Warsaw…An Education in Communism and Landmines, by j


Eleven days ago I started off on a Eastern European jaunt to get to know Poland.  Whenever I would tell people I was going on vacation this was the standard conversation:

Co-worker/colleague/friend/stranger: (very excited) Where are you going on your vacation?

Me:  Poland!

Co-worker/colleague/friend/stranger: (deflated) Why?

I know that the appeal of Poland is not apparent to the unenlighted.  However, if you take 30 minutes to learn about the country I think your opinion would drastically change.

The country, or at least significant parts of it, were destroyed by the Nazi in WWII.  A giant group of youth in Warsaw started a fantastical, yet doomed uprising.  Ghettos were plentiful from 1939-1945, as was the systematic killing of Jews and Polish P.O.W.s.  After the Nazis were expelled and the end of WWII, communism settled in for a nice long stay in Poland.  In 1978 a Polish pontiff was appointed in Rome, resulting in Poland making an enormous amount of statues out of Karol Wojtyla.

And it’s the land of pierogies and kielbasa.  Need I say more?

So, last fall when my aunt emailed me one of her very wordy emails asking if I wanted to go to Poland I paused.  In a previous life I spent a large amount of time learning and reading about the Holocaust and had recently developed a love of saurkraut. 

And 10 zlotys equal 4 Canadian dollars.  And my uncle works for an airline (Standby ticket price? Yes please!).  So I said yes and was on my way.

Our first stop (after one night in Frankfurt, Germany) was in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.  Apparently the royal family moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw about 400 years ago.  From what we gathered Krakow still isn’t over the betrayal.

Warsaw was an interesting town.  It was leveled during WWII, so all of it is either reconstructed towns to make it look “old” or communist-esque buildings that look sad (and made me feel sad).

I definitely feel like we saw all there was of Warsaw, we didn’t need more than 2 days in the capital.

At times this city made me feel depressed, it’s seen a lot of crappy situations.  Ugly buildings, and the old looking buildings were newer than some here at home.  However, after thinking about it some more the city of Warsaw is actually more resilient that I first thought.  This is a town that has been through an intense amount of destruction.  First the Nazis bomb the shit out of it, then the Communists create a grey, boring and oppressive town.  All that and Warsaw was still bustling and has come out on the other side intact and with almost a stoic “fuck you” attitude.  Warsaw is not going anywhere and has outlived Nazis and Commies.  Boo-ya.

So here are the Warsaw pictures…enjoy!

Old Town (I over exposed it...now it's arty).


"Charles de Gaulle" Roundabout....they LOVED that guy.

The Polonia Palace...our hotel...nice.


Jazz bar in Warsaw (did you know that jazz is HUGE in Poland? Yes, it is.)




A Portion of the Ghetto Wall in Warsaw Old Town Wall (reconstructed)


Sign on the Warsaw Ghetto Wall

The Palace of Culture. Built by Stalin as a "gift" to Poland. As our driver told us, "It is a very bloody gift we are still paying for." Deep cab driver. Very deep.

A church on Nowy Swiat with a photo of their favourite Pole, JPII


The Warsaw Uprising Monument


Market Square...showing a movie of Warsaw being destroyed...kind of a downer.Warsaw's Barbican (gates to the city)