Previously I have done a brief introduction to understanding Warsaw. Now I want to share a few random stories about the city, so if you want to know:
– What a fish has in common with a bear
– Why Warsaw anthem is played at quarter past eleven
– Why you shouldn’t mark your eternal love on the most popular hill
then let’s go!
The symbol of Warsaw, present in the city’s coat of arms, is a mermaid with a shield and sword. But apparently it has not always been like that, it is said that in the beginning it has been a maid riding a bear. Well, makes more sense as Warsaw has been (and still is) surrounded by forests, at least to a much bigger extent than by seas. But during the following years fantasy of artists started to change the maid and a bear, mixing them together in a monstrous hybrid. Sometimes with eagle wings, sometimes with bear claws, half-morphed into a gryffin… Why not. In the end it got the most friendly but still powerful form of a mermaid, but still many different forms can be found on the massive front door of the Warsaw basilic.
What is also to be known about Warsaw coat of arms, is that it has the highest Polish military decoration in it with words Semper invicta – Always Invincible. The city itself carries the medal of Virtuti Military that has been awarded for the citizens’ courageous defense of the city in 1939.
Anthem at 11:15
While having a morning coffee on the Castle Square, at a quarter past eleven you will surely hear the Warsaw anthem played from the tower of the Royal Castle, played by a trumpet player three times.
Why 11:15? Can’t it be some round hour, maybe twelve like in most of the cities? Well, all has to connect to history. The 11:15 was the hour when the first bombs during the Second World War hit the Royal Castle and the clock stopped working exactly on this hour. 35 years later the clock has been repaired and started working from the same hour.
The padlocks of eternal love
Almost every city has them – bridges or viewpoints with metal barriers, carrying the burden of thousand lovers locking their feelings onto them. It can easily make a tour through European cities visiting each of the spots in each of them, and if you get a backpack big enough and are willing to carry them, you can leave a sign of your love all over the Europe. Just remember to get another tour after an eventual breakup – and always leave a set of keys.
Here’s a short remark about Wrocław, where the bridge that they are placed on (Tumski bridge) is said to have an endangered construction because of the additional weight of thousands of padlocks. It is an urban legend, but does place nicely into thinking about the power of love, doesn’t it?
Wrocław, Tumski Bridge
Anyway, it was supposed to be about Warsaw. So, the popular place for living padlocks is near the Royal Castle, on a cobblestone terrace with view on the Vistula river. Nice, but if you – again – know the history…
So, in the place where so many people leave their sign of affection, for centuries has been a place where the Warsaw citizens left…. well, everything. To be delicate. Everything that they didn’t need, to be more specific, but without crossing boundaries. Today there is a slight hill, enough to say it is men-made. Ok, not the whole hill is men-made, around 23 meters only. And the name of the place is (ok, now I am giving it straight away) The Dung Hill.
What is more connected to love though, is that it was used for healing purposes. So the people suffering from syphilis were buried there up to their necks, in order to heal. I couldn’t get to the records of effectiveness of it.
To sum it up – be careful where you leave the love padlocks. It might turn out that the past generations were leaving there something as well.
Ok, three random stories for an afternoon. It is difficult to approach describing of a Polish city for me, as at the same time it is familiar and new for me. I hope one more different text will appear with some overview of what Warsaw is now, before moving on to Vilnius!