Monday, 19 August 2013

Szczęśliwice visited for the first time

In my 16 years in Warsaw, I've never been to this part of town despite it being famous for its man-made hill, rising some 44 metres above the city's ambient altitude. After a meeting on ul. Włodarzewska, I headed into town through the Park Szczęśliwicki, and very glad I am to have taken to detour.

Włodarzewska and the surrounding area did not impress me - a narrow, busy street with narrow pavements, off which run smaller streets with names like ul. Usypiskowa (lit. Tip Street or Dump Street). But around half way down Włodarzewska, which runs from ul. Grójecka to Al. Jerozolimskie in furthest Ochota, you will find a pleasing park with a pleasing lake, across which you will find a hill rising above the flat Mazovian landscape.

The hill began as a tip for the rubble from the post-war ruins of Warsaw, to which later was added regular municipal waste; the spoil-heap grew to 138m (rising 32m above the level of the lake seen in the foreground).

I made my way up to the top, cutting across the paths that spiral up the hill. Nordic walking seems increasingly popular in Warsaw, and not only among the elderly... its health benefits are manifold.

Up at the top. A strange vista, like the Berlin Wall perched on a suburban hillside. Down below, in the distance, the sound of construction - lots of new apartment blocks being built, well located for the park and close to Al. Jerozolimskie railway stations and bus stops. But the way to the summit is sealed off from the curious visitor by high fences and concrete walls.

Below: the artificial ski-slope offers a 224-metre run at an 11-degree angle, in effect a blue run. All this familiar-looking ski infrastructure looks out of place in Poland's capital in summer - or indeed in winter.

Below: a LOT Polish Airlines Boeing 767 takes off from Okęcie airport over the stationary chair lifts of Szczęśliwice. The highest point of the ski run is 152m above sea level, 44m above the land on which this artificial hill was built.

Below: here's the area in Google Earth; you can see the green of the ski-slope, the surrounding lakes, and, to the upper left, the Tsarist fort. I feel a fort post needs to be written, as Warsaw is ringed by these objects that predate the First World War, and Fort Modlin was recently sold for 18m zlotys (€4.2m).

This time last year:
On the road from Dobra, again

This time two years ago:
August storm, ul. Targowa

This time three years ago:
Warsaw Central's secret underground kebab factory

This time four years ago:
Cheap holidays in other people's misery

This time five years ago:
Steam welcomes us to Dobra

This time six years ago:
New houses appear in the fields by Zgorzała

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