Warsaw, the capital of Poland, weaves its past into its present with musical magnificence, observes Sonia Nazareth
Warsaw, Poland’s capital city, often gets bypassed by travellers in favour of the more frequented destinations in the country. It is not a city to be ignored, however. A landscape of contrasts and variety, the sprawling city abounds in diverse architecture – restored Gothic, communist concrete, modern glass, steel and more.
A walk through Warsaw Old Town gives you a peek into the nature of resilience too. Granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1980, the colourful old town is a classic instance of historical monuments being restored after a time of war. The Royal Castle even includes paintings by artist Canaletto, which provided invaluable information for the city’s restoration when it was being carried out.
Looming like a phoenix over all it surveys is the other unmissable Warsaw feature – the Palace of Culture and Science. Studded with theatres, orchestras, museums and public libraries, it is as much a testament to a city ripe with cultural institutions as it is to a city built on the foundation of an eventful history. Disregarding it is impossible, just as it is difficult not to be moved by the Warsaw Uprising Museum and monuments which draw viewers through the events leading up to the Uprising of 1944.
Another must-visit in Warsaw is the Copernicus Science Centre. The Discovery Park area pushes the boundaries of any notions of “normal” you might have had prior to your visit. At the Robotic Theatre, for instance, the actors are robots.
Despite the notable density of museums and history, the city allows its epiphanies to spill out into the streets. In Łazienki Park – the largest park in Warsaw – between the friendly squirrels, peacocks and deer, you might spy a Frederyk Chopin monument. The presence of this genius composer, who spent half his life in Warsaw, can be felt no matter where you look. Open-air concerts with music by him, played by maestros from around the world, are regular fare from May to September at the foot of the monument.
In Warsaw, just as there is an institution to satisfy your every cultural whim – including a museum devoted to two-time Nobel laureate Marie Curie – there is also a restaurant to satiate your every gastronomical desire. While Wedel’s Chocolate Lounge does arguably the best hot chocolate, Kafe Zielony Niedzwiedz uses locally sourced ingredients. Marinated wild vistula salmon with pumpernickel bread and bison tartare with marinated kohlrabi are two dishes that give you a true taste of the local – a good way to end this tryst with diversity in this less-explored, but rather remarkable Polish city.
The author is a travel writer and the views expressed in this article are her own