Warsaw / 3 New Historic City
The capital city of Poland was razed to the floor by the Nazi Verbrennungs- und Vernichtungskommando (“Burning and Destruction Detachments”) after the uprising in late Summer 1944. While the Red Army was waiting outside the city, the Home Army was defeated after 65 days of battle. Ignoring the terms of capitulation Hitler ordered the expulsion of what remained of the population and destroyed 85% of the city, including the historic city center and the Royal Castle.
What we visit today is the result of the largest reconstruction project ever completed in the world. The whole historic city center (since 1980 listed among the Unesco World Heritage Sites) including its monuments is nothing but a careful replica of what it used to be before WWII. Visiting Warsaw you have to visit the historic city center and see how it works, apparently just like the original would do. It is the largest pedestrian area in the city, plenty of public buildings, restaurants and cafes, people walking and animating the space with all kind of public activities. In my Sunday walk I met a lot of polish families strolling down the city center, tourists, a political demonstration and the commemoration of some religious event, classical music (probably Chopin) in an open air cafe and many other small events that make this city center a lively and livable place.
Staying at a hotel in the so-called Centrum, which is actually a traffic loaded roundabout, I had to walk a while to reach the historic City centre, experiencing the juxtaposition of all kind urban spaces and building styles: reconstruction of ancient Churches, large prefabricated housing estates, rests of the old ghetto evidence of tragic events, public monuments and gardens from the communist era, contemporary office buildings, old comunist hotels refurbished by the western chains, esplanades etc.