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Warsaw Rising

POLAND | Monday, 30 May 2011 | Views [477]

A four hour train trip in which I slept most of the way took me to Warsaw where I managed to bungle my way to Oki Doki Hostel with the aid of a googlemap photo on my camera. The huge glaring sign on the side of the building helped me find it. After dropping off my gear I hired a bike from the hostel and headed through the Old Town towards the riverfront. I didn’t really enjoy the trip though as my bike had crazy handlebars, no gears, one rear brake that worked by back-braking (which I haven’t done since I had a BMX as a kid), no helmet, and the traffic was so busy and unpredictable that I had to use the sidewalk (apparently everyone does) which was so packed that I ended up walking half the time. Warsaw is not the best place to cycle around. I gave up and headed back after only an hour on the streets. 

The following day I walked over to the Warsaw Rising Museum, which documents the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis in WWII. Unfortunately it is also the only museum in Warsaw that is closed on a Tuesday. Oh well, it was a nice walk. So I walked back to the Old Town, passing the only remaining Synagogue in the town. The “Old Town” is a misnomer, as it was all rebuilt after being razed to the ground by the Nazis in retaliation for the uprising when the Russians failed to back the people up as promised. The only part that dates back to before the war is the “Praga” suburb over the river, which unfortunately I didn’t manage to visit but was told by other people in the hostel was just a rundown area of the city. I saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visited the Royal Castle, where I fought my way through hordes of teenagers to see the rebuilt version dating all the way back to 1971. Turns out it was one of the first buildings the Nazis blew to Kingdom Come in response to the Warsaw Uprising. I then walked down the cobbled, realistically old-looking streets to the Marie Curie Museum: a museum set up in the apartment where she was born and filled with photos and memorabilia dedicated to this extremely gifted woman who was the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. Her daughters were also pretty smart and Irene Curie also went on to win a joint Nobel prize for her work in radioactivity. Overachieve much?

I had booked the overnight bus to Vilnius so with a day to kill I headed back to the Warsaw Rising Museum, where I spent 2-3hours learning about the war and its effects on Warsaw. There were 300,000 people in the city before the uprising and less than 1,000 after the bombing of the city. If only Russia had honoured her agreement to back up the rebels it may have had a different ending. The museum is amazing and definitely worth a visit to anyone with an interest in the war. After lunch in a park I walked down to the Park Lazienkowski where the Chopin statue and the “Palac na Wyspie” (Palace on the Water) are situated. I was treated to the spectacle of about 5 or 6 peacocks displaying, which was pretty cool to see. Stupid things. There is also a Chopin Museum since he came from here, but I had visited enough museums so decided to give it a miss. Instead I treated myself to a late lunch at a very non-Polish “Hard Rock Café”, where the quesliadas were amazing, as was the wall made out of electric guitars. 

Despite the hostel staff insisting Warsaw was safe to wander around in at night, I was a bit worried about walking to the bus-stop at 11pm by myself to catch the night bus. Fortunately I met a couple of American girls in the common room who were on the same bus and ended up joining them. There was a pretty impressive thunder and lightning storm while we were walking and the rain started to pelt down as we huddled under a tree at the outside bus-stop, doing our best impressions of Emperor Penguins as we attempted to shelter from the storm and cursed the bus for being late.  

Tags: cycling, marie curie, night bus, peacocks, warsaw rising museum

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