Even though our spirits and energy were high in Warsaw, it was hard to keep a positive attitude with the spontaneous rain and the depressing museums.
We began my second day in Warsaw with a rainy visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. As we walked into the purposefully grim museum, it was hard to keep our spirits high. During WWII, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto knew that the end was near and that many of them were not going to make it out alive. They very valiantly organized themselves and revolted against the German forces that contained the ghetto. They knew that they were going to die, but they weren’t going to go down without a fight. They did this, to let history (and their descendants) know that they fought for an ideal, for freedom, for a nation, for something larger than themselves.
It’s a really inspiring idea, and their uprising was much more successful and planned out than I thought it had been. They made their way around the city through the sewers. Women and men fought bravely side by side. Nevertheless, it’s like watching the movie 300, [spoiler alert] you know they all die in the end. You had plenty of time to watch it.
The museum visit culminated with a 6-minute 3-D film of what Warsaw looked like by 1944. I remember that the room went dark and a somber music began. We adjusted our 3D glasses and sat in silence. Slowly, the dark screen showed a dark cloud, and we were flying through it. It was like we were on an airplane, making our way through gray cloud and smoke. As we left the clouds behind, we saw Warsaw – utterly destroyed. We were told on the tour that 99.5% of the city was destroyed. A church in the old town was the only building in the whole city that had a roof and it’s four walls. The airplane made twists and turns to show us every corner of the ruins. I tilted my head towards Mike and whispered: “Well, this sucks.”
The film in itself wasn’t bad. It was actually really well done. It was just depressing to see a city of millions being turned to rubble. The Germans took over early on in the war, and then the Soviets bombed the city to kill the Germans. The city was stuck in a lose-lose situation. Once the Germans left, soviet communism took over for a few decades. Honestly, history, give these people a break!
Warsaw is now seeing growth and prosperity. With the downfall of certain EU markets, Poland is receiving many immigrants from other European countries. The city is full of cranes and construction. And even though the locals dislike some of the buildings and landmarks that the soviets instated, these are still a sign of the positive effects that came with the Soviet era. One example is the Palace of Culture and Science.
The Palace of Arts and Culture was built by Stalin between 1952 and 1955. It houses many theatres, cinemas, a swimming pool, a tourist information centre, food court, a community centre, and a few bars among other things. It’s a stunningly beautiful building that is hated by most of the locals. They call it Stalin’s syringe and The Russian Wedding Cake.
In addition to the Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw houses many large museums and various other noteworthy government buildings. It’s easy to criticize the soviets, and I agree that many of their rules and regulations were terrible – but we mustn’t forget that they reconstructed a city out of a cemetery of rubble.
The rainy weather that still persisted after our museum visit, lured us past a pizza lunch and back to Panska where we hung out for the afternoon. We had dinner together and set out for another night out.
Having witnessed our success at karaoke bars, we decided to hit another singing joint, Glam. We arrived, sat down at the bar and ordered a beer. “Up next we have Agata singing Listen by Beyoncé,” said someone in Polish over the microphone. Of course, the only things we understood were listen and Beyoncé – so that, we did.
Little did we know, Agata can belt.
She nailed the song, and that night we ended up being the fans. We went to congratulate Agata after her performance and sat at her table with a couple of her friends. “Do you guys sing?” she asked us through her Polish accent. “A little. Only in the shower,” we lied. Let it be known, that Beyoncé is a language divas worldwide speak – if it were not for Queen B, friendships like this wouldn’t happen.
The night continued with a few more songs and a few more drinks. Next thing we knew, most of the people had left and the bar was opening the dance section. As the curtains opened, we went into a whole new room with a DJ in a corner, dance lights sparkling everywhere and a stripper pole on the dance floor.
Before you jump to conclusions: no, there weren’t any professional semi-dressed dancers there. It was literally just the three of us, and a DJ; and we had a fantastic time. It was like dancing when no one is watching, because no one really was watching – just one of your best friends, a young polish diva and the DJ.
Gaga’s “Applause” had recently been released, and it was all we sang along the Warsaw streets. As soon as we found out that the DJ had it, we had him play it – 5 times. “Can you play applaus?” we would ask time and time again. We probably danced to 17 songs that night, 40% of them were Gaga.
After convincing the DJ to play “one last song” several times, they turned the room lights on. Once again, we were closing up the joint. Agata, thrilled to have met us, invited us back to her apartment, but we were ready for bed. As I lay my head on the couch in Panska, I had no idea that that would be my last night in Warsaw.