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4 October 2013

time travel :: goodbye warsaw!

i owe you some catch up travel stories, don't i? well how about this; while i'm no doubt sunning myself on holiday in australia, i leave you with these here tales of travels in the land of the poles? happy days! you can find day one, two and three here. apologies for the lack of pictures, but... well, you know. these things happen.

we woke late on the last day, keen to rape the internet and warmth for as long as humanly possibly before having to check out. we took full advantage of the free buffet breakfast, making sure to wrap some bread rolls and croissants up for later, then headed out - leaving our luggage at reception while we busied ourselves until our flight later that afternoon. we'd left some things that were on our list of things to do, to make sure we would not be totally wasted in the city for another almost-full day. we headed off in search of 'world war two-y' type things, figuring that there must be some, somewhere, despite the (unhelpful) map telling us there maybe wouldn't be.

we walked about half an hour away from our hotel, toward where we knew the ghetto was in the late thirties/early fourties. now, we all know poland was the first country invaded in the second world war, but a lot of it was destroyed in the battle. a lot of warsaw has been rebuilt, which is a bit of a shame (not like that), because it doesn't really hold any of that 'old world' charm that you expect from an eastern european country. when i think about the ghettos, what i imagine is nothing like what we saw. we came upon the 'mur ghetta', which is the remaining bricks of the ghetto walls. on the wall was a plaque which read:

"by order of the german occupation authorities, the ghetto was cut off from the rest of the city on november 16, 1940. the ghetto area, surrounded by a wall, was initially 307 hectares (759 acres); with time, it was reduced. starting in january 1942,  it was divided in two parts called the large and the small ghetto. nearly 360,000 warsaw jews and 90,000 from other towns were herded into the ghetto. nearly 100,000 died of hunger. during the summer of 1942,  the germans deported and murdered  close to 300,000 people in the gas chamber at treblinka.on april 19, 1943 an uprising broke out in the ghetto. until mid may, fighters and civilians perished in combat or in the systematically burned ghetto buildings. the remaining population was murdered by germans in november 1943 in the majdanek, poniatowa and trawniki concentration camps. only a few survived."

what a deep way to start a day's trip, eh? the plaque showed a map of what warsaw looked like when the ghetto was inside it. it was truly remarkable. from there, we had a wander around, as there were a few memorial type things scattered around the area. a lot of it was only in polish, so it's hard to know what it all was, but safe to assume that it was all ww2 related. we wandered right by the remainders of a gestapo prison, where over 30,000 poles died during the war - barbed wire and iron bars all still in tact. shuddering, to remember how cold and miserable it was, and then be in a place with so many horrible memories. 

we next headed to umschlagplatz which was where the polish jews were gathered before being deported by train to treblinka extermination camp. of course at the time, they didn't know that, and thought they were being moved out of the ghetto, to somewhere 'safe'. nearby was a statue to commemorate those who died on this journey. again, this was all really deep and haunting stuff. i mean, it's not the stuff that adventure holidays are about, that's for sure. but, it's something that i - since reading the diary of anne frank as a young girl, am really interested in.

we walked around for a bit, trying to find a museum - any kind of museum, and on the walk, we finally (!) found us an original, pre-war building. derelict, yes, but original all the same. when i think of 'war time', these are the types of buildings i imagine. the outside was adorned with a tribute to... something, or, someone i should say, but we've not a clue who it was. oh, and we never found a museum. plenty of shopping to be had, but as soon as you consider learning something, well... you've not a chance.

so, we mostly wandered around. we headed to the cinema of all places, trying to kill some time and got speaking to the girl there who actually spoke a decent amount of english. we asked her where she would recommend a tourist to go, and she suggested... the shopping mall. i mean, come on. i know i mentioned it in the earlier posts, but, we didn't even manage to buy postcards in warsaw. there was not one single tourist shop or information centre. there were plenty of mcdonalds' and h&ms, but heaven forbid we want to commemorate our travel with the obligatory key chain. fun fact : i ended up having to but my key chain at the airport, so you can imagine how expensive it was. also, despite the fact we were in warsaw, the key chain says polski on one side, and krakov on the other. bummer.

so, we headed off to the airport early, and hung around, wasting away our polish currency until our plane finally turned up. it was not the most amazing holiday i'd ever had - sightseeing wise, but it was brilliant to be able to be the one to say i've been, and didn't like it. i get rave reviews from others who have been to krakov, so maybe that was our biggest problem - we went to the wrong place. all in all though, we had a wonderful stay in the lovely hotel, and were very lucky to have had the whole trip paid for thanks to my winnings from the groupon comp i'd won back around valentines day.

can't complain, eh? have you been to warsaw? what did you think?

please don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway with thanks to the oriental magpie too!

Add your comment

  1. While i've never been to Warsaw, I have been to Krakow and it sounds very similar - although they certainly play up the tourist aspect in Krakow. There too remains the Jewish ghetto and the original wall that surrounded it, for some reason I never expected people to still be living in them but they were and just a tiny plaque marks the wall. There's certainly an eerie feel to Krakow too at times, it seems caught in it's past a little too much (war time era) that it sadly can't escape but it's certainly worthy of a visit.

  2. I've never been but it looks like such an interesting place to visit! x

  3. Oh that's so disappointing, i really imagined it would be a great holiday (i love those kinds of places), and krakow is actually very high up on my list of places to go. xx


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