Through an unsuspecting courtyard in one of central Warsaw’s few remaining pre-war buildings lies a fascinating insight into a bygone era. Housed in the same building since 1905 is the Fotoplastikon, a rotating stereoscope that allows visitors to peer through two brass eye holes and see pictures in 3D.
The pictures are on a rotating central carousel which changes allowing the viewer to see the whole collection of photos from one of twenty-four viewing stations. Each collection of photos has a theme, with collections regularly changing to bring customers back for more. Recorded music plays in the background to accompany the images. The theme of the photographs changes daily, with the images of pre-war Warsaw providing a stark contrast to the streets outside the building.
It is the oldest attraction of its kind in Europe still in its original location. In its early days it was a popular meeting place for couples wanting to escape the eyes of the world. During the Second World War it was not controlled by the Nazis and served as a meeting place for members of the resistance as well as a rare place of relative freedom for the citizens of Warsaw.
In communist times, with foreign travel heavily restricted, it provided people with a rare chance to glimpse images of the outside world. The attractions owners would lend the special 3D camera to people authorised to travel outside Poland and on their return they would exhibit the photos of cities most people could only dream about visiting.
The venue played jazz and pop records smuggled in from the west, adding to the clandestine atmosphere, and making it a relatively safe haven to discuss politics and culture. For many years Fotoplastikon provided the people of Warsaw with a brief window to the outside world.
For many years Fotoplastikon provided the people of Warsaw with a brief window to the outside world. Today it allows you to step back in time and relive a bygone era.
Wednesday to Sunday – 10am to 6pm
Entry is 4PLN, free on Thursdays.
51 Aleje Jerozolimskie – opposite the Palace of Culture and Warsaw Sródmieście Station.
www.fotoplastikonwarszawski.pl [in Polish]
Have you been to Fotoplastikon? What did you see through the peep holes? Share your experience in the comments below.