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Prague vs. Brno, Czech Republic

The two cousins that like to compete. Prague is obviously the capital, and Brno a second biggest city in Czech Republic.

It is quite clear that Prague is beautiful, great historical city and a capital which means way more opportunities, foreigners, tourists, businesses.
On the other hand, Brno is a very compact city, with great atmosphere, swarms of students, many tech companies and start-ups, plus I really like the nature around the city.

When speaking to locals, I heard stories from the ones from Prague who won’t leave their car parked in Brno overnight, because the ‘A’ on their license plate indicating their from Prague means it could get damaged. Some of those same locals from Prague will also tell you that they love their city because of all the sites and history, and say that Brno has just one site worth seeing … the exit sign to Prague.

Here is what I got from a taste of the great Czech rivalry:

Prague

Situated on the Vltava river, Prague is a political, cultural, and economic centre of central and eastern Europe complete with a rich history. When you look the quarters and facades of this city, you can tell it was founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras. Prague was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably of Charles IV  (14th century). It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city played major roles in the Bohemian and the Protestant Reformations, the Thirty Years’ War and in 20th-century history as the capital of Czechoslovakia between the World Wars and the post-war Communist era.

When flying over Czech Republic, I spotted the power station. Short googling and it is named Počerady – the main Czech electricity producer.

My first impressions of the city, revisiting after 16 years, was about clean spotless streets and renewed facades. I had a long weekend ahead with a sunshine in my purse. Discovering started.

Prague’s architecture is like an open history book. It’s historical city center is one of the largest ones on the UNESCO World Heritage List and you can bump into most of the architecture styles ever used in Europe’s history on your walk.

Even though I was revisiting many sights and refreshing my knowledge on culture, I discovered Art Nouveau in Prague. In my younger ages, I was not that much attracted by it, ofently not understanding the concept and the time. For example, I didnt know that Prague was home to one of the greatest Art Nouveau artists, Alfons Mucha, and that the Mucha Museum on Prague Old Town Square is a must-see for Art Nouveau lovers.

Living in Brussels for 8 years now, the city brimful of art nouveau and art deco buildings, let me enlighten the term a bit: Art Nouveau is the name given to a vast range of contemporary art roughly. Originated in Belgium and France late in the 19th century, a more free-flowing expression of art and architecture emerging after decades of neo-Gothic and neo-Classical influence. Art Nouveau designs covered everything from complete buildings to items of furniture to paintings and advertisements for bars of soap. Whole buildings were now considered to be works of art. Art Nouveau architects also experimented more with form, especially bringing curves into their design. So if you see a curved doorway or a window with a curve rather than a corner, it’s highly likely you’re looking at Art Nouveau architecture. Inspiration in art nouveau comes from nature, women and geometrical shapes (more like art deco in this case).

To add to this, the art nouveau style, was followed by the period characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, colonial expansion, and technological, scientific, and cultural innovations (think about the construction of Titanic!) called La Belle Époque. It started in 1890 and ended with the start of World War I. The Lost Generation was the social generational cohort that was in early adulthood during World War 1. This will later result with the Lost Generation. Lost in this context refers to the “disoriented, wandering, directionless” spirit of many of the war’s survivors in the early postwar period (Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrud Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Elliott). But that’s another story to reflect on this blog under Paris section post. 🙂

In the meantime, let’s jump back to Prague. To the Old Town Square, or in Czech: Staroměstské náměstí.

The square features buildings belonging to various architectural styles, including the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, which has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. Its characteristic towers are 80 m high. The Baroque St. Nicholas Church is another church located in the square.

Then there is Prague Orloj: a medieval astronomical clock mounted on the Old Town Hall. The clock was first installed in 15th century, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still in operation.

The square’s centre is home to a statue of religious reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in Konstanz for his beliefs. This led to the Hussite Wars. There is also a memorial to the “martyrs” beheaded on that spot during the Old Town Square execution by Habsburgs.

Moving through the Old town, having the smell of local cuisine, the tourists are led towards another attraction: Charles Bridge, or in Czech: Karlův most. It is a medieval stone arch bridge that crosses the Vltava (Moldau) river. Its construction started in 14th century thanks to Charles IV – King of Bohemia and to become Holy Roman Emperor. He was a member of the House of Luxembourg from his father’s side and the Czech House of Přemyslid from his mother’s side; he emphasized the latter due to his lifelong affinity for the Czech side of his inheritance, and also because his direct ancestors in the Přemyslid line included two saints (I will explain the later in this post).

The Charles Bridge, that  links Old Town to Malá Strana, is a piece of medieval engineering that has stood the test of time. Why? Because Charles IV was a strong believer in numerology. The first stone was placed on the 9th of July 1357 at 5.31. That is a palindrome that creates 97531 and backwards. It also creates the pyramid.

On the 9th of July 1357 The Charles Bridge has witnessed some gut-wrenching scenes in its time: it used to serve as a place of execution or of public chastisement for criminals who were dipped into the river in wicker baskets. The most famously was when Jan Nepomuk was thrown into the river in 14th century for allegedly refusing to divulge the queen of Bohemia’s confession secrets to suspicious king Charles IV. Guess we will never know who shagged the Queen. Or do we know? Shagging or not, Jan Nepomuk was canonised in 18th century by Vatican and became a saint patron of Czech Republic.

Crossing over famous river Vltava, I couldn’t not remember famous peace of art of classical music: The Moldau, Czech Vltava, symphonic poem by Bohemian composer Bedřich Smetana that evokes the flow of the Vltava River. Listen and enjoy! 🙂 For more Czech pieces of art, check Antonín Dvořák, Symphony No. 9.

We finally arrive to Malá Strana. Boy where to start XD. District on the other side of the Vltava river that got me confused. As this Quartier was founded as a royal town (a town founded by the king) it got many privileges. You can find the stunning view on the Prague from there but as well on Petřín Tower – a steel-framework tower.

One of the recommended attractions is the The KGB Museum. If you think there will be informative museum collection on communist time espionage and some intelligence, you are wrong. So was I. Upon the entrance, there is a machine gun, a Russian ex-KGB member in retire with his personal weapon collection and stories on how to kill with a knife, gun and a wire. It is an experience, not a museum. You have to take it from there. I was initally afraid as the guy locked the door and sat me down on chair to watch the Russian military parade.  I was upset on his way of interpreting the gulags and Stalin but I got a good wtf moments to tell when he started to explain me how to paralyze a Nazi and make him mega bleed from the liver. And this is only one of the at least 20 examples of WTF moments.

Take this knife, Madam (showing me some knife from his personal collection).

– No thank you. I am not a fan.

Take it, take it. Do you know how to kill with this knife? (already squatting in the position to throw the knife at the doll)

– It never occurred to me.

You do it like this and like this and then in the liver. The victim is dead because of quick bleeding. Mega bleeding. Smell the Nazi blood. (sticking out his tongue).

Me: OMG where did I got myself into (praying to go out alive).

Anyway, you judge by yourself if you want to have this experience or you would profit more from a good lager on a sunny terrace of Prague. Me, I am still not sure…

One bizarre experience led into another one. Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague. Upon the arrival, there is a bar which serves funny alchemist cocktails. The guides are weird, but hey, after previous experience, I can’t be stopped.

Prague is a golden, mysterious city with one hundred spires, and for all that it thanks among other to the alchemists, who belong to it inseparably. Here I discovered philosopher’s stone produced by famous renaissance occultist and alchemist Edward Kelley and his friend John Dee, both financed by Charles IV to produce gold in a mysterious laboratory.

Ok, I think it is enough of weirdness. Let’s focus on food. Let’s not beat around the bush here, Prague doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to food. But real foodie will have a great time. Let me show you.

How about some beer? 🙂 Cheaper than the water. One of the best lagers you will ever have!

Among other famous things in Bohemia, there is a famous Bohemian glass or crystal. It has a centuries long history of being internationally recognised for its high quality, craftsmanship, beauty and often innovative designs.

Prague has a reach deep history. There is many stories to discover. The legendary origins of Prague attribute its foundation to the 8th-century Czech duchess and prophetess Libuše and her husband, Přemysl, founder of the Přemyslid dynasty (earlier mentioned dynasty of King Charles IV). Legend says that Libuše came out on a rocky cliff high above the Vltava and prophesied: “I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.” She ordered a castle and a town called Praha to be built on the site. The region became the seat of the dukes, and later kings of Bohemia.

One of the seats was a large Gothic castle founded in 14th century by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect and King of Bohemia. The castle is called Karlštejn.

One last story about Prague: The Jewish Quarter. Definitely recommended. I wandered the streets of ex- Jewish ghetto and imagined the history of Jewish settlements in Prague which dates back to the 10th century. Of course, it has been marked by sad episodes of persecution. Therefore, the Jewish quarter of the Czech capital, known as Josefov, is a tribute to a community that has had to face continuous exile and incomprehensible turmoil. In light of this, I visited the Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery from 15th century, Maisel, Spanish and OldNew Synagogue.

I whispered to F. Kafka. It was an exchange of fine talks among two welt-schmerzers. This German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature has had a complex relationship with Judaism, veering between secularism and Zionism at an uneasy time for Jews in Eastern Europe. He attended services at the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest surviving Jewish house of worship in Europe. It’s said to be the resting place of the mythical Golem, a creature that protected the city’s Jews from violence.

Franz Kafka and Me

My Jewish experience ended with kosher food at King Salomon restaurant. Just to mention, I had to wait 65 min for the food in order to align with kosher meat and milk diet.

Brno

Brno is a city in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic. Located at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers, on a hill that makes the streets looking cozy and trendy.

Brno is the former capital city of Moravia and the political and cultural hub of the South Moravian Region. The name derives from a Slavic verb brniti (to armour or to fortify).

In the old city center, at the main Liberty Square, you will find Brno’s Quirky Astronomical Clock in a shape of a penis. The controversial monument, made of black marble, took three years to build at the cost of 12 million Czech crowns.

Curiously, despite its name, it’s not an astronomical clock at all. It’s just a clock. It was built to commemorate a famous and unlikely victory the citizens of Brno had over invading Swedes in 1645 as part of the Thirty Years’ War. After three months of failed sieges, a Swedish general decided to give in if the city hadn’t fallen by noon that day. Faced with this ultimatum, the citizens of Brno put the town clock forward an hour at 11am, so that it read noon. Sure enough, the Swedes retreated.

There is no art nouveau here, but there is great Moravian wine. Wine in the Czech Republic is produced mainly in southern Moravia, although a few vineyards are located in Bohemia. However, Moravia accounts for around 96% of the country’s vineyards, which is why Czech wine is more often referred to as Moravian wine. Traces of the viticulture s go back to Roman times, of course. The Thirty Years’ War (17th century) destroyed a significant portion of the vineyards in the Czech Republic, and over the next hundred years they were gradually replanted. In 18th century, Austrian vintners asked Habsburg Kaiserin Maria Theresa to limit new vineyard plantings in Moravia to reduce the competition from Moravian wines.

Strolling down towards the Church of St Michael. The church was heavily damaged by the Swedish army in the 17th century. Its current Baroque form is the work of the local architect Jan Křtitel Erna. The Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre at the southern wall of the church in Dominikánská Street is modelled after the chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

There are several legends connected with the City of Brno; one of the best known is the Legend of the Brno Dragon. It is said that there was a terrible creature terrorizing the citizens of Brno. The people had never seen such a beast before, so they called it a dragon. They trembled in fear of the dragon until a brave man decided to kill the monster by tricking it into eating a carcass filled with lime. In reality the dragon was a crocodile, the preserved body of which is now displayed at the entrance of the Old Town Hall. Crocodile and dragon motifs are common in Brno. A crocodile (in Czech: krokodýl) is the local stuffed baguette, and the city radio station is known as Radio Krokodýl.

Ossuary is located underground, partially under the Church of St. James (Kostel svatého Jakuba Staršího). It is considered the second-largest ossuary in Europe. It is estimated that over 50,000 people were buried there in the 17th and the 18th centuries. The ossuary was forgotten for a long time. In 2001, a team of archaeologists discovered it while conducting excavations before the renovation of the Jakubské square. Since 2012, the Ossuary of St. James’ Church has been open to the public. I visited this obscure place with the dumpling in my throat.

To conclude this rivalry: Go and check it out. Both Prague and Brno are beautiful cities with great people. Ignore guide books. I would say, there is a massive (but mostly friendly) rivalry between Brno and Prague – Praguers tend to look down on the city seeing it as a sort of provincial outpost, with jokes portraying the Brno people as being yokels with chickens under their arms and the suchlike, laughing at the Moravian dialect, but the feeling is mutual as the Prague accent sounds hilarious to people from Brno.

Bye Czechia!

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Koblenz, Deutschland

Visiting the Burg Eltz it was inevitable to stroll down the hills of  Rhineland-Palatinate and explore.

To be honest, the navigation was not up to date as bringing us to the closed local roads or reserved only for the local agricultural vehicles. But there is a beauty in getting lost like that! 🙂

Around the hills in Wierschem

Koblenz is a German city on the banks of the river Rhine and of the Moselle, a multi-nation tributary. Thanks to its geographic position, it is one of the most beautiful vineyards location. Let me tell you our entrance to the city with this:

Schloss von der Leyen

On our right is the river Moselle, on the left the vineyards scenery on the cliffs and we are driving right through the castle. The fairytale!

No wonder, Koblenz was established as a Roman military post around 8 B.C. Its name originates from the Latin(ad) cōnfluentēs, meaning confluence. The actual confluence is today known as the “German Corner“, a symbol of the unification of Germany that features an equestrian statue of Emperor William I.

Opposite to this Deutsches Ecke – where the river Rhein and Moselle confluence and continue towards Rotterdam is the Fortress Ehrenbreitstein as seen from Koblenz.

Fortress Ehrenbreitstein as seen from Koblenz

The old city has a triangular shape, with two sides being bounded by the Rhine and Mosel and the third by a line of fortifications. The city facades are neo-baroque and classical. With loads of shopping streets and commercial centers interfered. It the Altstadt one can find bars and restaurants to enjoy german culinary and recommended wines from the valleys of Rhine and Mosel.

I couldn’t skip The cultural centre Forum Mittelrhein and the Kulturbau Forum Confluentesstands as a singular, solitary volume on the square and is wrapped in a striking, partly translucent shiny façade that reflects the sky and the clouds. It houses the public library, the Mittelrhein Museum and the tourist information of Koblenz, with their ‘Zentrum der Rheinromantik’, inviting both tourists and residents to learn more about this beautiful region.

To conclude with the Rhine riesling and Mosel gewurztraminer.

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Tournai, Belgium

Guess what’s new? – Corona. Guess how long it will last? – China.

Never mind. The travel ban is still on for Belgium, so explorations within the country continues. This weekend was reserved for Tournai. A beautiful city on the west of Belgium. Kinda looks like Lille at the first sight.  Although, being part of the province of Hainaut, Tournai is part of Eurometropolis Lille–Kortrijk–Tournai.

Tournai is one of the oldest cities in Belgium and has played an important role in the country’s cultural history. It was the first capital of the Frankish Empire, with Clovis I being born here – the first king of France, crowned and buried in Reims.

Tournai, known as Tornacum, was a place of minor importance in Roman times, a stopping place where the Roman road from Cologne on the Rhine to Boulogne on the coast crossed the river Scheldt. It came into the possession of the Salian Franks in 5th century. Clovis moved the center of power to Paris. In turn, a native son of Tournai, Eleutherius, became bishop of the newly created bishopric of Tournai, extending over most of the area west of the Scheldt. In 9th century Charles the Bald, first king of Western Francia and still to become Holy Roman Emperor, would make Tournai the seat of the County of Flanders.

river Scheldt

After the partition of the Frankish empire by the Treaties of Verdun (843) Tournai remained in the western part of the empire, which in 10th century became France. The city participated in 11th-century rise of towns with a woollen cloth industry based on English wool, which soon made it attractive to wealthy merchants. An ambitious rebuilding of the cathedral was initiated in 11th century. The stone Pont des Trous over the Scheldt, with defensive towers at either end, was built in 1290, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

Le Pont des Trous à Tournai

During the 15th century, the city’s textile trade boomed and it became an important supplier of tapestry. The art of painting flourished too. It was captured in 1513 by Henry VIII of England, making it the only Belgian city ever to have been ruled by England. The city was handed back to French rule three years later, following the Treaty of London (1518).

Belfry of Tournai

In 16th century, Habsburg Emperor Charles V added the city to his possessions in the so-called Low Countries, leading to a period of religious strife and economic decline. During the 16th century, Tournai was a bulwark of Calvinism, but eventually it was conquered by the Spanish governor of the Low Countries, the Duke of Parma, following a prolonged famous Siege of Tournai in 1581. After the fall of the city, its Protestant inhabitants were given one year to sell their possessions and emigrate, a policy that was at the time considered relatively humane, since very often religious opponents were simply massacred.

Monument of local artist van der Wayden, in front of the Cathedral, 15th century

One century later, the city briefly returned to France under Louis XIV in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Tournai formed part of the newly independent Belgium.

Unfortunately, local specialties were skipped this time as the bars and restaurants were closed.

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Coimbra & Santarem, Portugal

After 5 years, I was again in Portugal. Lisbon has been checked and explored quite well, so I decided to explore a bit more!

I had a hotel in Oeiras so my friend who lives in Lisbon rented a car and we started a journey towards the north of the country.

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Our journey: Santarem – Coimbra – Porto (in next post)

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Santarém

We visited Santarem at first. Just a small half an tour stop. As we parked the car, a small gypsy boy approached us begging the money. Luckily, Nikola has a noble heart. 🙂

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Santarem is a small city with nice streets around so you can really see the influence of  GreeksRomans, Visigoths, Moors and later Portuguese Christians.

There is a story, one of the various legends which tells how the city got its name: the Visigoth Saint Iria (or Irene), who was martyred in Tomar (Nabantia) but her uncorrupted body reached Santarém. In her honour, the name of the town (then known by its Latin name Scalabis) later became Sancta Irene, from which Santarém derives.

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Cabaças Tower (Torre das Cabaças) – Ancient defensive tower of the mediaval wall of the city

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Santarém city centre has several monuments, including the largest and most varied ensemble of gothic churches in Portugal. These include fine examples of transitional Romanesque–Gothic.

The biggest impression left was the Church of the Grace, port. Igreja da Graça, built between the 14th and 15th centuries in a mix of mendicant and flamboyant Gothic styles. It has a main portal and rose window (unique in the world, carved out of a single stone) .

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Notable are the street decorations as well, painted names of the streets and saints. I took a photo of some of them as these are actually traditonal colors of the country.

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Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brazil, and his wife are buried under a simple slab near the main chapel of the Church of the Grace.

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We continued the way towards Coimbra, but first we needed to get out of the city. The roads to come down the hill and come back to highway again were like this:

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Coimbra

Thanks to the Late Middle Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra became an inspiration for J.K. Rowling to write her searial of Harry Potter books.

This is why nowadays first year students are wearing the black mantle.

So, yes, the University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world and the oldest university of Portugal. Established in 1290 it is charing and romantic by itself.

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However, even though succesful in the middle ages, the city, located on a hill by the Mondego River, was called Aeminium, deriving its name from Roman  times.

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The Botanical Garden is just there, founded in 1772-1774 and it was integrated with the Natural History Museum established by the Marquis of Pombal.

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Soon we got lost in this hilly city center, so I just decided to wander around while taking photos and enjoying the time:

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That’s it from Coimbra. Next stop: Port (in the next blog post). Back to highway.

PS On highway we noticed the burned landscapes from the Great Fire in Portugal last summer 2017 when more than 60 people burned immediately on the road. RIP

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Warsaw, Poland

Great, big, diplomatic, historic, curteous, quite and calm Warsaw. But then comes the night and you start with vodka and end up calling your ex in some Budda club at 2 am.

It all started by my friend’s invitation to Warsaw. I arrived around 22:00 and first thing I saw was the Palace of Culture and Science. Stalin’s gift to the Poles and the building where the Warsaw Pact was signed, in 1955.

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Palace of Culture and Science

That same night she told me we will go out with more people. We started with normal fine polish biers, until someone ordered vodka. She told me that the habit is not to leave the table before the entire bottle is finished. It was a blast.

 

 

 

The rest of the week was cultural uplift and foodies. Like this great onion soup discovery in the plate made of bread.

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On my way to the Warsaw Uprising Museum I spotted the memorial panel to one of all time politicians: Lech Kaczyński – who served as the Mayor of Warsaw (2002- 2005) and as the President of Poland (2005 – 2010). 12644929_10208777459736312_4896329756414490126_nHe was the identical twin brother of the former Prime Minister of Poland  Jarosław. He died hin 2010 in the crash of a Polish Air Force jet together with more than 96 state officials, politicians like the  the mentioned President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the former President of Poland in exile, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy etc. The crash accident is shrouded in conspiracy theory.

Lech is famous by banning the Warsaw gay pride parade twice in 2004 and again in 2005, locally known as the Parada Równości (the Equality Parade), stating that the application of the parade organizers had not been properly filed, and also that he did not respect homosexuals’ right to demonstrate, “I respect your right to demonstrate as citizens. But not as homosexuals.”

So now about the Uprising Museum dedicated to the  Warsaw Uprising of 1944 during the WW2.

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The museum shows possessions of the Polish Underground State during World War II made of mostly local Warsaw Jews. It collects and maintains hundreds of artifacts — ranging from weapons used by the insurgents to love letters — to present a full picture of the people involved.

The museum’s stated goals include the creation of an archive of historical information on the uprising and the recording of the stories and memories of living participants.

Most of the ruins and passes between buildings have been used by children as they were small enough to go through and bring useful information or small food supplies.

 

 

The Uprising was resistant, the nazi occupation as well. By that, the Allies (Russia and UK) standing alongside watching the battle and waiting the moment to enter triumphantly in the city, claiming the victory which was so obviously won by the insurgents.

The schocking moment was at the end of museum where was a big poster of Jesus Christ thanking God for winning the WW2 and always protecting Polish people. -_- So sad they don’t recognize the irony.

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One of the heros of Warsaw Uprising, the nurse Mewa

Memorial to the Mothers of the Warsaw Uprising. The anchor and the letter P are the resistance symbol.
Monument to warriors Warszaw

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Memorial to the Mothers of the Warsaw Uprising. The anchor and the letter P at the top are the symbol of resistance 

Continuing my way exploring Warsaw, this building appeared: Technical University. It is a typical Warsaw massive building builded in secession.

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Warsaw University of Technology

As I was still stuck in history, I decided to sit for a coffee in a place from pre- WW2 era. Everything there is just like in the 30’s. The piano, old radio, chandelliers, walls…

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Coffee place from Warsaw 30’s

Now about streets in Warsaw. Each of them tells the story, like Želazna street from the jewish ghetto, or the Street of John Paul II – the first pope non-italian pope coming from Poland.

 

Then some photos from the streets: the tram and the view towards the financial ditrict:

 

It was on my way to Pawiak museum, a former prison that during the January 1863 Uprising  served as a transfer camp for Poles sentenced by Imperial Russia to deportation to Siberia.

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Model of destroyed Pawiak museum

During the World War II German occupation of Poland, it became part of the Nazi concentration-death camp apparatus in Warsaw. In 1944 it was destroyed by the Germans to hide their traces.

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Ruins of the entrance to Pawiak prison

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Memorial tree

Travelling the world and visiting many museums, I can say I have visited so far around 10 jewish museums and they are always the most expensive ones with the most expensive entrance fee. The last one I visited was Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. And probably will stay like this for long time. With all due respect.

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POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Museum is on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The Hebrew word Polin means either “Poland” or “rest here” and is related to a legend on the arrival of the first Jews in Poland.

Inside of it you can find features of multimedia narrative exhibitions about the living Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the Holocaust. It was definitely educational to see how Jewish community lived in Middle Ages surviving by growing their crafts, trades, banks and businesses.

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On the Jewish street – reconstruction of Warsaw Ghetto

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Reconstructed vault and bimah

Now about the city center and the city square  a total mediaval history here 🙂 My favourites!

Plac Zamkowy is the name of the main square and it literally means castle square as there is the Royal Castle – the former official residence of Polish monarchs.

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Plac Zamkowy and Sigismund’s Column

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Historic townhouses at Plac Zamkowy

The Square features the landmark Sigismund’s Column to the south-west, and is surrounded by historic townhouses. It marks the beginning of the bustling Royal Route extending to the south.

This square has witnessed many dramatic scenes in Polish history. Patriotic demonstrations took place there during the period before the outbreak of the January Uprising of 1863 against Imperial Russia and its brutality over Polish people, as during that time the bloody massacre was carried out, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

During martial law (refers to the 1980’s when the authoritarian communist government of the People’s Republic of Poland drastically restricted normal life) the square became the scene of the particularly brutal riot, with ZOMO police.

Going through Warsaw Old Town – my friend joined me from work and we had a great time exploring even though it was called and windy.

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Rynek Staro Miesto

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A symbol of Warsaw represented on the city’s coat of arms and well as in a number of statues and other imagery is Mermaid of Warsaw. Actually, more properly woud be a fresh-water mermaid called melusina. The story about it is similar with some European cities especially Luxembourg city.

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 The legend says the mermaid was swimming in the river Vistula when she stopped on a riverbank near the Old Town to rest. Liking it, she decided to stay. Local fishermen noticed that something was creating waves, tangling nets, and releasing their fish. They planned to trap the offender, but fell in love with her upon hearing her singing. Later, a rich merchant trapped the mermaid and imprisoned her. Hearing her cries, the fishermen rescued her, and ever since, the mermaid, armed with a sword and a shield, has been ready to help protect the city and its residents.

 

 

 

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The mermaid in the centre of Warsaw’s Old Town

The heart of the Old town area is the Old Town Market Place, rich in restaurants, cafés and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, the Barbican and St. John’s Cathedral.

We treated ourselves properly 🙂

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Pierogi 🙂 Polish national dish stuffed with sour cherries and beer Tyskie

Poland is well – known by amber. Since my mother was born in the months of this gemstone, I decided to treat her with one.

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Polish amber

Warsaw is also a birthplace of Nikola Kopernik –  a Renaissance- and Reformation-era mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. What a times in mediava l Warsaw!

Thereby the Copernicus Science Centre is placed there too.

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Academy of Sciences and Copernicus Monument

But the real hero of there is Fryderyk Chopin – haolding the airport’s name, the church , statue and a museum.

fryderyk chopin fotografia_6023200He was a polish composer and and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He lived in 19th century and died in Paris. But before his dead he said some parts of his shoud rest in his lovely Warsaw. Today, his heart is placed in Holy Cross Church. 

So what happened exactly?

During his final days, famed Polish composer, with fawning Parisian women fainting all around him, he made the gruesome request that his heart be taken from his corpse and sent back to his home country, knowing full well that his body would never leave Paris.

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The Church in which Chopin’s heart is held after he died in Paris at the age of 39

We visited the Fryderyk Chopin Museum too where you can find out more about his burning life episodes and items like his piano etc.

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Chopin’s piano

On the way back we visited the place of the first Chopin performance, at age 8. Nowaday is marked with sitting benches performing his songs.

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Place of Chopin’s first performance,  he was 8 only

And what is world without women? Marie Curie was also Polish but naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

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Statue of Marie Curie ❤