seven kilometres outside Cape Town in South Africa, is best known for its jail for political prisoners. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for nearly 20 years. Robben Island is a World’s Heritage since 1999, as a “testimony to cultural tradition and a heritage associated with events of universal significance”, according to UNESCO.

Between the 17th and 20th century the island was also used as a hospital for “socially unacceptable” people (this is how UNESCO describes it) and as a military base. Fortunately the last prisoners left the island in 1991 and nowadays the island has transformed into a museum.

Don’t misunderstand me – visiting Robben Island and learning about its history and the prisoners on the island is as fascinating as it is frightening – but the organizers of the guided tours could have done so much more to make the tour more appealing. Maybe it’s unfair to compare, but visiting Alcatraz outside San Francisco (yes, the other famous penitentiary on an island) is a completely different and much more interesting experience.

Let me start from the beginning, i.e. visiting Robben Island, or actually visiting Cape Town, a true beauty, a town “sandwiched” between water and rocks that creates the most magnificent natural phenomenon. Look at the picture below. Do you see the clouds? Looks like they tickle the one kilometre hight Table Mountain, right? The mountain actually prevent the clouds from entering Cape Town and the strong winds (called the Cape Doctor) cleans the air and blows away the pollutions, like a natural catalyst.

Cape Town in South Africa. And a bird.

Clouds trying to enter Cape Town. Either the Table Mountain or that singing bird prevents them from doing so.

Cape town from Table Mountain.

Cape Town from Table Mountain.

Parts of Cape Town feels quite “European”, in a way I really can’t explain. Maybe it’s because of the architecture. Maybe it’s because of all the white people. Feelings can be hard to explain, that’s for sure. Compared to Johannesburg it’s a safe town, even after the sunset, as long as you walk along streets guarded by patrolling guards. Being from Sweden it’s strange not to be able to feel safe (even though Sweden is far from heaven), especially in Johannesburg with electric fences everywhere, protecting people and their properties. Very sad!

You want a shrub? Sure, why not! Go ahead and plant it in the middle of the pavement.

You want a shrub? Sure, why not! Go ahead and plant it in the middle of the pavement.

Electric fences makes me depressed. Colorful buildings makes me happy. And luckily, Cape Town is full of buildings like the ones below. Pink, green, red, blue, yellow buildings. Feels almost like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Colorful buildings makes you happy.

Colorful buildings makes you happy.

This “European” feeling suddenly vanish if you enter the “wrong” parts of Cape Town. In just a few seconds you can travel from riches to poverty, from feeling safe to feeling insecure.

Barefoot kid with torn clothing begging for money.

Barefoot kid with torn clothing begging for money.

Let’s go to the harbor. At the Nobel Square you meet South Africa’s four Nobel Price laureates:

  • Albert Luthuli, 1960 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  • Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  • FW de Klerk, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  • Nelson Mandela, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
South Africa's four (so far) Nobel Price laureates.

South Africa’s four Nobel Price laureates at the Nobel Square.

For me everything about Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, is a little special since I have met his soul many times in my life. I grew up in Gyttorp, a small town in Sweden, about 200 km west of Stockholm. Alfred Nobel’s first explosives factory moved from Stockholm to Gyttorp in the 1920s. Alfred Nobel died 1896 in San Remo, Italy, and that’s where my aunt lives. All the flowers at the Nobel Party in the City Hall in Stockholm are from San Remo. And guess where I earn my money? Yes, in the City Hall!

Ok, while we are at the harbor, why not take the boat over to Robben Island, the main reason for writing this post? The journey over to Robben Island is really beautiful!

Cape Town from the water

Cape Town crouches under Table Mountain.

Cape Town from Robben Island.

Cape Town from Robben Island.

Entering Robben Island you are routed to a bus since you’re not allowed to wander around the island. The bus runs to various locations where a guide tell short stories about important events on the island. It felt a little like an animal transport and there was no time to reflect on what you had just seen and heard. Sad, because Robben Island is full of interesting stories!

Robben Island.

Robben Island.

Outside the prison.

Outside the prison.

Eventually the bus stopped outside the prison where a guide (a former prisoner, actually all guides on Robben Island are former prisoners) met us. The guide took us to the prison and told us about himself and what it was like being in jail. As you can see in the picture below the racism, apartheid, or what ever you want to call it, was apparent event on the food plate.

The guide with a plate showing food restrictions.

The guide with a plate showing food restrictions depending on where you are from and the color of your skin.

So, after one hour or so, it’s time to go back to Cape Town with mixed feelings. As I wrote earlier the history of Robben Island is fascinating, but the organizers of the tour fail to convey it in a good way. There is just not enough time to process feelings and impressions, compared to a tour I took to Alcatraz where you could walk around for hours, listening to a very good audio guide.

Guys, the sea is over there!

Guys, the sea is over there!

Cape Point. Almost at the end of the world.

Cape Point. Almost at the end of the world.

Therefore Robben Island only gets two globes out of five and Cape Town would get three globes. But look at the pictures above. Cute penguins not far from Cape Town! And the magnificent Cape Point. Combine that with your stay in Cape Town and that’s four globes out of five!



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Old town of Warsaw, a city that would not give up


I’m not surprised that the old town of Warsaw is a world heritage site. The city has a great history and it survived despite all the tries to remove it from the maps. Warsaw is an old city, but not that old as a capital. Warsaws old town looks old, but it’s not even hundred years old. Its soul is much older than that.


Part of the castle

This is going to be one of the more difficult posts I’ve ever written. I have no idea how little to write or how much. I cannot describe all I know about Warsaw. I was born and raised there and since I’ve moved to Sweden I visited it at least once every year. I know too much, but I’ll try.

Part of the Old Town with Castle and Sigismund statue

Let’s start with some history. I mentioned in an earlier post about Cracow that it’s a competition between the two cities. The king Sigismund Vasa (Zygmunt III Waza) moved the capital to Warsaw in 1599 and since that time it grew bigger and in some way more important than Cracow. The streets are larger, there are more shopping malls and people walk faster.

It was also almost totally destroyed during the Second World War. The Castle was gone, the Cathedral was gone, the Old Town was gone. There were only ruins, rubble and destroyed stones everywhere. After the war the officials were talking about moving the capital to Lodz, another big city in Poland, but people said NO. And based on old paintings the city was rebuilt. All of it, the castle, the Old Town, the New Town. And its soul remains. It’s wounded and it remembers the war, but its even more proud then ever.


A statue of the mermaid Sawa, symbol of Warsaw

Let’s start in the old town. In the main square there is a sea mermaid. It’s the symbol of Warsaw. The old legend tells a story of a fisherman on the Vistula river, who found this mermaid strangled in the fishing net one day. She was beautiful, half fish, half woman. He freed her. I don’t really remember the whole story. The city was built by the river, where that happened. Name of the fisherman was Wars, name of the mermaid was Sawa, the name of the city became Warszawa (Warsaw).

Around the Old Town there is Barbacain, a defence wall. It’s partly destroyed, since it hasn’t been rebuilt after the war. It’s a memory of old times. By the wall there is a statue of the little soldier, a memory of all youngsters who lost their lifes fighting in the war. On the far end of the Old Town, on the other side of defence walls is the Part called New Town. It’s not really that new. It’s nice and quite and has lots of bars and restaurants.


One of the beautiful churches in Warsaw.

It’s the same in the Old Town: bars, restaurants and Churches. There is a Castle as well. It’s nice and does not look like it was built in the 20-th century. Outside the castle we have Sigismunds column, a statue from which king Sigismund Vasa watches the city. It was destroyed and rebuilt after the war as well.


River Vistula, forgotten, yet so important

Warsaw is a city by the river, but the river is forgotten, as in many other places. There are main roads by the river, but no restaurants or anything special. The castle is by the river, but it has it’s back turned to the river. The new stadium is pretty close to the river, but Vistula is invisible there too. The beautiful university library with gardens on the roof is close to the river, but the distance feels enormous. Why?

The new national arena

library garden

A nice garden on the roof of the university library

Starting at the castle there is a great road called Kings Alley and later The New World leading on a great shopping street by small palaces and great houses, many nowdays ambassies, to a park that belonged to the last king. The park is called Lazienki (the Baths) and is a green island in the city. There are squirrels, many birds, a theatre, a small castle, ponds, you name it. It’s a very nice place. Next to it is presidential palace.


The Sasi garden is a beautiful place

water tower

The water tower from 18:th century

There are other nice parks. There is one pretty close to the Old Town called the Saski, named after an old king. There was a palace in the garden, but now only a small part is left. It’s called the unknown soldiers grave and it’s guarded 24/7. There is a fire burning next to it, so we don’t forget. Very nice.


The monument called Unknown Soldiers Grave

I could write for ever about Warsaw. I could write about the Opera House, that looks like 18-th century on the outside and like 1950-ies on the inside. I could write about the Palace of Culture and Science that was a present from Moscow and people love and hate it at the same time. I could write about the central station that was modern in the 70-ies. I could write about all the huge and new shopping gallerias. I could write about the contrast about the old and new, the comunistic and capitalistic. I could write about the fallen comunistic monuments and how people accepthe past and embrace the future. I could write forever, but I will not this time. Maybe it’s better to get Jany’s fresh view in another post.


The Palace of Culture and Science, contrast between old and new, East and West.

The Historic Centre of Warsaw became a world’s heritage in 1980. Link to the site: Historic Centre of Warsaw.

My grade to Warsaw is four out of five:



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