Category Archives: WARSAW

Warsaw Uprising Museum

I had the chance a few months ago to visit the Warsaw Rising museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego), while in Warsaw. I take a keen interest in history, especially of that time period, and as a result the museum was among the best I have visited. Open since the 60th anniversary of the Rising in 2004, it commemorates the efforts of Varsovians to rise against the Germans during the latter stages of World War 2, trying to give a glimpse of live during the 63 days of insurgency. The museum is styled to provide the full atmosphere of the Rising, from the sounds piped in, to video clips and photos of the time, along with items used in the Rising such as guns, papers and clothing. In a few sections of the museum, they have even laid cobblestones to replicate the streets of the time. Another area simulates the sewers with the brick walls, low ceilings and sounds to be expected, while the official museum cafe is styled out in 1940’s to match the period (although prices are at 2012 levels of course).

It is a very good museum, and well worth visiting if you might be in Warsaw and have a few hours to spare. It’s not too expensive (some days such as Sundays are free entry even) and gives an authentic feel for the Rising atmosphere and experience (also covered in Norman Davies’ book Rising ’44: Battle for Warsaw). I’ll let the below pictures speak for themselves.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Warsaw Uprising – Book Review

The Warsaw Rising is a topic of strong historical and emotional significance for Poles, but yet is one that is not as visible for many outside of Poland, although it took place at a key time in World War 2, and can possibly be seen as a key trigger for the Cold War. I visited Warsaw a few months ago, and had the chance to visit the Uprising Museum (more to come on that later). Following on from that, I also received a present of the book Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw. It is written by Norman Davies, the pre-eminent ‘Western’ writer on Poland and its history. With a strong pedigree in presenting Polish history through examples such as God’s Playground, Davies can be trusted to tell the stories of Poland that were not recognised outside.

Davies presents the story of the Uprising as “one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century” and “a story that has never been properly told”. In order to frame the story well, it is split into the three parts. First comes before the Rising, particularly trying to focus on Poles and how they were impacted by and were impacting the war so far, in order to give an understanding where the desire for Uprising came from. In the centre of the story he tells about the Rising, chronicling the 63 days from August to early October 1944. This middle section is particularly strong and emotive, as he splices in inserts and personal experiences from those involved, mostly from the perspectives of the Varsovians, but also with German, Soviet, British and American views. And in the final section, he covers the aftermath of the Rising and what it meant for Warsaw, Poles and Poland.

The introduction focuses on Poland as the ‘First Ally’, being the reason why Britain declared war on Germany. By 1944, with the Germans on the retreat and the Soviets advancing through eastern Poland, the decision was agreed to make a break against the tyranny of oppressors and launch an insurgency. However – as Davies recounts – the Rising was beset by issues and looking back had a minimal chance of success. Politics between the Western allies, and within each country involved left the Warsaw insurgents mostly fighting alone. The Germans also chose that moment to stage a fight back, recognising Warsaw as a key defence point as the capital, trying to hold off the Soviet advance. It resulted in them preferring to demolish Warsaw than give it up. There was also the case where the Soviets mysteriously stopped their advance on the east bank of the Vistula for two months, after having made rapid gains in the preceding months. For Poles, it was a repeat of history up to and including 1939, where larger neighbours split Poland as they pleased, and allies were slow to react.

What was particularly interesting from my perspective was the presentation of what the post-war effect was. In terms of Warsaw as a city, 75% of it was destroyed. Up to 200,000 civilian deaths were estimated, meaning the population was decimated. And then with the political wrangling, the Soviets installed the Communist government which would rule for 45 years afterwards. This was the final blow for those who had fought to free Poland. The Communists denied the Uprising taking place, as the lack of Soviet involvement and support was airbrushed from history. This meant insurgents being arrested and tried as ‘anti-Soviet’ with some sentenced to   some going to the Gulags. When recognition was given later for an uprising in Warsaw, the Soviets were fine to acknowledge the Ghetto Uprising of 1943. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when Poles could begin to talk about the Rising and recognise it. This is partially why those in ‘Western’ countries have little understanding of it.

Davies’ portrayal of the events of August and September 1944 are strong, and his ties to Poland make it a particularly emotive topic. He does not hold back in criticising the bumbling of the Americans and British in trying to support, and their failings through political wranglings in trying to appease Stalin. He recognises the cold approach of the Soviets, which he notes is a fore-runner of the Soviets extending their sphere of influence ending in the Iron Curtain dividing Europe. The communist regime in Poland, and it’s re-writing of history also get criticism, while the citizens of Warsaw get some credit but ultimately it’s seen as a thankless sacrifice which was worthless in the end.

The book is a very strong retelling of the situations. Davies’ emotions shine through but one or two other choices in presentation are difficult to follow. For example, he made a point of anglicizing all Polish names involved of individuals, cities, streets and other locations. For me, this actually confused the story, as I felt I did not connect with the individuals, as the names seemed to be more nicknames or code names. But overall, it told a story I had not heard before and is one all history buffs should be aware of.

Tagged , , , ,

Strangely Park, Warsaw – A neighbourhood like no other

While nobody is looking I thought I might slip in a little shameless self promotion. Might also be of interest to our readers (all three of them!), at least that’s my excuse!

I’m writing a story of a fictional neighbourhood here in Warsaw and the wealth of eccentric characters who inhabit the place. Any resemblance to anything or anyone real is purely coincidental, so my lawyers say.

It is written in my usual style, whatever that is, somewhat humorous, a tad satirical, vaguely informative with scattered boring bits. It has a life of its own and at the moment seems to be coming out as a kind of diary although I have a feeling it may wander around a little. Anyway, I hope you visit and enjoy it. Facebook tells me I need 30 “likes” before it can give me some really useful information….I’ve got one so far, and that’s me! Hmmmm.

Here’s a random sample for you:

Monday, November 12th
Update on the garage works.

As predicted but no less disappointing for the inevitability, the garage was not useable on Saturday, nor Sunday, not today either. I sometimes wonder why they bother typing these info-notes. Even if it was, the Holy Toyota, which was pushed out so they could paint the floor, is now blocking the entrance! Almost as bad, our left-over skirting boards were moved off the floor and hung on the bicycle racks belonging to Penthouse and Slightly Dangerous, her husband (we think), who live above us.

Relations between us and our upstairs neighbours have been strained recently, to say the least. I’ll explain later but suffice to say that our “Hi”s have turned into “Good Morning”s but both have been met with at best a grunt. All we are getting from Slightly Dangerous these days is blank, rather psychotic stares.

There’s more to worry about too. When they pushed the Holy Toyota out, Darth Muller was here and had the keys. He has since returned to Vienna so I’m hoping he left the keys or we might be without a garage for a while. If he did leave the keys that would be uncharacteristically trusting of him believing as he does that all Poles, in fact all humans, are out to get him.

On the plus side it does look as though the whole garage floor has been painted and we have new gratings over the drain. Small mercies.

Anyway, here are the links

STRANGELY PARK BLOG

STRANGELY PARK FACEBOOK PAGE

All support and encouragement gratefully received!

Tagged

High rise luxury living in Warsaw

Get that shoe box out from under babcia’s bed and come invest in the emerging high-rise luxury that is springing up in the centre of the nation’s capital.

Just a short walk from each other we have Złota 44 and Cosmopolitan, between them 503 apartments (half in each building) are either sold or (most likely) for sale. As usual, finding out how many are still available and the real price you’d have to pay for one is a mission worthy of the next James Bond film, “PriceFall”.

Złota 44. It doesn’t matter how many of these cheap panels they install it still doesn’t look like the original design vision has been delivered. Compare the photo to the website. The website waxes lyrical but the actions speak of cost savings and “let’s just get this damned thing finished!”.

“Contrary to appearances, buildings are not part of the world of inanimate objects. They live and breathe as people do. They have their outward appearance and their interiors.”
These simple words of Daniel Libeskind are an eloquent expression of a philosophy the eminent architect follows. To frame a perfect apartment design, we need to heed the needs of its future residents: to make sure the interior harmonizes with their daily lives; as a good roommate would.
Apartment 101 was designed with extraordinary attention to detail to maximise the comfort of living within. A clear subdivision exists into the open and accessible daytime zone and the private zone reserved for the use of inhabitants. The luxuriously fitted interior is highly functional, ordered and lends itself freely to individual organisation of space. The extensive glass wall surfaces with south-western exposure make the residence well lit and sunny.
The apartment’s interior is in perfect sync with the metropolitan beat of Warsaw, which from the living and dining room area feels a hand-stretch away. Attractiveness of the location is accentuated by the close proximity of Złote Tarasy shopping mall, with its unique architecture and characteristic multiple glass domes.
The apartment’s private zone accommodates three bedrooms, including the Master Bedroom with en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet.
This, as all other residences in the building, is equipped with the HMS facility management system, which provides touch screen control of technical units in the apartment and facilitates communication with the tenant support services.

The annoyingly named Cosmopolitan, we already have a Metropolitan, is slightly more down to earth with less emphasis on luxury and more on the view and the architecture.

Cosmopolitan Twarda 2/4 is a masterpiece of architecture, not only because it was designed with a brilliant and modern sense of form and style, but also because it is supposed to give its inhabitants a sense of stability and safety.

Not entirely sure how the architecture is going to impress, nor how a tower that looks like a strong breeze is worthy of an evacuation counts for a sense of stability. Zosia (age 9) would have come up with something similar had I told her to draw a tall skinny apartment tower, but perhaps there are subtle details yet to be revealed. One thing for sure, it is going up faster than Złota 44 and with (so far) no pregnant pauses. Had I invested in either of these I’d be more confident of moving into Cosmo than Złota.

So, roll up, roll up this might just be the chance of a lifetime. If this area becomes Warsaw’s “docklands” then even today’s ridiculous prices might seem a bargain in 2025!

20121026-094417.jpg

Bottom of Z44 on the left, Cosmo in distance on right.

20121026-094429.jpg

Złota 44 – today

20121026-094439.jpg

Cosmopolitan looking stright down Emilii Plater

Coldplay, Warsaw, 19 Sept 2012

Last Wednesday we had a family outing to the National Stadium here in Warsaw to see the Coldplay concert. Why they chose Wednesday for a gig that finished at 11pm I don’t know, especially as they must have expected a few nine year olds who have school the next day :-/ We were not entirely sure about taking Zosia but she likes Coldplay and it seemed a good chance to give her an early experience of a live concert in the stadium. As it turns out she was not alone and not the youngest we saw. My own first concert, by the way, came in 1973 when I went in my early teens (without parents) to the “New Musical Express Poll Winners Concert” to Wembley Arena and enjoyed the glam rock of Slade. I may be old but they are still playing “So here it is, Merry Christmas!” on the radio every year, even in Poland! This memorabilia is tempting for 45 quid.

I had bought the Coldplay tickets some months ago , a well located seating area (trybuny), VO5, close to the stage. Tickets were 275 zlots each and it was worth it as the view was great and the seats surprisingly spacious and comfy, not that we were sitting too long. The standing area where the pitch would be (płyta) was sold out, more than Madonna could manage, and the seats were also full with the exception of those right up in the Gods. My guess is attendance was around 60,000 but I can’t find any official figures online.

The stadium as a venue worked very well although they need to improve signage to help people find their places. Entrance to our VO5 for example was through a doorway called VO1-VO2 and then onto D20 and then turn left and keep walking! Outside, around the perimeter of the stadium we could find no signs to show us the right way to walk around the stadium to find the correct entrance. The stewards were nice but not all that clued up. Getting in was easy with very small queues, getting out was slower but not horrendous and nice to completely pedestrianise the bridge back to town.

Inside it is an impressive arena with all-round good visibility but there are mixed reviews on the acoustics. I suppose it depends on your expectations. I had heard bad things about the acoustics so was pleasantly surprised. You can’t expect anything like the recorded work in a massive arena with an open roof and trying to please everyone in a 270 degree radius but there was nothing we heard beyond the occasional echo off the back wall that detracted in any way from our enjoyment. Those I know who were on the płyta said the sound was good down there too.

The band communicated with the audience very well. I thought Chris Martin was perhaps a little OTT on the “I love Poland” stuff, unless he really truly does. There were many similar comments along with waving Polish flags, kissing the stage (in a Popeish way) and so forth. It’s a big country, they can sell a lot of stuff here and the audience lapped it up. There was no shortage of gimmicks either – fireworks, balloons, confetti, videos, lasers, walkways, islands…..you name it. best gadget was the LED illuminated wristbands (Xylobands). Everyone was given one on entry, different colours. They consist of a small plastic box that houses a battery and the controls and then a fabric wristband with LED lights inside. They are radio controlled and the band can light up the audience whenever they want, often to the rhythm of the music. You can read more about the set and the xylobands here.

They switched between ballads and louder stuff with ease and musically they were pretty tight all the way through. Chris Martin’s singing was impressive given the length of the tour so far but he seemed to turn the quality setting up and down a bit, lower when had to force something out and higher when there was nothing much to cover him up. This is compared to the recorded work, which is unfair. They were far more rocky than you might imagine and I often got flashes of U2 coming through. I read later that U2 were/are a big influence for Coldplay and whilst I’d never picked that up on the recorded work I certainly did at the gig. What I like about gigs is the way you can find an appreciation for tunes that you hadn’t already switched on to. Major Minus and Us Against the World stood out more than they do on the CD, for example. I might have misjudged but I think the Polish audience gave the biggest shout of joy for Viva La Vida but were generally energised throughout.

Quick mention for the support acts, neither of which were known to us. The first, Charli XCX, we missed because they were first on after opening at 16:00 and we didn’t get there until 20:00. The second, Marina and the Diamonds, were strange but actually pretty good and well worth finding a download or CD. Her drummer looked like a right nutter, in the Keith Moon mould of nutty drummers!

We had a great time and give the Coldplay gig a rocking 8/10. Lets hope it brings more big acts to Warsaw.

Below – set list, video, photos.

  1. Mylo Xyloto
  2. Hurts Like Heaven
  3. In My Place
  4. Major Minus
  5. Lovers In Japan
  6. The Scientist
  7. Yellow
  8. Violet Hill
  9. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
  10. Princess Of China
  11. Up In Flames
  12. Warning Sign
  13. Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
  14. Viva La Vida
  15. Charlie Brown
  16. Paradise
  17. Us Against The World
  18. Speed Of Sound
  19. Clocks
  20. Fix You
  21. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

Tagged