I hardly don’t think I’m the first to note that Warsaw is hard to fall in love with at first sight, it’s more of an acquired taste. To say that the capital of Poland has an immediate charm or indeed is beautiful would be somewhat more than a slight exaggeration (in spite of the fact that beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder).

To start with the traffic: A number of multiple lane – often congested – roads run directly through the city centre, also setting the Vistula River apart from the city, carving up the capital and driving the pedestrians to dark underpass crossings. The plan(?) to separate Warsaw’s different parts creating a scattered and fragmented city without any real core.

And then the architecture: A mix of drab grey concrete buildings, many of them originating from the socialist building projects from the 50’to the 70’s, where quantity prevailed over quality and aesthetics. While the interesting original pre-war relics from the 30’s functionalism have been left to gradually decay. Not to mention the even fewer older turn-of-the-century residential buildings still standing. Some of the only barely, devastated and desolated they just seem to have been left to no one’s care/responsibility. One may conclude that building maintenance is/has not been the highest priority of the city’s authorities.
Not to forget some conspicuous (large) vacant sites in the heart of the city, abandoned places just laying there like no man’s land… Add to the topography the growing skyline of rather conventional (hotel) skyscrapers (unsuccessfully) challenging the city’s dominating 230 meter high landmark of The Palace of Culture Palace and Science. (Under construction (left of pic) the Daniel Liebeskind designed Złota 44, 54 storeys/192 m high)

Yes it’s obvious that Warsaw’s mixture of architectural styles reflects the turbulent history of the city (and country).
To give a brief background let’s start with the almost devastation in 1944 when  the Nazi-Germany occupiers nearly levelled Warsaw to the ground, no less than 85% of the city was left in ruins.
Following the war, all land in Warsaw was nationalized and belonged to the city. The Polish communist regime set up by the conquering Soviets, erected prefabricated housing projects (bloki) to address the immediate housing shortage. There was really no general planning scheme guiding the reconstruction of Warsaw. Plans for small areas were approved and implemented locally, while the inner city was rebuilt in typical socialist-realist style. Historical districts and structures, however, were faithfully reconstructed, e.g. Old Town, Stare Miasto.
But principally no frills basic design mass(ive) concrete residential blocks replaced the pre-war small-scale buildings. While the prestigious official buildings were given a more elaborate grand Stalinist architecture (Palace of Culture and Science, MDM…)

However along with all the gloomy ordinary, there is certainly much of beauty; buildings/streets/details/things and the many parks to mention the most obvious, Warsaw is indeed a green city amidst all the grey! You only need to look a little further to discover it concealed as it is in all the plain…


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