Warsaw Poland – Everyone who has been to Europe knows that it is amazing and beautiful. I consider myself lucky to live here and even luckier to live in Europe’s heart. Living in Central Europe gives me the opportunity to travel easily and quite cheaply to Western, Eastern, Southern and Northern Europe. Also, my European passport opens doors that were once closed, some years ago. But this same, beautiful Europe remembers dark times, times when it was the battlefield of the bloodiest war, that the world had ever seen.
September 1st, is a date which is important to the Polish people. At 4.45 am on the 1st of September 1939 the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire, starting WW2. Poland was the first target. I think that day it is the right day to write about the most devastated city of that war. To write about Warsaw.
Warsaw is the capital and the largest city in Poland. In the past, it was called the Paris of the East as it was beyond beautiful. Nowadays it is more often called “Small Moscow” or „Little New York”. But to many, it is also called “the Phoenix City”… and this name fits it the best.
Only a few metropolises can boast the same run of misfortune my capital has been dealt. Throughout the ages, Warsaw has been battered, bullied, burned and bombed. The year 1944 almost erased it from maps. During the Nazi’s occupation, citizens were killed on the streets or exterminated in notorious death camps, and the city destroyed. By the end of the war, less than 10% of Warsaw was left standing. After the war, the city raised again, like a Phoenix from the ashes. Not miraculously by itself, of course, it was rebuilt by the hands of the entire nation. Warsaw is as ancient as a dozen of the European capitals, yet it is the youngest of them all. The reconstruction of Warsaw was called the miracle of the 20th century and an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.
For a first time viewer, Warsaw might look a bit chaotic. But there is a reason why it looks like this. To understand Warsaw you should read about the history of the city before visiting. After a few days, one can see that the chaotic look is only illusory. Warsaw was rebuilt in some kind of scheme.
The heart of the city is where many glass towers dot the skyline. Poland stands out for its charming, medieval, central-European architecture and soviet molochs, but that doesn’t mean that modern and tall buildings haven’t started to rise high into the dazzling skyline of its cosmopolitan capital. They have. More and more of them are quickly rising. They are enriching the city’s skyline which is already listed as one of the prettiest in Europe. This glass forest is the end product of a decade of continuous investment and rapid improvement of the financial status. It is also a tangible result of joining the European Union.
Just outside the city centre, there is a concrete ring with dozens upon dozens of concrete apartment buildings. Each of them is oriented differently along its own street. All of them seem alike as if they were made from the same grayish mould. They are the product of communism, the 44-years-old remnants of a time when Poland was a part of the Soviet bloc.
A few kilometres from the city centre, behind the concrete ring, you will find the Old Town. Small squares, steep stairs, colourful tenements, winding avenues, narrow cobblestone streets, some of which trace the same paths that they did more than 800 years ago. They are the remembrance of the Golden Age of Poland and products of the nation’s hands that rebuilt the city after WW2. The Old Town is the place that reminds us how Warsaw looked like before Hitler ordered that Poland’s capital be razed to the ground and the German military took him literally.
A combination of all these different elements creates a unique city; the city that you may know as Warszawa or Warsaw, Warschau, Varsovie, Varšava, Варшава. The city with a history, that makes all Poles proud.