Warsaw is a fascinating city.
It was once a mecca of culture and beauty and nicknamed the Paris of the east. That was until the Nazi invasion of World War II and the massive persecution of the Jews that led to the Warsaw uprising. Hitler decided to completely level the city to set an example to others who may be thinking about being so bold to rebel.
85% of Warsaw’s buildings were destroyed and closer to 98% of the historic buildings were destroyed.
I had no idea the amount the destruction that happened in Warsaw. And that’s partly due to the amount of work that went into rebuilding. The historic town center was recreated by looking at old paintings, photos, and books describing the cityscape. Any surviving pieces of buildings were carefully preserved and reused in the construction of the new buildings wherever possible.
This has earned Warsaw the nickname Phoenix City.
What I find even more remarkable, was the period of rebuilding occurred under Soviet rule. After World War II, Poland became a part of the Soviet Union, who typically didn’t put a focus on aesthetics or historical preservation at all. But somehow, Warsaw was able to recreate it’s splendor during this time and has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the only UNESCO site that has been awarded as a reconstruction.
Warsaw is proud of its locals. The musician Chopin was born here. And while he spent much of his life outside of Poland, he still very much considered Warsaw his home. There are benches all around the city that play his music when a button is pushed.
During the summer months, they have free live concerts of his music for all to hear. I’m so glad we were there to catch one of the performances. It was really wonderful!
While there, we also took a really nice walking tour, found an Irish pub (no doubt!), and met an American Polka band. Like ya do.
Warsaw does a wonderful job of embracing the future while remembering its past. We had a quiet visit and didn’t take on too many tourist activities, but we had a very enjoyable time there.
Poland was a wonderful surprise and I would really love to return one day.