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Tuesday, July 9: Day 78 – Changes

In Poland, security is big. At the Airbnb places that we have stayed, there are at least 4 locks: one electronic combination with an access code to enter the “gated” community, then an electronic door entry with another code to get into the building, then up several flights of stairs where there is a key lock, then a deadbolt lock. Then we are IN! Sometimes there is a even a safe to store our valuables. Rob locks us in at night. I pray that we don’t have a fire because I would have to escape through the windows which ironically stay open all day??

We are staying in the Old Town which is called the youngest old town in Europe. It was rebuilt after WWII in the style of the 13th century.

The sun comes up early in Poland this time of year. By 3 am, if you didn’t go to sleep with an eye mask on, you will be searching for it. The sun is blinding.

Mermaids are the symbol of Warsaw. At one time, they were outlawed?? Today look for them on buildings. Her sword and shield are supposed to protect her and the city! Hmmm

We walked to the tallest building in Poland…and of course we had to ascend it. Fortunately, we were able to take the elevator and rest.

The Palace of Culture and Industry was a “gift” to Poland from Stalin. It became an object of hatred under communistic rule. Communists (them) were never us (Catholics). Stalin hated Catholics.

Stalin had sent a secret delegation to NYC to study the American construction methods of the Empire State Building.

It was built in three years. After WWII, there was no one strong enough to rebuild the cities so Communist workers arrived. They worked around the clock and the Palace building was completed in 1955. It has 3288 rooms.

Praga area is across the Vistula River from Warsaw and the city architecture remains much like it did before the war. This is the location of the film, The Pianist, by Polish director, Roman Polanski. Our guide told us that this film based on a true life was very accurate.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

We watched this hourly changing of the guard. On the tomb, all of the wars in Poland are listed. There are TOO many!

This large plaza is the site of the first mass in Poland by John Paul II, the Polish pope. In 1979, one half million were there and it served to unite a fractured Poland. Many say that his appointment as Pope planted seeds of hope that eventually led to the fall of Communism.

Milk Bar

A milk bar is inexpensive fast food cafeteria style with homemade Polish food served by rude workers at lunchtime. During communism, all restaurants were gone. Lunch was to be eaten quickly so that you could get back to work. One would never meet someone here. The decor has been described as hospital corriders. If they were rude, you wouldn’t come back and they wouldn’t have to work so hard. The customers were the enemy. They are starting to change but you must experience an authentic milk bar because they may not exist in 5-10 years.

Our tour guide was born in 1989 but remembers her Grandpa who was a policeman. You were “allowed” to go to church but the communists looked down on you. He would listen to mass on the radio and imagine that he was there by kneeling, etc. Since she remembers this, she can assume that people were used to what they had done for years. Even though they were free to attend mass, they continued to worship in their homes.

Rob says, “Change is hard…even good change.”

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