The first stop was the National Museum, which proved to be yet another quintessentially Polish museum experience. I had to haggle with the ticket desk to get a standard ticket (I wasn't interested in the temporary exhibition which cost 5 złoty extra, and then she didn't want to make change for a 20 złoty note (the ticket cost 12 złoty)... so I had to smile and show her that I had in fact have no coins at the moment. Once inside, every single room in the museum had an old lady on a chair who would stand up the moment you entered and follow you around, staring at you and making sure that you didn't touch anything. Even more embarassing was the simple fact that the wooden floors were very, very old, so that any movement on your part would cause painfully audible creaking. Ugh. The collections were mostly boring as hell; it felt like one of those Soviet exercises where the idea is to overwhelm you with numbers (look! we have TEN THOUSAND PAINTINGS!) in order to hide the fact that you don't actually have any good paintings.
Across the street, however, was this awesome building:
I wonder if that was a hotel at some point? Is that some kind of 1960s modern restaurant at the top? Apparently all it is in 2007 is a decaying apartment building, though...
I was also fond of this not-exactly-modern street sign in front of the museum:
Next stop was the Museum Woly, aka the Museum of Wola, a neighborhood just west of downtown Warsaw. The building is one of the rare buildings that survived WWII and socialist redevelopment; the museum turned out to be only two rooms inside what felt like a civic centre. I was the only visitor; they had to turn on the lights for me. On display were about sixty posters from socialist times; sadly, photography was verboten so I can't share any of it with you. There was of course no English signage available either, so I'm not exactly sure what I saw, but some of it was fairly obvious (lots of anti-Reagan stuff from the early 1980s decrying his decision to place NATO rockets in western Europe). Pretty cool, but again very D-list in terms of tourist attractions (where were the attractively designed catalogues, for example? Souvenirs anyone?)
From there, I headed off to lunch and happened to walk by ul. Pereca, or Perec street, which reminded me of course that Georges Perec, aka the most awesome French novelist ever, was of course a Polish Jew (his family didn't entirely escape the Holocaust; luckily for us, though, he grew up in France).
After lunch, it was back to the train station to pick up my bags, a copy of The Economist, and then head off to the train. The train ride was mostly very uncomfortable; I had booked a 2nd class "window seat" only to find that every other Polish "window seat" does not in fact have a window, denying me not only a view, but any room in which to relax. Whoops. Anyhow, here I am looking out the window in someone else's seat when they got up to go to the bathroom:
Finally, here I am now in my surprisingly comfortable and quiet hotel room located inside of a train station - I only paid €40 a night and was steeling myself for the worst, but everything is lovely and comfortable and I couldn't be happier. The free tickets for all public transportation in Berlin help as wel, to be sure! OK, free Wi-Fi would have been nice but they did have a weekly package that made it somewhat less painful.
I'm finally set up for voice chat and so on, so I'm looking forward to chatting with the marmot just as soon as the time zones cooperate. :)