The Polish capital of Warsaw liesin the central-eastern part of Poland.
It stands on the Vistula River on the site ofa 14th century stronghold and trading center.
Warsaw has for centuries been a centerof refinement and knowledge.
It’s strategic position has also made itone of the most invaded countries in Europe.
This is a city that resonateswith a powerful spirit of reinvention, a spirit that has been forged from a history that has pushed it to the brink of destructiontime and time again.
Today’s Warsaw has been largely shaped bytwo of history’s most defining events, World War Two, and the closing of the Iron Curtain.
But Warsaw is a survivor, and from the ashes of warand the shackles of Communism, the city has risen again.
Tributes to this heroic history are dottedthroughout the city, but there is a youthful rebirth here too.
With a burgeoning fashion scene, stylish shopping mallsand edgy art installations, Warsaw has opened its arms to the world.
The true heart of Warsaw is its Old Town a stunning tribute to the city’s willto survive and rebuild.
This is where, in the dying daysof the second world war, brave locals launched the Warsaw Uprising, one of the most heroic resistance actionsever seen against the Nazis.
In retaliation, the Nazis almost completely destroyedthe city.
The opulent Royal Castle, in Castle Squarewhich served as the seat of power for Polish Kings for many centurieswas one of the countless buildings that were systematically destroyed, many by dynamite.
Before the detonations, however, and at enormous personal risk, museum staff and civilians managed to savea number of the castle’s treasures.
After the war, much of the Old Town was painstakingly rebuilt using 18th century paintings as a reference.
In front of the castle isKing Sigismund’s Column.
Badly damaged but restored, at the end of the war, this is another symbol of the city’s resurrection.
One of the few statues not destroyed bythe German army, is the nearby Syrena or mermaid statue.
The symbol and protector of Warsaw, the mermaid has been on the city’scoat of arms for centuries.
The Old Town is also home tosome of Warsaw’s beautiful cathedrals.
Visit St Johns Cathedral and St Anne’s Church, whose interior miraculously survived the war.
From the tower at the top of the stone stairs, the Warsaw skyline spreads out before you.
On the northern side of the Old Town Squareis the Warsaw Museum, a keeping place of the city’s dramatic stories.
Visit the beautiful Warsaw University which served as military barracksfor the German army.
During the occupation, education was mostly outlawed, but an underground “secret university”emerged.
More than 3, 000 students continued their lessonsthroughout the occupation in homes around the city, but many paid the ultimate price.
Their fate was shared by millions of Polesduring the Second World War and Warsaw has a number of powerful monumentshonouring the nation’s loss.
The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is built on the site that was oncethe infamous Warsaw ghetto.
Here, more than 400, 000 men, women and children were incarcerated in just less thanone and a half square miles.
Nearby, the Warsaw Uprising Monument andthe Warsaw Rising Museum pay tribute to one of the bravest chaptersof the city’s long history.
The Palace of Culture and Science, is a remnant from a slightly later era; it was a gift to the Polish people from Stalinat the height of the Cold War.
Travel a little further back in time witha stroll along the Royal Route.
This path was once used by Polish Kings travelingfrom the Old Town to the Wilanów Palace.
Today it is a popular tourist walk, studded with historical sites.
As you head along Nowy Swiat Street, you’ll pass the monument to Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, who on his deathbed in 1543, revolutionised science with his theorythat the earth orbits the sun.
A little closer to the river isthe Copernicus Science Centre whose mission is to inspire people to observe, experiment and challenge conventional wisdom.
In the Holy Cross Church, lies a very personal reminder of another ofWarsaw’s famous sons, composer and pianist, Fryderyk Chopin.
This musical genius so lovedthe city of his birth that he requested his heart be returned to Warsawwhen he died.
You can see where it now resides here.
During the summer months, Chopin’s music floats through Lazienki Park, the largest park in Warsaw.
Lazienki Palace started life as a bathhousebut in the 18th century, the last Polish King converted itinto his summer residence.
The last stop on the Royal Route is Wilanow Palace.
With its luxurious artworks and formal garden, it is an outstanding testament toPoland’s early wealth and magnificence.
But even as Warsaw honours its past, this city of rebirth is creating new stories.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland’s economy has boomed.
That economic success is reflected in theluxury malls that have sprung up, such as Zlote Tarasy and the VITKAC department store.
Other areas in Warsaw are also being transformed.
A number of former industrial areas are nowserving up cutting edge spaces and hip restaurants.
Visit Praga, on the right bank of the Vistula Riverto discover venues like the Soho Factory.
Once an ammunition factory, it is now home to a range of stylish shopsand museums such as the Neon Museum.
This exhibition is dedicated to preservingthe iconic signs from Warsaw’s Soviet era, many of which were producedby some of Poland’s most famous artists.
These reclaimed urban areas are perhapsthe perfect reflection of Warsaw today.
Just like the people of Warsaw, these young and innovative areas are creatingnew life and beauty amidst the remnants of an often tragic history.
Warsaw today shines like a beacon to the the world.
It reminds us that, no matter how dark a city’s past, the spirit of hope will always triumph in the end.