Category Archives: WARSAW

The trashy side of Warsaw

This post is brought to you by the delightful – Lon (mochafueled) – who will be available for questions and arguments in the comments section.

Who’s Responsibility….

Lovely clear blue skies, a gentle breeze with a pleasant warm temperature I started my walk along the Wistula River this past Sunday. Starting at Poniatowski Bridge at a little after the lunch hour I started a leisurely walk north towards the Old City along the water front.

View across the Vistula to the new football stadium

I had put out of mind my experience the previous week, World Earth Day, of all the broken glass, discarded beer and wine bottles and overflowing trash cans that I saw along the way. Sadly I was greeted again by broken glass, bottles and trash every few meters along the cement steps that line the water front of the west side of the river all the way to the Old City. But what struck me most was all the people casually sitting or congregating amidst this mess and blight on the river bank. It was if I was experiencing an Emperor has no clothes moment…. All the rubbish but no one see’s or will speak up.

Overflowing trash bins. A cunning plan to make sure there's no space for bombs.

I had also just come from a walk in a park with a Polish friend. When I pointed out to her the bits of bottle caps and trash near our bench she agreed with my disgust but with one difference, she felt no obligation to help clean it up… as a tax payer she felt it was not her job, which left me wondering how many other people feel that the cleanliness of Poland is not their job. I have seen plenty of trash filled parks and roadsides in the last eight months.

Łożma Export, a unique beer with a soul - apparently.

Poland is full of people who love nature; to run, bike, hike, canoe and camp in its beauty. But yet on more than one occasion I have come across filth in public spaces while people just blindly carry on around it. Except for a Facebook post on the US Embassy page I would not have known last Sunday was World Earth Day and Poland was clearly not doing anything special to clean things up. I could put this all down to another 3rd world country too busy with living to care about its public spaces. But Poland is not a 3rd world despot and is supposedly trying to clean itself up for Euro 2012 in a few weeks… but from what I see it matters not what work the local governments do to clean up the city if the people of Warsaw do not pitch in and help. What will greet football fans who venture here will be a dirty city trying to hide its crumbling pieces and dirty parks and roads.

Beer 2 - 0 Vodka

So I ask who is responsible for a clean Warsaw and a clean Poland. Is it the government or the people? It would only take ONE person with a heart to love and clean this city to make a difference and show the world a clean and lovely landscape.

Tagged , , ,

Holy koksowniki Batman!

I love those moments when a new piece of Polish culture / history smacks you in the face AND you learn a new word into the bargain. Even after 14 years it is possible to have the joy of finding something new!

I walked out of my office yesterday and found this:

koksownik

First thought was a new idea to burn rubbish locally rather than transport it somewhere else, mainly because the Zlote T cleaners were hovering around it. Then thoughts turned to funeral pyre of leading Warsaw Indian community leader followed by protest of some kind (being outside the PKiN) but closer inspection revealed a lack of dead bodies, protesters or rubbish although the brazier was full of something intended to burn for quite a while. Looked like lower levels of coke and upper of peat or dried out lumps of left-over Christmas bigos. Then it dawned on me that this was intended to help people stay warm while out on the streets in -X degrees and I thought “What a fine idea that is!”.

You’d never find such a thing on the streets of London for a variety of reasons:

  1. You’d ever be cold enough to need one
  2. There isn’t enough room on the pavements
  3. Elf & Safety wouldn’t allow it and even if they did you wouldn’t be allowed close enough to the potential fire hazard to get warm assuming you managed to find a gap between the signs reading “this fire is even hotter than a McDonalds coffee please stay at least 50m away from it at all times”. Proximity to the fire being controlled by cctv.
  4. The smoke would cause a massive pile-up on the street leading to several law suits.

Further investigation of my nice Polish street fire revealed that the same thing happened a year ago in Feb 2011 when around 50 were lit around Warsaw, public places and close to transport hubs. I hadn’t noticed them last year at all. I also discovered the connection between them and the times of martial law (stan wojenny) in Poland between 1981-83 when the winter was also especially cold and soldiers / milicja had to stand around in the streets a whole lot.

Martial law 1981-83

The connection is so strong with these times that no reenactment would be complete without a koksownik.

Reenactment of Martial law - date unknown.

I’m assuming the latter is a more recent reenactment based on various clues within the photo itself.

Surprising how small things can make me happy!

Tagged , , , ,

Oto Jestem!

Yesterday was the official opening of the new National Stadium here in Warsaw. We might well have braved the -12C and attended the event but we were on our way back from Rome so we missed it. By all accounts it went well although perhaps not as well attended as they would have liked. Many of the photos show plenty of empty space or do their best to make the crowds look bigger then they were. You can see some videos and photos on the TVN website (Polish text).

What caught my eye last week was the article on The News.Pl where they say the Warsaw fire brigade refused to give a health and safety certificate for the stadium last Monday but city hall overturned their decision and granted permission to open anyway. Considering the number of people to be housed in the stadium for a) the opening ceremony, b) Legia vs Wisła cup final match on 11 Feb and c) Poland vs Portugal on 29 Feb, it seems strange to be taking risks with safety so what’s going on here? Just some political shenanigans, the fire brigade dodging their responsibilities or is there really something to worry about? Mind you, another site says “safety officials only gave a green light on Friday” so perhaps whatever was an issue on Monday was fixed by Friday? It would be nice to get some clarity on this as there have been rumours for a while about health and safety issues in the new stadium and for a project as significant and public as this I think a clear public statement should be made.

Although we missed the event, we did drive past in the taxi from the airport and I must say again how much I like the design of the stadium. I think it’s gorgeous both in the design of the building itself and also the location within the city. I can’t think of any other stadium I’ve seen that is quite as impressive so I look forward to my first chance to use it as a spectator.

As Warsaw residents we were getting excited about the possibility that more bands will do gigs here instead of, or as well as, choosing Spodek in Katowice but thinking further it is only likely to be the superstars who do that because of the size of the place. Be a bit embarrasing for many artists to do a gig there and the place looks empty. So, when can we have a good sized (10-15,000 seats) concert hall in Warsaw please? One band who are confident enough to fill the new stadium are Coldplay who will perform on September 19th. Must get tickets but which ones?

The VIP tickets for grossly inflated price include extras like – alcohol, finger food, more alcohol and an “after party” with a DJ. Wow. Not.

Tagged , , ,

Warsaw roadworks – how to bring a city to its knees!

Traditionally, the period between winter break and Easter is when the Warsaw road planners come out of hibernation and while still not entirely compos mentis start to make decisions on which roads to close. They make these decisions by using a complicated matrix with with points being given to possible closures based on the following criteria;

  1. The element of surprise
  2. Number of commuters seriously affected
  3. Amount of time added to average journey time
  4. Knock-on effect (number of other routes affected)
  5. Duration of disruption

Each of these points is given a score and the works that score the highest are the ones for which funding is approved.

In other words, take the brain of a fruit fly, chop it into smaller pieces and you’ve got enough little brains to power the entire department of road planning for Warsaw and suburbs.

This year they started early by closing the “flyover” running from Mickiewicza into Andersa. This is one of the few routes over the railway lines from the North into the town centre. These works had been announced before and I was expecting a very nasty influence on my route to and from work. As it turned out there was an impact but not as bad as expected, adding perhaps 5-10 minutes to a 20-30 minute journey.

This week though, things took a turn for the very much worse! Yesterday I encountered perhaps the worst ever traffic on the way in that I’ve ever seen with traffic standing still almost from door to door. I called a mate and asked if I had missed something on the news and was told that someone had died on the metro that morning and so they, and plenty of others, had taken to the car instead (assuming that the metro would be closed for month for police investigations!). On that basis this was a one-off problem, good news. However, when I got to work, where everyone had suffered the same fate, it was a different story about the Śląsko-Dąbrowski bridge being closed. This was far more sinister!

Take a look at the maps below (click for larger size) to see what they have done.

The above is a close-up view showing the two points that are now blocked (black crosses). The red line is the railway tracks that have to be crossed coming from North (top) to centre (bottom right). The brown route to the left might be a consideration were it not for the fact that it is used as a car park most of the time. This route is part of the ‘ring-road’ and connects directly to the most northern bridge it is therefore very busy. To make it more fun they are doing very major roadworks on this road and have reduced the number of lanes. Bottom line is that this is not even worth considering as a route into town from the north. That just leaves the blue routes as the only two ways to cross the railway and get to the centre. The left hand route is rondo Babka followed by Jana Pawla, the right hand one is Wisłostrada.

To get the whole picture though, you need a wider view of the city:

Looking at the top right, near the rather appropriate box named “more”, is the route of an awful lot of cars heading to work. This is an area that was heavily bombarded by residential developers during the recent false-boom with new blocks and housing estates mushrooming up from the fields every month. Many of these commuters will have used the blue route (Radzyminska) into town until they closed the bridge. These people might well now see the red route (Toruńska) as their best option, thus bringing considerably more traffic to the north end of town. On their way along the red route, they will join forces with the already considerable traffic coming in from the other housing boom satellite area (Tarchomin and beyond) represented by the brown arrow. When all these people eventually cross the bridge they will be joined by me and everyone else living beyond us from Młociny, Łomianki and so on – the purple route. The combined forces of the red, brown and purple will then be faced with the problem of restricted access across the railway, as described above!!

Now, what most right-minded people might consider is an adjustment of the traffic signals to improve the flow from north to centre and vice-versa during rush hours. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem as there’s very little traffic coming east-west thanks to the bridge closure. It is interesting, actually, to note that the traffic now is AWFUL from home to ul. Solidarnośći (in line with the closed bridge). After this it reverts back to “normal”.

Needless to say, no changes have been made to the traffic signals, which remain set to handle 50% N-S and 50% E-W even though the traffic is now 90% N-S and 10% E-W. I’m not even going to mention the fact that we had delays some months back to install a new whizzo intelligent traffic system that is supposed to learn and adapt.

The railway flyover is closed to be rebuilt because if they didn’t do that people would eventually die as cars tumbled onto passing trains. This is clear and understandable, it has always looked as if it might collapse at any moment. It will be closed for I think two years, a bit excessive perhaps. The bridge however is closed to “repair the tunnel and fix the tram lines”. This is less clear. The tram lines have already been extensively worked on and so has the tunnel under the old town, both for perhaps years already. The road had already been closed down for months from two lanes to one in each direction to allow works to be done. And now they decide to close the whole damned thing from now until October 17th???? Questions really should be asked.

The result of all this, based on two days commuting, is that what should take 20-30 minutes is now taking 70-80 minutes – AND WE’RE ALL UNHAPPY ABOUT THAT!!!!!

Tagged , , , ,

“Bodies” in Blue City, Warsaw

THERE’S MORE LIKE THIS ON OUR NEW SITE – POLANDIAN.COM

bodies

Ludzkie ciało – fascynujące doświadczenie!

This “exhibition” has been touring the world and has finally arrived in Poland. If you want to, you can see it at the Blue City shopping mall in Warsaw until the 19th June. That is of course assuming it has not been closed down before then.

According to this Reuters article, Polish prosecutors are now checking to make sure all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed before the 13 corpses (of dubious origin?) arrived in Warsaw.

“We are investigating this case to check whether the corpses were not desecrated and whether all procedures needed to mount such an exhibition in Poland were carried out,” a spokesman for the Warsaw prosecutors’ office, Mateusz Martyniuk.

It’s hard to think that there could possibly be any procedures laid down for “exhibiting 13 corpses in a shopping centre” but there you go, the law is a strange machine.

Some people are, I think quite naturally, very concerned:

“Thirteen dead people appear out of the blue in the centre of Warsaw. It provokes the deepest astonishment, amazement and suspicion,” said Deputy General Sanitary Inspector for Poland, Jan Orgelbrand. He invoked the specter of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, where the remains of murdered Jews were used in the manufacture of various products. “The human being is sacred… A ‘beautiful’ lamp made of human skin in Auschwitz is the riposte to the question of where the human being ends and where art begins,” he said.

I don’t consider myself a prude but I have to say I find myself leaning in the direction of not liking this exhibition. Such an intense interest in the inner workings of the human body is something that should remain in the realm of science and scientific advancement, where it has comfortably been for many centuries. I can accept Leonardo da Vinci bringing dissection and art together via his anatomical works because they were done at a time when such investigation was needed and valuable.

leonardo-6

This exhibition adds nothing whatsoever to our understanding of the human body from either a scientific or artistic viewpoint. It is simply an exercise in macabre sensationalism, pulling on themes of Frankenstein, Hannibal Lecter and Joseph Mengele to name but three real or imaginary warped minds.

I know Blue City is a mess of a place that needs all the help it can get to get customers through the door, but please, whatever next! I’m sure the “artist” will explain how he has the right to express himself and give lengthy reasoning of why this is not a sick exhibition but in my opinion this is nothing more than a way to get rich by doing something shocking, one that unfortunately involves ghastly operations on dead people. We’ve closed down circus acts showing bearded ladies and more exotic deformed people and yet we allow this exhibition to tour the world? Can’t say it makes much sense to me so for once I’m with the prosecutors and San Epid. Close it down. Let Poland be the first country that stands up against this sensationalist bullcrap – send it back to LA where it belongs!

Tagged