Warsaw Diary – the scenes and places

October 1, 2005

still there is nothing to indicate that four, five or six times victorious armies had marched through the city (unless you go and look for it in the museums). the cafes shone with elegant women. the trim and slender officers like practised actors impersonating soldiers than like fighters. everywhere one sense activity and confidence and ….. (other things which i don’t know at this point)… which had risen so vigorously from the ashes of the centuries.
here i am, standing on the top of notorious palac kultury i nauki. the building which automatically wins in the “most attention demanding structure in a european capital” category. this massive, city-like tower stands at the center of the capital of the largest country in new europe. it’s been called freaky huge. the panorama is beautiful, one feel like being able to see all warsaw or maybe all poland from here. i think if i brought a pair of binoculars i could have seen the entire europe ;-))) that would have saved me a lot of traveling and fare ;-))) it was built in 1955 as joseph stalin’s “gift” to warsaw, the palace of culture and science still stands as the tallest structure in the city as well as in all of poland. at over 234 meters, this bad boy still has the upper hand on all of its modern neighbors – thanks god i didn’t measure it, was just thinking whoever has done it must have had quite a lot of fun or in another words it must have been a communist with a good sense of fun and adventure – oh look!!! there is another building called ‘marriott’ trying to compete, but i don’t think so. if you come and stand here at the top you would think non of these modern glass structures will make it this high.
oh and by the way, the tower is standing on the largest square in europe (that is a big statement to make, since i haven’t been to many european cities, but that is what i have been told and i am telling you. you can always not believe it)
i think it was makar shnip a friend of mine telling me the poles had a big debate whether to keep or destroy it in the beginning of 90s as a sign to refuse communism and its gift. but i think they decided to keep it.

a female friend was saying it’s a very boy-ish symbol, and often polish girls discuss among themselves that they will put a condemn on it ;-)) i love the idea; i’ll definitely take picture of that and send it to you.
i love the confidence in young poles. the good sense of time, the past is the past, and warsaw is where the future is being shaped. there is a great interest in whatever they are doing. i am not saying there is no whinging. there is quite some of that; i was warned about it when i was coming and on the first few days of our introductory course pan piotr enlightened us about it with a great emphasize on the polish synonym for it; i think it’s something like “narzekają”.


warsaw is a very expensive city comparing with other polish cities, poles come from far and wide to make their fortune; centered around marshal street and solidarity avenue, warsaw is the business capital and where trends are set. it is also the academic centre of the country, warsaw’s is the country’s leading university, and its offshoots, such as the school of economics and political science, are leaders in their fields. the lively student population numbers some 150,000 alone.
warsaw university, where i study, has over 60000 students including quite a substantial number of international students. established in 1816 uw offers courses of studies in 35 fields of arts and sciences. it comprises 18 faculties and 25 independent research and didactic units. it probably has one of the largest numbers of phd scholars in europe. i visited the faculty of oriental studies, where i will be based. i’ll do oriental media studies – not quite sure what that is.

the faculty has extensive farsi classes and lectures and since it’s establishment (don’t know when) it has graduated around 60 students with ma degrees on afghan and iranian history and culture, some of whom speaks better farsi than i do. i was wondering how many people in kabul would speak better polish than a pole. but i figured it out – i will ;-))
on the other hand, warsaw is an immensely moving place to connect with the past. the rebuilt city centre is the old town with its proud royal castle. in addition, the former jewish ghetto is a stark reminder of the unforgiving hand of history.
the old town in the heart of warsaw resembles to a quaint provincial town or one feel being in a city of 17th century – a fortified town of modest stature. warsaw was founded by the dukes of this region of poland, mazovia, in the late 12th century. their castle, which was transformed into the royal seat in 1569, was the most important edifice and it remains the focus of the area to this day.
it’s very elegantly rebuilt and it’s hard to think 98% of it was destroyed. life is slower in the old town. it gets slower in the paintings you see in the old town squire; paintings of feasts and palaces of 15 century exposes life much slower. it’s good to see that as it makes one think we always haven’t been jumpy. fragments of the old city walls still survive, and within the old town there are many landmarks, including the historic cathedral of st. paul’s. the wall surrounding the old city was destroyed during warsaw uprising and the communist didn’t build it for quite a while; it was built in the last days of communist regime by a special order from the chief of polish communist party. it’s told he was strolling in the presidential palace garden which is a cross the river and he saw st. paul and all these other gigantic churches with their shining crosses; that’s when he ordered he doesn’t wanna see those crosses again and the wall should be built around it to conceal them. he hated the religion more than his fear of another upraise.
also went to the museum of history in the old town and watched warsaw’s wartime tales. one can fail to be touched with the sheer power of the ancient city in having overcome all the odds to rise once again from rubbles.
loved the royal castle, i think after its construction was completed in the 60s or maybe beginning of 70s it was included on the unesco list.
the sigismond column is also quite noticeable as you get to the palace. i think kind sigismond iii moved the capital from krakow to warsaw. and the typical situation, krakovians doesn’t like him very much and i bet there is no sigismond column in krakow.
from the edge you could see a straight shot down krakowskie przedmiescie or across the wisla river a nice view of praga and the swietokrzyski bridge. krakowskie przedmiecie is the street where my university is located. i’ve got some shots of this view.
for a change there are also great places out of city center. the lazienski park area, with its palaces and gardens, is a favourite with poles and foreigners alike, as is wilanow, i think i’ve got pictures of wilanow.

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