City that Saw War, Emerges Peacefully and Beautifully
The bombs dropped. The city was destroyed. A wall went up and Warsaw was bathed in Red for decades. Wall comes down, capitalism floods the streets and voila – Warsaw, uprising. And there's a very (very) short history of the capital of Poland.
It's amazing how after such a short period of time, a city can recover with grace, beauty and modernity. This is evident even in Warsaw's Centralna train station. When you arrive, take the escalator two levels up to the main hall for your choice of transport to the city center. Whether you take a bus, tram or train, prepare to be surprised.
Modern skyscrapers greet the jaded traveler who expects to see holed-out hovels. There are vestiges of the past, like the Place of Culture and Science, a communist-style and once much-hated gift from the Soviet Union. The tallest building in Poland and a symbol of Warsaw, it now plays host to movies, museums, cafes and concert halls. Take the elevator to the top for a panorama of the city.
Current edifices are far more contemporary. Want to shop? The Polish have a passion for fashion (and that doesn't include babushkas.) Head to the Golden Terraces, where you'll find two floors of shops, a food court, hotel and a movie theater. Or just admire the modernist architecture from the outside.
Warsaw easily intertwines the modern with non-musty old. For a relaxing afternoon, head to the Baroque-style Lazienki Park (Royal Baths). Created by the king in the 17 th century, idle a while under the old oaks surrounded by squirrels and peacocks, little ponds and palaces. In the summer, don't miss outdoor Chopin piano concerts that take place every Sunday at noon and at 4pm, by the composer's monument. Grab a bite at Qchnia Artystyczna, the well-regarded restaurant within Ujazdowski Castle.
There's even an Old Town and a New Town – built in both the 17th and 18th centuries. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets or head to the Market Square where you'll find traditional Polish restaurants. On Krakowskie Przedmiescie and Nowy Swiat – the city's main promenades, find newer pubs and cafes that house youthful ebullience.
Warsaw is well connected by train to other cities. Kraków, the artistic heart of Poland, is only three hours away by InterCity train. Historic Gdansk on the Baltic coast is a bit lengthier – a six hour ride – but oh! – the beauty you will see. Consider getting off the train in Malbork, just 20 minutes before Gdansk and visit its immense medieval castle. If you have a European East Pass, you could also visit Budapest, Vienna and Prague. With a Eurail Germany-Poland Pass, consider taking Berlin-Warsaw Express, which takes a bit over five hours.
Both these cities are living history. Once war torn and worn, each is embracing the current and contemporary. Travel back in time to Warsaw and find yourself back to the future.
Contributed by: Magda, PMO Manager from our Information Technology department, who backpacked through the mountains and the cities of Eastern Europe.