This weekend, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2020 should have been coming to us live from Warsaw in Poland – but in a year that has been anything but ordinary, we of course now know that JESC will be taking place under more unfamiliar circumstances, with most acts performing in their home countries and only interval acts and the voting segments happening on the ground in Poland. Given that travel is always a huge part of any Eurovision competition and exploring a new host city is one of the things fans look forward to most, it’s understandable that many are feeling disappointed or frustrated by the continued impact of COVID-19.
But fear not! As luck would have it, Eurovision Ireland’s James visited Warsaw right back at the beginning of this year – before COVID, before the subsequent travel restrictions and way before JESC! Since we can’t explore a Junior Eurovision host city as we usually would, he has agreed to take us on a virtual day trip to tour some of the highlights of Warsaw in the style of his successful ebook Europe in a Day: Day Trips to the Continent!
As well as getting you in the mood for Junior Eurovision this Sunday, it’s a great way to explore the Polish capital and inspire you to visit once things are more settled!
At a glance:
Republic of Poland / Rzeczpospolita Polska
Capital: Warsaw (Warszawa in Polish)
Currency: Polish Złoty (PLN)
Area: 312,679 km2
National Day: November 11th
National Anthem: Mazurek Dąbrowskiego – Dąbrowski’s Mazurka, also known as “Poland is Not Yet Lost”
Highest Point: Rysy – 2,499 metres (8,199 ft)
Debut at Eurovision: 1994
Number of Eurovision entries to date: 22
Debut at Junior Eurovision: 2003
Number of Junior Eurovision entries to date: 6
Best placing in a Eurovision final: 2nd – To Nie Ja! (1994)
Worst placing in a Eurovision final: 24th – For Life (2008)
Highest scoring entry: 229 points – Colour of Life (2016)
Lowest scoring entry: 10 points – In The Name of Love (2015)
Best placing in a JESC final: 1st – Anyone I Want To Be (2018), Superhero (2019)
Worst placing in a JESC final: 17th – Łap Życie (2004)
Highest scoring JESC entry: 278 points – Superhero (2019)
Lowest scoring JESC entry: 3 points – Coś Mnie Nosi (2003), Łap Życie (2004)
Famous Polish Eurovision Acts:
- Edyta Górniak (Poland’s first ever Eurovision contestant, 1994)
- Michał Szpak (came 3rd with the 2016 televote, 8th overall)
- Joanna ‘Cleo’ Klepko (singer for the suggestive My Słowianie in 2014)
- Monika Kuszyńska (first ever wheelchair user to perform at Eurovision, 2015)
- Poland’s first entry at Eurovision in 1994 was both celebrated and contested. During the dress rehearsal during which the juries voted, Edyta Górniak broke the rules by singing her Polish language song ‘To Nie Ja!’ in English. Although 6 countries complained, the EBU didn’t disqualify Poland who went on to finish 2nd – which until 2007 was the most successful debut entry of any country at Eurovision ever!
- Taking part at the first ever Junior Eurovision back in 2003, Poland’s debut at this contest was much less auspicious start and they finished in last place with just 3 points. The next year in Lillehammer, the exact same thing happened – the only difference being that this time they shared the last place with Latvia!
- Since the introduction of the semi-finals in 2004, Poland have been present at 6 Eurovision finals, giving them a qualification rate of just 42.85%. This being said, they placed 11th in the semi-finals of 2005, 2006 and 2019, meaning they only narrowly missed out on qualifying!
- Taking an 11-year hiatus from Junior Eurovision, Poland returned to JESC in 2016 and quickly proved themselves a force to be reckoned with. Roksana Węgiel claimed Poland’s first Junior win in 2018 with ‘Anyone I Want To Be’, while Viki Gabor topped the scoreboard the following year with ‘Superhero’ – making Poland the only country to date to both win and host Junior Eurovision twice in a row.
- Both Poland’s Eurovision and Junior Eurovision entries tend to be sang in Polish, and increasingly in English. The band Ich Troje, the only act to represent Poland twice at the contest, sang their 2003 entry ‘Keine Grenzen – Żadnych Granic’ in Polish, German and Russian, symbolic for the fact these were the languages of states that had previously been at war with Poland. Similarly, their 2006 song ‘I Follow My Heart’ contained lyrics in these 3 languages and English and Spanish too!
Polish is a West Slavic language spoken by some 50 million people worldwide, most of whom live in Poland but there are also pockets of speakers in neighbouring Belarus, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Infamous for its consonant clusters and seemingly unpronounceable phrases (such as the song title Chcę znać swój grzech… from 1996!) learning a little Polish is much easier than most people realise. Make the most of your time in Warsaw by taking a look at these helpful Polish phrases below. If you’d like learn more, you can also check out Eurovision Ireland’s Polish language phrasebook that we put together for you last year in Gliwice!
|Hello||Dzień dobry||jyen doh-brey|
|Goodbye||Do widzenia||do vi-jyeh-nya|
|How much does this cost?||Ile to kosztuje?||ee-le to kosh-too-yeh|
|Do you speak English?||Czy mówisz po angielsku?||chi moh-veesh poh an-gyehl-skoo|
|I don’t understand||Nie rozumiem||nye roh-zoo-myem|
|Move the world!||Porusz świat!||po-roosh shvi-at|
The Polish capital is served by 2 international airports: Warsaw Frederic Chopin is just 10km from the city centre, while Warsaw Modlin is about 40 km to the north. Trains and buses routes connect both airports to various parts of the city and if you can you should board a train heading into Warszawa Centralna. As well as only taking a little over 20 minutes from Frederic Chopin, you’ll arrive in the very heart of the city, directly next to the Palace of Culture and Science.
What to do:
Towering over the streets of Warsaw, the Palace of Culture and Science, known locally as Pałac Kultury i Nauki (often shortened to PKiN on street signs) bears more than a passing resemblance to New York’s Empire State Building. Completed in 1955, when much of the rest of the city was still in ruins following the Second World War, the elegant and striking skyscraper was a gift to Poland from the Soviet Union and as such has a complicated legacy – some even arguing it should be demolished as an emblem of Soviet influence over Poland. Housing office space, two museums, a cinema, 4 theatres and even a 3,000 seater auditorium, the impressive Socialist realism-style building has plenty to explore inside, or you can head up to the terrace on the 30th floor, which offers an amazing view over Warsaw. Being the tallest building in Poland and 5th tallest in the EU, it gives you a fantastic vantage point of the whole city, including its ever-changing modern skyline, such as the towers of the 5 star Intercontinental Warsaw Hotel and the glass Neo-modernist Warsaw Spire.
A short way across town by bus or metro, historic Nowe Miasto is a pleasant neighbourhood to wander around and admire its various churches, such as the pretty green domes of the white Kościół św. Kazimierza or the more austere brick Kościół Nawiedzenia Najświętszej Marii Panny, one of Warsaw’s few surviving Gothic churches that was first consecrated in 1411. On the edge of Nowe Miasto, the turrets and brown stone battlements of the Warsaw Barbican were built in the late 1540s as part of the city’s defences. Reconstructed in the mid-20th century, many of the bricks were brought from war-damaged buildings in other Polish cities such as Wrocław. The Barbican today is a major tourist attraction and even hosts an art gallery in the summer months. Enjoy the ornate stonework and the views from the battlements, or you can take a stroll along the pathway along the base of the walls. As you wander, keep your eyes peeled for Mały Powstaniec or the Little Insurrectionist. Unveiled in 1983, the small statue depicting a child soldier is a sobering reminder and is dedicated to the children that fought and died during in the Warsaw Uprising at the end of WWII.
Heading through the Barbican brings you into Stare Miasto, Warsaw’s cosy and attractive Old Town. While many of the buildings here were rebuilt in the years following the Second World War, the history of the area stretches back centuries – indeed, the Old Town Marketplace was first laid out in the late 1200s, but is still very much the capital’s spiritual heart. Sample one of open-air cafes and enjoy the fine Polish Mannerist style buildings that surround the bustling square, or take a look at the souvenir stalls or seasonal Christmas market. Here you will also find the bronze sculpture of Syrenka, Warsaw’s very own little mermaid who is said to defend the city in times of need. Heading away from the marketplace, the imposing Brick Gothic front of Archikatedra św. Jana was originally founded in1390 and is the only one of Warsaw’s cathedrals to bear the title archcathedral. As you admire its pale vaulted interior, it’s worth noting that the cathedral was completely rebuilt following extensive war damage, but unusually the reconstruction was based on its presumed 14th century appearance, rather than how it had looked before the start of the conflict.
Emerging from the narrow streets of the Old Town you’ll find yourself stood on Plac Zamkowy, known in English as Castle Square. This open space has played host to some of the most pivotal moments of Polish history and is presided over by the pale orange façade of the Zamek Królewski or the Royal Castle, a seat of power since the late 16th century. Originally built as the residence and offices of kings of Poland, the castle was utterly ruined over the course of the Second World War. Painstakingly rebuilt during the 1980s, the castle and surrounding Old Town have now been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle now hosts a museum, which includes the lavishly restored Throne Room and Council Chamber, as well as an exhibition on the original building’s destruction and rebuilding. Back outside, the granite Sigismund’s Column was originally erected in 1644, but has been renovated and replaced several times throughout the centuries. Standing some 22 metres over the square, the statue depicts the 16th century Polish king who made Warsaw Poland’s capital and is one of the city’s most well-known attractions and a popular meeting place.
While wandering the streets of Warsaw, it’s impossible not to feel the gravity of everything this city has endured. But as well as bringing you face-to-face with the past, the Polish capital is a modern, dynamic city that is forging ahead into the future, while never losing sight of where it came from. Proud Warsaw is an incredible city and I truly hope that someday it will get to host a Eurovision event in the way we know and love, so that more people can discover this beautiful and steadfastly determined city.
If you’ve enjoyed this tour of Warsaw and like the idea of day tripping, head on over to Europe in a Day’s website to explore more countries and territories around Europe on day trips. You can also download Europe in a Day: Day Trips to the Continent on Amazon Kindle and also smartphones, tablets and computers with the free Kindle Reading App.
Author: James Scanlan
Source: James Scanlan/ Europe in a Day
Banner Image Source: James Scanlan