Thursday, 18 November 2010

Into Poland's former heart of darkness

A meeting this morning in a most remarkable place; this is the Centrum Bankowo-Finansowe 'Nowy Świat' (Banking and Finance Centre); until 1989 this was the headquarters of the Polish communist party, the PZPR. The meeting was not just in the building, but along the very corridor where the Central Committee would hold its deliberations - and indeed in the very room from which the First Secretary of the Party made plans for the nation.

A joke I remember from the early 1970s, when Edward Gierek had just taken over the job of Poland's top communist: "Gierek drives the world's largest car. The driving seat is in Warsaw, the engine in Katowice (i.e. his coal mining power-base), and the steering wheel in Moscow".

Above: I was disappointed by the lack of five-pointed stars, hammers and sickles in the decorative motifs on the floor. But then even the Palace of Culture lacks them.

Left: from this balcony, First Secretaries of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) - Bierut, Gomułka, Gierek, would address Party workers. The Dom Partii, as it was originally, was built in 1948-1951, designed by Kłyszewski, Mokrzyński and Wierzbicki. Opened four years before the Palace of Culture, it still looks remarkably modern and does not at all reek of Socialist Realism.

Above: the reverse-angle shot. After 1990, the newly-created Warsaw Stock Exchange moved in after the PZPR fell apart. It's now in a purpose-built building on ul. Książęca across the way. This symbolic ousting of communism's central planning by the visible manifestation of the invisible hand of the market is made more poignant by the fact that Poland's first Ferrari showroom is now in this complex (indeed, you can see a white Ferrari in the top picture, just left of centre).

If you are visiting this place around lunchtime, it's worth popping into the stołowka (buffet restaurant, above) on the ground floor (entrance A). Called Komitet ('Committee') it's suitably decked out in old-school communist finery, the menu is delightfully old-school too (schabowy, kluski śląskie, buraczki smażone, sos grzybowy) at attractive prices (12-16 złotys for a main course, 3-4 złotys for a soup).

Ah, and a propos of food and drink: Poland's English-writing blogging community will be knocking back a few beers at Legends Bar, ul. Emilii Plater on Saturday from 2pm.

1 comment:

student SGH said...

Had my studniówka in that building in early 2006, to be precise we partied in the ballroom snapped on the last photo - some memories brought back.

See you tomorrow!