Warsaw would be the last city we visited in Europe on this adventure. Originally we were going to skip Warsaw, but the best ticket to Hanoi was from here. So we were excited to move on and make the most of this city We shopped in Krakow and found good backpacker clothes for warm weather and Janet had to get a new downsized suitcase with working wheels. So out of Krakow we again jumped on tram #14 and went right to the station lickety split. We where ticketed for a closed suite with 6 seats; only one polish lady joined us, we shared smiles but without english.
We decided to have breakfast in the dining car. This was a great idea as the hot food was freshly prepared and we could enjoy the green countryside view as we ate. We commented this was perhaps our best train ride and a great way to finish the end of Europe. Once we arrived at the 2nd Warsaw station, it was easy to find the bus stand and Bus #160 we needed that went directly to Misteo, ie., Old Town. We walked across the large Plaza and checked in at the Airbnb office. The room was not available for 2 hours; we got a little cranky but decided to take the 2:00 PM walking tour.
Our walking tour guide identified himself as PSE as his polish name was not pronounceable.
He was so funny and thorough, Maybe the best guide we have had. As we have come to expect in Poland, the people/guides in Krakow and Warsaw disrespect the other city. There are many competing factors. It probably started when good King Kazimierz Weilki, an amateur Alchemist, blew up half of the Waswel Castle in Krakow when the experiment went bad. The King moved the Capital to Warsaw and built his new Palace there. The center of government and Finance also moved to Warsaw.
The guide admits outright the move pissed off Krakow and that Krakow is the more beautiful city. However, it is the political history that inspires Warsaw’s residents. They fought the Nazis Blitz Grieg where 20% of Warsaw was destroyed. They suffered through the Gestapo and the brick wall surrounding Jewish Ghetto, where 15% of the buildings were removed. The suffered through SS removal of most of the Jewish population to death camps. 8,000 remaining Jewish residents facing extermination from the Ghetto fought back until there death, causing another 15% of the buildings removed. Finally, thousands of non- Jewish partisans from Warsaw Launched the so-called “Polish Rising” against the Nazis with the hope that they would entice the US allies to attack faster. Instead of 3 days , they held out 63 days against the Nazis until they were neutralized. Hitler’s revenge was harsh. The remaining old town was ordered to be destroyed. At the end 95% of old town was wiped out. It was this fighting attitude that they say makes Warsaw different from Krakow. Krakow decided not to resist at all in WW II ( thereby remaining intact).
The wall of the Jewish Ghetto is gone, but the running brick line foundation and a sculptured plaque designate the area. There is the stone and metal “Uprising Museum and Monument”. It was controversial with mixed reviews when erected; both in design and more importantly in disagreement whether the Partisan’s actions brought unnecessary retribution to the city.
The rebuild of the Old Town of Warsaw using both recovered urban plans and ancient building techniques that gained Warsaw theUNESCO award. The Plaza and surrounding buildings have been almost 100% rebuilt. The adjacent “Newe Town” has been rebuilt at a much lesser percentage, and as well, has marvelous modern high rise sky scrapers.
It is the May Day Celebration week in Poland and here the plazas and squares of Old Town and New Town are filled with jubilant families, theater, carnival acts and musicians. Even in the rain and cold we enjoyed our last walk around a European square, seeing all the typical sites, castles, churches and cobblestone roads
They were all interesting and rather nicely decorated. We also enjoyed several Polish meals.
We spent a lot of time at the Old Town Tourist Information Center where steady internet and printers were available. We needed to complete the Vietnam Visa Applications on line and sponsorship forms, and other stuff. We also got the info about the Bus #175 that would get us to the Airport. We actually walked the route without luggage; wrong way at first, and then we plotted the coarse again, found our way, so the next morning early there was no foul ups. Our time in Europe is over. We are headed for Southeast Asia.