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Old June 6th, 2009, 01:00 PM   #1
zenon
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Warsaw Voted Europe's Ugliest City

So, it’s official, or as official as an internet poll of dumbwits can be. Warsaw is the ugliest city in Europe say the pollsters at TripAdvisor, and not only that, it’s also the third worst place to eat. After years of brainstorming and self-flagellation one can practically imagine members of Warsaw’s promotion bureau, the WDA, choking on their tea time donut having seen that. And they’ve every right. Warsaw’s no longer the grim Soviet afterthought of yesteryear, here’s a city that’s come on leaps and bounds in recent years – the dusty tundra once found surrounding the Palace of Culture has sprouted great towers of glass and steel. The blackened tenements lining Jerozolimskie have been patched and painted, and at every turn there’s signs of regeneration and renewal. Even Praga has become trendy, though notably not among people who live there, but those who taxi in to gush how edgy it all is, before cabbing it back to finish the night in their gated community.
Yep, Warsaw’s great, but even the most patriotic of locals will admit it’s got a fair dealing of eyesores and evils – and many of these are pretty high profile, ie zap, pow right in the city centre. For tourists nurtured on Paris and Prague it’s these concrete bungles that leave a thumping headache. But wait one moment, just because they’re nasty to look at, it doesn’t make them dull. You can bet your life Warsaw’s got some pretty rough pieces of architecture, but their story is just as compelling as that of a royal chamber pot or presidents palace. So for the first time in the history of the travel guide, let In Your Pocket cheer for the underdog and celebrate all that’s ugly. Forget the marzipan old towns of Krakow and Wroclaw, the time is nigh for the grey and gloom of Warsaw to rise and be recognized.

The Train Stations
The first pig out of the pen has to be the train station. For many this is their first glimpse of Warsaw, and it really is a bit of a fright – not least if you’re arriving from sparkling Berlin. So it does look (and smell) a bit poisonous, but this station has history in bundles. Financed by massive Western loans the monster was completed on December 5, 1975, officially opened just ten days before the 7th rally of the Polish Communist Party. Guest of honour was Soviet leader comrade Brezhnev, and a special entrance and reception room were built for him. Built in a rush, primarily by soldiers of the Polish army, the structure was erected at lightning speed so as to be completed to coincide with Mr B’s visit; although the site of the station was officially picked in 1946, work on the design would only begin in 1971. It was built at breakneck pace in under 1,100 days, and as such vital technical tests were never conducted - the station would be under constant renovation for the next ten years. Nonetheless, it was seen as an architectural showpiece of the time, so much so that it was awarded the groovy sounding ‘Mr Warsaw’ prize for architecture in 1975. Over the next few years coach-loads of peasants were bussed in to marvel at it, and fashion shows were frequently held in the main concourse. Designed by Arseniusz Romanowicz, Centralna was constructed using 12,500 tons of steel, 8,000m2 of glass and 53,000m2 of concrete. Floor beams, automatic doors and metal elements used in the façade were imported from Switzerland, escalators from Paris and Brussels and the electronic clocks from Italy. Featuring four 300 metre long underground platforms Centralna touted the first moving ramp in Poland, as well as the first escalator not produced in the USSR (it was in fact built in France to an American design). Its halcyon days also saw the construction of a now non-existent Italian marble fountain. Today it stands somewhat at odds with the gleaming 21st century super structures that surround it. The only elevator is for employees only, while a recently installed electric platform for disabled travellers can only be put into action by summoning rail workers with a siren. Improvements have been slow and gradual, though assurances have been made the building will be fully renovated in time for Euro 2012.
Yet if you think Centralna looks a bit sketchy then what of Warsaw’s other main stations. First off there’s Zachodnia, which looks a bit like something you’d usually tip from your bin. What you currently see is the result of 70s/80s madness, but there’s also a very dark and lingering history to also consider. During WWII a sub-section of KZ Warschau (Warsaw Concentration Camp) was located in this area, and stories persist that the car tunnel covering ul. Bema was used for mass gassings – up to a thousand people per time – in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising. Whether this is fact or fiction remains a hot source of debate.
Onto Wschodnia, a station which took a battering during the opening days of WWII; countless civilians were killed when it was bombed, and today a memorial credits the role of the girl scouts in the emergency operation which followed. The station was redesigned in the post-war years by none other than Mr Romanowicz – the genius behind Centralna – though has since fallen into such disrepair it was adjudged by Gazeta Wyborcza to be the worst station in Poland. Once again a refurb is on the cards, though Wschodnia as we know it will live immortally on the silver screen; catch it in cult 70s comedies such as Nie Lubię Poniedziałku and Co mi Zrobisz, Jak mnie Złapiesz.

The US Embassy
The US Embassy (al. Ujazdowskie 29/31) has to be the singularly most crap piece of architecture in Warsaw, so it’s amazing to read that this was not always the case. In its place once stood an Italian-style palace designed by the inimitable hand of Marconi. It survived the war with token scratches, but didn’t survive the Americans. Although the property came under the stewardship of the communists after the war, the local government continued to pay rent to the rightful owner, one Stanisław Czetwertyński. He rebuffed American attempts to purchase the palace, until 1954, when he found himself chucked in prison on trumped up charges of spying for – you’ve guessed it – the States. With Czetwertyński eating porridge the Polish state ceded to the Americans, and sold off what had been one of Warsaw’s few great, surviving palaces. Wary of moving into a bugged building the Yanks tore the complex down, and proceeded to construct what can only be described as an utterly war-proof custom-made compound ready for the trials of the Cold War. The horror that replaced it has to be seen to be believed, but don’t for a minute think you can take any photographic evidence – this place is guarded tighter than the Pope’s polaroids, and any nifty camera work on your behalf will usually be met with a very stern wag of the finger. As for the Czetwertyński’s, they’re still pursuing compensation claims from the Polish government.

The Eastern Wall
Look eastwards from the main train station and you’ll find yourself confronted by three grim blocks that could easily be dubbed ‘the ugly sisters’. They’re actually ‘the Eastern Wall’, a collection of buildings and towers running from Rondo Dmowskiego (B-4) to ul. Świętokrzyska (B-3). Architect Zbigniew Karpiński (the same who designed the US Embassy…) won the competition to rebuild the area and set about remodeling the centre of Warsaw with the zealous glee of a complete nutter. Construction kicked off in 1962 and was completed seven years later, the result being four department stores, the Rotunda bank building, a blockish office building behind it, a cinema, and even a nightclub. Towering over it all were three residential blocks situated on Swiętokrzyska (85 metres), Zgoda (87 metres) and Chmielna (81 metres). Originally hailed a work of genius the Eastern Wall soon became a bit of rusty elephant, crippled and blackened with age and neglect. The collapse of communism breathed new life into the complex – Poland’s first McDonald’s was opened at the Swiętokrzska end of the complex, while the office block behind the Rotunda temporarily held the title for having the largest billboard in the world. Even so, sneak behind the development and you’ll find a great glimpse of old Poland; bare lit supermarkets and shabby bars catering to local barflies. As for the rotunda, that was scene of one of Poland’s biggest peace time disasters – in 1979 something went boom, killing 79 people. Some claim a gas leak, but conspiracy theorists claim the blast was arranged by bank officials looking to cover up an embezzlement scam.

The Wisła
Back in the 1920s the people of Łódź were so ashamed of their dirty rivers they built over them, hiding them completely from public eye. It’s a surprise the people of Warsaw haven’t followed suit; for whatever reason little attention has been lavished on the Wisła, and the cheap summer bars it was once famous for have since been closed as part of a crackdown on drunken crime. Measuring 1,047 km the W. is a pretty glorious river – if you’re in Kraków. It’s Warsaw stretch, however, is a bedraggled and muddy looking muddle, though don’t let that stop you boarding the Biała Flota and taking a trip down it – tickets cost 14zł (under 14s 10zł), with boats leaving every 90 mins from the jetty by Śląsko-Dąbrowski Bridge. Points of interest include the unluckiest bridge in the world, Most Poniatowski (it’s been blown up twice, set on fire once and had a coup staged on it), and Fat Kasia; that’s the great big green thing sitting south of Most Łazienkowska. What is it you ask? Part of the waterworks, and accessible via an underground passageway linking it to the mainland – very Mr Bond.
Argh, Communists
Traces of the Evil Empire can still be hunted down – visit Poznańska 15 for instance. That is the original inter-war Soviet Embassy, though the weird globe like thing above the door had its hammers removed following Nazi entry in Warsaw. For intact hammer and sickles then visit the Soviet War Cemetery on the way down from the airport, the Soviet War Memorial in Praga (see What to See, Praga) or do some real investigative work by heading to the great big housing block close to Der Elefant on pl. Bankowy. Hidden round the side of Kino Capitol – a former Russian institute - the eagle eyed detective will be rewarded by the sight of a massive hammer and sickle almost entirely obscured by the shadows.
For the Socialist Realist style there is no better example than the Palace of Culture, but do also head up to the severe looking Plac Konstytucji. Projected to be an ‘expression of creative optimism and peaceful work within the socialist system’ the square was designed by architects Jankowski, Knothe, Sigalin and Stępiński, and officially christened on July 22, 1952. Prior to the war the area had been home to the rich and wealthy, and although many of the original buildings survived with just scratch wounds ideology took precedence and the former merchants houses were flattened by bulldozers. The square was originally intended to serve as a focal point for all state parades, with the three monumental street lamps serving as the main landmark. Socialist reliefs, depicting miners and farm workers, line the street further on Marszałkowska, and it was here where the famous footage of a student protester being run down by a Militia truck during the 1980s Solidarity riots was filmed. In a city smashed by war it wasn’t long for other housing developments to follow, most notably in the area around Muranów, where swathes of squat socialist blocks were constructed. Built on the badly cleared rubble of the Jewish Ghetto the buildings might look decrepit, but are a stunning glimpse of the methodical planning that went into creating a uniform socialist city. Readers of glossy travel supplements might find them ugly, but you know better – this is living history, and the kind you won’t find being spoken of on the Travel Show.


http://www.inyourpocket.com/feature/...aw.html?more=1
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Old June 6th, 2009, 02:28 PM   #2
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Don't think so. There are probably more ugly cities in the Rhein-Ruhr area in Germany.
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Old June 6th, 2009, 02:37 PM   #3
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I seen more ugly cities... must be some kind of propaganda
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Old June 6th, 2009, 06:04 PM   #4
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forget about being the ugliest city, it's neither ugliest nor close to bottom even among capital cities or large cities of Europe.
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Old June 6th, 2009, 07:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukaszek89 View Post
I seen more ugly cities... must be some kind of propaganda
Must be Silesian inferiority complex
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Old June 7th, 2009, 05:49 AM   #6
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Stupid article. Simply not true! Warsaw is a great city. I've been there.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 08:18 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jünyus Brütüs View Post
forget about being the ugliest city, it's neither ugliest nor close to bottom even among capital cities or large cities of Europe.
To be honest its pretty much at the bottom. Together with Berlin and some other ex-communist cities.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 10:55 AM   #8
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According to this list second ugliest is Berlin and third ugliest is Brussels - complete nonsense
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Old June 7th, 2009, 01:26 PM   #9
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Well, which would actually be the ugliest then?

Benidorm, Duisburg and Athens come to mind.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 01:27 PM   #10
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They must mean ugliest capital in Europe, that can be true...
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Old June 7th, 2009, 01:36 PM   #11
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The ugliest cities I have been to are all in Germany. Places like Essen and Oberhausen. Most big cities such as Paris or London have amazingly ugly suburbs.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 02:46 PM   #12
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Tirana & Kishyniev are leaders here
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Old June 7th, 2009, 03:20 PM   #13
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Never been to Warsaw, but I got a friend on Erasmus there and three others came to visit him. four people out of four told me they were amazed about how beautiful the town was, and how surprised they were about that.

Honestly, I don't get the point of these net-polls. to judge if a town is the ugliest in Europe you must define "what" is ugly and, more importantly, having been in all these towns! I can mention many Italian cities which are absolutely appaling.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 03:44 PM   #14
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haha thats FUNNNY!!!!
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Old June 7th, 2009, 04:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erbse View Post
Well, which would actually be the ugliest then?

Benidorm, Duisburg and Athens come to mind.
Well, I have been traveling quite a lot across Europe and putting Berlin and Brussels in the top three ugliest cities is complete nonsense. Maybe Warsaw is not perfect, but it looks far more beautiful then most people think.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 06:23 PM   #16
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That's true. Lovely how they rebuilt their old town in Warsaw, even if other cities suffered for that.

But I don't like the highrises of Warsaw, except the Palace of C&S. And there are loads of commieblocks in the city, heavily spoiling the cityscape. It's even worse than in Berlin.

Still, Warszawa is pretty underrated and I don't think it should possibly reach the bottom in such a list. There are rather few cities in Europe that are actually really ugly.
If you want to see ugly cities, you have to travel overseas.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 07:14 PM   #17
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In same time we have so much beautiful towns in Europe, the fact that Berlin, Warsaw or Brussels could finish in bottom, those above them must be fantastic
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Old June 7th, 2009, 07:48 PM   #18
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When strictly speaking about beauty it is not too far fetched to call it ugliest when comparing with European capitals of similar size. It also doesnt help that the city is boringly flat and doesnt have a nice riverfront......
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Old June 7th, 2009, 07:52 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erbse View Post

But I don't like the highrises of Warsaw, except the Palace of C&S. And there are loads of commieblocks in the city, heavily spoiling the cityscape. It's even worse than in Berlin.
And whats wrong with that commieblock areas are some of the most livable in the city green & clean but we have quite a big problem with what was left of pre-war architecture many of this buildings are very dirty
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Old June 7th, 2009, 07:59 PM   #20
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Quote:
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In same time we have so much beautiful towns in Europe, the fact that Berlin, Warsaw or Brussels could finish in bottom, those above them must be fantastic

There is some truth in it. Cities like Berlin or Warsaw can't compete with beauties like Barcelona, Rome, Paris or Vienna. Different league. But beauty is not everything.
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