Saturday, April 11, 2009

Warsaw 2009: The Palace of Culture

One sight you cannot possibly miss in Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science. It's what you might call a famous eyesore. It was built in the 1950s, when it must have looked hideously out of place. Back then there weren't any highrises in the city ... I think the buildings were only a few stories tall; ten stories was probably pretty impressive sixty years ago. So when Stalin informed the Poles that he was going to give them something totally cool, I don't think they were expecting the gift to be something that they actually ... you know, wanted. :-) And indeed it was not. :-) Stalin sent hundreds of Russian workers to Warsaw to build a 237 meter tall replica of the Empire State Building. o_O Just with more frills. He sent architects and designers around the country to determine elements that could be said to be authentically Polish, and a number of these were incorporated into the finished product. It looks pretty crazy now ... and I'm sure it must have looked completely crazy back then. Stalin didn't live to see it finished, it wasn't completed until 1955 ... and stood in solitary, ahem, splendor for decades. These days it doesn't look too hopelessly weird; Warsaw has a very different skyline now, with various highrises and skyscrapers. So it doesn't seem so out of place now. But it's been wildly unpopular for many many years - after the fall of Communism there was a lot of discussion about what was to be done with the Palace of Culture, and one suggestion that was seriously considered was to just fill the basement of the damn place with dynamite and ... bombs away. :-) But it was decided to let it stand, and today it houses a great many interesting things - a huge movie theater, several 'real' theaters, galleries, offices, stores, a university ... ! o_O It has 42 floors and 3288 rooms. On the 30th floor, there is a viewing platform (unfortunately, we didn't get around to seeing that) from which the view of the city is, of course, fantastic. There's an old joke, unsurprisingly, that says that the view from the Palace of Culture is the most beautiful view that's possible to get of Warsaw ... because it's the only view that doesn't include the Palace of Culture. (Yes, they stole that from the French. :-)

I was quite fascinated with this building and I took lots of pictures of it. Here are some of them.

The very first pictures I took after arriving in the city center were of the Palace of Culture, in fact.

Check out the zoom on my camera ... ! :-o

The entrance.

Against a twilight sky ...

An imposing height.

My mother trying to figure out what is where on a map of the building and its surroundings.

The building is lit up at night, of course.

The Tuesday that we were there it was quite misty. The top of the Palace was lost in the clouds.

This is my favorite of all the pictures I took of the building. I'm really really happy with this shot. :-)

7 comments:

Lina said...

I've travelled throu Warsaw once but didn't stop because I was going to Krakow. If I ever go I will definitly check this place out. I think it looks quite cool, and I have definitly seen way worse places :-). Your pictures are really nice (especially the last 1)

Leisha Camden said...

Thanks! :-) If you get the chance, I'd recommend Warsaw as a holiday destination. :-) There's lots to see and do, many good & cheap restaurants, and good shopping opportunities. I hope to go back there sometime as I'd love to see the city in the summer too. And I'd also like to see the view from the Palace of Culture ... ;-)

I also thought the building was pretty cool. But it must have looked enormously weird when every other building in the city was only a fraction of its height. And back then it was bright white, too. It's pretty dirty now. We saw old pictures. :-)

Margo said...

Wow, nice pics! It reminds me a bit of the Empire State Building, actually. Have you ever been to NY?

Leisha Camden said...

They actually designed it to look like the Empire State Building. It was the model for the Palace of Culture ... for some reason which I don't really understand, since at that time the US was the arch-enemy, so ... ? o_O But I guess maybe they wanted to show off, to send the message 'look, we can build the same thing as you guys' ... or whatever. :-)

No, I've never been to NYC. I've never been to the US at all. Yet, anyway. :-)

Paz said...

great pics, loved the last shot

Leisha Camden said...

Hey, there you are!! Where have you been, I've missed you. No new pics ... :-( I bet you've been on a fun-filled Easter vacay and never said a word ... :-(

Thanks for the compliment though. :-) Now put up some new stuff on your blog so I can return the favor ... !! :-D

Paz said...

I wish, will post about easter elsewhere