Poland: Warsaw & Krakow

Warsaw and Krakow are often compared with each other, Warsaw coming up the loser. Krakow is very pretty while Warsaw is more real…in a fake kind of way.

Warsaw was razed to the ground during WWII and later reconstructed almost in its entirety simply from the paintings done by Canaletto in the 18th century with the result that the city doesn’t look the way it did before the war but rather how it was in the 18th century and with some creative license at that.

Our bus ride from Riga to Warsaw was pretty bad. We had one of those new double-decker buses which are supposed to be very comfortable and it would be, had it been stationary. There was a storm raging and the bus driver was racing like a maniac. We were on the second floor and I could see waves of water hit our window as the bus flopped and bounced. I was terrified we were going to topple over on one of those curves. I turned livid once I realized the driver was racing just so he could stop every hour or so for a smoke! More than half the passengers would get off at these stops to do the same. A refrigerator of a woman who was sitting in the back would trample anyone on her way to get off and puff on her cigarette as if she couldn’t breathe otherwise. I felt that our lives were being put in danger because a bunch of addicts didn’t have any self-control. If you think I am showing no empathy for these people, you’d be right. I have no compassion for those who choose to make themselves sick when many people would be grateful to posses a clean set of lungs.

We arrived in Warsaw early in the morning to a gray and drizzly city.20130722-100940.jpg
In Warsaw, the old and new coexist in the historically reconstructed buildings of the Old Town with the Communist austere and imposing style of the New Town.20130722-101123.jpg
The focal point of the old town is the Monument to King Sigismund who moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596, probably saving Krakow from the destruction which befell Warsaw during the war.20130722-101637.jpg

From here it’s just a few steps to the Royal Castle20130722-102055.jpg

Warsaw’s old town is so pretty20130722-102219.jpgit’s easy to forget it’s a reconstruction.

When you step away from the Old Town though, you find a bustling cosmopolitan city with every type of restaurant, store & show that you could want. We were lucky to be here on a Sunday when free Chopin concerts are offered in the park.20130722-102644.jpg

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw and although her experiments were conducted in France, she obviously loved her native land so much she named one of her discoveries after it: Polonium.20130722-103229.jpg

During Nazi occupation, Warsaw residents (unsuccesfully) revolted against them. The insurrection was crushed & most of the city (and people) destroyed. This story is very movingly told at the absolutely must-see Warsaw Rising Museum. Wise words:20130722-103702.jpg

It’s a six hour train ride from Warsaw to Krakow but trains are very comfortable.
The highlight of a visit to Krakow is Wawel Hill and its Castle.20130722-104131.jpg

We got here very early and it seemed we had the entire place to ourselves.

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The Cathedral still functions as such; you are allowed to enter after 9am, earlier if you need confession.
Inside you’ll find Royal Tombs,20130722-104716.jpg

chapels20130722-110144.jpg

and Chopin!20130722-110318.jpg
Wawel Hill and its Castle are a beauty.20130722-111000.jpg

Krakow’s Old Town boasts of having Europe’s largests market square. We found Elvis performing here.20130722-112100.jpg
At the center of the square is the Cloth Hall, a covered souvenir market.20130722-112340.jpg
The square is a very nice place to relax in, have a cup of coffee and watch the street performers.20130722-112629.jpg

Having recently watched Schindler’s List, the boys were enthused about visiting the old factory which is now a museum.20130722-111335.jpg
Getting here was was quite a trek. Inside, nothing much is left of the old equipment but you can visit Schindler’s office20130722-111719.jpgand see some examples of the work the factory used to produce.20130722-111841.jpg

It’s unfair to choose between Warsaw and Krakow. If you only have time for one, visit Krakow; history is alive here. However, if you’d like to get a feel for the direction Poland is moving toward in its present and future then Warsaw is where you want to be.

Categories: Europe, Poland, UNESCO site | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Poland: Warsaw & Krakow

  1. The Fayet-Faber Family

    Polonium sounds better than Frenchonium, indeed 🙂

    Like

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