New Town/Old Town/Memorials

G'day. Ferg & Darryl here again. We had a great night last night catching up with Tony, a guy that we met on the plane coming from London to Warsaw. He had made a comment on the blog so we invited him over to our hotel for dinner and laughed a lot. The conversation was wide-ranging and entertaining. Ferg reckons we stayed up too late but I think he's just getting old. Wuss.

Yesterday we took it easy, recovering from the long trip. Today we started to get to know the city. Believe it or not it was supposed to be 38 degrees today. The Poles complained but I enjoyed a nice reminder of what home is supposed to be like.

Thanks to Margaret from Accessible Poland for organising Anna to be our tour guide for today. Anna took us on a four hour walk with through the New Town, the Old Town and the memorials to the Jewish Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising during World War II. The whole area was pretty well destroyed and has been rebuilt. The New Town (it only dates back to the 15th Century) was rebuilt in a variety of traditional styles over a few decades starting in the 1950s. The Old Town was reconstructed brick by brick to look and feel the same as it was before the war. It has World Heritage status not because it's the most beautiful (although it is lovely) but because of the huge national effort involved in restoring it.

I really enjoyed looking at all the architectural features of the buildings and we were amazed at how many churches there were. The guide had planned to take us into one of the churches, particularly to see artwork on the doors but there was a funeral in progress for one of the priests who served at the church. I felt very uncomfortable being in the entrance with the guide telling us about the doors and a story about Pope John Paul II while the funeral was going on. Ferg says the string quartet was beautiful but I wasn't really paying attention; I was more focused on getting out of there.

We had a bit of a WWII history lesson. It's hard to believe the things that happened here just over 50 years ago. It was really emotionally challenging learning about the ghetto and how the Jewish people were herded in there and treated so terribly. And then worse things happened. Going down the memorial road where so many people made the last walk down to the train yards to be taken to the death camps for execution was an emotional time for me.

The story of the Warsaw Uprising that led to the destruction of this whole part of the city was another mind-boggler. The Polish people are certainly very resilient. I love this place and its people.

When we got back to our hotel we caught up with Margaret on Skype. She's trying to make sure we don't get bored but I'm not feeling at all worried about that. Many people (including several here in Poland) questioned, "Why Warsaw?" but it is a fascinating place and I feel really comfortable here.

I've been surprised how accessible the city is and how much it has embraced the idea of making buildings accessible. The footpaths are generally quite ok for wheelchairs, if a bit bumpy sometimes but what can you expect from cobblestones? The other thing that I've surprised about is how many people use crutches (the ones that go half way up your arm and you hold on to a handle). At home they would probably use scooters/gophers. It is almost normal to have some kind of assistance for walking. Quite strange but not in a bad way.

We had a great lunch/dinner at an Italian restaurant. Yet again our waitress was beautiful. This place has an oversupply of beautiful women.

After dinner we went for another big walk down to the end of our street and into a big park that used to be private property which is now owned by the State. We were enjoying wandering around when we stumbled on this amazing mansion in the middle of it. I told Ferg it was mój dom (my house). I don't know why he didn't believe me.

You've probably glazed over by now. It is nearly nine pm and still daylight. Lovely!

We need to head off now and take a glass back to "Aussie Dom". We will have to tell you about him some time.


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