John Walker's Electronic House


by on Sep.03, 2005, under The Rest

That's it. It's war.

With a wave of laziness that can only be brought on by having fought in a war, I’m going to describe the last week and leave you to attach the right photos to the events by opening this link in another tab. (And if you’re still using Internet Explorer, then open this link and slap yourself until it starts bleeding).

I went to Poland this week. Flew from Heathrow at OH MY GOD O’CLOCK in the morning (the hotel generously decided to opt out of my 4.15am alarm call, but thankfully enough distrust had been developed to set my mobile alarm as well after actually having to have a real argument with a repulsively rude man on the reception when he tried to charge me for a pre-paid room, ignored everything I said, ran the battery down on my mobile phone after proving too stupid to operate his own telephone, and then lied to me about not being able to take my Switch card, eventually getting his manager who immediately told him off for being an idiot and fixed some issues. But this got so out of control (not the argument, but the uselessness of the hotel) that the Nice Man looking after us had to come to the hotel that night to shout at them, whereupon rather than charging all us innocent scabbing hacks for our own rooms, they instead charged the Nice Man’s company twice for everything. And so on. Do not stay at the Park Inn, Heathrow. It is shit).

Arrived in Warsaw, put on a coach, driven to an airfield, and put onto a 12-seater bi-plane. This offered an hour of being shaken about in a manner that was at first very exciting, and then for the last 50 minutes extremely boring. Land somewhere in the north of Poland, and am then piled into an open-topped, open-sided, open-everything 1940s army jeep, and driven at a hundred thousand miles an hour along dirt roads for ages and ages. This was entirely brilliant. Someone comments, “There’d better be a 4-star hotel at the end of this road”. It was better. A couple of beautiful buildings, one being our hotel, the other being where they hid the Xbox 360.

Evening comes, and we’re off in the jeeps again (driven by men in US WW2 uniforms) to visit some WW2 bunkers nearby. We stop along the road as a large branch is across it. The journos in the front vehicle got out to move it, which was the moment the camoflaged Nazis burst from the woods, shot our drivers, and then forced us all to get out the jeeps. Rifle-butts shoved in our backs, we were pushed and “SCHNELL! SCHNELL!”d along until we were split into two groups and, er, given guided tours of the bunkers in which Hitler had stayed for a long stretch of the Second World War. An astonishing place, including the building in which the failed attempt by a brave Nazi officer to assassinate Hitler had taken place. A pleasing lack of health and safety meant we were allowed to climb the iron rungs onto the top of the bomb-blasted remains of Hitler’s main bunker and explore the remains of the machine gun turrets and so on.

Fortunately some more American soldiers turned up and killed the Nazis, so we were able to get back to our lodgings for a fine bbq feast and campire apples-on-sticks roasting.

Next morning, up nice and early to visit some more intact bunkers in the next ‘town’ along. Poland is a pretty poor place. Warsaw was a sad sight – derilect buildings festooned with brand new advertising hoardings, Capitalism having raped and pillaged its way through the city, leaving its foul graffiti across the walls. The moment we left the city, it was just farmland for as far as we flew. Around the area we were staying, a ‘peasant’ lifestyle seemed the norm, tiny self-sustaining communities impossibly far away from anyone else. It was a strange feeling of decadence combined with utter weirdness to go hurtling through such places on an off-road army jeep.

We reached the site of the bunkers, explored them, walking through the warren-like corridors, and then went for a short walk down a river to see the astonishingly huge U-boat lock that remains almost entirely complete. It’s quite odd that Germany has destroyed so much of the Nazi’s constructions in order to move on from a difficult past, while Poland has kept the works of their invaders intact. I think the Polish decision is wise. To have it there, in front of you – to be standing inside the buildings Hitler lived in – it’s chilling, hideous, and impossible to pretend didn’t happen just recently. Those incredible buildings of engineering accomplishment and terrible evil don’t let the Second World War become as much a part of history as schools would have you believe, shelved up alongside the Romans, the Middle Ages and the Spinning Jenny. Instead it’s something that happened only 60 years ago, and damn well could happen again if we ever get complacent enough. Let the ugly concrete stick up on the beautiful land, crooked teeth to remind us of where things went and could go again.

There was some sort of distraction where we were made to play some game or other in the afternoon, and then the evening saw a ludicrous and enormously fun jaunt on the top of a vast behemoth of an amphibious tank thing, charging around tracks not nearly wide enough for the caterpillar tracks at tremendous speeds.

I was nervous about a WW2 themed trip to Poland. It could have been in terrible taste. And while I’m sure some of it could sound as though it had been, it never felt that way. The Nazis were portrayed by a dedicated group of young Poles, who were involved in re-enactment socities, their equipment authentic, and their knowledge immense. One lunchtime was accompanied by a 30 minute lecture on all the equipment they had with them, meticulously explained. The subject matter was taught to us, rather than used as a form of entertainment. And while being ambushed by Nazis is always going to be a bit… odd, it was impossible not to allow yourself to consider that this happened so recently for real, and to feel that fear.

3 Comments for this entry

  • Mrs Trellis

    Actually, it’s the competitive Youth of Poland that put the graffiti on the walls, not capitalism. They compete with one another to tag the most inaccessible places and sometimes they like to film it. I think that before Evil Capitalism took hold of Poland, the Young People would get Shot for tagging.

  • admin

    I think you’ve somewhat misinterpreted my meaning.

    The graffiti to which I refer is the advertising on the banners.

  • xbox 360

    I can not wait to play the xbox 360 I bet it is going to be way better than the PS3.