Our 2011 Eastern Europe Trip
Part 1 - Page 4

We left the grim monuments behind and went to Old Town Warsaw.

On the way to Old Town, I saw a truck with this picture on the door. It looked neat so I took a picture. Later on, I asked our guide how to pronounce the words and what they meant. She said something that sounded like a series of sneezes and said it meant "Municipal Garbage Collection" Who'da thunk it??

We'll visit the mermaid later...

This is Castle Square at the entrance to Old Town. On the left you can see a bit of the old wall surrounding the Old Town. This whole area has been completely rebuilt since WWII. The Nazis proclaimed that Warsaw was to be totally flattened after the Uprising.

The Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army to liberate Warsaw from the Nazis, ahead of the Red Army's advance. The rebellion coincided with the retreat of German forces and the Red Army's approaching the eastern suburbs of the city. Controversially, the Soviet advance stopped short, while Polish resistance against the German forces continued for 63 days with little outside support.

Although the exact number of casualties remains unknown, it is estimated that about 16,000 members of the Polish resistance were killed and about 6,000 badly wounded. In addition, between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians died, mostly from mass murders conducted by troops fighting on the German side. German casualties totaled over 8,000 soldiers killed and missing, and 9,000 wounded.

During the urban combat approximately 25% of Warsaw's buildings were destroyed. Following the surrender of Polish forces, German troops systematically leveled 35% of the city block by block. Together with earlier damage suffered in the invasion of Poland (1939) and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943), over 85% of the city was destroyed by January 1945, when the Soviets entered the city.

This is King Zygmut's Colomn in Palace Square (the Palace is behind the column). Sigismund's Column, erected in 1644, is one of Warsaw's most famous landmarks and one of the oldest secular monuments in northern Europe. The column and statue commemorate King Sigismund III Vasa, who in 1596 had moved Poland's capital from Kraków to Warsaw.

In September 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, the monument was demolished by the Germans, and its bronze statue was badly damaged. After the war the statue was repaired, and in 1949 it was set up on a new column, made of granite from the Strzegom mine, a couple of meters from the original site.

These two pictures: The top one showing the devastation in the Old Town in 1945 after the Nazis were driven out and the bottom showing the Old Town Square in 2011 after reconstruction. The destroyed square is in the middle of the upper picture. You can pick out the facades of the destroyed buildings in the reconstructed new square.

Nice guys, these Nazis!!

Here is another view the Old Town Square with the Mermaid sculpture. The mermaid, or syrenka, is the symbol of Warsaw. Images of a mermaid symbolized Warsaw on its crest since the middle of the 14th century.

Once upon a time lived two mermaids in the Baltic Sea. These half-fish, half-women were beautiful sisters who had spent their whole existence in the sea, before apparently getting bored of the life aquatic. One day they both decided to come ashore. The first sister headed up to the Danish straits, and so she sits at the entrance to the port of Copenhagen to this very day. The other sister swam first to the port of Gdansk, from where she decided to swim the river Vistula to its end. Fortunately for our story, the mermaid decided to rest on a sandy bank on the foot of what is today Warsaw's Old Town and, like oh so many ex-pats in the city, she loved it so much that she chose to stay.

Soon though, fishermen from the neighbouring village began to notice that someone was letting the fish out of their nets. Annoyed, they decided to capture the culprit and punish him. They didn't expect to find the mermaid, however, and as soon as they heard her beautiful voice, they vowed never to harm her (another reminder that men can be so easily swayed by a cute Polish chick). Soon, the mermaid would fill every evening with her gorgeous songs to the merriment of the villagers.

So the story goes...

TMary Ann was obviously impressed with the flowers outside an Old Town Square restaurant.

I was more impressed with this street musician. Notice the pavement. It is made up of 2 in. by 2 in. blocks of black or white stone. In every city we visited we saw the same pavement. There must be billions of them. I even found a "stray" one which I brought home (I don't know why).

One of GCT's Cultural highlights is "The Home Hosted Dinner". This dinner wes hosted by Magdalena, Jacek Mosur, and their expecting daughter (?) in their lovely home outside Warsaw.

This is Mary Ann, Mike and Lucille Plouffe, Diana Dunn from Brooklyn, NY and her daughter Kelly Duffy from Kennet Square, PA. We started our dinner with a toast of a special ice cold Polish vodka served in pretty thimble sized glasses: Bison Grass vodka that was flavored with a sprig of real bison grass. It was real tasty!!

Our menu included: A salad of deviled egg with goat cheese and spinach; Bonless chicken leg stuffed with apple, onion. zuccini and prune; cauliflower; and this layer cake and ice cream for dessert. Note the flags!

After dinner Edi, Heidi, and Mary Ann spent a few minutes in the Monsur's back yard before heading back to Warsaw.

(That's me reflected in the window behind Edi.)

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