Monday, July 18, 2011

Warsaw’s spectacularly reconstructed Old Town : The Warsaw Diaries: Part I

Rick and I had thought of Warsaw as a stop between Krakow and Berlin, not a destination. We were wrong. Warsaw’s spectacularly reconstructed Old Town, dating from the early 13th century, and the adjacent New Town, dating from the early 15th century, definitely make a trip to Warsaw worthwhile. We wound up spending three days in Warsaw rather than two as originally planned thanks to being unable to get at a train reservation for Berlin. We had no idea that these reservations had to be made days in advance, so we wound up in Warsaw for 3 days.

Sometimes what at first might seem like a travel mini-disaster can turn out to be serendipitous. So it was with Warsaw. First, the hotelMamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw turned out to be one of the best we ever stayed in. With a first-rate French restaurant, I’m sure it would have cost twice as much in most European capitols. We had a large comfortable room with a small private patio. This turned out to be a real blessing, as Rick got sick and we spent a lot of time in that room—-Rick in bed and me on the patio reading. Despite my worry about Rick, I really enjoyed relaxing on that patio.
Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw

I was trying hard to repress my fear that Rick’s intestinal problems might be e. coli. We had been traveling during the time of the e. coli outbreak in Northern Germany and had been scrupulously avoiding cucumbers—-supposedly the source of e. coli bacteria. I avoided salad greens altogether except for gorging on bean sprouts. It turned out that the culprit was not cucumbers after all, but—-you guessed it--bean sprouts!

Despite eating all those bean sprouts, neither one of us was stricken by e. coli and Rick gradually began to recover. One of the downsides of travel (for me at least) is the constant pressure to be doing something. Here we were in Poland, a country we might never visit again. How could I justify hanging out for a bit, reading newspapers, checking email etc? The silver lining in Rick’s illness was that break from sight-seeing we’ve always found so hard to justify.

One of the many advantages of our beautiful hotel was that it was right on the edge of the historic district and Rick could venture out briefly, see some of the sites, and return to the hotel for another nap.
Street Scene in the Old Town

The historic district was truly amazing. The Nazis destroyed the entire district at the end of the war. The Red Army was advancing and the Nazis decided to destroy Warsaw out of pure vindictiveness, rather than for any strategic reason. According to the guide on our half-day city tour, Goebbels claimed that Warsaw had been so reduced to rubble that it could never be rebuilt.

The Poles rose to the challenge and achieved a spectacular reconstruction of the historic district. We had seen the reconstructed town square in Frankfurt (Main), and it was so obviously a fake we came to the conclusion that such reconstruction could not be done. The best that could be hoped for would be a Disneyworld facsimile. The Polish restorers proved us wrong!

No comments:

Post a Comment