Tag Archives: Warsaw

Poland Day 3: Day of Rememberence

The Warsaw Tourist Office published a great set of walking tours to explore Warsaw Judaica. Today we spent the whole day, walking through what was the Warsaw Ghetto, learning the history and thinking about Ellen’s grandmother’s family.

From the guide: “The outbreak of World War II marked the end of the world known so far to the Warsaw Jews. Occupation authorities ordered them to wear the Star of David, and outlined the area where they could live. In October 1940, the Germans established a ghetto and locked 350,000 people identified as Jews behind its walls. Jews crammed into the ghetto were decimated by disease, hunger and increasing repression by the Nazis. On July 22, 1942, the Germans started the so-called “Great Deportation” of the Jews to the death camps. After the deportation, tens of thousands of people remained in the ghetto. There was a decision on armed struggle. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising broke out on April 19. 1943. Jewish fighters were not adequately equipped or trained, but still they put up prolonged resistance. The result, however, was doomed. The symbolic gesture of suppression of the uprising was blowing up the Great Synagogue on May 16, 1943.”

For a city mostly destroyed in World War II, Warsaw still has glimpses of what life was like during that time. Warsaw was 1/3 Jewish at the time. 90% of the Jews died in the ghetto of starvation or disease, or were murdered by the Nazis here or in concentration camps. And this was only 70 years ago. Impossible to comprehend.

We started by finding the street Ellen’s grandmother’s family lived on, Sliska Street, right near a present day mall. We then started the walking tour, finding remnants of the ghetto walls in a courtyard between apartment buildings.
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In other places, you saw traditional remembrances of stones and yahrzeit candles.

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Like in Berlin, there are markings on the ground where the ghetto walls stood.

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We visited the Jewish Cemetery, which dates back to 1806. It alone is a testament to the history of Jews in Warsaw. It is unlike any cemetery I have been to. I included a post of a number of pictures separately. Here is a representative view.
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There were a number of other memorials we saw along the way.

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We ended the tour on a positive note One synagogue, the Nozyk Synagogue survived the war. We walked all around the building, and finally found an open door. The attendant told us we could enter for 6 zloty each ($2). We walked in. I went to the pulpit and recited the Shehecheyanu and the Shema. Nazis may have killed millions of Jewish Poles, but a Jew from Bethesda was standing in a synagogue there again.

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After 13.5 miles on Ellen’s FitBit and an emotional day, we decided only a burger would do. Warsaw is full of burger places, but Brooklyn Burgers get the best reviews. So that’s where we ate. Exhausted from two full days of walking, we are hoping to sleep well, before renting a car and moving on tomorrow.


Poland Day 2: Warsaw, Old City and New City

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We let Rick Steves be our guide today, and walked 12.5 miles according to Ellen’s FitBit. Here’s how the day went.

Our hotel includes breakfast, so we ate a good meal to start the day. We walked from our hotel to Nowy Świat, a wide boulevard of shops and restaurants. We first came to the Tomb of the Unknown.

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It led us up to the Polish Academy of Science and a statue of Copernicus.

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One of the most amazing sites was a sculpture in the Church of the Holy Cross. Besides having Chopin’s heart (what is it with Europe and body parts?), there was an amazing statue of Pope Saint John Paul II, where he is emerging from the stone. Really something to see.

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We wandered onto the campus of Warsaw University, where Ellen was thrilled that I made a friend.

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We took a tour of the Royal Castle, which is featured at the top of this post. Like 99% of Warsaw, it was destroyed in World War II, so we were looking at a reconstruction. Much of the old city struck us as looking like a Disneyland street, it had that feel of being “new old,” and looked a little too neat and orderly. Such is the price of having your city destroyed by the Germans and “saved” by the USSR.

We had lunch on the old town square, pizza and pasta. We continued into the new town, which means it was outside the original city walls, but established in the 15th century. These are the times you realize we have almost no history in the USA.DSC_0071

 

Madame Curie was from Poland, and we happened by her museum. Loved the exterior.

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We made it back to the hotel around 6pm, allowing ourselves to rest our feet for an hour before heading out to dinner. The first restaurant we chose from TripAdvisor wasn’t there, so we went back along our walking route from this morning. We searched TripAdvisor again and selected Specjaly Regionalne. We shared duck pierogies as an appetizer, Ellen had roasted duck and I had beef goulash. Our waiter had lived in the US (Fort Myers, FL) for 7 years and enjoyed talking to us about the States.

Some more wandering and then home for the night. Tomorrow, the Jewish ghetto. Ellen’s grandmother was from Warsaw, one of 12 children and the only member of  her 50 person extended family to escape before the Holocaust.


Poland Day 1: Shaky Start, Fine Travel Day Finish

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With a solid month of preparing our house for sale, this vacation came at a time when we needed a break. I’ve had moments of brain overload, trying to balance work, buying a house, selling a house and a wedding in less than 2 months.

That overload manifested itself 10 minutes after leaving the house, when on the Beltway just before River Road, I realized I had left my wallet in my work pants. Not too far to get back, but it cost us 25 minutes. We then had to drop Colby off at Seneca Hill in Great Falls and ran into rush hour traffic on Georgetown Pike. After Colby was all set, back into traffic to get to the airport. Ellen was stressed from the delays, so I dropped her off at Dulles and then parked the car and got to the airport myself. Boarding passes, security, transport to the gate, all went smoothly, and we were able to relax in the lounge for awhile before it was time to board.

Having used miles for this trip, we flew to London in business class on British Airways. It was our first time in the lie flat seating, and we it was so worth it!! We both skipped dinner and just slept. We arrived at Heathrow around 9am, and had 5 hours to wait. There wasn’t much to do except use the limited free wifi, read our Kindles and wait. 2pm was our flight to Warsaw, and we both slept again.

Arriving in Warsaw, the trip finally was starting for real. Immigration and luggage were easy. We found an ATM to get Polish currency. And for those looking forward to a long drawn out story on securing SIM cards, you’ll be sadly disappointed. We went into a Relay convenience store at the airport, bought 2 Plus cards for $5 each, and they worked without a hitch, giving us each 1gb for such a low price!

Next challenge was figuring out how to get bus tickets for the 175 bus into town. We had money, but found a ticket machine that couldn’t issue paper tickets. The bus came, but the driver communicated that we needed coins. Back to the airport, found another ticket machine, but a woman told me the credit card reader wasn’t working. Found third ticket machine, got the info in English, but didn’t know what zone we needed. A taxi dispatcher nearby helped me, and for $3 for 2 tickets, we were set. The bus took us right into town, about a block from our hotel.

In Warsaw, we are staying at the Polonia Palace Hotel. It’s quite nice and in a great location.

Dropped our luggage, pulled up TripAdvisor (Yelp reviews were all in Polish), and picked a restaurant nearby. Used the great Tripadvisor feature again that points you in your direction with a compass and the distance to your destination. It is great! We ate at the Restauracja Zaścianek. It was advertised as a small restaurant where mom cooks the food fresh for you, and that’s exactly what it was! We each had perogies for appetizers.

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Ellen had a pork cutlet, I had chicken for dinner. It was a really good meal, home cooking for less than $40. If you have a chance, eat here!

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After dinner, we wandered over to a mall next to the train station, just to people watch and get a sense of the neighborhood. we went into a grocery store, one of Ellen’s favorite things in a foreign country. We went back to the hotel, and watched the first half of the US-Belgium World Cup match at the bar. Came up to the room to watch the rest and figure out what to do tomorrow.