The drive from Czestochowa to Warsaw is totally unremarkable. The highway is top quality and the traffic usual for the developed world. We arrive in the late afternoon just as dusk is falling on the day. Our first impressions of Warsaw will be made after dark and it turns out to be a great time to get those first impressions.
The first thing we cannot help but notice in Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science. The way it’s lit is stunning, particularly as it is contrasted against the modern building behind it. It’s pure Warsaw. A city that has rebuilt and redefined itself repeatedly throughout history never giving in on its independence and character. To put the stories of the next couple of days into perspective, Warsaw was razed to the ground during WW2 (not for the first time in the city’s history). The buildings you see here today did not exist anymore just seven decades ago. It’s a testament to the spirit of the Poles that they refuse to be defeated. It makes me think of the South Koreans and the way they have rebuilt their country after the Korean War.
The Palace of Culture and Science was a gift from Stalin to the people of Warsaw at a time when Poland was still occupied by the Soviets. At the fall of communism and independence of Poland, there was talk about dismantling this remnant of occupation. But instead it was retained. I love the juxtaposition of the socialist structure against the modern capitalist one. It speaks to me.
Just as they have been in other cities, the Christmas lights and decorations are still up in Warsaw despite it already being mid-January. We later learn that the decorations are likely to stay up until Candlemas on 2 February, which marks the religious end of the Christmas season. I love the way the Christmas decorations brighten the grey and white world of winter.
We wander around the city soaking up the modern and positive atmosphere. People are well dressed. There’s lots of restaurants with few empty chairs. Trams trundle along the main road. And there’s sign of plenty of construction taking place. This is not what I expected having been fed a solid message of Eastern Europe as poor, grey, bleak and communist (despite communism having ended here over a quarter century ago).
Yes, a random picture. But I want one of these orange juicers at home. Haha. It’s available in convenience stores and you just select the size bottle you want to fill and away you go. Yum yum. As well as yummy fresh juice, we also discover an Ayurvedic massage place. It’s not cheap but it’s a fantastic massage experience and one I’d definitely do again. And it is a wonderful way to end what has been yet another big day of impressions and travel here in Poland.