This is a Warsaw you haven’t seen before. Or better yet, a Warsaw you haven’t heard about before.
We at Odd Urban Things call Warsaw home, but little do we know about the infinite stories that could be told about the city. As a matter of fact, you could talk to every single Varsovian and you always hear a different story from every each one of them.
A city is not just the sum of its buildings, shops, museums, streets, and corners. If you want to discover a tiny bit more of the soul of a city, the best way to do that is through listening to stories of people that live in it.
This was probably the 10th tour I’ve taken of Warsaw (I’ve never toured a city more than I’ve done in Warsaw, but this is kind of my job now), and I have to say that before embarking on this tour I wasn’t excited at all. What else could I get from it? How could I get excited by seeing the Palace of Culture one more time? Seriously, I see the palace every single day.
But what if I got was more than just facts and buildings, dates and numbers?
Warsaw Through Ewa’s Eyes
The story of Ewa, a middle-aged Varsovian city guide with a quick wit and fast tongue, is one that is hard to forget. Seeing Warsaw through her eyes has enriched my understanding of the city, but not on a merely factual point of view.
When Ewa emigrated to the US as a young psychologist, she left behind communist Poland and clashed with a culture which was the opposite of her own. When she came back to Warsaw, she could see it with brand new eyes.
I will not spoil any of the stories and I would not be able to tell you any of them with the same clarity and enthusiasm that Ewa was able to convey, but let me show you the places we visited through some pictures.
At OddUrbanThings we strive to make your life in Warsaw easier and more exciting.
We started the tour in what used to be the Jewish district, in and around Plac Grzybowski.
The Jewish Synagogue (made by the Nożyks) was built for 250k rubles with wealthy Jews in mind, but it allowed the poor to come to prayers once a week. It was damaged during the Warsaw uprising and rebuilt after the WWII. Today, it remains the only active house of prayer for the Jewish population in Warsaw.
We walked down Krakowskie Przedmieście to see the Presidential Palace and listened to the stories about the past and the present of the building.
The fifth of May is apparently firefighters day.
During Nazi occupation, the Copernicus statue had a metal plate stating that he was German. Needless to say, proud Polish members of the Polish Underground could not allow such thing to happen and changed the plate to one that was stating he was Polish. The statue was guarded day and night, but this didn’t stop the resistance to change the plate several times.
“Tear down this wall!”. This monument depicts Ronald Reagan during his speech in West Berlin on June 12, 1987, calling for the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to open up the barrier which had divided West and East Berlin since 1961.
Then we took a long stroll through the Royal Bath Park (Łazienki) and learned why the last Polish king abdicated to have his 40 million zloty debt paid off by Prussia and Russia.
In case you want to go to Łazienki Park, May is a great month to do so because the park is blooming with tulips and other kinds of flowers.
Finally, we had a delicious lunch (got a 30 PLN coupon from One Day Tour) at Hala Koszyki, a former grocery market and now a hip food hall with several restaurants.
If you want to have a similar experience you can hit up One Day Tour, which organizes this tour on a regular basis.
You won’t see stuff like the Palace of Culture, the Royal Castle or other classic landmarks of Warsaw, but you’ll hear personal stories of life under communism, several stories connected with Jewish history as well as stories of Polish Royalty.