Poland is among those nations that serve as an example of enduring will and spirit, and Warsaw is clearly its center of gravity. As the capital of a newly independent Poland, Warsaw is eager to show the world that.
When most people in my home town thought about Poland while I was growing up, much of it was in derision. Polish jokes, those strange unpronounceable Polish names, etc. Of course, countries that find themselves the perpetual stomping ground of two large empires rarely come out looking like winners. But deep in Polish history is indeed a winning, industrious tradition. Poland was once a great eastern kingdom who defeated another great eastern power, the Ottoman Empire. It was in Gdansk where Lech Walesa led one of the great strikes against the Soviet-led government that helped initiate Communism's downfall.
After the Berlin Wall fell, Poland's movement toward integration with western Europe was rapid and aggressive, and Warsaw was clearly in the center of it all. Fast train lines were immediately constructed, connecting Warsaw directly to Berlin. Construction and renovation projects in the capital were rampant. Monuments to famous Poles were erected everywhere, and more than fifty museums were formed or refurbished. And Warsaw opened its doors to the rest of the world...
... and the world listened. Poland is a major tourist destination among Europeans, and Warsaw handles them by the thousands. The combination of its beautifully restored historical sites, its cosmopolitan shopping areas, its wonderful outdoor nature, its mild weather, and its bargains make it a great alternative to other European cities for tourists.
This travelogue was written in three chapters that divide the city geographically. Two of the chapters cover the "Royal Way", a series of streets paralleling the Vistula River that comprises the majority of the tourist attractions. The third chapter covers the 'rest' of the city. Click on the colored areas in the map below to access these chapters.
Trip taken 4-5 July 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin