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Wandering around Warsaw.

Jewish Quarter, modern Warsaw, heading back into the old town.

We woke up early and headed to breakfast, conscious of the fact that we only really had one full day and a day with a late checkout to look at Warsaw and anxious to get started.

We decided to start by wandering through the former Jewish Ghetto area. With hindsight I would say we should have done this as part of a guided walking tour for a number of reasons. The ghetto was demolished totally and it is really only monuments that remain to show what was here or what happened here. These monuments are widely spread out and not easy to find. Often information about the monuments is in Polish only and their significance is lost on you unless you understand Polish or have researched really well. I think a guided walking tour would save a lot of wasted time trying to find things and be able to fill in all the gaps about what it would have been like to live in this terrible place during the war.

The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German authorities in the predominately Jewish neighborhood of Muranów in 1940. It consisted of a large ghetto and a small ghetto connected by a footbridge across Chłodna Street. Walls topped with barbed wire were built around this area to keep the Jewish people inside. Jews who had lived outside this area before the war were forcibly moved here, causing terrible overcrowding. More than 400,000 Jews were imprisoned here with very limited rations of food. Many died of starvation. Many more were deported to Nazi concentration camps such as Treblinka. One estimate is that around 300,000 Jews from this ghetto were gassed or shot and 92,000 died of hunger or disease. In 1943 in an event known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Jews attempted to fight back against their Nazi oppressors and stop deportations. Their rebellion was doomed to failure and large numbers of Jewish people were killed or deported and the ghetto was destroyed. A new Warsaw concentration camp was built on the ghetto area where the Nazis began imprisoning non-Jewish Polish people.

The first sight we saw was The Ghetto Heroes Monument which commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. It is located in the place where the first armed resistance of the uprising took place. The first monument here was a circular one designed by Leon Suzin. It bore the inscription: "For those who fell in an unprecedented and heroic struggle for the dignity and freedom of the Jewish people, for a free Poland, and for the liberation of mankind. Polish Jews". Later a second, larger monument, sculpted by Nathan Rapoport was created in 1948. It is a wall with figures in the centre. The wall symbolizes the ghetto walls, but also the wailing wall in Jerusalem. The central figure in the frieze is Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the Jewish Combat Organization, or ŻOB.

The Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The Ghetto Heroes Monument.

Near the Ghetto Heroes Monument stands the Polin Museum which is the museum of Polish Jewish history. This opened in 2014. We did not go inside it.

Polin Museum.

Next we encountered a bench and statue dedicated to Jan Karski, a Polish Resistance Army soldier, who managed to get news to the outside world about Hitler's mass exterminations of the Jews. Karski survived the war and after it lived in the USA where he worked as a university professor.

Jan Karski.

Next we walked to the nearby Kniefall von Warschau Monument. This commemorates German Chancellor Willy Brandt spontaneously dropping to his knees in an act of penance and humility when he visited sites connected to the Holocaust in Warsaw in 1970. This monument was unveiled in December 2000, on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of Brandt's gesture.

Kniefall von Warschau Monument.

Next we walked to Chłodna Street in the district of Mirów. This street was between the large and small ghettos. It did not become part of the ghetto as it was on a tram line and was needed for transportation by the non-Jewish population. The Jews unable to leave the ghetto area had to cross from the small ghetto to the large ghetto via a footbridge above Chłodna Street. A monument called “A Footbridge of Memory” by Architect Tomasz Lec marks the site. Tall metal poles mark either side of the bridge and these are connected by optical fibres which are lit up like a bridge at night. We only saw it by day.

A Footbridge of Memory.

Near here we also found a monument to Jerzy Popiełuszko. He was a Polish priest, who supported the Solidarity Movement, and spoke out against communism. He was persecuted by the authorities and they tried to kill him. In 1984 they succeeded he was murdered by three agents of the Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Monument to Jerzy Popiełuszko.

Monument to Jerzy Popiełuszko.

Next we walked to the very beautiful Church of St Andrew the Apostle. This is a Roman Catholic Church and was one of the loveliest we saw in Warsaw. We did not go inside.

Church of St Andrew the Apostle.

Church of St Andrew the Apostle.

Church of St Andrew the Apostle.

The last Jewish site we saw, and it took us a ridiculous amount of time to find it, was a piece of the original ghetto wall. We also passed a memorial to Gurt, dedicated to the soldiers of the Armia Krajowa Group IV "Gurt", which fought here during the Warsaw Uprising, in 1944.

Ghetto wall.

Gurt memorial.

We now entered a more modern part of central Warsaw with glass skyscrapers and murals on the walls of buildings.

Murals on buildings.

Murals on buildings.

Murals on buildings.




One of my favourite buildings in Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science. It is 237 metres high, so can be seen from a long way away and acts as a landmark when people get lost. It helped us work out which way to walk to our hotel on our first day. It was opened in 1955 and was designed by Soviet architect Lev Rudnev. The architectural style of this building is known as "Seven Sisters", because there are seven famous buildings in Moscow built in a similar style. Basically it looks like a giant tiered wedding cake. I have come across buildings like this in many Eastern European countries. The building is now used as an exhibition center and office complex, as well as containing cinemas, theatres, museums, a swimming pool, congress hall and the tourist information office. Now that is what I call multi-functional.

The Palace of Culture and Science.

The Palace of Culture and Science.

The Palace of Culture and Science.

The Palace of Culture and Science.

From the Palace of Culture and Science we walked along Al. Jerozolimskie, which means Avenue of Jerusalem as this was once a predominantly Jewish area. This street is home to many prestigious hotels. Eventually we reached the palm tree. The palm tree stands on a roundabout surrounded by many, many cars. The palm tree is not really a tree, though it looks real. It is actually a steel column covered with real bark and polyethylene leaves. It was designed by artist Joanna Rajkowska who was inspired to create it after a visit to Israel.

The palm tree.

On one side of the roundabout there was a statue of Charles de Gaulle. He is walking away from what was once the Communist Party Headquarters. De Gaulle lived in Warsaw in the 1920s and played a part in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw in which the polish army drove back the red Russian army. The statue was a gift from France.

Charles de Gaulle.

We then walked up Nowy Swiat, which later changes its name, towards the old town. There are many sights here. These include the Nicolaus Copernicus statue in front of the Polish Academy of Sciences. This was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and completed in 1830. Nearby stands the Holy Cross Church which was undergoing restoration when we visited. A bit further on is the Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists with its statue of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński outside it. Stefan Wyszyński was the Primate of Poland. He was well known for his heroic stand against Nazism and Communism. Another lovely building is the Presidential Palace with an equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski outside it. He was a Polish leader and army general. There is also a beautiful Carmelite Church and nearby it a statue of poet Adam Mickiewicz. This street is also home to the University of Warsaw.

Talented busker.


Adam Mickiewicz and the Caramelite Church.

Adam Mickiewicz.

Adam Mickiewicz.

Presidential Palace and statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski.

Statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski.

Bolesław Prus, Polish writer.

Jan Twardowski, poet.

The Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists and statue of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.

Warsaw University.

Warsaw University.


Before heading for dinner we took a detour to Piłsudski Square and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to all those soldiers who died serving their Polish homeland. The Tomb is lit by an eternal flame and protected by armed guards. The tomb stands in front of a lovely park Saxon Gardens which has statues and ponds and plenty of benches to relax on. Here we were entertained for a while by the bubble man, blowing huge soapy bubbles to amuse children, and being constantly harassed by adults, who after all are still children at heart, and who just can't walk by without bursting those bubbles.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Saxon Gardens.

Saxon Gardens.

Maria Konopnicka, Polish writer.

The Bubble Man.

The Bubble Man.

Near Saxon Gardens.

Józef Piłsudski, Polish statesman.

Polish ballerina.

And her main rival.

We had a look at the Warsaw Grand Theatre, crowds were arriving for a performance just as we arrived.

Warsaw Grand Theatre.

Finally we had a quick look at the Polish Nike statue. This commemorates the heroes of Warsaw and depicts a woman ready to battle with a sword. It has the inscription. “To the Heroes of Warsaw 1939-1945”

Polish Nike.

It had been a long day, our feet were getting sore, our tummies were starting to rumble, so we returned to our hotel for dinner and drinks.

Cheers, Benny!

Posted by irenevt 00:33 Archived in Poland Tagged architecture monument warsaw soviet jewish ghetto

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I don't think Warsaw will be on my must see travel ventures, in view of its terrible history under Nazi rule I would find it too depressing, but not so in the Jewish Mellah ( Ghetto) in Fes el Jdid, Fes Morocco where all the Jewish inhabitants appear friendly and happy, they were the lucky ones who escaped the Pogroms in occupied Europe.

What happened to hubby?.....only one picture and NO beery glass in sight, is he being rationed or on the wagon?.....haha!

by Bennytheball

Don't let me put you off Warsaw. It does have a tragic history, but it is a beautiful place. It's friendly, laid back and the food and drink are wonderful. You should visit in summer though if you go. Winters there are really cold. Hubby will be appearing in there with a drink. It's just that I had not finished, but had to go out to the post office. I pressed publish rather than save as draft. For some reason, and I think it may be paranoia on my part, I don't like to press save as draft too often. I start worrying the whole blog will self-destruct. Thanks for visiting. I'll get back to adding a bit more.

by irenevt

I see your hubby is good friends with Jan Twardowski. A poetry lover, heh? The Bubble Man looked like great fun.

Wouldn't it be lovely if someday humanity could manage to create a world that didn't need war memorials? If there were no wars, there would be no need. Dreams for the future . . .

by Beausoleil

Loved the one of your husband with the poet. My husband does not like his photo being taken so I have to sneak one in.

by greatgrandmaR

Hi Sally and Rosalie, Thank you for visiting my blog.

by irenevt

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