We arrived in Wrocław on a winding train from Prague – winding in the sense that it went into Germany before heading east into Poland. It took 9 hours altogether. We were very lucky to make our 2 changes. It was all thanks to two very helpful, very friendly ticket inspectors in Dresden. We made it to the final train with only 10 minutes to spare.
The first thing I noticed about Wrocław wasn’t the beautiful market square, it was a big poster on one of the buildings with the words ‘Ochotnik do Auschwitz’ printed on it and a picture of what looked to me like an ’80s pop star. I asked about it at tourist information and found out a bit about him. The guy in the poster was called Pilecki and the poster was advertising a government website about him – www.pilecki.ipn.gov.pl
Pilecki was a soldier who fought against Russia in World War I and against Germany in World War II. Amazingly he also volunteered to go to Auschwitz, live there, and try to organise a resistance among the people who were captive there. He wrote lots of reports from Auschwitz which were some of the only sources the outside world had about what was going on there. After World War II he fought in Warsaw against the Soviet communists, was eventually captured by them and executed. His story was suppressed under communism and so now he’s being celebrated as a national hero.
The website is in Polish but there are some photos of a ceremony from 25 May of this year – the anniversary of his execution by the communists. I found out other information on wikipedia.
We’re in Warsaw at the moment and we’ve spent most of our time preoccupied with whether we have any hope of getting a Chinese visa, now that all the rules and regulations have been tightened. We are keeping all our fingers and toes crossed.
Is that a cliché I keep hearing? Surely not…
Unfortunately it’s unmistakable. On a tram, in an internet cafe, on the radio, quiet and tinny from someone’s headphones, it’s everywhere! Songs from the 80s.
At first it was kind of comforting – some familiarity and all that – but then it just gets disconcerting. You’d think you’d forget all those songs from your “Choose 85” tape but no, they’re still in there just waiting for a chance to come out. And we play that “what’s this? who’s it by?” game but Susan always wins – she sure knows her 80s.
Sunday in Wrocław was something approaching normal for us. We had some brekky, wandered around town for a bit and then sat in a park for a few hours. Not all that different to what we’d do at home. And Wrocław’s a lovely place for that kind of thing, especially the Botanical Gardens.
Now we’re in Warsaw. It’s a bit of a sprawling city and it’s got a bit of a strange vibe – to me anyway. Apparently it’s been almost entirely reconstructed since World War II – even the old part of town. Still, it’s got some really nice parks and green spaces and it’s a nice place to take it easy a bit.