BPO in Poland
Not too many years ago, Warsaw was the European capital you loved to hate, best known for its choking pollution as well as its stagnated Communist mentality. The Bristol had a machine that sucked dust out of its miles of carpeting and shot it into the air. Today, it is in step with the best properties in the world, and the city has improved, too. Gone are Warsaw's psychotic cabbies and "service with a scowl" hotels.
good first step is to find the road the locals call the Royal Route, which begins at Plac Zamkowy and leads to Lazienki Park and the Belvedere. That Royal Route was named for an 18th century path connecting the king's castle and his summer palace. By midday, there are hyper- ventilated discussions of microscopic differences between dozens of essentially similar palaces and churches.
Warsaw is one of Europe's youngest capital cities. It became Poland's capital in the 16th century, though previous settlements existed as early as the 13th century. The city experienced three tragic events during World War II: the Nazi siege of 1939, the uprising in the Jewish ghetto in 1943 and the 1944 Warsaw uprising. The Nazis systematically destroyed most of the city. Almost 700,000 Warsaw inhabitants were murdered or displaced -- that was half of the city's population. Films of the devastation are shown in special screenings, and it is difficult to understand how even a handful of people survived the bloody German menace.
Walking the streets today, having seen the films, it is astounding to recognize the city's comeback. Restoration has been complete; the buildings have a patina that makes them look like the originals, not replicas.
Walking at Plac Zamkowy Palace Square, guides remind a visitor that at one time this was a courtyard of a castle that was surrounded by massive walls. In the 17th century, the column of Zygmunt III Waza was erected here and the small square began to grow, changing with the creation of an East-West route and the reconstruction of the castle. A few steps from the column, there are more palaces galore, churches, galleries and buildings of historical significance.
Warsaw's charming Old Town, the city's oldest part, dates back to the 13th century and is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Its Gothic churches, renaissance and baroque homes have also been reconstructed following the Nazi siege. Surrounding the Old Town are traces of the Barbican (the old fortifications). At its center, there is Market Square, where artists pitch their works and horse-drawn carriages transport tourists. Both Old Town and New Town are now pedestrian havens, and most of the streets prohibit motorized traffic. A timely caveat: As in most major cities, there is an armada of gypsy cabs, particularly at Okecie Airport, who seem friendly and hospitable, but are not to be trusted. Be certain to choose a marked taxi and avoid a practice known as "foreign tourist tariff." The trio of official cabs authorized to serve the airport include SAWA, MPT, and Merc Taxi.
And if you wonder "what's new at the loo?", public toilets are not your best option. Instead, stop at hotels or restaurants in Warsaw -- the charge for utilizing their facilities is minimal.
A trio of the thinnest books ever written include Battlefield Victories of Charles de Gaulle, The Joy of Irish Sex and The Beauty of Communist Architecture. Warsaw has its share of it. The Commies shaped many of the Polish buildings; thereafter, they tried to shape the Polish people, mostly with little success.