Warsaw Day 1

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 18:00:58 +0000

Frankfurt to Warsaw Index Warsaw Day 2

I thought I'd find a simple museum today. The National Museum seemed like the best choice, so I wandered off there. It's a huge building, but when I got there it seemed to be more of an art gallery than a museum. The National History Museum sounded a better bet, but I had to walk all the way back to the hostel to find out where it is.

It's in the old town, which is a good place to investigate anyway. The whole area is reconstructed, of course, after being flattened during the war. Still, it's a nice-looking place, very mediaeval-looking. It's just a bit Disney Land though, packed full of tourists and the shops to serve them. By the way, most of the tourists here seem to be German, which I'm sure the Poles love no end.

I eventually tracked down the National History Museum, which was really not easy, and by that time it was 11:00. Not very efficient work there. The museum is nice enough. The woman at the hostel had told me it was fairly small, but it's huge compared to some of the museums I've been visiting in the last few weeks. The tone is a little whiny, but I guess that's fair enough, with Poland's history being mainly one of being carved up between its neighbours. It's particularly harsh how the national language kept switching between German, Russian, and occasionally even Polish. There was less space than I expected devoted to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which was a genuinely interesting early experiment with democracy. As the panel pointed out, it was only the second constitutional government in the world, the first being the USA. But the Russians squashed that, and the attempt seems to have been forgotten.

When things moved onto the 20th century, the "voice" of the curators started to come through a bit stronger. There was an entire floor devoted to 1920-1939, all about how fantastic things were then. The phrase "the streets were full of life" turned up more than once. And everyone lived in perfect multi-ethnic harmony and the sun shone all day long and so on. Uh-oh, I wonder what's going to happen next?

To be fair though, Poland did suffer more than most during the war. It was good to see things presented in a bit more detail than usual. The phrase "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising" was just a random phrase from history for me until now. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and Polish resistance seems to have been fairly hapless. What few attacks they mounted seem like excellent refutations of the assertion that "terrorism can never be justified". Not that anyone falls for that one anyway.

They skated surprisingly quickly over Communism and the Solidarity movement and so on, and it was over. Time for a late lunch. I went around the corner to a random cafe and got some Polish sausage with fried potatoes and a sort of non-sour sauerkraut. The sausage was great, really very very greasy.

On the way back I went to have a look at the Vistula river. I didn't find anywhere especially photogenic, but it was sunny and I kicked off my shoes and relaxed for a bit.

I left it a bit late, but my mission for the late afternoon was to buy myself a towel, having forgotten to do so during the day. This proved surprisingly hard. There were several department stores and general clothing stores, such as C&A, but none of them seemed to sell towels. I did a loop of the culture palace, passing all the main shopping streets, and couldn't find anything. In disgust I retreated to Pizza Hut for a crappy meal. And yet, on the way back, I peeked into a place that looked like a supermarket, but turned out to be a department store selling all kinds of housewares. And they had a towel for me! I was absolutely thrilled with this triumph, and retired to bed a happy man.

Frankfurt to Warsaw Index Warsaw Day 2