WARSAW CITY BREAK
SCHOOL TRIPS TO WARSAW
WARSAW CITY GUIDE
WELCOME TO WARSAW
- arrival to Warsaw
- bus transfer to the hotel
- free time, shopping
A hotel in the centre of Warsaw
WHY KING SIGISMUND III VASA MOVED THE CAPITAL OF POLAND FROM KRAKOW TO WARSAW
Sigismund’s Column is one of the most popular landmarks of Warsaw. It was built 1644 in the middle of the Castle Square – the place that everybody heading towards the Old Town has to pass. The Poles know that it was Sigismund Vasa who moved the capital of Poland from Cracow to Warsaw. The king is looking down at thousands of tourists and locals from his column. But how did it happen that Warsaw became the capital? Let’s start from the beginning…
Sigismund was the son to John III Vasa – the ruler of Finland Proper and later the king of Sweden – and Catherine Jagiellon – the princess of Poland. Sigismund’s father was charged of high treason of his brother, Erik XIV, then imprisoned in the castle of Gripsholm. His wife decided to share his fate. Sigismund was born in captivity in 1566. Already two years later Erik was dethroned and imprisoned and John III let proclaim himself as the king of Sweden. Sigismund was raised in Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) castle until the age of 21.
The king of Poland Stephen Báthory died in 1586 leaving no legitimate child. The widow queen Anna Jagiellon took the initiative to promote her nephew as a proper candidacy for the crown of The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. 27 December 1587 he was crowned in the Wawel Cathedral. Sigismund had no intention of losing his rights to the crown of Sweden.
When his father John III died, Sigismund was crowned as the king of Sweden in the cathedral of Uppsala in 1594 which was the beginning of the Swedish-Polish personal union. His ruling in Sweden was not long. A civil war against the Roman Catholic king started which led to Sigismund’s dethroning in 1599. The situation was always utterly important for Sigismund. In 1595 the Royal Castle in Cracow suffered of a fire. Sigismund decided to ’use’ the opportunity for moving the court to Warsaw – a city situated so much closer to Sweden. Shortly afterwards the works on extensions of the castle started. The royal residence was turned into a very modern facility. The Vasa family gathered also an impressing collection of arts and library.
Sigismund III was also admired as a good organizer, committed catholic and righteous king. A memorial statue was built by the Poles after his death. For the first time in the history a secular person was honoured in such a way.
- trip to Wilanow
- visit to the palace and gardens of Wilanow
- back to the centre
- walking in Lazienki Park
– the Chopin Statue
– the Palace on the Water
– the classical amphitheatre
– the monument to John III Sobieski
- the Royal Way – Nowy Swiat Street, Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street, the Castle Square
- walk through the Old & New Town
- return to the hotel
Lunch in Wilanow
Dinner in the Old Town
THE SWEDES IN WARSAW
The Swedish army invaded Poland in 1655. They quickly took control over almost the whole country. The soldiers plundered and destroyed a lot of Polish towns. Charles X Gustav of Sweden did not keep his promise given to John II Casimir of Poland-Lithuania and allowed robberies in the royal properties. Works of arts, furniture and valuables were stolen from the Royal Castle of Warsaw. The Swedes dismantled even details of decor such as marble floors, wall decorations, statues of the gardens. Many of those items may be seen now in The Royal Armoury in Stockholm. Unfortunately many of those treasures were lost during their transport to Sweden. 2011-2015 archaeologists discovered 17th century sunk barges with robbed decor from the Kazimierzowski Palace on board (the palace is nowadays a part of the University of Warsaw), among those items there were details of portals, obelisks, balustrades.
The period of time between 1655 and 1660 is called ’The Swedish deluge’. As the result of Charles X Gustav’s campaign the population of Poland decreased by 30%. The events were popularised by Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz in his second part of his trilogy of 17th century Poland called ’The Deluge’.
JOHN III SOBIESKI
John III Sobieski was one of Poland’s most distinguished kings. He became most famous of his splendid victory over the Ottoman Empire in the battle of Vienna in 1683 which was a historic turning point for Europe. This brave king had also another, more romantic side. His love for his wife, Marie Casimire d’Arquien, became legendary as one of most passionate love affairs in Poland’s history. After that we have letters that the couple wrote to each other, but also the palace in Wilanow built by Sobieski for his wife.
Frédéric Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw. A few months later the Chopin family moved to the capital. In Warsaw he spent his childhood and adolescence. The young composer and virtuoso experienced initial successes in his first concerts. In 1830 the composer left Poland for a concert trip. He could not know that a political situation would not allow him to travel back to the country. Warsaw really has Chopin and his music in focus. Every five years the International Chopin Piano Competition takes place here. It is one of the most prestigious and oldest pianist competitions in the world. Lovers of Chopin music are not disappointed with the number of concerts in town. Most popular are Sunday concerts at the Chopin monument in Lazienki Park where people listen to mazurkas, polonaises, preludes…
Royal Lazienki Park (meaning the Royal Baths) is one of city’s most adorable places. It is a palace and garden complex built in the 17th century by Poland’s last king – Stanislaw II Augustus Poniatowski. The name of the park comes from a bath house that was in the park earlier, but was rebuilt at king’s request for the present Palace on the Water.
The king was a learned person and patron. His famous Thursday’s dinners (when most famous Polish intellectuals met) are still remembered today.
Stanislaw was active for the introduction of the Constitution in 1791 which was the first on the continent and the second following the United States Constitution. Unfortunately he could not prevent Poland from being wiped out as an independent nation divided by her neighbours.
Maria Sklodowska-Curie is one of the most famous women of Warsaw. She was the first woman to receive Nobel Prize and one of the few awarded twice (1903 in Physics and 1911 in Chemistry).
- visit to the Family Nozyk Synagogue
- the route of the life of Janusz Korczak – from his childhood in Saski Park, through his doctor studies, his work in a hospital for children, orphanage at Krochmalna Street 92 towards the march to Umschlagplatz
- lunch break
- POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
- return to the hotel
Lunch in a Jewish restaurant
Dinner – cuisine from Warsaw
Janusz Korczak’s life and death is a story of dignity, greatness, humanism and sacrifice, at the same time a warning against the war and racial hatred.
Janusz Korczak was a principal of foster homes for Jewish children in Warsaw. After the outbreak of World War II, the ghetto was created in the district of Wola by the Nazis. The children and staff were moved from the foster home to the ghetto. Korczak was offered a rescue, but did not leave his children. In July 1942 deportations began to the death camp in Treblinka. When it was time for the children to go, Korczak placed himself at the front of the crowd over 200 children. This is how the 4-hour march of Korczak and the children between the foster home and Umschlagplatz was described by Wladysław Szpilman – the Polish composer whom the world got to know thanks to Roman Polanski’s film – ‘The Pianist’:
‘It might have been August 5th (…) I became a random witness to Janusz Korczak and the children’s march from the ghetto (…) He had been living for years with them and he did not want to leave them alone in their last way. He tried to make it easier for them. He explained that they had something to be happy about because they were heading towards the countryside (…) When I met them on Gesia Street the children were singing while they were walking, singing all the way joyfully. A little musician accompanied them and Korczak carried two youngest children. He was telling them something funny.’ (Source: Wikipedia)
Janusz Korczak left behind a rich literary heritage on education and raising of the children. His ideas about child education and visionary views on the rights of children laid the foundations for modern legal solutions in Poland and the world. Children love Korczak first and foremost for his novels as ‘King Matt the First’ which seems to be the most popular.
MOSCOW OR PARIS?
- walk through the districts of Warsaw built in Stalinist architecture
– Marszalkowska Estate
– ’The District of Ministries’
– the Palace of Culture
- Warsaw’s City
- the pearls of Warsaw architecture
- return to the hotel
Lunch in the style of former People’s Republic of Poland in a legendary restaurant – a meeting point for Warsaw’s artistic circles
Dinner in a stylish restaurant
Before WWII Warsaw was called Northern Europe’s Paris. After the war many neighbourhoods were rebuilt in a new style – socialist classicism. The Palace of Culture became a new symbol for Warsaw and was a dominant landmark of the cityscape. How much does Warsaw look like Moscow and how much as Paris? Is Warsaw perhaps a city of its own kind? See for yourself!
REBUILDING OF WARSAW
Warsaw was destroyed many times during World War II. The first severe damage was caused by German bombings and siege in September 1939. Tragic results were caused by Soviet bombings between 1941 and 1944. As a result of the liquidation of the ghetto, two districts of the city disappeared: Wola and Muranow. After the fall of Warsaw uprising the city was systematically plundered, burned and destroyed for many months by the special German forces: Vernichtungskommando and Verbrennungskommando. The city was a sea of ruins. There were decisions contemplated to place Poland’s state institutions in Lodz. Thanks to an architect Jan Zachwatowicz and his enthusiasm and determination, Poles began to plan a reconstruction of entire neighbourhoods on a scale that was previously unknown. It was motivated by the reluctance to ‘tear out the entire pages of Poland’s history books and to be deprived of country’s magnificent architecture history’. It is hard to believe, but in the country that was so much ruined by the war, masses were mobilized – Warsaw was reconstructed thanks to private voluntary donations. Construction workers from across the country travelled to the city in order to contribute to the reconstruction. It all took place in the atmosphere of immense enthusiasm. Reconstruction plans were based on saved plans and pictures, as well as the 17th century paintings by Bernardo Bellotto. Not rarely there was a need to find help… in people’s memories.
The highlight of the reconstruction was the entry of its symbol – the Old Town of Warsaw – on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, though reconstruction’s ideas and implementation were a clear violation of The Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites accepted by world’s historians and architects in 1964.
THE PALACE OF CULTURE
The Palace of Culture was in 1950s officially named Josef Stalin’s Culture and Science Palace. It was opened in 1955 as Soviet nation’s gift for the Poles. An idea of building the palace came from the Generalissimus himself who wanted to make a contribution to the reconstruction of the city after World War II. It is said that the government of Poland received a choice: a construction of a skyscraper, of an underground line, of a residential area, of a sports centre or of a health centre were suggested. In the end Polish authorities chose the palace as the most spectacular investment. To complete the project a whole neighbourhood was torn down. There were quite a lot of buildings in a good condition. The city residents waited for the opening of the first underground line 63 years after the end of the war. During the construction of the palace 7 thousand workers were employed. 16 of them died in various occupational accidents. There are stories that claim that the workers were immured in the walls of the palace. There are still many stories about palace’s secrets: tunnels, corridors or even a hidden railway. The future of the palace is being discussed today. Many want it to be demolished because it symbolizes Soviet control over Poland during communist times. That solution is no longer realistic because the palace was listed as a cultural heritage in 2007.
Can you imagine Warsaw without the Palace of Culture? Not really.
Poland’s capital is on the rush all the time. The street traffic decreases late at night. The city residents are constantly rushing to work or home. This fast pace on the streets of the capital affects even tourists who usually have time for everything – but they also unknowingly accelerate their steps. Nevertheless the Polish city freezes for one minute each year, August 1 at 17.00 and it happens in the middle of the rush hours. At the civil defence siren sound all the cars, trams and buses, pedestrians freeze. Warsaw’s residents remind ‘The W Hour’, i.e. the time when hard battles with the German occupier that lasted 63 days began. The fighters wanted to liberate the city from German hands. Towards the Red Army who advanced from the East, they wanted to play a role of hosts, thus not allowing a new, Stalinist occupation to begin. The uprising collapsed despite the fighters managed to take control of certain parts of the city, despite the heroism of the soldiers and the civilian population. The situation was even more dramatic because Russians not only refused to provide Warsaw with help, but also prohibited the allied airplanes to land at Soviet airports to refuel which reduced the amounts of weapon deliveries to the fighters. After the Red Army liberated the districts on the Eastern side of the river, the Russians watched passively the continued battles that were extinguishing and the civilian slaughter on Vistula’s opposite side for over two weeks. Among the victims were over 200 thousand civilians. Those who survived, just over 500 thousand, were expelled by German forces from the city.
On September 4, 1944 Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski died near the Grand Theatre. He was shot dead by a German sniper. Baczynski was one of the most genius poets in Poland’s history of literature. A critic, Stanislaw Pigon, commented his death that way: ‘We belong to a nation that is shooting against its enemies with diamonds …’
Bernardo Bellotto also called Canaletto – was an Italian artist who settled in 1768 in Warsaw invited by Poland’s King Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski. He painted urban landscapes and street views of Warsaw. His works were used as a basis for the reconstructions of the totally destroyed city after World War II.
- Narodowy Football Arena and the district of Praga
- boulevards by the Vistula River
- market halls in Warsaw
- Zbawiciela Square
- return to the hotel
Lunch in Praga
Dinner – new trends in Polish cuisine
Praga is one of central districts of Warsaw located on the eastern bank of the Vistula River. Praga was not as hard hit by destruction during World War II as it the west bank side was, but as a result of the communism, the district became greatly neglected. Nowadays it is a magnet for capital’s hipster culture. Industrial buildings are being turned into residential houses, rundown buildings are being refurbished; trendy cafes, clubs, unique shops are being established. The specific atmosphere draws many artists who open their workshops, studios, alternative theatres.
If you want to become acquainted with pre-war Warsaw and its atmosphere, there is nowhere else to find it than on the streets of Praga.
FAREWELL TO WARSAW
- transfer to the airport
- departure from Warsaw
PRICE from 405 € per person*
*price for 50-person group. The price includes accommodation in a double room of a 3 star hotel, meals: breakfasts, lunches, dinners, guided tours, guide service, bus transfer in Warsaw, entry tickets to sights. The price does not include transport to and from Warsaw.
The programme is addressed to groups from 10 to 50 people
Do you wish to see more? Here are some propositions:
- The Warsaw Rising Museum
- The Chopin Museum
- The National Museum
- The Museum of Warsaw
- The Royal Castle
- The Copernicus Science Centre
- The Opera, theatre plays
- A trip to the place of birth of Frédéric Chopin in Zelazowa Wola
- ferry or ship cruise
- horse riding
- bus transfer
- canoeing rally
- attractions for kids
- amusement park
- workshops or team building
- car rental
- bike trips
- swimming pool
- walking tour
- nature study
- narrow-gauge railway
- adventure park
- bungee jumping
- shotting range or paintball