86 Photos - Jun 16, 2013
Photo: Some of the new wheels that our carriages had to be transferred onto.Photo: The jack that holds up the carriages while the wheels are swapped out.Photo: Crossing the Polish border. The immigration police car rode alongside the train all of the way into the station on the Polish side, making sure that nobody jumped out before we pulled in.Photo: Photo: Stepping off into the unknown.Photo: Waiting for the subway on our first day. a;ya's enjoying some fresh local yogurt...Photo: ...and some raspberries. She was in food heaven!Photo: The street to the old city center. Everything looks so new and clean because it is. "Old" is a misnomer.Photo: Photo: Along the road there were these signs showing photos of refugees from around the world who have settled in Poland. There was/is a strong effort being made by the government to get the native population to accept these refugees.Photo: The refugees pictured come from all over the world, but Alya was particularly surprised to see people from places like Belarus, Ukraine and Chechniya listed. To an American, however, it makes perfect sense.Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: I had no idea that there were Tibetan refugees in Poland.Photo: We just happened to be in town while this conference was in going on. I wish that we'd known about it in advance and had had a chance to hear some of what was discussed.Photo: The buildings in Warsaw's Old Town are all picture-perfect. For a reason.Photo: There were people all over painting the buildings. Everything in this part of the city is very lovely, indeed.Photo: Alya is a FAST walker. She was always leaving me in the dust. (Though on a bike I'm the one always waiting for her!)Photo: Coming into the "old city" center.Photo: The "old city's" main square. Portions of the palace's original walls are still evident.Photo: The church at one end of the old square from behind, alongside the outer wall of the old palace.Photo: Photo: The old palace is a museum and it is filled with galleries telling the history of the city up to just before WWII.Photo: Alya reading about this section of the palace. We are both fascinated by history.Photo: We came across this super cool early 18th century globe. We had lots of fun locating Chinese cities on it. We also noticed that a huge section of Russia was not called "Russia" at all by most Europeans. It was called "Tartaria." Alya, a Tartar, had not heard of this before. We were both tickled pink by it! (http://bit.ly/13faC1H)Photo: The line to see the Throne Room. Ugh.Photo: Fancy seats for pompous asses. Thta's what I think of thrones. This would be the first of several palaces that we visited (it was also the smallest), and with each one I would get more and more annoyed at the idea of royalty in general.Photo: The reason that "old" is a misnomer in Warsaw. There are no old buildings left. The city was completely leveled during the war (mostly after the failed uprising in 1944). The rebuilding of the historic sections of the city using old photos and blueprints didn't begin in earnest until the 1980s. Entire sections of the city are facsimiles of what was there before the Nazis invaded.Photo: At the entrance of the museum of the Warsaw Uprising (http://bit.ly/10doxT9).Photo: This is a vast, detailed and very moving museum. As we would discover later, the city is like a living memorial to the disaster of the Nazi occupation of Poland.Photo: Alya wandering through the exhibits. As with most museums, we ended up spending way more time there than we'd planned.Photo: The final section of the museum acknowledges the rise of communism and Soviet domination after the war, and the shameful crackdowns by the government on former partisans and resistance leaders. (It is also worth noting that the start of the museum does acknowledge the Jewish ghetto and the holocaust.)Photo: Alya having a stretch after we finished our visit to the museum. This would not be the last time that her t-shirt would be ironic given our location (and her heritage).Photo: A few blocks away from the extensive, detailed museum for the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the only memorial for the infamous ghetto (which saw a Jewish resistance uprising in 1943 that, arguably, inspired the wider uprising a year later) was this marker on the sidewalk...Photo: ...and this plaque on the wall.Photo: Photo: The barren city block where the wall of the Jewish Ghetto once stood. Apropos.Photo: Typical, gray, bleak Soviet-era building.Photo: A memorial marking the location of a Nazi atrocity, in this case, the execution of 120 people. These are scattered all across the city and serve as constant reminders of the brutality of the occupation. Notably, they all say that it was the "Hitlerites" or "Nazis" who committed the crimes spelled out, but not "Germans". I like that.Photo: We walked a hell of a lot on our first day, so for our second we rented a couple of bikes. They were awesome.Photo: Photo: On this second day we had much less planned out specifically to see and resolved to take it easy. Just a few minutes after starting or ride we came into a gorgeous park and couldn't resist lounging about for a while.Photo: The view from our bench.Photo: We rode into another park and came across this hulking statue dedicated to the memory of the bomb defusers and mine clearers who died during the war and in its aftermath. This is a very striking, somber memorial.Photo: Photo: Photo: There are an astounding number of names listed here, with many people killed after the Nazis withdrew from the city.Photo: Photo: Another memorial for a mass killing. This one sits directly across the street from a church and marks the spot where 34 people were slaughtered in 1943.Photo: Photo: Obeying traffic laws.Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: We stopped for lunch back near Old Town at a bistro owned by a family who have a farm just outside of the city where they source most of their ingredients from. We had an awesome meal. Here I am drinking some of the best cider that I've ever had.Photo: It was a classy pot of tea for Alya, though.Photo: We biked clear across town during the day and made our way to the infamous Pawiak transit station. It was here that Jews, other minorities, partisans and political prisoners would be gathered for shipment out to labor and death camps. An adjacent building (demolished during the Warsaw Uprising) also served as a prison during pre-war days.

It was incredibly haunting, not least because the museum was closed and it was so empty.Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: After the sad reminder of the Holocaust, we needed to balance the end of our day out with some beauty, so we biked over to yet another large, gorgeous park.Photo: Photo: Photo: "We're running late," I said. "No problem," replied Alya.Photo: As we set off to return our bikes I couldn't help but marvel at how Warsaw is such an amazing mix of beautiful spaces, punctuated with somber memorials to WWII and bleak reminders of its Soviet past.Photo: Photo: Photo: Back at the super cool, funky cafe where we got our bikes. I loved this place.Photo: As we got back to our hosts' neighborhood we were greeted with this bright, brilliant double rainbow.Photo: Photo: On the bus ride to our next stop... Gdansk!