MID-2. Warsaw from the river side and traces of the past in the modern city
The first settlements within the present administrative borders of Warsaw were established in the 9th century, while they obtained city rights before 1300. However, Warsaw became the capital of the Polish state only at the end of the 16th century. For centuries the character and extent of the city have obviously changed. The urban layout of modern Warsaw was mostly formed during the reconstruction from significant damage after World War II. Warsaw's center was almost completely destroyed during the war, but the damage in the districts of the right river bank as well as in the suburbs was not as extensive.
This excursion will pay attention to the two specific topics.
We will start on the banks of the Vistula river, which is the main axis of the city. The area between embankments with natural and semi-natural forest and shrub communities on the right bank provides suitable habitats for many plant and animal species. It is also a natural ventilation corridor that enables air exchange between the city center and the surroundings of Warsaw. For many years, the recreational and touristic potential of the Vistula was not used due to the pollution of the river. The change of the water protection policy and the consequent improvement of the water quality in the Vistula contributed to the city turning towards the river. The Vistula boulevards on the left bank with walking and cycling routes and beaches on the both banks are now often visited by locals in the season.
In the second part we will introduce you to the oldest historical part of the city. We will walk through the Vistula boulevards to the garden of the Royal Castle and the Old Town - almost completely reconstructed after World War II and then included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980 as an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century. There are still many traces of the past events in its narrow streets, some remained buildings’ facades and most of the underground structures. Next we will go to the neighboring district – Muranów that was mostly settled by the Jewish population before World War II and then turned to the ghetto during the war. The existing housing estate was rebuilt directly on its ruins, hence the characteristic hilly landscape. In the center of Muranów there is POLIN museum documenting centuries-old history of Polish Jews. The building erected in 2009–2013 according to the design of Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma, the winners of the international architectural competition in 2005.