Warsaw landmark in ruins since WWII reopens to the public
The recreation of the Castle's pre-war gardens surrounding the arcade on the banks of the Vistula river will take place within the next five years, completing the castle's six-decade-long restoration effort.
Warsaw -- A vast 19th century arcade in Warsaw's Royal Castle, left in ruins by World War II Nazi German bombings, reopened to the public Wednesday after 14 years of reconstruction.
"This is a significant stage in the restoration of the castle to its pre-war condition, but not the last," Marek Wrede, a historian at the Royal Castle museum, told AFP Wednesday.
The recreation of the Castle's pre-war gardens surrounding the arcade on the banks of the Vistula river will take place within the next five years, completing the castle's six-decade-long restoration effort, Wrede said.
Completed in the 1820's, the arcade was originally designed by Polish architect Jakub Kubicki.
Its restoration was overseen by Polish-born architect Stanislaw Fiszer. Plans now call for it to serve as a vast exhibition hall and entrance for the museum, complete with cafes.
With its vaulted red brick ceilings and unvarnished wood tile floor, the arcade is 190 metres (623 feet) long, eight metres wide and nearly six metres at its highest points.
"It took a while, but it's fantastic to see it beautifully restored and for a Warsaw resident it is really quite moving," Zbigniew, a 79-year-old pensioner, said.
"It's the same kind of happiness as we felt just after the war whenever a building or bridge was rebuilt," said another Warsaw resident, who declined to give his name.
More than 90 percent of Warsaw was bombed into oblivion on orders of Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler between August and October 1944, as German forces occupying the city retreated before the advancing Soviet Red Army.
The city's 16th century Royal Castle was not spared. It was rebuilt from ruins by Warsaw residents between 1970-84.
Business people keen to stage fashion shows and open cafes were also among the first to visit its restored arcade Wednesday.
"The castle must earn money and we're welcoming everyone interested in staging events here or running businesses," said Leslaw Krzewski, one of the castle's marketing staff.