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Longer Latitude Journey behind the Ironic Curtain

Warsaw: Exploring Jerusalem, the New World and the King's Muzeum

POLAND | Wednesday, 23 December 2015 | Views [333]

Procession on Royal Route II

Procession on Royal Route II

If you walk east from Warsawa Centralna on Al. Jerozolimskie you will eventually reach Rondo Charles De Gaulle (monument to De Gaulle). The rondo is easy to spot, in the middle is the only (artificial) palm tree in the city! Turn left here and you'll find yourself in Nowy Swiat (Pol: New World). Nowy Swiat is a seminal street in Warsaw, linking the northern and southern ends of the city centre.

Ulica Nowy Swiat has the best array and variety of places to eat and shop (non-souvenir) in Warsawa. It is not however renowned only as an eat street, it is the conduit to the historic sections of Warsaw - the Old Town & the Royal Palace. Half way up the street is a monument to the great astronomer Kopernika, about here the street changes name into Krakowskie Przedmieście and we start to get the official government buildings, the main universities, the president's official residence and the Parliament (watch out for the five man-guard of honour in front of the Sejm). Near the presidential mansion is a public bench that classily plays Chopin whilst you recline on it.

Plac Królewski (the Royal Plaza) is a huge square (strictly speaking roughly triangular in shape) smack bang in the epicentre of historic Warsaw. The first night I walked down to the Square it was blocked off because there was a police "charity run" all along Podwale and up into the Royal Route. Historically royal processions went from the Square south to King Jan III's Wilanów Palace. Plac Królewski is awash with people streaming from one side to the other, many heading for the Royal Castle. Up from the Castle a guy was demonstrating a tennis trainer gadget he was trying to flog to the passing punters. On the restaurant side of the Square stands Kolumna Zygmunta. The 22m high column is both a landmark and the popular meeting place for Varsovians. We met up here for some of the walking tours. Just across from the Column I noticed a motley parade leaving the Square, those marching were decked out in all sort of exotic 'clobber', bunch of mainly old guys with sheathed swords, some in flowing Cossack-like outfits, also some veterans in old Communist military-style uniforms Not sure what it was about, perhaps it was a historical anniversary of some kind, whatever ... they all seemed to be enjoying the fancy dress! 

Zamek Królewski is the symbolic entrance to the Old Town and its most monumental building. The Baroque-style castle facade, 90 long with a prominent central tower faces on to Castle Square. Like most of Warsaw the Royal Castle has had an extremely chequered history, having been the target of various invading armies (Swedish, Prussian, German, Brandenburgian and Russian) since the Middles Ages. Destroyed during WWII it was reconstructed through voluntary donations. The Castle for most of its existence was the centre of national power, the official residence of the Dukes of Masovia, Polish kings and the Parliament (Sejm). Nowadays it is a museum with many exquisite rooms, royal apartments and chambers, the best of which include the Throne Room, the Marble Room and the golden Great Assembly Hall. The hall and the royal apartments vividly recall the interior of Versailles. Pride of place among the art works are two portraits by Rembrandt kept behind glass. You need to watch out for them though as they located right at the end of the exhibitions near the exit-point, and if you are feeling a bit jaded after all the other art on display, you may slip out without spotting the Old Dutch Master's pieces.

Tags: city tour, museums

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