Friday, February 26, 2010

Least Romantic City?

Itka and I are off to Warsaw tonight, each as correspondant of a different paper (I had to let the organizers know that Israel-Hayom and Maariv are sharing a bedroom). The Poles invited us to attend the openning of the international Chopin year, including recitals by such legends as Kissin, Demidenko and Barenboim, plus a concert conducted by the artful Franz Bruggen.

200 years after his birth, Chopin turns out to be a hard sell. I had to give up on a major magazine article for the weekly supplement and settle for 800 words in the daily culture pages. That's a shame because I had a killer concept. Chopin gets me high. I hear the first notes of "Impromptu Fantasie" and my spirit soars. I could sell Chopin to Indonesian villagers whove heard nothing but Gamelan music their entire lives. I'll use those 800 words to the outmost, do trust.

Warsaw makes me far less ecstatic. I've been there twice so far (all photos are from the latest visit, last year) and each time found it to be Europe's least romantic city. It's none of Warsaw's fault, of course. It was known as the most perfectly demolished city of all those harmed by WWII. It then went under the hammer and sickle for too long. But There's more to this than bad history. I've heard it being described as "the epitomy of all that is not exotic", and found that notion spring to mind with every bite into the bland local sausages.

In other words, Warsaw is a city that demands an effort, it does not offer itself. With five days on our hands, we'll try and discover it. The hypothesis: it's wonderful, it's sexy, it's breathtaking. I'll update you later, as we emerge out of the alleyways of the Praga and the clubs off Marszałkowska. If we're still not into it, you're welcome to take our place in the philharmonic hall when Chopin turns 300.

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