Warsaw

Essential Warsaw

16 Nov 2017

Sightseeing and Warsaw don’t usually go together, and the reason for that, if not the blame, falls on her citizens. While some cities may have been happy to wait out Nazi occupation, the Warsaw locals were having none of that. The ensuing uprising which took place in 1944 would become both the most glorious and tragic episode in the city’s history. Doomed from the outset the Warsaw Uprising enraged Hitler, and his retribution proved swift and brutal. Warsaw was to be wiped from the face of the map, and his cronies set about their orders with a zealous fury. While Red Army tanks stood stoically stationed across the river the Nazis set about blasting western Warsaw into oblivion. Anything deemed of cultural importance was dynamited, and whole districts were set on fire. By the time ‘liberation’ arrived, over 85% of the city lay in total ruin. "I have seen many towns destroyed, but nowhere have I been faced with such destruction," commented a visibly moved Dwight Eisenhower on a later visit to the city. That the city still stands at all is tribute enough to the indefatigable spirit of the Polish capital.

Nowhere bore the brunt of the Nazi malice more than the Old Town, and it’s here that most tourists will choose to start their tour of Warsaw. Using paintings and photographs as an architectural blueprint, the Old Town was painstakingly rebuilt, with the reconstruction of the historic centre only completed as late as 1962. The area's inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List speaks volumes for the effort involved, and nothing is more striking than the colourful, wonky-looking burgher houses that frame the Old Town Square (Rynek Starego Miasta).

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