Destroyed by the Austrians, destroyed again by the Germans and then totally taken over by the Soviets, it is surprising that Warsaw survived; and it almost didn't. However, instead of moving the capital city, the Soviets decided to rebuild. In fact, everything in the old town is rebuilt exactly as it was, at least on the outside.
Only a few buildings survived: interestingly, a Catholic church in the Jewish ghetto, another Catholic church in the town square and a synagogue along with a handful of other buildings.
The rest of the town was rebuilt in the spare "communistic" or Soviet style except for lavish Stalin's Palace, which is now a cultural center. It is such a huge, imposing building, it fits Stalin's image perfectly. After the end of the Soviet occupation, some wanted to destroy this temple to communism, but it is quite an architectural marvel and the tallest building in Poland so it stands today. It is a cultural hall, with several museums, several theaters, concert halls, and a swimming pool. Read more.
We then visited a very tiny museum that housed a replica of a soviet-area apartment that would have housed a family of four. At just 450 square feet, it was a very small efficiency apartment with tiny appliances along one wall, a bathroom, small bedroom for the children, while the parents slept in the small living area on a pull-out couch or Murphy bed.
As we walked the streets, our guide warned us to watch for bicycles as they have the right of way on sidewalks and streets. As she said, "They are like cows in India; they can do no wrong and are protected."
For food, we were now sick of pierogies, so we ate Italian at a small al fresco cafe, run by a family. The young man who served us, around 15, was so cute and barely spoke English but he had a shy smile and was quite attentive. Tom tipped him 20% and the look on his face was priceless. The food: Fantastic!
Tomorrow we leave Poland for Berlin, Germany.
Click on a picture to enlarge.