Warsaw part two — we left off just before I got to the Warsaw Uprising Monument.
It’s an impressive monument, and unlike most WWII monuments you’ll probably find, in that it doesn’t exactly honor victims, but insurgents. You can read about the Warsaw Uprising here. It lasted 63 days and — let me quote the numbers off that website — resulted in the deaths of 15,200 insurgents and 200,000 civilians, with 5,000 insurgents wounded and 15,000 sent to POW camps. 700,000 civilians were expelled from the city and approximately 55,000 were sent to concentration camps, including 13,000 to Auschwitz. Material losses were estimated at 10,455 buildings, 923 historical buildings (94 percent), 25 churches, 14 libraries including the National Library, 81 elementary schools, 64 high schools, Warsaw University and Polytechnic buildings, and most of the monuments. Almost a million inhabitants lost all of their possessions.
You can maybe imagine the impact on your own city, if it withstood this degree of destruction and loss of life. The uprising included men, women, children, religious sisters and priests… you’ll see more of them when I post my pictures of the Uprising Museum.
But the monument shows more or less how Warsaw(ans?) feel about the Uprising. It must have been a horrific time for the city, but the people are celebrated as heroes. There are memorials all over the city — people died all over the city — and if you look here you can see a couple bringing their young children to set flowers by the statue.
Anka explained to me that some of the younger people are now uncomfortable with the glorification of the Uprising, since it was such a horrific event, and in the end didn’t succeed (and even made things worse) — I think I was most struck by the images I saw of children running around through the streets and the sewers (the resistance’s way of getting around the city), and dressed in military clothing. I feel totally unable to make a judgment about it when I’ve never faced defending my city with this kind of a cost.
This part of the monument shows a man climbing out of the sewers (you might be familiar with this photo) and, on the right, a priest with a rock in his hands. They had very few actual weapons to fight with.
We continued on our evening stroll, getting some ice cream and walking around the university grounds where Anka went to school…
I forget which university building this is, but it is one!
A backyard shrine. During WWII, priests would go around secretly to celebrate funeral Masses in these yard-shrines for insurgents or civilians who had been killed, and they buried them here, too, when they could.
The Palace of Culture and Science was a gift from Stalin to the people of Poland. Aww.
My only brush with Soviet realism on this trip. Just look at the sturdy wholesome proletariat!
We walked around town for a while, going into a big bookstore where I bought my first souvenir book (and the only one that came home with me…), and then I think we went back home and Anka fed me this toasted cheese sandwich with, I don’t know, THINGS in the cheese that was really good, and a dark beer (more sweet than bitter), and this WEIRD DRINK that is made out of bread? I don’t know, ask her. (ETA: I did; this is it.) I guess I would say it tasted similar to root beer, but very different. (Oh, and for dinner I had pierogi, borscht soup, and (I think) another kind of soup called żurek. Earlier I had a kind of smoked cheese that I think is called oscypek. I got these off the internets, so.)
I realized, once I started to make these posts, that I totally should have taken pictures of the food. It didn’t even occur to me! But I suck at photographing food, so it’s probably no great loss. I also forgot to take pictures of me and Anka together in front of some famous place, which was even dumber. Oh well. Next time! 😀
Anka showed me some of her graphic novel collection and I transferred my pictures off my camera and we talked about The X-Files for a while (what else) and eventually went to sleep…
We went to this neato library made of glass.
The light is incredible.
If you have read my earlier posts you might have gathered that modern architecture is not my favorite. But every now and then there is something I really like, and this building is one. It’s made out of glass and metal, but it manages not to feel institutional or even industrial at all. It’s built onto (into?) a kind of garden complex, with plants growing inside, too, and what it ends up feeling like is a very large greenhouse, or even an overgrown ruin.
I even liked this weird house with a traditional facade and a glass roof.
It’s built into a hill, so you can walk on top of the building through the different gardens.
And then you can see the city again.
We really had great weather…
Okaaay, wrapping that up. In the lower floors of this building (I think?) Anka showed me this bookstore with a bunch of English books on art and architecture, which is where I made my wonderful discovery of that awesome book on Romanesque architecture and art. And for a little while I was so happy! (Wipe a tear.)
These plaques have documents inscribed in all kinds of different old languages — Old Church Slavonic, Koine Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and then some math equations and musical notation. It’s awesome.
Then we walked by a convent of nuns where Pope John Paul II stayed when he came here. And I forget what else the plaque is for, and it is so oddly frustrating not to be able to pick out any helping words when it’s Polish! Different language families are bizarre.
Then we went and saw some more university buildings and walked through the park grounds nearby…
In the park there was a life-size gameboard that recalled life under communist rule. You can guess “Arrested” in the bottom corner… the rest were like, “You run out of food vouchers, skip a turn” or “You wait in line six hours at the store when the new supplies come, go back one space,” and so on.
Onward, church hopping. This is Holy Cross.
A more subdued Baroque than what I’ve seen lately… but I haven’t posted all my pictures of rococo churches… so just wait!
I just love ceiling vaults.
The high altar.
Love the chandeliers!
Inside the Blessed Sacrament chapel, an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
I didn’t notice until Anka pointed it out to me when I came back out, but in this corner with its side chapel, there were hundreds of thank-you’s, votive gifts, nailed on to the offering box and the railing.
Aaaand back onto the street, where we tried to catch a bus that never came! Because they changed the routes because of running special cemetery routes because it was almost All Souls! And did not indicate it on the signs! This caused us trouble later, too! Anyway.
Part Two is about to end, but first, I need to tell you about crossing streets, before I forget!
So as we were walking around the city, we would approach a street to cross, and I would stop, look both ways, see a car, hesitate, wait to see if they were going to slow down, and then wait some more if I saw another car crossing. Meanwhile, Anka would be halfway across the street already, as the car stopped for her. It’s not true what some people say, that Germans are so rule-abiding that they never cross against a red light on a deserted street, or that they never jaywalk. At least in Munich, they do, but it’s jaywalking like you do in the US — between cars. Not AGAINST them. I didn’t get quite comfortable with this bold tactic in the two days I was in Warsaw, but the best was one time when I was quailing on the curb waiting for a (moving!) car to cross in front of me, while Anka took off in front of it, and afterwards we were joking about it and she went, “Be not afraid!” Hahahah, it was hilarious. (That is a John Paul II joke, for my less Catholic and/or less Polish readers. Maybe you needed to be there…)