2016 was an interesting year for cultural relations between Poland and Germany: Not only was Wrocław named a European Capital of Culture, but the Kulturzug (Culture Train) was established as the city’s first direct train line from Berlin with a unique twist.
The four-hour journey is made on a small train, but packs in an impressive cultural program. There’s a small library on board and seat headrests double as an exhibition space for short biographies of prominent local figures. There are contemporary components to accompany the historical elements, and on this particular trip, there was a music and spoken word performance about the jazz scene in Poland, readings, and a silent disco.
Wrocław was the German city of Breslau until the end of World War II. After the war, it was transferred by the Allies to Poland, and the city became Wrocław. Still, many Germans refer to the city by its former name. The train ride is not only entertaining, but a good opportunity for passengers to inform themselves ahead of their visit, with some German passengers even finding it a reminder of just how little they know about their neighbor to the east. For Ewa Strozczynska-Wille, one of the curators of the Kulturzug, this is just the point. She points out that there’s still an asymmetry of knowledge: Poles know more about Germany than Germans do about Poland.
Photo by Monika Müller-Kroll.