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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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: