The motherland did not welcome us with fine weather. It was rainy, windy and cloudy the day we arrived, and it stayed that way. It was the type of weather that leant itself to lazy days or wandering in a museum or keeping warm at a cozy cafe.
When everyone asks me how Warsaw was, I struggle to answer. I love my birth city but, it has changed a lot and I don’t feel that strong emotional connection any more. It no longer feels like “home”. The majority of my key life moments occurred in Toronto. While the ones in Warsaw are a blur now. I remember the exact corner where the man sold popcorn in a paper cone stood or sitting with my grandpa on his balcony in the sun. But, everything is different now and I don’t feel that feeling you do when you are in a place which hits you with emotional memories. So how was Warsaw you ask? Wonderful, strange, emotional.
Praga, the neighbourhood I lived in
I’m going to take you to the beginning, to the neighbourhood I spent the first 7 years of my life. Praga. Not the capital of the Czech Republic, but portion of Warsaw that is located on the east bank of the Vistula.
My parents use to tell me that Praga was the “bad part of town”, at least according to my dad it was a place he feared he would get beaten up. He was a hippie from the other side so. I do know that before the war it was the working class neighbourhood and after it was the only part of the city that was not destroyed. My memories are of Soviet communist style developments – brutalist grey blocks of buildings with a playground in the middle. Today, Praga is the hip, artsy neighbourhood and the grey buildings of the 1980’s have been renovated and are valuable pieces of real-estate.
Stare Miasto was my favourite place when I was a child. I loved visiting the old centre of the city. It holds a lot of my families history. My great-grandfathers was a mason who worked on one of the churches. My grandfather’s survived WW2 by living in a church. My father restored the Royal Castle and use to sell his art in the Barbican.
We went to Stare Miasto multiple times during our stay. We were always hoping for not-raining weather but, once it became clear that was not happening we just dealt with it. It’s fairly touristy now but, back in the day Stare Miasto was the place every Varsovian went. We still treat it as “the place to go” and meet our family there for dinners.
Nowy Swiat is the “newer” part of Warsaw, it is a main street that connects Stare Miasto to St. Alexander’s Church, filled with up-scale boutiques, restaurants and cafe’s. The Warsaw University and the Presidential Place can be found along this street too but, off the main street you can also find the cooler, less touristy bars.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
The only museum I visited on this trip to Europe was the Warsaw Uprising Museum. A truly excellent museum that tells the tragic story of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. It is not a traditional museum but, a new iteration that houses interactive installations that places you inside the story. Everyone told us we would need at least 3 hours to get through the museum and they were not wrong.
The main reason we took this Euro trip was my mother’s 60th birthday. She wanted to spend it with her family & friends, & we wanted to make her wish come true. It was quite the 60th birthday celebration. It took place at a bar near the Vistula river in a park. There was food, drink and music.
A lot happened in during our time in Warsaw. We meet with family and friends, we cried, we laughed and we talked about life. Personally, the visit was important as I gained some much-needed closure and most importantly came away with a sense of who mattered to me in my life.
My epic Europe trip of 2017 was coming to a close, but there was one last stop before going home – Amsterdam.