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Warsaw

Have you ever known a kid who was sandwiched between two bullies when he was growing up? He would hardly have escaped the torture inflicted upon him by one of the big fellas, when the other giant would be ready to pounce on him. Dilly dallying from one to the other, the kid surely was not capable of having a decent childhood.

Poland’s history is very much akin to the life of the kid. Bordered by Germany on the west and Russia on the east, Poland has been grappling with centuries of war, invasion and foreign occupation. But, if you look at Poland today, you would never guess it had such a bleak past. Today, it shines with optimism and a new found “EU energy”. The people are distinctly proud of their struggles in the past that led them to where they are today. Warsaw, its current capital can hold its own against any city in western europe.

Warsaw has a very colorful old town, with the buildings exhibiting very bright colors. My guide book said the old town is a major tourist draw, and they weren’t kidding. The town square was packed with hordes of travelers. Most of them with deep pockets from the UK and the US.

Old Town Square

 

Miasto Feniksa

Right next to the town square, a photo exhibition was on display. It was the most stunning piece of art I ever experienced. Each exhibit consisted of three photos. One of them was of a street in Warsaw immediately after the second world war. Battered buildings depicted the damage that the war caused. The second picture  was of the same street taken in 2008. In the third picture, they morphed the people from today’s picture into the old one. This had an exceptional effect. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…..but two pictures taken half a century apart will tell you a story….a story of a city, its people, their struggle, their passion and their national pride. I have listed two of these exhibits here. I urge you to check them more of them (fullsize) at Flickr here. A street artist playing melancholy saxophone tunes in the background was a perfect accompaniment to the exhibition setting. You can also see the exhibition online at www.miastofeniksa.pl. (however, only the morphed photo is displayed online, which dampens the experience).

Photo exhibit at Miasto Feniksa

Photo exhibit at Miasto Feniksa

It was also interesting to notice the expression on the faces of people looking at the exhibition. Some of them were in awe, while some seemed to remember the war.

Remembering the past     Woman in thought

I also took a video clip of the exhibition to capture the mood( it didn’t quite do justice to the setting, but here it is anyway). The woman in the striped t-shirt is playing the saxophone.

Check the video here

 

Chopin Concerts

Warsaw is the home of Frederic Chopin, the great pianist and composer. During the summers, every Sunday, the famous Park Łazienkowski hosts free concerts, where professional pianists perform one of Chopin’s masterpieces. I happened to be there on a sunday and decided to check it out. Lots of people gather at the park, lying on the grass, around the water. Its a perfect setting for some soothing piano tunes on a lazy afternoon.

Chopin concert

As in most East European capitals, there is a church tower in old town that offers a good view of the city.

Old town square - Warsaw    Royal palace

Characters

Indians

I ran into two Indians when crossing a busy intersection and our “desi” connection got us talking. They had been in Warsaw for six years and now are settled there. After some normal chit chat they discovered that I was traveling alone. One of them literally took a step back….he thought I was nuts. For the next 10 minutes he interrogated me…why alone? whats wrong with you? dont you like company? isnt that fun? dont you have friends?

I tried explaining to him the benefits of traveling alone. He just didn’t get it. He left, disgusted.

 

John Myers

I met this Aussie guy and his german friend at an Indian restaurant. Both these guys were taking a month long course in Polish. As soon as the Aussie realized I was Indian, he started talking about cricket. It was like he was itching to talk about cricket for long. So we did and bored the german to death. We tried explaining the game to him, but it was a futile exercise. What? you play the game for the whole day? For 5 days?

John recently found a new and interesting job..to make beer for a Heineken owned brewery in the south of poland. In an attempt to prepare for the job, he was taking the language course. And from what he tells me, Polish is a tough language to learn.

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