Poland has, um, problems when it comes to tourism. Let's just say that using public transport is fairly nightmarish: everything's in Polish, no one can sell you a ticket, there are no maps, signs marking tram and bus stops are neglected, and (worst of all) transit doesn't seem to go anywhere near anything you'd want to see as a tourist. So, I've been walking upwards of eight miles a day just to get everywhere I want to. As a result, I'm losing weight (yay!) and in moderate pain due to shin splints and so on (boo!).
Additional problems with Polish tourism...
1. Nothing's fucking open. I'm not kidding. This is at the Wawel, the castle that sits atop Cracow:
And this is the Marie Curie museum:
2. What is open barely functions at all:
This is the Palace of Science and Culture. I paid seven bucks to take the elevator to the top of the building... and waited 25 minutes to do so. Although there are 13 elevators that go there, only one was open, and the operator was on a smoke break for the first 15 minutes I waited. There were only a few people ahead of me in line.
At least the view from the top was informative:
3. Warsaw is fucking ugly (see the above picture). The place was nearly completely destroyed in World War II, so I can't really blame the Poles for this, but MAN, what a fucking dump. There's a tiny old town that was painstakingly reconstructed...
However, the old town (such as it is) is also boring as all hell. I visited the Warsaw historical museum, which consisted of an endless loop through antiquated displays, which leads me to my next problem:
4. Everything's in fucking Polish. Yes, I understand that this is Poland, but come on, people - it's nice to have displays in museums, instructions for trains, and so on in a language other than a semi-obscure Slavic one that isn't spoken save for a single country. How about some English? Or German? French, maybe? Signage at Auschwitz was woefully inadequate here as the languages used varied from exhibit to exhibit - sometimes Hebrew, sometimes French, sometimes Italian, sometimes English, but nothing consistent).
5. What's with the fucking "if you want to take pictures, give us $10" bullshit? Every museum I've been in here has required you to pay extra - usually four times the regular admission fee - if you want to take a picture. Same goes for churches - it's just frustrating. I'd love to show you folk carvings of bears and spring ceremony costumes from the national ethnographic museum in Cracow but I was cheap and didn't bust out the $8 for the special ticket to do so.
6. Finally, would it kill you to print maps in tourist brochures? I tried to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum today but couldn't find it for the life of me - the tiny map included in their fliers is utterly useless for a tourist as it doesn't include anything you might be able to find as a tourist (e.g. the train station, the old town, or visible landmarks of any kind). As a result, I stomped back to the hotel after lunch so that I could shack up with the Internets for a while and attempt to build a map of everything on my own. Not easy, but it's done and now I'll be heading out again for Yet More Sightseeing (and man, are my dogs tired).
Here's another fine example of how tourist offices dropped the ball: This is the Arka Pana, the church in the Nowa Huta district of Cracow that Pope John Paul II played an important role in building (it was built in the 1970s in the face of strong government opposition, and if it weren't for him, it might not have happened). This is an architecturally interesting church, AND of course it's practically Papal, so you know you could get tourists out here if you tried. However, it's not on the maps, trams here are impossible to find, AND it's closed for renovations (AND it's not noted in any of the tourist brochures or information offices). Totally frustrating, and sadly indicative of the crappy state of the Polish tourism industry.
So, that's it for now. Next up: ibuprofen, the Museum of Wola (now with socialist poster exhibition), the Uprising Museum, and then the Red Hog Inn for dinner.