Thursday, April 8th, 2004 to Friday, April 9th, 2004

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

I was up and about around 9.30am and headed into town. My appetite has still not fully returned. It was pissing rain. It was cold and miserable. I walked to the old town area past various churches and old buildings. The old town, cathedral and square were empty. I then walked to the Warsaw uprising monument and then onto the main shopping area. Its a very gray and dour city which was totally destroyed during the Warsaw uprising.

After the uprising the Germans systematically razed most of Warsaw to the ground. Eighty five percent of buildings were destroyed: 25% as a result of the uprising, 35% as result of systematic German actions after the uprising, the rest as result of the earlier Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other combat including the September 1939 campaign.

The Warsaw Uprising

By 1944 with the tide of war turning, and their resources and morale seemingly in disarray, German forces had begun a strategic retreat from Warsaw. Following close contact with the Polish government exiled in London, as well as assurances of Allied aid, the Home Army (Poland’s wartime underground movement) launched a military strike with the aim of liberating Warsaw and installing an independent government.

At 17:00, August 1, 1944, General Tadeusz Komorowski signalled the order for Polish troops to launch attacks on German held positions. In spite of being disastrously ill equipped (only around 10% of the 40,000 strong force in his command were properly armed), the sheer ferocity of the attack, as well as the element of surprise, caught the German forces off guard. Within days vast swathes of Warsaw had been captured by insurgents and for the first time in five years the Polish flag flew defiantly over the city. The initial success of the uprising was short lived. News of the rebellion had infuriated the German high command. Himmler immediately issued orders to recapture Warsaw, and with key strategic targets such as landing strips and bridges firmly under Nazi control it wasn’t long before reinforcements of crack German and Ukrainian military units started pouring in to crush the revolt.

The beleaguered Home Army, already stretched to the limit, had no option but to hold fast and wait for help from the outside world. The Red Army, whose forces had reached the environs of the Praga side of Warsaw, promptly halted their steady advance and essentially did nothing while the battle for Warsaw raged on the other side of the Wis?a river. If the Poles thought things couldn’t get any worse then they hadn’t gambled on Stalin sticking his oar in. In move that effectively sealed the fate of the uprising, Uncle Joe refused to grant permission for the Western Allies to use Soviet air fields in a bid to relieve the Home Army. The embargo was eventually lifted on September 10, but by this time Warsaw was in a critical condition. On the occasions that relief drops did make it thought the anti-aircraft fire, they often caused more harm than good. On September 18, 100 Flying Fortress’ dropped thousands of food and munitions parcels. Only 20% reached the desired target. Not for the first time in history, Poland had been let down by its closest allies.Throughout this time, Nazi forces continued to pound the Polish forces, and the battle descended into a street for street, hand to hand bloodbath. Sewers and other escape routes were gassed, civilians butchered, children used as human shields, prisoners of war murdered; the list of atrocities knew no bounds.

Mid-September saw numerous attempts by other Polish battalions to smash through German lines that had by now encircled the Home Army into small pockets of resistance. Token victories failed to compensate for the catastrophic casualty list that was now mounting. With the advent of October the Poles found themselves in an increasingly impossible situation. On October 2, 1944, with no hope in sight, General Komorowski signed a capitulation document in O?ar?w Mazowiecki. The battle had cost the lives of over 20,000 troops and some 150,000 civilians. With the uprising defeated, Hitler ordered all remaining civilians to be expelled, and surviving buildings to be numbered in their order of importance to Polish culture and systematically dynamited. The darkest chapter of Warsaw’s history had been written.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

I ate a pizza and headed back to the hostel around 6.00pm where I didn?t move from until I went to bed around 10.00pm.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Warsaw uprising monument – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Friday, April 9th, 2004

I had to leave the hostel by 10.00am. It was still raining. Two days of rain. I was sick of the place. No offense as I hadn’t gone out here but it was dark and miserable place and the population of the city seems to suit the miserable and dour buildings. I don?t think I saw anybody smile yesterday. My flight to Frankfurt wasn?t until 7.00pm but I had no motivation to walk around this place. I took a tram to the main station and went on the net for two hours (6 Z per hour). I then took the 175 bus to the airport 10km away. It only took about 20 minutes.

It?s a small dinky airport – even smaller then Shannon. Now that they are becoming part of Europe, small low cost carriers are opening routes there come May 1st. There is a small separate domestic terminal with about 10 chairs and a kiosk. In another terminal there is access for low costs carriers like Air polonia and Air Wings. It is a very, very small place with little to entertain the waiting passenger. I decided to stay around the airport all day instead sightseeing in Warsaw. Its just goes to show what I think of Warsaw.

My flight to Frankfurt Hahn was supposed to leave at 7.00pm but didn?t leave until 8.00pm. The price was 50.26 Euro including all charges. They were frantically cleaning and refueling the plane as we approached. So much so, a cleaning lady fell down the steps from the plane door to the tarmac spilling bags of rubbish all over the place. She was OK. The flight was pretty full and at 10.05pm we arrived in Frankfurt.

There wasn?t any bus going to the city until 11.15pm. I was trying to remember whether the curfew at the hostel was at 12.00 midnight or 2.00am. It was 12 euro to the city. The bus makes one stop at the main airport before heading to the city centre 25 minutes away. We stopped there at 12.30am and I decided to get out. I was of two minds all the way from Hahn. Should I stay on, get to the railway station at 1.00am and get a taxi to the hostel (maybe 10 Euro). A bed in the hostel was 23 Euro. My second choice was to sleep at the International Airport (where I worked for three summers) and head into town to sightsee tomorrow.

I decided to stay at the airport, as I didn?t know whether I would make it to the hostel for 2.00am and anyway I would have only about 6 hours sleep there. It?s the only hostel in town and they wake you about 8.20am in the morning for breakfast.

I know the airport very well having worked in restaurants here for two summers. I even know a lot of the secure areas like the basement tunnels etc. I knew there are some comfy seats in the waiting area for the internal tram that takes you from terminal one to two. I went up there and spread out on three seats.

I got little sleep as I would wake up every 30 minutes or so to listen to announcements or calls for passengers.

The thriving industrial metropolis of Frankfurt, Germany’s fifth-largest city and Goethe’s hometown may well be your first glimpse of Germany. Most international flights land here at Frankfurt’s huge airport, and its massive 19th-century railway station is the busiest in Europe. Frankfurt is a heavily industrial city, with more than 2,450 factories operating around the ford (Furt) on the Main River, where the Frankish tribes once settled. As the home of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, Frankfurt is also the country’s financial center. It’s been a major banking city ever since the Rothschilds opened their first bank here in 1798. Frankfurt also has a leading stock exchange. If all roads used to lead to Rome, today they seem to converge on Frankfurt, making it the hub of a great network of European traffic routes. Frankfurt today is both a much visited business center and a worthy tourist destination with a distinct personality.

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