Lublin was a cool city to visit, although quite a bit smaller than Kraków, but I was excited to get back to a big city with some more diversity. Before I get to talking about Warsaw, I wanna mention how cool the train ride was. Brand new train brought in from Italy and it was super modern. Definitely a great way to travel around Europe and I look for to traveling by train again. Now to Warsaw. The first thing that catches your eye is the huge Soviet, Empire State, looking building. Locals seem to either hate it or love it. Pretty much Stalin’s mark on the city as a constant reminder of not only who liberated the city but also who oppressed it. There was actually talk of demolishing it. Thankfully they didn’t (from a tourist perspective) because it was the best view of the entire city. Helped me get a better feel for the city. I could see everything we had visited while being there, from old town to the synagogue.
Diving deeper into the history of Warsaw, it’s crazy to think that over two million people are living in a place that was almost completely demolished. Few original buildings remain and pretty much none from the Jewish community. Over 80% of the city was destroyed. The fact that they rebuilt so much of the old town is a feat in itself. Walking around Warsaw, it’s very evident that I’m back in a big city. More people and more English speakers (no more struggling to buy things by pointing). It was nice to hear they actually had a decent Jewish community still active there, although it pales in comparison to what it used to be ( 2nd biggest population after NYC). The polish people there definitely seemed to be more accepting than in Lublin and were more open to talking about what happened and memorializing them. The Polin museum was one of the best museums I’ve ever been to and it was about the complete history of Jews in Poland. It blew mind mind how a place could go from welcoming Jews and tolerance of many religions, to anti semitism towards those same people. The Jewish cemetery there had over 200,000 graves, showing just how many people actually lived there before the war in relation to how many still reside there today.