The day we arrived in Warsaw, one of the biggest music legends in the world was playing at the PGE Narodowy coliseum.
I would not have normally gone to see Jon Bon Jovi, but with standing arena tickets costing only $40, we had to do it. Bon Jovi dominated the romantic rock genre since he started in 1983 and has been riding it strong ever since, without too many trips to rehab or scandals as rock stars are known for. As many archetypes of the classic rock heyday age into playing casinos or second tier rock concerts, Bon Jovi has been playing to sold out arenas (like they did a few nights ago) by starting with songs off their new album ‘This House is Not for Sale‘ and then launching in their classics causing such a rise from the audience that menopausal women started ovulating.
I remember in the 5th grade when, while in gym class, Rusty Henderson pulled out a cassette tape of Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery When Wet‘ and we gazed, sitting transfixed on the album cover while thinking we were looking at soft porn for the first time in our lives. Since then, rocking out to ‘You Give Love a Bad Name‘ and ‘Living on a Prayer‘ has been a rite of passage for people around the world. Even though Jon can’t hit the high notes of 30 years ago, his band carried the harmonies, giving him time for the requisite hip shakes, which every time, released more eggs from menopausal moms.
Since we went to bed at 2:00 am after the concert, we had a bit of a sleep-in before exploring Warsaw. Poland’s capital city blends history with modernity. Unlike the medieval towns that we passed through in the baltic countries, Warsaw has embraced new construction and high rise development without the cumbersome resolutions of being a UNESCO heritage site.
The Old Town
The old town has had quite the renaissance since the war. We saw black and white pictures of the city in 1945 and most of it was destroyed with the bombings with nothing more than a few empty shells of buildings and piles of rubble. Since then, they’ve rebuilt buildings to a new shade of the former grandeur.
The Uprising Museum
One night, we watched ‘The Zookeepers Wife’ which chronicled the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski who sheltered 300 jews in their zoo right under the watchful eyes of the nazis. Ava is not typically into dramas, but the story mesmerized her and helped her finish the first draft of her narrative essay on ‘survival’. The Warsaw uprising was a last ditch effort of citizens in Warsaw to rebuff the nazi occupation by launching a guerrilla offensive to liberate the city. The old Warsaw Ghetto has been destroyed and only a few dilapidated brick walls remain with a memorial to its sad history.
The museum is a testament to this event. The interior is made to resemble a city overrun with strife. It’s dimly lit. Flood lights passing overhead. Exhibits look like fortifications with propaganda posters and war memorabilia.
The Nicholas Copernicus Museum
When I heard about the Nicolas Copernicus museum, I immediately started front loading content about the Polish astronomer so Ava would be familiar with his work. Copernicus wrote his seminal work on the revolution of earth around the sun just months before his death which would be instrumental to Galileo years later that was begrudgingly accepted by the public (and eventually the church) who denounced them as heretical. We used ‘Quizlet‘ to introduce new terminology (See below) and Insert Learning to turn web pages into lessons.
Ironically, the Nicholas Copernius Museum was less about the man and his life and more about hands on experiments and activities that children can do for hours, which, for the children, is awesome. As a former teacher who has taken hundreds of students to museums, this might just be the most interactive museum in the world. We had to drag our child away.
On Tuesday, we took at 3 hour train ride to Gdansk on the northeast coast. We met our Airbnb host, Pawel, who introduced us to local lingo by berating my English and my inability to correctly identify our meeting place.
“I’ve had hundreds of other guests and you’re the first not to come to the building!” Pawel said.
“You see that?” I said pointing. “That is a building, so is that, and that. Building can mean many things and is very vague.” I replied.
“Yes, but we call where we live a building.”
“How am I supposed to know what locals call a building? The train station is also a building, which I associate with the impersonal description of not being a ‘home’ and where I thought you said you would meet us.”
Fearing I might tarnish his 5 star average review rating, he let it go and walked us up to our spacious one bedroom that had a big enough living room, 2 TVs and a washing machine of which we were in desperate need.
Gdansk is beyond charming. Old cobblestone streets and brew pubs make it cozy, intimate and fun. Street musicians playing classical to jazz to swing hang out in the tunnels, utilizing the acoustics for more ‘pop’. The colorful building facades stand up like Crayola crayons and the quay is the heart and soul of town inviting river cruises, boat rentals and rubber-neckers to watch it all go by.
Since we got Ava’s Bon Jovi concert t-shirt washed (which she wore every day we were in Warsaw) it’s bound to make an appearance for our train trip tomorrow back down to Krakow. By the way, ‘Ovulating Menopausal Women‘ would be a great name for a rock band.