It’s Flashback Friday! Here’s another post from my Poland trip, originally published on 6 May 2012!
Well, good as my intentions were to wake up at 7 and get going Saturday morning, that is not what happened! I woke up around 9:30 and made it downstairs in time for a quick breakfast. I really intended to eat an authentic Polish breakfast, go back into the Old Town (and see the rest of the New Town) early and get some pictures, and then take a tour at 10:30, but alas, my goals were a bit too lofty immediately following my first real night’s sleep! I got some cereal and coffee in me and headed out to catch the 10:30 tour that was supposed to start at a theatre a couple of kilometers away, but I got there about 5 minutes too late—quite the bummer after hustling all that way!
Plan B! I asked some nice Polish people where the Rising Museum is located, and they were able to show me on my handy-dandy map from the hostel. It looked like it was probably within walking distance, so off I went in a new direction! On the way I stopped at a convenience store for a bottle of water and a bottle of apple-cherry juice, which proved to be an exceptionally wise decision. It got really warm by mid-day, so extra fluids were essential! All the weather reports I’d seen leading up to my trip said Warsaw would be in the 50s and 60s, but it has definitely been in the upper 70s the whole time! We’ve had really beautiful weather here.
After asking a couple more people if I was close to the museum (there was a lot of pretty significant construction going on, so the map was only a little bit helpful), I made it! I got there and got my ticket around noon, then spent the next 3 ½ hours in the museum. Join me!
The Rising Museum is all about the Polish Gulag, which was the same as the Holocaust but for the Poles instead of only the Jews. After the attacks on Poland by the Nazis, the Polish people fought back in what they call the Powstania Warszawskiego, or Warsaw Uprising. It began on August 1, 1944.
The solemnity and feeling of fear and devastation is the same at the Warsaw Rising Museum as what you experience if you’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in DC. You walk in and the place is very dark. The walls are metal or concrete, the floors are the same type of cobblestones as those in the Old Town, where Nazi attacks and Warsaw Uprisings occurred. The first thing you hear when you walk in is the sound of a heartbeat. It’s coming from the center of the building, from a rock column that goes up all three floors. The sound is actually coming from the bullet holes in the column, and every eight minutes, the heartbeat is interrupted by sounds of attack—planes, bombs dropping, explosions. The sights and sounds certainly set the tone.
The ground floor (what we would call the first floor in America, but floor zero in this part of Europe!) is all about the events leading up to the Uprisings. The exhibits showed exactly how it was—no covering up any of the reality—but it was all tastefully and respectfully done. You can read about real people who lost their lives in an effort to free themselves and everyone else in their country. They had a lot of armbands on display. They didn’t have a set uniform for themselves, but all those involved wore an armband that looks like the Polish flag with their group’s number on it. There was a lot of information to read, and all of it was impressive. The lengths they went to just to get communications from one place to another was astounding. They actually had to traverse the sewer system to get to safety (well, it was safe when Nazis were not throwing grenades in the manholes). It’s amazing what people can live through. Amazing.
I could continue on about that, but you’ll just have to come see it for yourself! The museum was truly moving, but I don’t want this post to be a downer!
Next stop, the Chopin museum! For all you music lovers out there, this is the place to go! I had to overcome a few obstacles, however. You see, it would have been one turn and then a straight shot from the Rising Museum to the Chopin Museum, but unfortunately there was construction. Those of you in DC and other places where there seems to be non-stop construction can understand. But in DC, I’ve noticed, they never block an entire road AND the sidewalks for three or four blocks at a time and not provide a detour route… but that was exactly what happened! Perhaps because it was a Saturday it was mostly ok to be doing so much construction, but it was awfully confusing to wee little Whitney! What could have taken 30 minutes ended up taking over an hour! I’m sure there was probably a better way to go than what I did, but I have no idea what that better route could have been! Oh well. Time for Chopin!
So, for those who may not know, Fryderyk Chopin is a world-famous pianist from Poland. He was a happy, fun-loving child and young person, but he seemed to find darker days as he got older. The museum itself was very interactive, including touch screens and musical tricks (walking on certain floors and opening drawers would cause music to play!), and one of the coolest exhibit rooms was this tremendous map, and you know I love maps! That room was all about his travels. There was one room dedicated to his fascination with women and a few of his affairs, which I found to be kind of distasteful, but I’m not afraid to admit I’m a prude. At any rate, the museum over all was very impressive. It’s in an old palace, so it’s truly beautiful!
And then it was hostel time! Much to my delight, I got to meet someone new! His name is Andrew, and he’s a law student from Taiwan who hopes to finish up at GWU soon! He was the nicest person I’d met all day. It seems like the culture here is very stand-offish, especially to foreigners. Of course, not everyone is that way, but that seems to be the general feel. People rarely seem to smile, but then, seeing and hearing about some of the things they’ve been through in the last 100 years, I can’t help but understand a bit and feel some sympathy for them.
At any rate, I like my new friend Andy from Taiwan! I hope he moves to DC as he is such a delight to talk to.
And then I went to bed! I woke up for several hours when the others got into the room (there were 5 of us in there last night, and some of them liked to talk–loudly), so I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I got enough to get me through the day.
Next up: Church and Adventures in the Polish train system! Stay tuned, friends!