Vol. 16: Neon Signs in Warsaw (2): Casino Signs in the Palace of Culture

There is a vast building in central Warsaw, some 37 stories high, known as the Palace of Culture. It was built as a gift from Stalin in 1952, and it has a terrible reputation among the people of Warsaw, with its authoritarian, overbearing facade. It is sometimes referred to as gthe gravestone of Warsaw built by the Soviet Union,h and the local guide told me that there were rumors going around that prostitutes were plying their trade inside the building.

I have no idea whether these rumors have any basis in fact, but, walking around the area after dinner, I saw neon signs which hardly seemed appropriate to a location with the name of gPalace of Culture.h The sign in the photograph is clearly advertising a casino, but I saw no trace of anyone in the vicinity and the whole area was as silent as the grave.

Perhaps because casinos serve as a source of income for Eastern European countries suffering under the effects of a shortage of foreign currency reserves, they seemed to be operating in the hotels in every country I visited. I took a peek into the casino at the Atrium Hotel where I was staying in Prague, and it transpired that our Japanese party were the only guests there that night. I canft imagine how they can possibly make ends meet when there are more staff on duty than guests.

After returning to Japan, I discovered that there had previously been a state-run nightclub in the basement of the Palace of Culture, although it has now passed into private hands.

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