A guided tour of Warsaw in the morning before boarding the night sleeper train for Brest, Minsk, Smolensk and Moscow (the same route that was followed in 1941).
Opposite our hotel stands the People’s Palace, a generous fraternal gift from Stalin to the people of Warsaw (although they didn’t have too much say in it since they were under Russian occupation at the time).
Warsaw was a pleasant surprise. Fredric Chopin was born here and they’re rather pleased about that. There’s a huge statue of him in the Central Park. In summer they set up a piano next to the statue and play his music for free while people picnic amongst the pink and white roses.
Even more fun though is that scattered throughout the city centre are public benches that play music by Chopin on demand when a button is pressed. A musical bench! What a great idea.
We walked through the lovely park, stopped to hand feed the red squirrels and the birds (as you do) before stopping at the Water Palace. The lake was frozen which the ducks were indignant about but it’s a beautiful area.
There’s an undercurrent of sadness about the city. Poland has been a historical punchbag for other nations. The central area and old town were almost completely destroyed by the Nazis following the Jewish Ghetto uprising in 1943 and the Polish uprising a year later. What wasn’t destroyed in the fighting was dynamited and burned afterwards. The Poles were executed on the spot and these plaques are scattered around the city remembering those killed.
The large Jewish population was initially confined to the Ghetto before being transported to and then murdered at the camps at Treblinka and Auschwitz. This monument remembers them.
After all this, back to the hotel to warm up before the mid afternoon departure to Moscow. I’ll do a separate post about the train but I’ll need hotel internet to post it. My mobile phone service has no agreement with Russia so it’s ‘Roaming OFF’ from here on in.