compare and contrast

Witam from Poland,

Why is it that tourists are drawn to Old Towns? It seems a paradox in an era when our civilisation is so heavily based on modernity, in finding solutions in the new and archaic irrelevance in the old. It’s not as if we are all strolling along the cobblestone pavements studiously comparing and contrasting styles of architecture, or seeking to explain some momentous point of inflection in social behaviour. The old historic centres throughout Europe have all undergone a renaissance as a direct consequence of the tourists’ attraction to the past. Warsaw is a different case.

Warsaw’s Old Town is a very pleasant spot for cafés and restaurants, for strolling and – in this case – looking over the river. On the surface, it looks like a well-preserved Old Town. The trouble is most of it was built (rebuilt) after World War 2. When Warsaw was demolished during the war (mainly by the retreating Germans), 85% of the Old Town was reduced to ruins. Civic authorities here – starting with the communist regime – have seen the benefit of investing a lot of public money – followed by the private – to create an ambience of centuries-old urban life.

The fact that nothing really resembles the reality of life here is not really under anyone’s scrutiny. Like so many other tourist attractions, it was not built for that specific purpose. The souvenirs are commercial crass in a simulated atmosphere of medieval antiquity.

Despite being a partial fake, Warsaw’s Old Town has to be one of the most pleasant to stay, to stroll and dine.

It was rebuilt using 18th century paintings by Bernardo Bellotto. There were 22 of these paintings by the Italian artist and much of the reconstruction – often using the rubble from the previous buildings – was designed with those templates alone.

So, today Old Town Warsaw is a paradox. The selfie-snapping latte-sipping tourists are heavily imbued with the modern idiom: that everything new is superior to everything old. But the mirage of antiquity still seems to beat the modern CBD.

Do widzenia from Poland


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