Brief History of Warsaw, Poland
Poland has a rough, but also fascinating history. For 123 years, from 1795 to 1918, Poland did not exist as a country and its land was integrated into the Austrian Empire, Prussia, and Russia. Despite the oppression Poles faced under foreign rule, they kept the culture alive through nurturing traditions, customs, and the Polish language. Even after regaining independence on November 11th of 1918, Poland did not experience peace for a long time. The Second World War devastated most Polish cities, especially Warsaw which was once called the “Paris of the East”. After the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, 63 days of ruthless warfare, 16,000 soldiers died in combat, 6,000 were badly injured and about 200,000 civilians were killed – mainly through mass executions. Nearly 90% of buildings in the capital were destroyed including the entire Old Town. As joyful as the end of the war was, Poles did not experience true freedom and peace until 1989 — the year which marked the fall of the communist regime.
Old Town in Warsaw
Christmas Market in the Old Town
Warsaw is full of interesting both historical and modern sites. The heart of Warsaw is the Old Town Market Place, rich in restaurants, cafés and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, the Barbican and St. John’s Cathedral. In the winter, the Old Town is revived with the festivities of the Christmas season. The Christmas market and the ice skating rink make it seem like a winter wonderland. For the fans of art history, the National Museum is a great destination for learning about medieval and renaissance pieces. The Palace of Culture and Science, the tallest building in Warsaw, has an observation deck from which you can see the entire city landscape. Finally, the Copernicus Science Center is the ultimate museum for science lovers. Each exhibition in the center is interactive, educational, but also very fun!
Copernicus Science Center
December in Warsaw is rather cold with temperatures at night or sometimes even during the day falling below -10C. The average, however, is from -3C to 2C but winds and snow flurries can make the apparent temperature seem lower.
Make sure to bring warm jackets, scarves, hats, and maybe even gloves. We also recommend bringing sweaters to wear inside the school as it might get cold. Lastly, please bring appropriate, waterproof footwear for walking outside as it may rain or even snow.
Warsaw’s many restaurant offer plenty of international culinary experiences, however, traditional food is certainly worth trying when visiting the capital.
For example, the most famous Polish food is called pierogi. These are boiled dumpling with many possible fillings ranging from meat to cabbage to fruit. Kiełbasa, a type of sausage made from mixed meats, is also a favorite among Poles.
On the sweeter side, almost everyone enjoys caramel sweets called krówki. Szarlotka and sernik are two types of Polish desserts with the former being very similar to apple pie and the latter to cheesecake.