Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Warsaw Uprising and national art ~ Saturday, June 14, 2014

Poland Pride! 
Go, Poland!  On Saturday we learned about Polish history, nationalism, and food.  Here are the years Poland was independent between 1772 and 1918: zero.   Here are the years Poland was independent after that: from 1918 – 1939, then from 1989 to the present. 

Those side-long looks
Poles have erected monuments and museums to display the war heroes and political leaders of the past.  The museums that we visited on Saturday, the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the National Museum, emphasized Polish ethnicity above all, and they neglect to bring attention to the fact that Poland was also home to Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Jews, and Germans.   Poland today is much more homogeneously Polish (94% of the population), and that’s one reason our group attracts so much attention.  And we’re so obviously American: clothes, hair, backpacks, language, and smiles.  Courtney was pestered by a boy who kept running up to her and shouting random phrases he had learned in his English lessons: “Right turn!”  “Open the door!”

The British Liberator 

As you walk into the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the room vibrates with a heartbeat, immediately sucking into the intensity of the events that occurred.  The museum is full of visuals (photos, videos), documents (letters, lists, maps) and items (weapons, uniforms, sewer covers) that tell about the revolt in an exciting manner.  Riveting objects in the museum include the classical BMW motorcycle with a side car.  Each and every person in our group happily sat on it for a photograph (see our Gallery).  In the basement was a sewer pipe you can crawl through to experience how kids and smaller adults stealthily made their way under Warsaw to bring messages and supplies to people on other sides of the city – lucky for us, the pipe was unrealistically clean. A fighter plane was suspended from the ceiling with moving shadows to simulate spinning propellers.

Rauhman, Jonathan, Lovia, and
distracted Dylan drinking a cup of kawa
Want to travel back in time to 1940s Warsaw?  Stop at the elegant café, complete with ornate decorations and photographs of the sophisticated actors who refused to perform for the Germans, and so served as waitresses and waiters.   Actually, some of the displays were truly frightening, showing Hitler’s collective punishment of thousands of Poles.  To top it off, at the end we saw a short film that showed aerial views of the piles of rocks and bombed out buildings that was Warsaw after the Uprising, resembling the unreality of a Hollywood action movie set. 

Hey Courtney! Who was Jan Matejko?
Jeanette makes a figure come to life (notice the hair)!

After the Uprising Museum we took a tram downtown to eat lunch on our own.  The day was on-and-off rainy and windy, and it was too wet for our planned bike ride, so we went to the National Museum.  Courtney presented her research on the painter Jan Matejko.
His most famous painting was gargantuan, spreading from wall to wall and ceiling to floor, showing the victorious Polish battle against German knights.  There were elaborate, detailed statues of Jesus and other New Testament scenes (one had actual hair on the characters!), Catholic saints, and other biblical figures.  Polish national art includes romanticized pink-cheeked peasants and also more realistic portrayals of the rich and poor.

That evening, we had our Polish pub meal.  We had great appetizers!  We played bonding games.  By then everybody was hangry: that means, hungry and angry because it took so long to get the main course.  When playing Telephone, Krystle chose the phrase “when’s the second course?” and the platters of meat finally landed in front of us. 

Filled to the brim, exhausted beyond our imagination, we retreated to the hostel.  Everybody got a second wind and stayed up until all hours!    

Or you'll be sleeping outside with the Poles! 

1 comment:

  1. It seems that you had a great tour to Poland! It's a very beautiful and really historically rich country, I am glad that you liked it :)