After the group stage of Poland-Ukraine 2012, the eight remaining teams have a day’s rest before the knockout phase begins; in Poland’s National Stadium, Warsaw.
The capital of Poland is in the middle of the country and at the centre of the Polish road and rail system.
Warsaw expanded around the castle of the dukes of Masovia in the early 14th century, and became the capital of the Polish Kingdom in 1595; after the burning of Krakow.
I’ve been to Poland a few times but have only visited Warsaw the once.
We had been driving around Poland over Christmas and arrived in Warsaw on New Year’s Day.
I didn’t really know where I was heading – we certainly didn’t have any reservations – but the car thought it did and we arrived right opposite what looked like the tallest building in Poland; something that could have easily been transplanted into the wide open space from 1930s Chicago.
I was later informed that this was the Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki), or PKiN (Pekin); and a ‘gift from the Soviet people’.
If this was a statement of Soviet architecture then it’s a shame the Soviet construction industry didn’t keep with the Stalinist style and stay clear of the prefabricated concrete of Khrushchev’s cost-cutting campaign.
I didn’t like the look of the towering Novotel, on the other side of the street, so we tried the nearby Polonia Palace Hotel.
It was early evening and some people, with dinner jackets and ball gowns over their arms, were still checking out; after the long night before.
I looked up at the glittering decorations being removed from the high lobby then wondered what the room rates for such a luxurious establishment would be, and if they would offer us a special offer on this first day of a new year.
I had the plea all worked out but couldn’t believe my ears when the receptionist offered us a double room for fifty Euros. The cold, grey images I seemed to have of Warsaw melted away in an instant.
After an excellent buffet breakfast the following morning, I was pleasantly surprised at how the old town had been rebuilt, after the destruction of World War II, and lovingly restored to its former glory. There are before and after pictures to compare and a plaque in the street proudly proclaiming that Warsaw is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Culture.
The Royal Castle leads down to the Old Town Market Square (Rynek Starego Miasta) where the Renaissance and Baroque style houses have been meticulously restored.
The Barbican, a relic of the medieval fortifications, is to the south of the square, and further south is Lazienki Park.
Lazienki Park has a monument to the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, and the 18th century summer palace of Stanislas II Augustus.
There are many historic churches in Warsaw, and numerous museums and galleries. Two notable monuments are dedicated to the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto and the Polish underground during World War II.
The official website of the capital of Poland.