Friday, March 15, 2013

Warsaw: The Other Windy City

I've decided that I can sum up Warsaw in just a few words: windy, cold, and blistering. Now, this may sound as if I am saying that I dislike the city...not true. However, I am saying that for anyone who is thinking about traveling to Poland in March, please wait until April or May. That is, unless you like walking around a city bundled up like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story."
From the moment we arrived, the temperature has never gotten above 28 degrees F. My lips are wind burn, as well as my cheeks, and my thighs look as if they have been beaten with a wooden paddle they are so red. The wind cuts like a knife and the cold will chill you to the bone. Unfortunately for us, our hotel dates back to the 16th century and if there is heat, we can't find it. The only way to warm up is to take a hot needless to say, we have been taking at least 2 showers a day.

But apart from the cold, Warsaw is a city of history -- a true tale of ruin and what can become of a city so destroyed by war. During the Second World War, Warsaw was completely demolished by German bombings. The people of the city rose up to fight against those who literally destroyed their homes and livelihood. Thousands upon thousands died in the Warsaw Uprising, and many more perished at the hands of Nazi SS guards in extermination and concentration camps. Never could I imagine my city being in complete ruin.  To see Warsaw today, one could never imagine that at one time, it was nothing but a pile of rubble; however, sadly, it was. 

Our time spent in Warsaw saw us visiting the original Gestapo Headquarters, where members of the uprising were brought for interrogation, or death. Torture devices were used to get people to talk, and if that didn't work, death was always the other option. I must say though, as a woman, it makes me proud to know that so many women during that time decided to take up arms to fight for their city. Women fought right alongside men, learning to aim and fire at the enemy. Everyone worked together for a unified cause...much unlike today. 

The Gestapo Headquarters was not the only remnants of World War II that could be found in this city. Small portions of the original Jewish Ghetto wall serve as reminders of the exile that so many felt during days of uncertainty. Feeling cast out from the rest of society, the conditions in which the Jewish people lived were unthinkable. 

Of course, their lives inside the Ghetto were not long lived when they were forced to line up at the Umschlangplatz to wait for the railway cars that would deport them to camps throughout Poland, Germany, or other portions of Nazi-occupied Europe. 

Even for those who are not captivated by history, it is hard not to understand why as humans, this would not capture the attention of anyone who sees the injustice that so many faced during the Second World War. 

In an attempt to make our time in Warsaw less gloomy, we visited Holy Cross Church. Here lies the heart of Chopin, and the sight of which Pope John Paul II spoke to the masses. Inside, its altars shined with gold and brass, depicting images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. The images alone and the enormity of the altars were enough to make us sit for a few moments and thank God for allowing us to make this trip a reality -- for the many blessings he continually gives. 

Staying in the heart of Old Town Warsaw, our hotel is situation next to the Royal Castle, which, from the exterior, is beautifully built. Set afire during the Warsaw Uprising, by enemy bombs, it is impressive how the Polish people devoted their time and money to helping rebuild such a beautiful structure. The sounding of the clock bell rings each night while the citizens and tourists stand outside in the square, admiring its beauty at night. 

Unique shops and quaint cafes line the street with lavish pastries and homemade breads capturing the eyes of onlookers. Buying a baguette and various pastries, including the famous Warsaw Cake, we managed to treat ourselves to a post-dinner dessert each night. However, I must say that the Warsaw Cake looks like a meringue and it tastes like what I would imagine almond-flavored packing peanuts to taste like. So if you're interested, I wouldn't's not worth it. 

All in all, Warsaw is definitely a city I would warmer weather of course. The buildings, memorials and structures are beautiful to look at, but unfortunately, the chance to enjoy it all has been hindered by the bitter cold. 


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