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Biking Poland

Exchange rate: Rand 1 (R1) = Złoty 0.22 (0.22 PLN)

8-11 June 2023, Warsaw
Fantastic Apartment 150zł [R687]

Hi all. Sorry for the long silence. After much mulling, we have decided to fly to ... Poland. On our way to the airport now. Chat tomorrow…
Yes, a horrible exercise of dismantling and streamlining and wrapping and hoping they arrive undamaged… Standard bag wrapping service at airport. Will also do bikes. At a very reasonable (not) cost of R1333 for four panniers (joined into two check-in bags) and two bikes!!!
Smoothest on-boarding and off-boarding experience with the bikes ever!
Within five minutes of leaving our apartment we met Copernicus and had coffee opposite the 1778 Church of the Holy Cross.
In theory eastern Europe is around two thirds the cost of western. In reality, Warsaw today seems as expensive.
Poland at war tours:
"The destruction of WWII is unfathomable. Understandably – and rightly – our attention is first given to the loss of life incurred during the war, the unconscionable scale of the killing. It is estimated that 70–85 million people lost their lives, with over 50 million of those who died being civilians. In Poland, about 6 million people were killed, including 3 million of the country’s Jewish population.
However, an aspect of the devastation that is perhaps overlooked in school curriculums and TV documentaries is the destruction of Europe’s built environment. The face of Europe was to be left permanently disfigured by the ravishes of war. Countless medieval towns and cities were pulverized by artillery fire and air raids or burnt to the ground in acts of vengeance.
Architecture, artworks, and historical treasures were incinerated in the bonfire of wartime Europe. To this day, the scale of what was lost can only be guessed at because the archives, records, and catalogs so often went up in smoke too.
The most famous European cities left in ruins during WW2 are Berlin, Volgograd (then Stalingrad), Dresden, Gdańsk (then Danzig), and Poland’s capital Warsaw.
Of all the cities on this list, Warsaw is unique in being the only city for which orders were given to completely raze it to the ground. This was not for strategic or colonial purposes but as revenge. The destruction of Warsaw was Nazi Germany’s response to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. It was an act of punishment meted out for Polish fighters having dared to take back their city."
85% of Warsaw was destroyed in 1944. The old town was subsequently reconstructed and is lovely to behold.
This is the south end of Nowy Swiat road, which forms part of the Royal Route through Warsaw. On a Saturday evening, the pedestrian road teems with people and the restaurants and pubs spill in happy profusion onto the wide sidewalks. You can eat Polish, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Turkish, Laos, burgers, ice-cream…
Today should have been depressing but instead was inspiring...
On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II. Six million Poles, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during the war years. In Warsaw, over 300,000 Jews were herded into two ghettos, and subsequently rounded up and sent to labour and death camps. In 1943, for over three weeks, Jewish fighters living in the ghetto actively resisted the Nazi roundup; most died, some escaped. In 1944, the Polish underground spent 63 days trying to liberate Warsaw from German occupation, leading to the purposeful destruction of the city by the Nazis.
I can't remember when I first read Leon Uris's Mila 18, a novel crafted around the ghetto resistance, with larger than life characters, but meticulously-researched detail. I do remember being obsessed with the story of horror and heroism.
Today we visited...
1. An exhibition, Called by Name, which documents stories of Poles murdered for harbouring or assisting Jews.
2.The old city market square, rebuilt after the war, mainly with funds volunteered by ordinary Poles determined to manifest their culture and history.
3.The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, who resisted being transported to the gas chambers.
4.The memorial mound at the site of the Mila 18 bunker.
5.The Umschlagplatz monument, located where Jews (and other undesirables) were forced onto trains bound for the Treblinka extermination camp. 
6.A memorial at the site of the manhole from which surviving Jewish fighters emerged having taken to the sewers as the Nazis regained control of the ghetto.
What shines through in the stories and in the city thriving around these sites is the indomitable human spirit.
Wikipedia: "The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to destroy the city in retaliation. The Uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II."
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