Monday, March 8, 2010

Ok Warsaw, You win.

I recently spent two days in Warsaw where I attended the TEDxWarsaw. For those of you who do not know what TED talks are, here is the website. Basically, it is an all day conference where people come and share their ideas. It was quite an interesting event. It was the first to take place in Warsaw and I believe in all of Poland. The main theme of this specific conference was "Collaboration." The topics ranged from Politics, Religion, Music and Storytelling. Each speaker emphasized the importance of working together for a greater cause.
I found one speaker captivating as he spoke about Jews in Poland, specifically Krakow, post War World II. Prior to War World II, the Jewish population was pretty high. However, post WWII, it changed quite drastically for obvious reasons. This speaker, Jonathan Ornstein, talked about how there is a gap between Jewish generations. Older generations of Polish Jews are still in touch with their roots as younger generations of Polish Jews are slowly getting back in touch after discovering they even had any Jewish heritage. It is the middle group, the post WWII generation that is missing. The generation that grew up either hiding or not even knowing about their Jewish heritage. Jonathan Ornstein talked about the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, and hopes that this is one small step for Polish Jews to get back in touch with their roots.
Overall, the conference was interesting and successful. Between mingling and networking, I came across some intriguing characters with fascinating stories, as well as some seriously egotistical people. But I guess that is to be expected.

So in regards to the title of this post... The first time I visited Warsaw was back in 2008 when I was studying in Poznań. A friend and I had just spent several days in Stockholm, an unbelievably beautiful city, if ridiculously expensive. We decided to fly in Warsaw, because it was cheaper and we both felt it necessary to visit. However, upon arrival, we were miserably tired and broke. Neither of us wanted to be there and after spending time in Stockholm, we underestimated the value of Warsaw as a city. You see, Warsaw was destroyed during WWII so much of the architecture is Soviet Block buildings, aka, square building next to square building next to square building and so on. In short, we hated it.
So, this being my second time in Warsaw, under different circumstances, this city had one more chance to prove itself. And, it did. Now, I still find Kraków superior is most ways, but I have a new appreciation for Warsaw as a city. Its much less romantic and far more urban that Kraków, a trait that I believe many overlook. I enjoyed my time there, even though it was cold, and look forward to visiting again in the Spring.

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