Imagine a semester-long course packed into one day. . . . Thank goodness we started out with an ample Hotel Metropol breakfast, complete with all the coffee we could drink! Promptly at 9 a.m. we met our tour guide Ewa (pronounced eh-va) and shortly after we boarded our air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz bus (wow!). Driving slowly through the city,
we got our
first daylight view of Warsaw. Ewa pointed out the significant buildings, old
and new, including Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. By 10
a.m. we were at the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Monument.
The Monument is in front of the new Polin: Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The museum is right on top of what used to be the Warsaw Ghetto jail. During the years 1940-1943, 450,000 Jews from different parts of Poland were kept there. They were horribly oppressed, starved, executed, and deported “to the East.” When they discovered that the destination was to the Treblinka extermination camps, the Jews who were still in the Ghetto launched a revolt, knowing they would die while fighting Nazi soldiers. Our Polin Museum guide Anna told us, “The Warsaw Ghetto is where Jews died, but this museum shows how Jews lived.”
|There's a unicorn in|
By the time we left the museum, we appreciated the bravery of Jan Karski, a member of the Polish Resistance. He managed to get smuggled in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto and Belzec extermination camp in order to report the atrocities to the world and implore the Allies to stop the Holocaust.
We resumed our bus tour and went to Old Town. In fact, Old Town is actually not so old. Utterly destroyed in WWII, the residential and business edifices were reconstructed in the 1950s to match the pre-war facades.
|A mermaid wielding a|
sword and shield, Warsaw's
Our appetites gravitated toward new tastes. The gelato was amazing with flavors like strawberry, chocolate, raspberry, mint, mango, coffee, and caramel – all swirled in a precarious tower above the waffle cone. It cooled us off on the hot, humid, Polish weather.
Then Ewa took us to the fancy neighborhood which hadn’t been bombed during WWII because Nazi headquarters were there. We saw elegant old buildings that house the embassies for the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Chinese Embassy is not there, but in the area of the former Warsaw Ghetto (stay tuned tomorrow for the hidden treasure under the Chinese Embassy).
The bus dropped us off near our group dinner meal featuring an authentic traditional Polish menu.