Wandering around Warsaw

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
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59
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Trip End Dec 25, 2009


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Flag of Poland  , Central Poland,
Friday, September 25, 2009

Wandering around Warsaw

           Had a couple of days now to wander around Warsaw, the capital of Poland, and see the sights and take in some of the culture and palaces.  As neither one of us are feeling the best right now, we are wandering slowly, very slowly.  Late starts, early ends to the day.  But then a lot of work too on the house.  People preparing the paperwork don't always listen to everything you tell them then there’s tell them again, email back and forth again taking another day.  It will get done eventually or not.  Not going to worry about it.

            We figured out were we were on the map and wandered to the old town.  A lot of our information is coming out of "Warsaw in your Pocket" which the hotels and information centers provide.  We also used them in Gdansk and Krakow.  They are quite good and give good information.  We get to the “old town” and it looks quite old and natural and been there for hundreds of years.  It is amazing that this is not actually the case.  The Nazis got quite Pod’s at Warsaw and the Polish people after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and systematically set about destroying the city.  By the end of the war, over 90% of Warsaw was destroyed and most of the Old Town was gone.  All of Warsaw lay under tons of debris. 

            Slowly and methodically, using old photographs, drawings, memories, and anything that could be found, Warsaw was rebuilt.  Some of the buildings are more Soviet style than pre-war Polish but most of old town looks as it did long before WWI and WWII.  It’s rather odd to wander through the beautiful squares and realize I am the same age, more or less, than these buildings.  That’s an old kick in the head figuratively.

A lot of the bricks and furnishings and such came from Wroclaw apparently to the detriment of Wroclaw even causing them to tear down some of their old buildings that were fine after the war.

            Today we went into the Royal Palace.  The apartments have been restored quite well.  Some of the ceilings are painted but I imagine that most of the ceilings would have been painted originally.  Like the palace in Krakow, the furnishings have probably been purchased at auctions or donated from collectors.  The paintings were either rescued before the war or hidden or when reproduced, the new artist is given credit with what he has done to reproduce the painting.  It all looks like it’s hundreds of years old.

            Passing by a park in the morning, a ceremony was just starting.  A military band led off a group of maybe 75 young men marching in formation into a large park and past a reviewing stand.  We asked one of the police what was the occasion and he told us it was a military graduation. 

            Wanted to go into the church of the Holy Cross.  Part of the problem with touring out of high season is that things are being renovated, cleaned, moved, whatever.  Such was the case today with the Church of the Holy Cross.  The sanctuary was scaffolded and plastic sheeting hanging off to protect walls.  A sign in English and Polish said that you could get in through the bottom floor.  Apparently there is an urn there that holds the composer Chopin’s heart.  Not sure if it is the ashes or the heart moldering in there.  We went into the bottom floor through a dark hallway and into a makeshift chapel that looks like they popped it up in the crypt so worshipers could have someplace to come.  Confessions were being held on either side of the room with a priest in one chair and the parishioner seated next to him in a chair just being separated by a small screen.  People were there worshipping and there wasn’t a sign that said “this way to Chopin’s heart”.  There had been a sign outside but once inside, guess you were expected to find it.  We didn’t and we don’t like to disturb people in churches so we gave up without seeing Chopin’s heart’s urn.

            We retraced our steps back through the newer area this afternoon to find the National Museum.  It is more of a Fine Arts museum with a lot of 9th century plasters and frescoes taken off of church walls.  Some of them are in good shape and others you must use your imagination to figure out exactly what it is.  It also has quite a nice collection of altars and religious carvings.  Then we get into the paintings.  I’m not that good in museums.  I can usually last through 3 maybe 4 galleries and then I’m done.  Sure enough, after the frescoes, the wooden religious carvings, and two painting galleries (plus two small photograph galleries), I took a break and sent text messages to my daughter complaining; “I’m bored!”  Things just start to blend together after awhile plus so many of the early paintings and renaissance paintings are so dark that it’s hard to make out the details.  And as a lot of things were not in English, was hard to hold my interest.  My husband lasted longer but worried about getting to an internet to send documents back and forth during the day time in the U.S.; we bailed out of the museum early and headed back to the hotel.

            One more day in Warsaw.  Tomorrow there appears to be a marathon as tents were being erected around the Royal Palace so we will avoid that area tomorrow and head for the new parts of town where there are a few more museums we want to see and some churches.
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