Updated: Feb 2, 2019
Warsaw is not only the capital of Poland but also the largest city with population of about 1,8 million. It’s now a lively and energetic place with long history. In 1596, Warsaw became the capital of Poland (previously Cracow).
Divided, in a way, by Wisła (Vistula River) an ancient legend says, on the opposite banks of lived a boy named Wars and a girl Sawa – hence the name. The actual name probably came from a knight named Warsz, who owned villages in what now is Mariensztat, a district near the river.
Warsaw had suffered wars and destruction, the worst was the II WW. In April 1943 the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and 1944 the Warsaw Uprising were both crushed by Germans and resulted in deaths of over 500,000 (Poles and Jews) inhabitants of this proud city, the buildings and infrastructure was left in ruins. Imagine a once flourishing city without electricity, transport, bridges and almost total the Soviet army crossed the river in January 1945 and advanced towards Berlin.
Warsaw was slowly coming back to life. Streets were cleared of rubble, first shops and “snack bars” and reconstruction of the capital started. The Old and New Town with its picturesque Market Square was revitalized with great detail, is only 65 years old. Walking through the colorful and crowded streets you will now hardly notice that it was reconstructed 65 years ago.
I was born in 1955 in Warsaw and for 25 years lived on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, part of the Royal Way extending from the Old Town (Starówka in Polish) to the Belvedere and Łazienki Park. I still remember times, when there was more horse drawn cabs than cars, the ruins on the Royal Castle where we used to play “war” after school and people living in cellars on the left bank of Wisła. Some buildings were being reconstructed (The National Theatre and Opera) some parts had to be demolished to construct residential buildings. In some areas social realist architecture was introduced (Constitution Square and the Palace of Culture and Science).
I still love to stroll down Bednarska Street, a very steep one, towards my primary school next to the river, walk about in Mariensztat, where my school buddies lived. With Helena, my granddaughter and my dog, there is nothing that compares to this memory lane… well maybe the ice cream tastes better. This is the left bank Warsaw.
Praga, as it is generally called, on the right bank of the river and is somewhat different.
Fortunately, it did not suffer the tragic destruction as much as the opposite side of town. Saska Kępa, a quiet and beautiful residential area is still a genuine right bank Warsaw. It was, at the times of my youth, a relaxed and somewhat laid back. The trip on a tram, when we crossed the river, took only about ten minutes, but to me it was like going to another town. The ZOO, the National Stadium (could seat just under 100, 000 people and built in only 11 months) and the wild beaches (I remember even swimming it the river), those were the days when I was 10 years old.
Some say my town is not interesting compared to other places, some says the streets and people are not as exciting as anywhere else. I say – I love this town.
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