“Oh heaven is a place on earth” – Belinda Carlisle.
In July 2016, I started studying Polish for the first time when life spontaneously and ridiculously took me to the Pomerania Province. I chose to study in the outrageously gorgeous city of Gdańsk and the best Polish school there Learn Polish in Gdańsk – and only the best teacher was good enough for me – Pani Alina, who inspired my first ever Polish speaking video (novice Ulsterman!).
Once I started studying, I decided to get a flat in the Old Town and spend my weekdays completing my 100 country book, (which again, was finished in 2015 and has been edited many times) with my weekends touring unusual towns and cities, I toured Bydgoszcz, Starogard Gdański and Pelplin just for starters. I was getting hungry for Poland, and so I formed a column called Smaczne Srody. Before all that, the option of a Polish lesson inside a museum came up – amazing! Not something I’d turn down. #northernirishmaninpoland #polnocnyirlandczykwpolsce
Aware of my passion for culture, for art, for travel, for writing, Pani Alina invites me to what she calls a “surprise lesson” or a special lesson in Polish. This is now a perfect story for this series on this new blog, Dziwaczne Odkrycia, Quirky Encounters! We met outside the Polish School and walked to the Muzeum Naradowe – the National Museum in Gdańsk. It was a welcome change from our normal lessons, which took place in the Dom Harcerza.
The National Museum in Gdansk is situated at Toruńska 1, 22-100 Gdańsk. Opened in 1972, this is the official website – http://mng.gda.pl/
But here, in the National Museum, we are here for one main reason. It’s a passion, it’s emotional, it’s art. We are concentrating on one painting, this is special. It is quite simply:
This picture, which translates into English as “The Last Judgement” dominates proceedings and Pani Alina and I spend at least an hour sitting in front of it, speaking Polish, admiring it. My heart melts time and time again. This painting, by Hans Memling is special. It is split into three clear parts. The left, the centre and the right. In Polish – po lewej stronie, na srodku, po prawej stronie. These can be defined even more metaphorical – the heaven, the earth, the hell. The image is a striking one.
This is one of the most memorable paintings from my journeys. I have taken this below image from Wikipedia as it is much clearer than mine.
I have translated and used the English text from my leaflet to write the following about this truly inspiring painting. Pani Alina and I spend about an hour talking about it and staring at it, in English and in Polish we discuss it and she teaches me some new vocabulary.
“Heaven’s slipping away my love, yeah heaven’s slipping away” – Tim Wheeler.
Please please – go to Gdańsk, go to the Muzeum Narodowe and check this out. These are just some of the main parts of the painting that I enjoyed, there are many more parts to look closely at and explore.
Annunciation on a cloak: a scene depicted on the embroidered hood of the bishop whom an angel puts a white miter on.
“See you in heaven if you make the list. Yeah yeah yeah yeah” – Michael Stipe.
Stepping into Heaven: those “good people” who have passed successfully through earth are seen arriving at the gates of heaven and they form an orderly queue to get inside.
Portraits: some of the people in the picture are clearly drawn in detail with their faces – these portraits appear all over the painting, significantly to the left side of the earth part.
“I don’t mind not going to heaven, as long as they got cigarettes in hell” – Noel Gallagher.
Angel’s Fight with the Devil: There is a struggle on the earth side with an angel fighting with a devil. At the same time, the angel is holding a naked man. Most of the people in the picture are naked.
Creation of Eve: There is a stone tondo at the top of the gate in the heaven side and it depicts the creation of Eve. It is not immediately noticeable, but upon reading my guide, I realised what it was.
“Like a bat out of hell, I’ll be gone in the morning sun” – Meatloaf.
Sadness on the way to Hell: Those on the right hand side of the earth side are in some kind of metaphorical struggle to beat the trapdoor to hell and remain on earth. There are screams of horror and glaring sadness in evidence on the faces of those humans uncertain of their destiny.
“If this is heaven then send me to hell” – Dodgy.
Hell itself: There’s barely a smile as those sink deeply into hell. Naked people with ribs showing look sad and as if they have sinned. They fall into a darkness only the devil knows…
Sadly, flash photography was forbidden so the photos that prove I was there are blurred:
My thanks to Pani Alina for her part in my journey and my story. Pani Alina is a kind, happy, warm hearted person and I hope to have more Polish lessons in future. She inspired the birth of this site, enhanced my journey and proved to me how nice Polish people can be. Later, at a sad time in my life when I went missing and felt depressed, Pani Alina had a coffee with my Mum. Pani Alina presented me with a pencil and a postcard on the way out of the museum that day. I will cherish these gifts forever. Here are some more photos from the museum and this inspiring picture…
This day out and Polish lesson at the Muzeum Narodowe was at a time when I was happy, just moments after this, I was lied to, embarrassed and disrespected by the infamous Karolina. It’s a real shame what happened just after this when I broke down and became depressed in the towns of Tczew, Gdansk and notably Starogard Gdanski. But life goes on and I treasure these memories and the new friends I made thanks to the famous Rafal Kowalczyk, co-writer of the song “You Have Your Life (Warszawa Skies)”.
Again, I love it. Thanks for reading!
Travel Writer at http://dontstopliving.net/ and http://www.northernirishmaninpoland.com/
Don’t Stop Living – A Lifestyle of Travel