Other than feeling incredibly sick, yesterday wasn't a total loss. It was the conference afternoon off, and I had signed up for an organized tour of Warsaw. It suffered from some of the usual downsides of bus tours...why did we get out of the bus here, but drive by there, but all in all, it wasn't bad. For some reason, only a small fraction of the conference attendees signed up, so we were actually in a Mercedes mini-bus.
Anyway, here's my impression of our tour guide:
"The Nazis destroyed that...The Nazis destroyed that...The Russians desroyed that...The Nazis destroyed that...OK, that we just didn't build right to begin with...The Nazis destroyed that..."
Seriously, though, that's unfair of me. It leaves out the most astounding part of the city, which was that after the war, they decided to built it right back again. As a result, you can stroll down streets that look hundreds of years old, but are less than 60. And it's not like a Disneyland version...everything was done for authenticity, not tourism. It displays a certain amount of stubornness..."OK, we don't really need a castle any more, but we're not going to let some jerks come into our country and burn it down."
As the World Heritage page says,
During the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, more than 85% of Warsaw's historic centre was destroyed by Nazi troops. After the war, a five-year reconstruction campaign by its citizens resulted in today's meticulous restoration of the Old Town, with its churches, palaces and market-place. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.
Actually, the castle was not restored until the 1980s. One of the odd sights in the castle were busts of Washington and Jefferson, which were donated by Bush I. They were displayed like wedding gifts that a couple didn't really want, but have to leave out for fear of offending someone. (Note: we didn't get anything like that. It was all great. You shold be getting your thank you notes soon.)