Tag Archives: Tourist industry

Chopin's birthplace – signs of life in the Polish tourist industry?

“Things to do near Warsaw at the weekend” is right up there in the list of World’s Shortest Books alongside “Great French War Heroes”, “1000 Years of German Humour”, “Good American Beer” and “Mother Teresa’s Guide to Erotic Pottery”.

If you live in Warsaw, like we do, you run out of places to “pop out to” at the weekend after about two weeks. You can only visit Kazimierz Dolny so many times before you’re sick of the place and, sad as it may seem, that’s the only interesting place close to Warsaw and even that’s too far away for anything less than a lengthy day trip. Let’s face it, Warsaw is located about as conveniently as Timbuktu and you might think that this would spawn a huge industry in providing places for bored Warsaw folk to go spend some time and money whilst escaping from the city for a few hours. Well you’d be very wrong. In the years I’ve been here I think I can count on half a hand the number of new weekend jaunt options that have arisen. Actually, I can’t think of any new ones right now but Kazimierz has improved so I suppose that counts for something.

It doesn’t really matter what it is – an open day at the Płock refinery, a guided walk through the historical back streets of Radom, a cruise up the Wisła to Pułtusk, who cares? At this stage we’ll take anything we can get.

And so it was, with a sense of deja vu that we ventured out yesterday to go see Chopin’s birthplace at Żelazowa Wola one more time and you can imagine how smacked our gobs were when we found the place awash, positively overflowing, with new developments!

Zosia has to walk away and compose herself (pun intended)

“At last they see my full potential”

The normal routine here ever since dinosaurs ruled the earth was to pay your 5 zlots to the drunk car park attendant, cross the street, pay another 10 zlots each to get in, walk around the garden for 10 minutes (it’s not big), walk around the house for 3 minutes (it’s tiny), then leave and eat a dodgy meal in the restaurant opposite.

The tiny house where Chopin lived for all of 7 months.

A perfect Warsaw family day out! It always looked like a good opportunity wasted because every time we’ve visited we had to play a game of dodge the Japanese person. Chopin must be bigger than Michael Jackson in Japan judging by the numbers that flock to his birthplace. I mean, it’s not even as if the great man lived there very long is it? The house is full of pianos and stuff but they moved to Warsaw when he was 7 months old…so….would he really have been composing and playing in Żelazowa Wola?? Anyway, so what, he was born there and that’s all the Japanese persons care about.

It was really quiet there yesterday, probably because it’s not worth visiting right now, unless you like building sites and write a blog, but there was still one Japanese person there. I even took a picture. I think they have one Japanese person there 24/7, like a sort of vigil thing.

A (surprisingly tall) Japanese Chopin worshipper – with a big camera of course!

Looks like they won the lottery, or worked out how to apply for EU grants. The gardens are being re-laid and there are two new buildings being erected, one might even call them complexes, to deal with stuff that tourists want like souvenirs and coffee – no doubt with piped Chopin tunes throughout.

New gardens, new buildings with a “transparency of architectural forms”

Apparently there are 1,500 visitors a day in spring and summer, mostly pale yellow tourists on a bus ride from Warsaw with money burning holes in their back pockets. For centuries they have been left to wander round in search of somewhere to untrouser a few stówki and been left disappointed, well not for long. The 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth is fast approaching – March 2010 – and those visiting Żelazowa Wola to celebrate will finally get what they came for – plenty of wonga-splashing opportunity a real life pukka tourist hot-spot here in our very own Polska! Hallelujah!

Not only….I say NOT ONLY do they get a proper tourist experience at the birth-site in future but they ALSO get to cross the road and eat in style. Yes my friends, gone is the home of kotlet schabowy, chips and mushy peas and please take a gander at the latest venture for Gessler Gourmet Enterprises, coming soon to a birthplace near you –“Polka By Magda Gessler”:

Good food, fancy waiters & OTT decor = duży yenski.

I may be taking the pish here just a tad but I’m genuinely excited by this. This is the sort of rampant commercialism that Poles need to grasp with both golden hands. Fifteen hundred tourists a day for six months a year in a place where they are well and truly a captive audience is a license to print money. Not only that but it’s an opportunity for Poland to put on a decent show and leave people with a good impression. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this happening and I certainly hope it happens a lot more, especially anywhere within an hour’s drive of Warsaw!

Come on Poland – you can do it! Just take a look at what your close neighbours are doing with their composers:

Bach-Haus in Eisenach
The Mozart industry in Salzburg
The Beethoven industry in Bonn
Elgar’s cottage near Worcester

Old style – the phantom car-park carver of old Chopin town.

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