November 20, 2006

Warsaw – the last stop

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Our last day of sightseeing dawned clear and bright and relatively warm. Warsaw seemed like the ‘big city’ after all the small-town like capitals of the Baltic states. Since Jane had developed a full blown cold by this point, we spent much of the day sitting in snug cafes and restaurants. In between, we wandered through the Old and New Towns (the New Town is like Edinburgh’s New Town – old, just not as old as the Old Town).

We made a special detour to check out one of the few remaining parts of the Jewish ghettos from WWII (much of these were demolished in Soviet times, along with most of Warsaw). After getting lost in warrens of depressing post-war Soviet apartment blocks, we were in no doubt that we were in the right place when we finally happened upon a back courtyard of the tenements dating from the early 1900s.
They have been left almost untouched, and unoccupied, as a memorial of sorts, and the atmosphere was thick with what had taken place there. There was a dank smell, and a palpable feeling of silence, stillness and loss. Life went on all around though, and people were living in the newer flats right next door. We wondered how it must be to live with such a place on your doorstep. It was a moving end to our trip, and a reminder of how different all of the places we’d travelled through since Helsinki were only a few years ago, and certainly within our lifetimes.

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