Sunday, 31 July 2016
The sprawling capital of Poland, Warsaw clearly wears it’s history and it’s heart on its sleeve. It is difficult to see past the dreary skyline of Soviet-era block apartments. But after seeing the most glorious rainbow gracing Warsaw’s somber skyline last summer, I knew that appreciating this extraordinary city is in the understanding of it’s resilience and hope. I met my tour at an award-winning restaurant called Pod Gigantami in a 19th century building marked by two colossal stone men holding up the entrance.
With an extraordinary dinner with my new best friends and and an introduction by our Polish tour guide, Marta, my new tour was set in motion and the whirlwind began.
The Chopin Statue is a large bronze statue of Frédéric Chopin that now stands in the upper part of Warsaw’s Royal Baths Park aka Łazienki Park. It was designed in 1907 by Wacław Szymanowski for its planned erection on the centenary of Chopin’s birth in 1810 but its execution was delayed by controversy about the design. The statue was finally cast and erected in 1926 but poor Chopin was blown up by the Germans on May 31, 1940.
It was the first monument that was destroyed by the occupying Germans in Warsaw. According to local legend, the next day a handwritten sign was found at the site which read, “I don’t know who destroyed me, but I know why ~ so that I won’t play the funeral march for your leader.” Haha Mr. Hitler!
Warsaw’s Old Town
During the Invasion of Poland in 1939, most of the district was badly damaged by the German Luftwaffe, which targeted the city’s residential areas and historic landmarks in the Nazi campaign of terror bombing.
Following the Siege of Warsaw, parts of the Old Town were rebuilt, but immediately after the Warsaw Uprising (August–October 1944) what had been left standing was systematically blown up by the German Army AGAIN….
Warsaw’s Mermaid in Old Town Square
The legend goes that a mermaid was swimming in the river when she stopped on a riverbank near the Old Town to rest. Liking it, she decided to stay. Local fishermen noticed that something was creating waves, tangling nets, and releasing their fish. They planned to trap the offender, but fell in love with her upon hearing her singing. Later, a rich merchant trapped the mermaid and imprisoned her. Hearing her cries, the fishermen rescued her, and ever since, the mermaid, armed with a sword and a shield, has been ready to help protect the city and its residents.
Antek ~ The Littlest Insurgent of the Warsaw Uprising
Mały Powstaniec (the “Little Insurgent”) is commemoration of the child soldiers who fought and died during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. He went by the name of “Antek”, and was killed on 8 August 1944 at the age of 13. He is wearing a German helmet because the impoverished Resistance Fighters used whatever they could find during the outbreak. We were there the day before the 72nd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, so Antek’s statue was surrounded by flowers…
Warsaw Uprising Museum
The Warsaw Uprising, which broke out on 1 August 1944 and lasted until 2 October 1944, was one of the most important and devastating events in the history of Warsaw and Poland. Up to 90 percent of Warsaw’s buildings were destroyed. The day we arrived, the monument grounds were filled with tech crew guys loading in for the 72nd anniversary of the Uprising…..
Despite so much anquish from it’s past, Warsaw is truly a city of enduring resilience. And so I ended the day with a Polish doll for Sarah…..