Through Warsaw

Elk, 22.05.2019

After leaving Auschwitz, I drove north to Warsaw yesterday, and left the city northwards today. Below are a few sections with observations from the road.

Driving through Poland

  • A lot of very broken people crossed my road, alcohol has an impact. Like the guy that was so drunk he reeled from the side of the road to the center of it and back, with an empty look in his eyes. He almost rammed the Mini.
  • Compared to previous visits roads have improved sporadically. Once the new, EU-standard roads are gone, it gets pretty ugly.
  • Long radio antennas on fast cars seem to be a thing here.
  • Old ladies collecting micro amounts for visits to disgusting toilets are a thing. Mother nature’s toilets are significantly more welcoming.
  • Overtaking on the right at full speed is a thing. Also in heavy rain with aquaplaning on bad roads.
  • Safety distance to the car in front of you is overrated.
  • Pedestrians, bikers are welcome on overland roads. Also left side u-turns with no exit lane are completely cool (unless you’re going fast and the guy in front of you suddenly decides to u-turn…)
  • Hitch-hiking is not dead.

Warsaw

  • My father had told me, Warsaw was a grey city. He visited in the 1970’s. I understood what he meant. What WWII didn’t destroy of the city (85%), communism did, and the post-war reconstruction was, like in all Soviet countries, grey and is today crumbling.
  • Warsaw feels like little Moscow in many ways. The enormous avenues, that need to be crossed underground in 1,80m high tunnels (I almost hit my head several times). The PKiN in Stalinist architecture, the 8th of Moscow’s Seven Sisters.
  • Almost nothing is left of the “Paris of the North”.
  • Almost nothing seems left of the traces of the Jewish Ghetto, that I wanted to see after Auschwitz and having seen Polanski’s “The Pianist“.
  • The “Umschlagplatz” feels very bizarre. Two walls still stand, there are remains of the barbed wire. The rest is completely modern, buildings and floors, incl. a beauty salon. Not sure the girls getting their nails done are aware of the place they’re in.
  • The contrast between how the city must have looked like before WWII v today is brutal. In the old town there are a few older buildings left, but it’s very touristy.
  • Construction and renovations are in full swing. Modernity is taking over everything here. On some brand new buildings there are signs of past events, many from WWII, that feel surreal to read considering what I’m standing in front of.
8th Sister, or PKiN.
Busses that look like toys.
A scene from “The Pianist” was shot here.
Warsaw girl!
The Umschlagplatz.

The bunker

250km north of Warsaw lie the ruins of the Wolf’s liar, the Wolfsschanze. In the middle of a lovely East Prussian landscape, with plenty of hills, forests and lakes, a bunker complex served as the Führerhauptquartier in WWII. This bunker village was the epicenter of the Nazi German decision making for a long time, the war in Russia was planned here it seems.

Nature is reclaiming the ruins, it reminded me of Angkor Wat. Hard to believe that in this remote place so much evil was planned, and from the telco bunker sent to all corners of the Reich. The spaces were rather small, damp, claustrophobic. Who knows what effect this environment must have had on the decision makers operating here.

Führerbunker.
Nature is winning over meter-thick concrete.
Inside a bunker it’s cold, humid and claustrophobic.
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