My new best Polish girlfriend, Agnieszka Rog-Skrzyniarz provides a burst of colour (and her brooch show Marilyn Monroe). I was in Warsaw, to visit the SENSATIONAL Chopin Museum. From now on, I am going to find any museum – even such sacred cows as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Ashmolean in Oxford and the Victoria & Albert in London – boring, and old fashioned. Let me try and describe it.
A building in central Warsaw was rebuilt after World War II’s disastrous bombing and it looks amazingly authentic. Imagine a three-floor 18th century palace, gilded and white and pale cream, rising out of a square brick fort with gently sloping walls rising to a height of 20 feet. In front of this beauty is a stone sculpture of a symmetrical pair of staircases taking you to main wood door, on the first floor of the palace. This is how you enter the Chopin Museum, which opened March 2010.
Inside, you are on your own, to go at your own pace. A pressure-pad keycard suspended around your neck, and programmed to your required language, allows you to press to follow Chopin’s early studies, his travels around your choice of Europe, to interact with his contemporaries and friends, in many cases swishing from frame to frame as if an iPad.
In a brick-vaulted basement looking like a schoolroom, separate listening booths allow you to choose your music from an electronic book, which actually has empty pages, and listen to your heart’s content.
There are actual displays, too, including his travel diaries, and early manuscripts, and many of his actual pianos and a picture formed of dried flowers from deathbed, in 1849, at the age of 39 (much of the museum’s content is thanks to Jane Stirling, the Scot who graduated from being his student to his anonymous sponsor and on to his post-death curator).
The museum has a room for kids, and, for all ages, a musical twister, where you twist on spots on the floor and music emanates, and another room where you pull out drawers, showing the work’s title and original manuscript and music comes out of one of 12 foghorns but, surprisingly, the resulting cacophony merely sounds like an orchestra warming up. Yes, sheer brilliance. The Chopin Museum is open daily, 12 noon to 8pm, www.chopin.museum
Agnieszka is Starwood’s PR supremo here and I stayed in Sheraton Warsaw Hotel, www.sheraton.com/hotel. It is within minutes’ walk of Chopin, and Nowi Swiat for best retail, and the tourism of both New Town and Old Town areas. I loved the Tex-Mex food in Someplace Else sports bar. Best room is the -16 on any floor as you get a 270-degree salon, and access to the stylish sixth floor club lounge, where the healthy breakfast buffet includes fresh-squeezed juice and lots of berries.