Our 2011 Eastern Europe Trip
Part 1 - Page 3

This is the imfamous "Checkpoint Charlie" that separated East and West Berliners between 1961 and 1990. There were two other Berlin border crossings Checkpoint Alpha and Checkpoint Bravo. The current sandbagged building is a replica of one of the earlier guardhouses.
Checkpoint Charlie has become one of Berlin's primary tourist attractions. An open-air exhibit was opened during the summer of 2006. Gallery walls along the Friedrichstraße and the Zimmerstraße inform on escape attempts, how the checkpoint was expanded, and its significance during the Cold War, in particular the confrontation of Soviet and American tanks in 1961.

Tourists can have their photographs taken for a fee with actors dressed as allied military policemen standing in front of the guard house. Several souvenir stands and stores are nearby, as well.

After a long day traipsing around Berlin, Mary Ann and I took the U-Bahn back to the Ramada. When we emerged from the U-Bahn station it was pouring. We hoisted our 'brellas and made it to this restaurant. It was warm, cozy and dry. While we were there, another couple of GCT'er on our tour showed up (pictures later). We had a nice dinner together cosisting of roast pork, red cabbage, dumplings and Kindl Pilsenr.

The next morning our group went to the "Hauptbahnhof" to catch the Berlin to Warsaw train. Most of our group were placed in compartments, but 6 of us ended up in coach. It turned out OK because we had several hours of dozing, laughing, and bonding which lasted us throughout our trip.

All along the way to Warsaw we saw Polish farms, forests, villages, churches, and lots of countryside. Everything seemed well tended. The farms seemed to be productive and reasonably prosperous.

I was one of the "chosen" in our group to keep an eye on our baggage at the Warsaw RR Station. The baggage handlers were like a bunch of clowns in a Polish 3 ring circus. They may have been a little drunk because they were dropping things, stumbling around, and yeling at each other (in Polish, of course.) The only time they looked sober as when this picture was taken. The second guy from the right was the spitting image of Mary Ann's uncle Charlie Burzenski.
In the end, we (and our luggage) made it to our rooms at the Raddison at 4PM. Edi showed where we could get Zlotys and we relaxed a bit before dinner.

This is where we ate on our first evening in Warsaw: The Folk Gospoda. It was very rustic!, but cozy.

It's time to introduce some folks. On the left is Claire Tuttle, from Boston, We're next. On the far right is Mike and Lucille Plouffe from Wethersfield, CT. Us and those 3 folks and one more person Heidemarie Kugler (AKA Heidi) from Santa Rosa, CA (in inset) spent a lot of time together. We hung out with others in our tour group, but always seemed to drift back to our same small group. It's the group we were with on the train from Berlin.

In a tour with 38 people, you have to break into smaller groups in order to get a tables in restaurants and to walk around town (when we were not on a guided tour event).

By the way, we had pork and cabbage with Warka Beer (from one of Poland's oldest breweries). One interesting food item: The bread was served with lard mixed with bacon instead of butter. No one thought it was very good!

We were entertained by a group of Polish folk musicians and singers. They were very loud, but everyone in the restaurant seemed to enjoy their show.

I guess they have a lot of folks who can't read Polish visiting their restaurant. That must be why the bathroom doors have these pictures instead of "Men" and "Women".

This is the Palace of Culture and Science. It is the tallest building in Poland, the eighth tallest building in the European Union. From 1955 to 1957 it was the tallest building in Europe. The building was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, but in the wake of destalinization the dedication to Stalin was revoked; Stalin's name was removed from the interior lobby and one of the building's sculptures. It is now the 187th tallest building in the world.

Construction started in 1952 and lasted until 1955. A "gift" from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland, the tower was constructed, using Soviet plans, almost entirely by 3500 workers from the Soviet Union, of whom 16 died in accidents during the construction.

As the city's most visible landmark, the building was controversial from its inception. Many Poles initially hated the building because they considered it to be a symbol of Soviet domination, and at least some of that negative feeling persists until today.

The building currently serves as an exhibition center and office complex. It is 757 ft tall which includes the height of the spire. There are 3288 rooms on 42 floors, with an overall area of 1,323,960 ft², containing cinemas, theaters, museums, offices, bookshops, a large conference hall for 3000 people, and an accredited university.

Need to know anymore??

This is the Belvedere Palace. This place is a bit more modest than the Palace of Culture. The President of the Republic of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, presently resides here.

You may know of Belvedere Vodka. "The world's first super premium vodka. Distilled exclusively from the finest rye and quadruple distilled." It is produced in Poland in the town of Zyrardów and the Palace is depicted on the fancy bottle.

Here are statues of two famous Poles: Marshal Joseph Pilsudski and Frédéric Chopin. Both are in Lazienki Park near the Belvedere Palace.

Pilsudski (1867 – 1935) was a Polish statesman—Chief of State (1918–22), "First Marshal" (from 1920), and authoritarian leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic. From mid-World War I he had a major influence in Poland's politics, and was an important figure on the European political scene. He is considered largely responsible for Poland's regaining its independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions.

Chopin (1810 – 1849) was a Polish composer, virtuoso pianist, and music teacher of French–Polish parentage. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music. He is also known as "the poet of the piano".

On a more somber note. Here is a monument commemorates the tens of thousands who lost their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. It was designed by sculptor Nathan Rappaport and made of granite which the Nazis imported from Sweden, ironically to build their own victory tower. The front of the monument has a bronze relief depicting a group of insurgents and the leader of the uprising Mordacai Anielewicz, who stands with a grenade in his hand.

This is This is the back of the "Uprising" monument. It shows Jewish men, women, children and a rabbi being led to their deaths in the concentration camps. Nuf said...

Our Warsaw city guide is on the right. I've misplaced her name. Sorry!

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