8. Warsaw: Private Communism Tour by Retro Car
Guide collects you for the hotel with a unique retro minibus called Żuk (the beetle). Ten miles per gallon, wooden floor and produced in communist Poland – all that adds a meaningful piece of reality to your experience. Each stop represents different parts of communist Poland’s history - from the dusk of WWII and post-war reconstruction of Warsaw through the rough ‘60s and ‘70s to the first free elections on the 4th of June 1989. Disclose the secrets of communist Poland, learn how people managed to survive in the central-steered economy and find relics from those days in Warsaw. The first stop is a monumental Palace of Culture and Science, the undisputed symbol of Warsaw. It was built in 1952-1955 as a gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland. Varsovians still commonly use nicknames to refer to the Palace, notably "Beijing", "clown", and "nightmarish dream of a drunk confectioner". Warsaw, before WWII, was a typical European city shaped by capitalism. Thousands of victorian era tenement houses covered the city centre, pushing the proletariat out of the central districts. So when those people got power in 1945, they wanted an act of revenge. So did the modernist architects. One of their first achievements is the Muranów district, a green and spacious neighbourhood built in the late 1940s. One of the most impressive achievements of the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw is the Old Town, with the speedway passing under it through the tunnel. This hi-tech piece of engineering came into being with the help of constructors of the Moscow underground rail system. You pass it on the way to Praga district. Praga district brings one into the post-WWII gloomy reality of neglected buildings and suspicious businesses made behind dark gates. Unfortunately, the government did not want to invest a penny in refurbishing the post-bourgeoisie architecture, so Praga rolled into its slow decline until the new shiny blocks of flats were about to be built on its ashes. Surprisingly, this fate became an excellent opportunity to carry on outlawed activities like money exchange, distribution of “Western” music or purchasing a pair of jeans. The government district represents the ironic merger between the pre-WWII modernist architecture and a heavily soviet influenced “socialist realism” style. Funnily, the leader of the communist state did not want to move into their new headquarters because he felt that it looked like a capitalist bank and not like the office of the labour class party.