"Feeling the WWII Impact" Warsaw by edwis

Warsaw Travel Guide: 3,043 reviews and 7,426 photos

Warsaw: (Warszawa- say “Var SHA vah”)

Arriving in the capital city of Poland, we picked up our luggage and preceded following exit signs, somehow bypassing customs and passport control. This meant we did not receive any incoming country stamp in our passports. Days later this became an issue when leaving from the Krakow airport. The control agent kept asking for some proof that we had arrived in Warsaw. We had cleaned out our flight bags and threw out old boarding passes. Luckily, Joan finds a crumbled up boarding pass from Paris to Warsaw. The passport control agent (military) let us go forward, but gave us a stern lecture about always to be sure we get an incoming stamp in our passports. Lesson learned.

As we walked in the Warsaw airport lobby, a well dressed gentleman who speaks English asks if he can assist us. We must have looked lost and confused. We agree to be hustled into his Mercedes taxi and are given a city tour and history lesson on the way to our guest house, all for normal taxi charges.

Between the gypsy taxi driver and our hosts Jarek & Pawel, we learned so much about Warsaw history, impacts of WWII and the local culture. 85% of Warsaw’ buildings were destroyed and the people either, died during WWII, moved out, or relocated to Auschwitz.
After the war the government, which is now Communists, brought in peasants from the countryside, but found they had different culture than the former residents. They over packed their apartments with family members and even let the pigs in the houses. Thus, while Krakow continued to flourish and develop, poor Warsaw became a lower class working city filled with boxy apartment buildings. Only recently has Warsaw seen modern changes. The impact of World War II on people remains strong, but the people are proud of their Polish heritage and of again being a free country. Joan stated that the city has a certain ‘sadness’ hanging over it much like Sarajevo.

Jarek’s guest house

had 7 apartment rooms and a common dining room. The location was perfect only 2 blocks from the most important street in Warsaw – Nowy Swiat. On this ‘royal street’ is the Presidential Palace, the University of Warsaw, several churches, parks, and the entry to Stare Miasto (the old city). We learned that when the new Warsaw airport was built, the old airport land was converted into a People’s Garden. Locals can claim a patch of land to grow vegetables. The B&B had a computerized security system. We had a quarter size medallion - the ‘magic eye’ – to open doors, by swiping it over a green light located in various walls. Even though the bed was only about 10 inches off the floor, we slept well with the windows open. Jarek explained to us with pride how all his food is ‘eco-food’ – grown by him and locally. The eggs come from Poland’s famous “green legged roosters” – a hybrid of partridges and chickens. He showed us the internet pages on this item which produces no cholesterol eggs! More eggs again.

Jarek proudly noted that his place is recommended on the Rick Steves travel program. In fact, Rick Steves recently returned and brought his parents with him.

On our first day, I had him give us a quick language lesson in order to navigate the city comfortably. Yes = Tak; No = Nie; Thank you = Dziekuje; Please = Prosze; Hello/ Good Day = Dzien Dobry; Beer = Piwo; Mineral Water = Woda Gazowana. Having mastered these, we were ready to explore.

The Vistula River runs through Warsaw and Krakow which provides some nice scenery to the cities. We followed a self-guided walking tour of the old Jewish Ghetto. This led us past some of the sites in the movie “The Pianist”, like the old wall, the site of the old workers bridge, etc. We ended up at the Warsaw’s Jewish Cemetery. This was one of the most powerful environments we have ever experienced. See the pictures.

After one of our too long walks, we decided to take a bus back to our neighborhood. We boarded our proper bus #180 with several other folks and no one seemed to pay, either getting on or off. So we didn’t either. Polish TV in our room was great. Some late night surfing included 6 stations of the Olympics. There were also 8 stations of graphic sex ads channels, but I settled in on watching the ‘Cubanskis’ playing volleyball.

  • Last visit to Warsaw: Aug 2008
  • Intro Updated Sep 7, 2008
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