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It seems like only yesterday that we arrived here in Warsaw, and now it is already time to leave. The conference has kept me incredibly busy, and I only managed a bit of sightseeing here and there. Our first night we explored a park across from the hotel which had a huge square:

It was already quite hot that evening, and the hot weather has continued throughout our stay. 

The next day we toured the Old Town; this is the centre of Warsaw which was nearly completely destroyed in World War II. Almost all of the buildings have been restored, and they are working on others, including the town wall. One of the most recently restored was the Royal Palace (they finished working on it in 1981-ish):

The interiors were quite lovely, and Mom ended up taking pictures of almost all the floors (!). There is a summer Mozart festival here, and while we were touring the State Apartments, the orchestra was rehearsing in the Grand Assembly room (all gilt, mirrors, and chandeliers). We didn't see them at first, and I couldn't figure out why there was music being piped so loudly into only one room. Then we turned around, and there they were! 

We had our lunch in the town square, which was levelled during the war, although you certainly couldn't tell now:

We had a lovely cheese sandwich and, as we were very thirsty, about four drinks, including 1.5 litres of water between the two of us! Then we toured the rest of the area, which had two kinds of shops: antiques and jewellery. Every store had a large selection of amber, ranging in price from about 30 zloty for a small piece (that's about $12.00) to upwards of 1.000 zloty ($400) for necklaces made of chunks of semi-precious stones. This is definitely the place to come for people who like that kind of jewellery (Monica, I'm looking at you!).

Of course, no sightseeing trip with Mom would be complete without seeing as many churches as possible. I think we came upon about 12. Not all of them were completely open; in a number of churches you could only get in the big outside doors, while the inside of the church was inaccessible, and only visible through the glass. In these cases, there was a kneeling bench right in the entryway. Most of these churches had beautiful Baroque exteriors, but the insides were still quite plain. Perhaps they are in the process of gilding them up?

The archdiocese cathedral was completely gilded up, however. Here is a picture of the shiny, shiny organ:

And here are some saints hanging around on the bottom of the pulpit that is partway down the side of the church -- check out their feet!:

Then it was time to race back to the hotel area to pick up my registration kit for the conference and grab dinner before the opening reception ... at the Royal Palace!

Finally yesterday I managed a bit more sightseeing: we saw the Polish Museum of Art. The building was wicked hot and several of the rooms were quite humid. Last night we went back to the old town for dinner on the square and had a pleasant walk around in the dusk. And it seemed like everyone in Warsaw had the same idea, so you can imagine how crowded it was!

But it's not surprising when you consider what they could see:


The conference itself was a lot of fun:

The conference has been very lovely so far. All the sessions take place in a renovated historic building (although, considering how much of Warsaw was rebuilt after the war, I don’t know exactly HOW historic the building is). 

There’s a big main hall as you come in, with enormously high ceilings, and then the papers are up on the second floor. The building is air-conditioned, but the European version of that term I always find to be simply that the air is slightly cooled. The conference building is no exception, and each room gets quite warm as the day wears on. Room 2, for example, goes across the front of the room and gets the brunt of the afternoon sunlight. They’ve opened one set of windows there, which gives a lovely breeze in the morning, but by 2:00 the sun is beating in. In any case, even without the sun, the rooms heat up on their own, so by the last paper of each session, the room is all a-flutter as people fan themselves to keep cool.
I’ve mostly been attending the French sessions: the first day a series of scholars from the Centre de Musique Baroque in Versailles presented in a whole session, then in the afternoon there was a series of papers on new sources, including Bruce Gustafson’s report on a harpsichord book from the collection of the Thurn und Traxis family, Europe’s first postmasters. Friday I managed to get to an Italian session, on Barbara Strozzi. Wendy Heller presented; she’s very dynamic and enthusiastic about her material, even when the A/V equipment insisted on projecting her PowerPoint in bright pink!
Each day has ended with some sort of entertainment. Wednesday night there was a concert of Polish sacred music in one of the rebuilt churches. There were many lovely and surprising moments, although I think none were as surprising as the entrance of the timpani in the Sanctus of the last piece. I could see several people in the audience jump in their seats, and a smaller number consumed by fits of the giggles. The next night there was a concert in the Royal Palace which was open to people from the city as well. And Friday night was the conference banquet (also in a palace, but a smaller one).
The people attending the conference are, as so often happens with Baroque conferences, almost uniformly kind and happy to speak with you. And since this conference is in Europe, it’s attracted a wide range of nationalities. I’ve met people from all over, including Iceland! Early on, I met one of the Polish musicologists, and she and I have spent most of the breaks together. It’s amazing to think that all these people are listening to papers in their second (or third!) language all day, and it’s made me resolve to improve my French, as I can barely understand one French paper. 

In the meantime, however, I can practice my French in Paris, and so I must start to pack! Hope all is well with everyone in Canada, and I'll see you all soon.
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February 2009


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