Travel Journal

Poland is hot!

(Saturday 16 August 2014) by Mariken
Poland is hot!
Poland is hot!
Quite literally, with temperatures way over 30 degrees Celsius. An interesting peculiarity of the Polish traffic organisation is that they maintain screens alongside the major roads that display the air temperature as well as the temperature of the road surface, which is more often than not at least 10 degrees higher than the air temperature, 43.2 degrees a few days ago. And since we are almost constantly on the road, you can imagine we are generally sweating buckets. In between days of sweltering heat we have days with heavy rain, as if to make up for all that sweating. You can't have it all...

Filus, waiting for Professor Filutek
Filus, waiting for Professor Filutek
Other than the weather Poland is a hot destination in other senses as well. It's a huge country and it harbours beautiful cities that quite often have been painstakingly restored after being reduced to rubble during the Second World War, refreshing lakes that really invite you to jump in (which we already did several times), flowing hills and cute villages that remind me a bit of France and enough sites to keep a WWII geek like myself satisfied, even though I feel a bit ambivalent with respect to that last feature. As Poland was the scene of some of the most dreadful horrors committed during WWII it is obvious that traces of it in the form of memorials and musea are abundant. In a detached, professional way I find that very interesting and I try to visit as many of them as possible. On the other hand it is clearly a very black page in the history of Poland and really not something to advertise as a prime tourist attraction. Still, I am learning a lot and for that I am grateful. Fortunately it is not only memorials of WWII misery that we come across; we already visited charming old towns like Torun, impressive (although not very authentic) castles like Malbork and we are now preparing ourselves to delve into Krakow, the most popular tourist spot of Poland and again one loaded with historical sites.

The former border of the Warsaw ghetto
The former border of the Warsaw ghetto
Travelling through Poland sometimes feels like one big history lesson which occasionally comes in very unexpected forms. In a hostel near Krakow we came across a stack of old (Old? Ancient!) issues of National Geographic Magazine. One in particular stood out: the centennial issue, celebrating 100 years of National Geographic Society. Volume 173, no. 1 came out in January 1988 and featured a 41-page (those were the days that the average attention span did not lapse after three columns) article about Poland of that day. And 'that day', you may remember, still saw Poland behind the Iron Curtain. To me, a historian who was not exactly in diapers then but nevertheless not yet of an age to grasp European let alone global politics, it provided a unique view of the past; not only by the content of the article, but also by the way it was written. It was 41 pages of 'us' versus 'them', 'the West' versus 'the Soviets' and suddenly I realised that although Poland has made a giant leap forward in the 26 years that have passed since the publication of that article, the world as a whole is still locked in the same old 'us' versus 'them' dogma that has dominated humanity since the first man crawled in an upright position. To me, that issue of National Geographic Magazine was both a curiosity, a remnant from the past, as well as a mirror, and a quite revealing one. Leafing through these old magazines was extremely interesting as well as a little disconcerting. I guess it quite accurately reflects my view of Poland: highly interesting and sometimes a little disconcerting.

Edit: I just realised I only included pictures from 'old' albums in this blog, but we did upload three new ones: Malbork, Treblinka and Zamosc. Enjoy!

  • Mooi by Jac
  • Mooie plaatjes by Aafke
    • Papierpropjes by Mariken


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