Thursday, June 09, 2011

In Warsaw - Updated

I will try to update the Lidice entry later.

We arrived safe and sound in Warsaw yesterday. The students shared a single room with four couchettes, basically bunk beds, while I had a room with a triple bunk bed in the next door wagon. The room was so small and the bunks so close together that I had to sit on the floor to read. I had debated whether I should have gotten a room with six couchettes and thus make sure we were all together, but I realized later that would have meant that none of us could have sat upright for the 10 hour journey.

We spent an hour at the Bohumin station (from 2-3am) as they decoupled and recoupled the cars. The lights came on, which woke us all up. I thought they would come on to stamp our passports, but they never did. After we got to Poland the rails became much smoother and I slept til morning.

A little excitement getting off the train as not all the students were ready. The conductor gave them a 20 minute notice, and I came by 10 minutes later and told them to get ready, but as we pulled into the station, only two were ready to get off the train. One student had to get off the train in his socks and finish getting dressed on the platform.

We were all hot and sticky from the humidity, and the main train station is under reconstruction, but I finally found the metro, bought us passes, and got to the hotel. Our rooms weren't ready at 9 am (as I knew they wouldn't be), so we headed off to the Museum of the Warsaw 'Rising.

As before, I find this a difficult museum to navigate. On one level, it's marketed to students: the sound effects and Disney-style decor, designed to mimic the terrain of Warsaw during the uprising, lacks a certain decorum. The museum really isn't organized in chronological order, which can make it difficult to follow the events. One wrong turn and you miss key events or read about the consequences before the causes.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel. I gave the students (and myself) an hour to wash off the sweat and grime of two days and then meet at 1 pm to continue. We went down to see the remnants of the ghetto wall, and then walked from there to a small street of tenements that almost unique in the city, had survived both the ghetto uprising of 1943, and then the city's uprising of 1944. I tried to get to the Nozyk synagogue, but most of it is shielded by fences from construction, and even after we found it, we couldn't get in.

I gave up at that point and we went to the Jewish Historical Institute. I arranged for the students to see the documentary on the ghetto in English, and then we toured the museum. The students seemed strongly affected by it. We all were too tired to do anything else, so I took them back to the hotel and spent the evening making arrangments for tomorrow.

I went to dinner back to the Nu Jazz Bistro where I had eaten years ago, but wasn't pleased. The cold cucumber soup was delicious and the tricolor panini (tomato, mozzarella, avocado) was yummy, but it seems to have declined a bit. Also I found the service slow.

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