Warsaw always sounded like a good place to visit. And it is. The Old Town is lovely, the cobbled streets picturesque and the brisk wind does you good (I hope. Thermometer back home so can’t tell).
As lovely as the city is, if you pay attention as you go around then it becomes a bit of a solemn experience.
I woke up early today, wore my scarf and jacket (note to self: a hat is ALWAYS a good idea) and I walked around the city to quickly see the main landmarks.
Looking around, there is evidence of past devastation everywhere. Between the Tsarists, the Nazis and the Soviet army, it’s a miracle that this city is still here.
This is the statue of Adam Mickiewicz – one of the most important Romantic Poets and (Wikipedia tells me) considered the national Polish poet.
The monument was ceremonially unveiled on 24 December 1898 on the 100th anniversary of poet’s birth. The ceremony was planned to be much larger, however the Tsarist authorities feared it could turn into a patriotic manifestation and banned all marches and speeches. The monument was thus unveiled in silence, in front of 12,000 people. (via)
In 1944 – for a number of reasons which I will probably oversimplify just by mentioning – there was the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis. 63 days of resistance, with the Soviet Army waiting outside the city and the Nazi troops destroying the city. After defeating the insurgents, the Nazis continued the destruction until over 85% of the city was destroyed. About 16,000 members of the resistance were killed.
And I saw this monument, and it was… important I guess but it was not scary. No. The scary one was this one.
Meet The Little Insurgent. A tiny boy, commemorating the child soldiers who fought and died in the Warsaw uprising.
It is reputed to be of a fighter who went by the pseudonym of “Antek”, and was killed on 8 August 1944 at the age of 13. The helmet and submachine gun are stylized after German equipment, which was captured during the uprising and used by the resistance fighters against the occupying forces. (via)
I am not a religious person. And yet, when I went past the Holy Cross Church I took a photo of the gate with the inscription Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts). Sure, Chopin’s heart is buried there (and who does not love Chopin?). But what was magical about the inscription was that apparently, it was something that gave strength to citizens of Warsaw during the difficult years of the Russian Partition.
I loved Warsaw. I loved it for the beautifully rebuilt Old Town, for the streets, the food, the beauty. But I loved it most of all because it scared me and it made me think and it left me with a bittersweet smile.