Warsaw – the capital of Poland and the Mazovian Voivodeship. It is situated in the Central Mazovian Lowland, on the Vistula. Warsaw is a large centre of the political, scientific, cultural and economic life; here there are located offices of authorities of the countries - the Seym and the Senate, the president, the government as well as political parties, diplomatic and trade missions of other countries, a variety of nationwide organizations. The town is the capital of the Warsaw Metropolis of the Roman Catholic Church, of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church and its Diocese of Warsaw-Bielsko, the seat of the Synod of the Lutheran Church as well as the Senior of the Warsaw Diocese. Warsaw is the main financial centre in Poland; here, there are headquarters of the biggest Polish banks, including National Bank of Poland (NBP), insurance companies, including but not limited to PZU and Warta; Financial, Banking Centre and The Warsaw Stock Exchange also operate here. Warsaw is also a developing centre of trade fairs and exhibitions: among others the following events take place here (mainly in the halls of the Palace of Culture and Science, at Torwar and in the new Exhibition Centre “Mokotów”) : The International Book Fair, Eurobuild, Food Fairs, Computer Expo and Tourist Fairs.
The first settlement on the area of current Warsaw existed in Jazdów (remains from VII-IX c.). The settlement on the right bank of the Vistula began in Stare Bródno (castle from X-XI c.), and then (XI-XII c.) the settlements Kamion and Targowa, which were related to the crossing of the river, came into existence (at present housing estates Kamioneki and Targówek): on the left bank of the river Solec. It was in the 13th century that the settlement of Jazdów gained the greatest significance: located at the crossroads of two major routes: N -S from Pomerania through Zakroczym to Czersk and E-W the crossing over the Vistula.
The division of the town
The Vistula divides the area of Warsaw into the left-bank part, lying mainly on the moraine denudation plain (height to 115 m) and the right-bank part located in the valley (height to 90 m). The oldest districts of Warsaw founded in the Middle Ages, are the Old Town (Stare Miasto) and the New Town (Nowe Miasto), which are located on the escarpment, just above the Vistula River. It is to the South and South-West from them that further settlements were founded in XVI-XVIII c. This part of Warsaw is rich in historical monuments, renovated after the World War II. The former character has been saved by the Royal Route (Trakt Królewski) leading from the Royal Castle along the streets: Krakowskie Przedmieście, Nowy Świat and Aleje Ujazdowskie towards Wilanów. It is to the South-West from the historical districts that the current town centre was created in the 19th century, which has commercial, service, cultural and housing character. Warsaw is characterized by a relatively loose building development. Green areas occupy a part of the town. It is among the old parks and gardens that the most known ones are: Łazienkowski, Ujazdowski, Prague, Skaryszewski, I.J. Paderewski, Marshal Piłsudski (Pole Mokotowskie), Żeromski and Ogród Saski parks.
The building development of the town experienced numerous periods of development and damages. A particularly bad period for Warsaw was the time of the World War II, when a considerable part of buildings was destroyed. Today, while wandering in the town, it is possible to admire both the Royal Castle as well as beautiful historic tenements of the Old Town. In order that it would be possible to admire these buildings in such a form today, many years of efforts and reconstruction were needed. Only few historic houses survived in the condition not requiring any reconstruction. The majority of them regained the former magnificence thanks to architects and Warsaw artists. The entirely reconstructed Old Town was placed on the UNESCO‘s list as an example of a reconstruction. The majority of the buildings on this area date from the turn of the XVII and XVIII century, while the walls surrounding them were constructed three centuries earlier. The tenements are set up on the quadrangle plan round the marketplace in the similar way to medieval plans. There are not many historic buildings outside the historic centre in Warsaw. Singly scattered monuments or houses all over the town are modern unordered architecture from socialist times. At that time such monuments were constructed like the Palace of Culture and Science or the famous Rotunda. The lack of spatial planning of the post-war architects destroyed what was the most beautiful in the town, therefore the capital may seem a boring town for persons from the outside.
Warsaw is a town of green. Almost a quarter of the capital areas are green areas: parks, squares and gardens. A supplement to historical parks, being a decoration for royal and aristocratic residences, such as Ogród Saski, Łazienki or Wilanów, is created by modern gardens, as the one on the roof of the University Library or Pole Mokotowskie being an enclave of green on the junction of a few districts. There are also several nature reserves and two botanic gardens in Warsaw. Within the borders of Warsaw there are also woodlands: to the biggest ones belong: Las Bielański (reserve), Park Młociński, Las Kabacki (S.Starzyński Reserve), Lasy Wawerskie (a fragment of the Mazowiecki Landscape Park with the King Jan Sobieski Reserve), Park Leśny Bemowo, Lasek na Kole. Warsaw municipal parks are: Łazienki Park, Wilanów Park, Ogród Saski (Saxon Garden), Ogród Krasińskich (Krasiński Garden), Park Praski (Prague Park), Park Skaryszewski (Skaryszewski Park), Park Ujazdowski (Ujazdowski Park), Park Morskie Oko (Sea Eye Park), Pola Mokotowskie, Edward Rydz Śmigły Park, Las Bielański, Kępa Potocka, Stefan Żeromski Park, Park Moczydło, Gen of Józef Sowiński Park, Kampinos National Park.
Places of the National Memory
As it befits a capital city and a town with such a stormy history, there are many places of the national memory in Warsaw. The majority of them is associated with the events of the World War II, during which the capital city played a significant role. In the Grzybowska Street, there is the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising – one of the most interesting and most visited museums in Warsaw. A special attraction is the museum tower, from which there is a beautiful view on Warsaw and the Freedom Park with the Memorial Wall, on which above 10 000 surnames of killed insurgents are carved. The Mausoleum of Struggle and Martyrdom was created in Szuch Avenue, at the place of the former prison. The Home Army Monument, The Warsaw Shoemaker Jan Kiliński Monument,The Little Insurgent Monument, The Warsaw Uprising Monument, Battle of Monte Cassino Monument, Heroes of Warsaw “Nike” Monument, Heroes of The Ghetto Monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are only few representatives from the long list of places, at which it is worthwhile to stop for a moment.
It is additionally to monuments and touring that one may spend time in many other ways in Warsaw. The cultural offer is unusually rich but apart from theatres, the capital city has also a lot of interesting places for active recreation in the offer. Of course, the base is created by numerous parks, in which there are many possibilities for jogging, cycling or simply walking. The most popular bicycle route leads along the left bank of the Vistula, from Młocin to Powsina. On a bike, it is also possible to travel all over the Kampinos Forest (Puszcza Kampinoska) or Kabacki Forest (Las Kabacki). For more specific enthusiasts, there are also swimming pools and aqua parks as well as numerous tennis courts here. It is possible to recommend climbing walls and extraordinary rope parks to enthusiasts of climbing, in which it is possible to walk on suspension bridges. Warsaw means also golf, squash, paintball, jumping on Banji, ricochet, quad bikes and many other proposals.