2016: Year In Review (Part 1) 2016: Year In Review (Part 1)

It’s trite to say so, but what a year that was… If you’re the sort of gloom monger that views their glass as half-empty, then you’ll probably be thinking Poland is about to plunge off a precipice. That maybe so, but it’s sure as hell been interesting getting there. For the benefit of those who can’t remember what colour pants they put on this morning, we take a look at some of the highs and lows that may have been forgotten…

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Culture Shock
In its short lifespan the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews has had to get accustomed to attention. Even so, not many could have expected it to be named the European Museum of the Year at the illustrious EMYA Awards. Fully deserved, the prize doesn’t just reflect well on Polin but also on Warsaw itself.

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Neon Nights
The art of communist era neon has enjoyed a huge resurgence that’s manifested itself not just in the protection of surviving relics, but also the appearance of many new.

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On Yer Bike!
Warsaw’s monthly Critical Mass bike ride is no more! First held in 2002, the gathering was originally coordinated to both encourage the use of bikes as a means of transport whilst also highlighting the lack of necessary infrastructure available for cyclists. However, organizers have said that their objectives have since been met: in the past years some 470 kilometers of cycle routes have been constructed, and a further 160 kilometers are set to be added in the future. Now, instead of paralyzing city center traffic each month, those behind the initiative will focus on less disruptive means to promote cycling. Loved by some, loathed by others, the event often attracted hundreds, sometimes thousands of participants.

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Power To The People
Well, well, well, what a political pickle the planet has found itself in: Poland has been no exception, and 2016 will be remembered as the year of public protest. Marching under the banner of KOD (Komitet Obrony Demokracji), anti-government, pro-liberal / pro-EU demonstrations have become a regular weekend ritual, often attracting tens of thousands of people. However, it was November’s Czarny Protest that made international headlines after an estimated 30,000 people took to the streets of Warsaw to voice their opposition to proposed changes to the law that would have seen a blanket ban on abortion – even in instances of rape. According to reports, this number was supplemented by a further seven million women skipping work as part of a nationwide strike. Not surprisingly, the government quickly backed down; whether they’re so malleable on the other issues concerning a growing proportion of the public remains to be seen…

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Talk of the Town
The revamped Hala Koszyki has divided opinion: detractors claim it’s a missed opportunity to truly promote those at the forefront of Poland’s radical artisan renaissance. It’s fans, on the other hand, lionize this upmarket food hall as an international class venue that’s carried Warsaw forward. Whichever point of view you buy into, the truth is nowhere else has generated anywhere near this much publicity. Whatever you think of it, the Koszyki concept has ripped up the rules: imitators will follow, not just in Warsaw but also across the rest of the country. In years to come, remember the first domino fell here.

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Going, going, gone?
Regarded by its fans as a glorious piece of modernist real estate, the Emilia department store finally lost its fight for survival… sort of. Dismantled to make way for a skyscraper, the concrete eyeful will now be rebuilt elsewhere, in all probability across the road by the Palace of Culture.

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Standard Setter
Best use of a dead space this year? The Nocny Market. Set on a decomposing train platform, this summer smash hit did the impossible in diverting people away from the permissive pleasures of the Wisła. Assembling a diverse rotation of independent traders, this was more than just a cool food market, it was a place to get tattooed, have a dance, buy some socks and stock up on donuts: it was everything!

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