It has been said by some experts that to understand Poland you must understand the composer Frederic Chopin.
The creative genius, one of the most original of the 19th century, was born outside Warsaw in 1810 to a French father and Polish mother and in a proud nation suffering under partition and divided among occupying Russians, 1)Prussians and Austrians.
Thirteen years before Chopin was born, the occupying powers even abolished the very name “Poland”. The country had been 2)crucified, as the poets of the 3)Romantic era put it, awaiting a4)resurrection which did not occur until 1918.
The always short and physically frail Frederic Chopin moved with his family to Warsaw as a newborn and lived there until he was 20 when he left his homeland for good. Yet although he spent almost half of his life in Paris, traditional Polish music 5)permeates his compositions and he always considered Warsaw his hometown. From Warsaw's historic 6)Old Town down 7)Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street, along the 8)Royal Way to 9)Lazienki Park, you can walk down the same streets young Frederic strolled, past palaces and churches in which he gave performances.
And the city never ceased being proud of him either. The $28 million, interactive Fryderyk Chopin Museum opened last March to 10)commemorate the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth. Originally a two-roomed museum with 11)dank gloomy basements in the city's 17th Century Ostrogski Castle, it has been transformed into a five-storey exhibition which makes good use of modern technology to tell the story of one of the greatest pianists in history.
Visitors are given a plastic ticket which, once 12)swiped past the blue light readers at the entrance, can be used to access information on touch screens in eight languages.
In the 13)cavernous brick vaults of the basement you can select an 14)etude (a musical composition), place the 15)score on a glass panel above the keys of a 19th-century piano that belonged to 16)Franz Liszt and listen as a pianist's hands play the piece on a wall projection.
“It's kind of a holy place,” Keiko Kondo, a visitor from Japan told me beside the piano. “Lots of people say Chopin is very romantic and delicate. I don't think so. I feel a power and a strength,” she said.