Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Initial impressions of Warsaw were soured by the fact it is home to the most incomprehensable and horrible station in the world. Warsaw Centralna is located underground with a mind boggling maze of fastfood outlets, single ticket offices and 70s visionary black and neon decor.
After the claustraphobia of Centralna, the wide streets of downtown Warsaw seemed like a huge contrast. which is probably because Warsaw is home to the widest streets known to Abstractboy. It was hard at first to get a feeling for Warsaw - it all seemed a bit mixed and mashed - buildings from all eras are inter-mangled - art deco towers next to 90s-post-USSR glass skyscrapers, next to rows and rows of asphalt monster apartment blocks. And then, of course, there is the quaint and well-kept old town, which is much more akin to the faery-tail-esque feel of Krakow. But Abstractboy soon realised that Warsaw was the real deal. There is this raw energy that rises above the smog form the Trabants and Ladas, a real cosmpopolitan and fast-paced atmosphere. Warsaw is commonly known as the Asphalt City, grey and cold. But there is definitely this charming asphalt embedded in the asphalt. It´s quite easy to fall in love with the imposing grey blocks that dominate the lower levels of the skyline. In a totally uncondescending way, it is exactly what Abstractboy wanted out of Poland- to see some remnants of the Soviet Union, but to see the changes made since its collapse. It is still laregly unimaginable what it must have been like living in such a time and in some respects Abstractboy wishes he had visited sooner after 1990 (although it is questionable how much a 6 year old would appreciate this!), but at least now he has an idea, a feel for what it must have been like.
The past is very visible in Warsaw - from the Jewish ghetto and various WWII cemetries, to the soviet commisioned concrete abstract statues and Warsaw´s survival is looked upon with pride. Though the old town and royal areas have a constant stream of school groups and coach parties, Wasraw isn´t dominated by tourists in the same way that Prague is. Warsaw is probablz Abstractboy´s favourite city on the trip so far (in Berlin now and this statement is now untrue!) because it reminds him of London - is it no city for beginners and is cool and edgy, whilst being fundamentally warm at the same time.