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26 Sept – Warsaw

We followed some walks in tourist brochure, starting in the south working our way up to the old town. Wandering through Ujazdowskie and Lazienkowski parks passing by the Botanical Gardens created in the 18th century, the Old Orangerie designed in 1788, monument dedicated to Frederic Chopin, the offices of Poland Prime Minister, the Belweder – former Presidential residence now a place of privacy for visiting heads of state, Palace on the Water and Island Palace in the Royal Lazienki park, a 76 hectare park regarded as one of the most impressive garden complexes in Europe. This area is also lined with former palaces now grand embassies.

Keeping on moving we wandered past the Seym and Senate, monument to the Home Army. We passed St. Alexander’s Church, which resembles another rather well known building – it was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome.

We wandered in to the Financial Centre – previous HQ of the Polish United Worker’s Party, now the Stock Exchange, had some lunch and headed further north past the National Museum, up Nowy Swiat (New World Street) the most elegant shopping street in Warsaw – no time for shopping got to keep on trucking.

On to the Ostrogskich Palace, now home to the Frederic Chopin Society, past the Church of the Holy Cross (with figure of Jesus Christ carrying his Cross) and home to the hearts (actual body part hearts that is!) of Chopin and Stanislaw Reymont, past the gates to Warsaw University to the Namiestnikowski Palace built in the second half of the 17th Century, home to aristocratic families now the Presidential Palace.

From the Palace we continued up Krakowskie Przedmiescie one of the most historical streets in Warsaw to the Mickiewicz Monument commemorating 100th anniversary of the birth of Poland’s greatest poet.

From here we wandered up to Pitsudski Square where we watched the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb is what is left of the Saxon Palace arcades built during the reign of August II and was designed in 1925. The ashes of an unknown Polish solider, who was killed fighting against the Russians were placed here. Behind the tomb is the beautiful Saxon Garden created in 1727, it was the first public park in Warsaw.

After taking a well earned breather in the greens of Saxon Garden we headed towards Theatre Square home to Blanka Palace where in 1944 the Warsaw Uprising poet, Baczynski was killed, the Grand Theatre home to the National Opera and Theatre.

From Theatre Square it was on to St. Ann’s Church built on the high banks of the Vistula in 1454. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, which seems to be a theme with many of the old buildings in this part of Europe.

From St. Ann’s we headed towards the days main destination – the Old Town one of the most picturesque places in Warsaw. This area was reconstructed after its total destruction by the Germans during W.W.II. It is now on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Along the way we saw the King Zygmunt III Column, dedicated to Zygmunt III Waza who made Warsaw the Capital of Poland. From ‘the column’ we wandered over to the Royal Castle, which was to be Tash’s highlight, all she has wanted to see is a castle, hmm, this wasn’t what she had in mind, its kinda more like a Palace then a castle, so she was a little bummed out. The castle dates back to the 17th and 18th Century and was completely destroyed by the Germans after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The reconstruction under the post-war Communist regime was done by voluntary work and private subscriptions from Poland and abroad. It took fifty years and was officially completed in 1984.

We headed up Swietojanska street past St. John’s Church, one of the oldest in Warsaw and where the oath of the Constitution of the 3rd May 1791 was sworn. From St. John’s we passed a little ‘hole in the wall’ ice cream shop and figured we had earned a treat. A soft serve two tone (vanilla and chocolate) ice cream was the order of the day and oh boy were the not just the best ice creams ever! It wasn’t soft serve like home but real ice cream and the chocolate was yummy!! So devouring our ice creams we pass the UNESCO World Heritage seal and arrive at the Old Town – yay.

The square is home to restaurants and cafes, souvenir stands, museums and even horse and cart ride. In the middle of the square is a Bronze statue of the Mermaid of Warsaw – the emblem of the city. We leave the old town headed for the Barbican constructed in 1548 as part of the 1200m long city wall defences.

On our way to the river we passed the Marie Curie-Sklodowska museum and the Church of our Lady Mary, where we stood on the Kosciuszko banks of the Vistula River admiring the beautiful colours of the forest opposite with the autumn leaves started to show.

We left the river behind and started making our way home via the Warsaw Uprising Monument, created for the 45th Anniversary of the uprising that broke out on 1st August 1944 and lasted 63 days. German forces were too strong for the civilians and with the Russian forces holding the east banks of the river failing to come to their aid some 200,000 Polish people died as a consequence. From the Uprising we headed for the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, expressing the tragedy of the Ghetto and also dedicated to the Uprising heroes. Around this area the boundaries of the ghetto are marked with black basalt stones.

We stopped for kebab for dinner, which sounding easy enough is funnily enough not. Whilst the word kebab is universal trying to explain what you want, or don’t for that matter can get interesting. Tonight we did the “we’ll have what he had”, and whilst very yummy, man was the chilli sauce hot!

We stopped for a few pics of the Palace of Science and Culture, which looks like it belongs in Gotham City, before heading home.

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