Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Small Joke

I was told a small joke by a Polish fellow.  It helps to know Polish to really get it.

Where does Barack Obama live?  Gdzie mieszka Barack Obama?
—Barak Obamy.

Barak is Polish for an old, large, decrepit, uninhabited house.  Obamy is the genitive (possessive) of Obama.  Thus, the punchline is: "Obama's big, old house."
It's not hilarious, but it's kind of funny to those enjoy playing with language.

Things in Poland That I've Yet to See in the US

Here's another roundup of products and things, which are readily available in Poland but I've yet to actually see in the US, albeit they undoubtedly exist somewhere.

Flyers for strippers/hookers:
Small cards touting naked women are stuck under the windshield wipers of cars. Not the cars parked in seedy neighborhoods either! Cars parked right near Rondo DeGaull'a are always covered with these things.
Polish stripper ad
Pretty risqué.

Polish Stripper Ads
They come in all shapes and sizes.

Twenty-four-hour video gambling spots:
A couple of video gambling machines in some small nook in an underground passageway? How perfectly Eastern European. Gambling doesn't have to be in controlled places like casinos (which they do have) but one can easily waste his money almost anywhere with these gambling spots.

Kinder Surprises:
Of all the chocolate products we have in the States, we've yet to receive Kinder Surprises. Kinder Surprises are chocolate eggs with a plastic egg within. In the plastic eggs are usually some sort of toy or collectable. The chocolate itself is actually quite good (it's milk chocolate.)
A foil-wrapped niespodzianka
A foil-wrapped niespodzianka.

Sweetie Oranges:
Now, I am SURE we have these in the US. They're a crossbreed from Israel, and they're quite delicious and quite green.
Sweetie Oranges

Kwas Chlebowy:
Literally: Bread Acid. It's a soft drink that apparently comes from bread. I tried it on a whim at Smak Ukrainski, and it's actually quite good!!! I can compare it to Kinnie (which is also awesome!) but not really directly. It's got a unique taste that's rather hard to describe. It's kind of like Moxie. Can you describe the taste of Moxie without references to things like motor oil and cough syrup?
Kwas Chlebowy

Horrible Translations and Typos:
I'm just making stuff up now. Of course we have these! Ever read a directly-translated instruction manual for a Chinese product? It's laughable. I've sold worthless products, which had these types of instructions, to people just because they wanted to show people how poorly translated the instructions were. It's actually a small hobby of mine to go to museums in Poland and see how many typos/mistakes I can find in the translations (about half as many as you can find here.)
bad translation
I'd love a vannilia yogurth coctail.

SiPahh Straws:
Quite interesting, actually. These straws are coated in some sort of flavoring (chocolate, strawberry, banana) and used to drink milk. The outcome is a flavored milk, such as chocolate milk with the chocolate straw.
sipah straw
Chocolate straw.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In Krakow

A map of the Stare Miasto on the floor of Galeria Krakowska
A map of the Stare Miasto on the floor of Galeria Krakowska.

My time in Krakow was pleasantly spent. The Christmas decorations were not yet put away, and the cold nippy air made one feel more alive. Arriving in the afternoon, I was treated to the few hours of daylight before darkness fell. The onset of evening is when they turn on the Christmas decorations, which are actually far better than the ones in Warsaw.
Cake and coffee in one of Krakow's many delightful cafes" title=">Cake and coffee in one of Krakow's many delightful cafes" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5297681539897832178">
Cake and coffee in one of Krakow's many delightful cafes.

While I was in Krakow, there was a huge stage being set up in the Rynek. Last year, we had seen Czerwone Gitary perform at New Years, so I had assumed it was for some concert for Sylwester. I was wrong. Every year there is a charity event called Wielka Okiestra Swiatecznej Pomocy, which takes place in cities all around Poland. Polish bands play open air concerts while hordes of volunteers ask for donations of any size. After each donation they give you a heart sticker, and it's not uncommon to see people walking down the street plastered with big red hearts. We only got to see one act, and that was enough (although, we did donate some of our zloty.) The band played a song called "Polska, Kocham Cie" (Poland, I love you.) The music really isn't up my alley, but it was free so I can't really complain.

This guy really loves Poland.

I've seen most of the Old City in Kraków; I can't really think of much more that I could see. I've been on every tour in the Wawel, seen every museum of note and have probably gone down every street. Speaking of which, the oldest street in Krakow is actually quite beautiful and quite quiet. There is no traffic, pedestrian or otherwise.
The oldest street in Kraków Cracow
The oldest street in Kraków.

There's a great, small restaurant there that serves Ukrainian food called, Restauracja Smak Ukrainski. The sign outside would make you think that it's on the street. Don't be fooled: the restaurant is actually quite a ways underground in some cellar. The dining room is… intimate and the food is really good with reasonable prices.
Dishes from Smak Ukrainski
Dishes from Smak Ukrainski
Dishes from Smak Ukrainski.

Note: I have noticed how I post a lot of pictures of my food in Poland. I fear that I'm turning into one of those things I've hated most: tourists who take pictures even of their food. When I used to work in restaurants, I saved an extra portion of spite and venom for those customers who used to take pictures of their food, their kids' food and the people in the next booth's food while oohing and ahhhing over it like a bunch idiots. It was enough to make me want to grab their cameras and smash them on the tabletop yelling, "It's a fucking lobster, not exactly a work of art, asshole!!!"

Widzew Lodz

Widzew Lodz is a soccer team in Lodz. They have a history with Legia Warszawa, who is their arch-rival, and their matches can often reduce to mayhem. Lodz also has a second team, ŁKS; however, the two teams of the city are also rivals, and each has fans within its own section of the city. These fans are nuts (and I do mean nuts.) I used to think that the Red Sox–Yankees rivalry was intense, but these guys top even that. I decided to do a little photo essay to show you some of the graffiti (which is EVERYWHERE) supporting Widzew and slandering ŁKS.
Widzew was founded in 1910. This is a very common sight for graffiti.

Widzew Lodz
Widzew Lodz
Widzew Lodz
Widzew Lodz
Jebac LKS
The Star of David takes the place of the 'K' in ŁKS. Apparently, in Lodz, is an insult to call someone a Jew. Most graffiti like this has the Star of David since it's common to call ŁKS and their supporters Jews. I think the chant went like this: "ŁKS, Jude! Jude! Jude!"

Cheburashka Goes On A Trip

One of my favorite things to come out of Russia is Cheburashka.  He's so adorable so I took him on a tour of Poland, Germany, and France.
Cheburashka having a drink with a pal.

Cheburashka is eager to start his trip!

Cheburashka got a bit thirsty.

Cheburashka gets detained by the TSA

Cheburashka peruses a fine selection in Duty Free.

Cheburashka rides the tram to Paris.

Morning breaks near Notre Dame du Paris.

Cheburashka gets in some prayer.

Cheburashka takes his rightful place as one of the Magi.

He says hello at Luxembourg Park.

The friends sleep.

Cheburashka is eager for Warszawa.

Cheburashka takes in Widzew Stadium.

Cheburashka works on his novel.

The Christmas spirit.

Cheburashka gets in some time at a textiles machine.

Crowd watching in Torun.

Cheburashka defeats the Teutonic Knights and razes their castle to the ground.

Cheburashka rides a donkey.

Cheburashka goes for a cuppa' at Same Fusy.

Cheburashka with the Jews of old.

Cheburashka looks out over Krakow.

Cheburashka finds a family.

Cheburashka on the 49th Parallel.

Cheburashka is snug.

Cheburashka and the Swans of Strasbourg.

Hmmmmm, even Cheburashka was confused by this logic.

Monday, January 26, 2009

By Boat

I decided to take a day trip to Lodz. So, I meandered on down to Warszawa Centralna and bought myself a ticket for the 9:20 AM train. Lodz is probably the closest big city to Warsaw so the train ride is only about an hour and half. I lucked out in getting an almost-empty compartment, and the ride was rather enjoyable. M met me and we went about the city. He claimed that I had seen everything Lodz had to offer, but I said that there must be something else.
The Polish countryside by train winter
The Polish countryside by train.

The great mural of Lodz
The great mural of Lodz.

As I stated before, Lodz is an industrial city. It's what you envision when you think back to Communist Europe. Lots of brick and poured concrete buildings. The roads are rather rutty and are dotted with potholes. The day was foggy, which set a good mood to see Lodz, especially since most of our day was spent in cemeteries.
wooden house Lodz
A break from the normal concrete flats. Here's a wooden house.

Lodz is home to the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. I didn't even see a large part of it, but I did get to walk around a slight bit. It's huge. You have to pay four zloty to get in and you aren't allowed to take pictures (I did, but don't tell them!) Cemeteries are so interesting here, they have so much character. All the graves in the Jewish Cemetery face towards Isræl, whereas the ones in the Christian cemetery are all higglty-pigglty.
Jewish Cemetery Lodz
They all face Israel.

Apparently they had let part of the cemetery go, so brush had grown up all around some of the graves. Now there is an effort to clear it all out. There's also a field for the 40,000 victims of the Lodz ghetto.
Jews of the Lodz ghetto
Markers of the final resting places for the Jews of the Lodz ghetto.

Israel Poznanski was once one of the richest people in Lodz. He was a textiles magnate and his palace is now a museum, which I highly suggest visiting. His mausoleum is huge and dominates over all other graves in the cemetery.
Izrael Poznanski's Mausoleum
Izrael Poznanski's Mausoleum.

The inside of the dome atop Poznanski's tomb
The inside of the dome atop Poznanski's tomb.

Lodz has a charm that's a little different from other cities. David Lynch apparently is in love with the city. He walks down the street and enters every alleyway he can. It reminds me of my days of flipping through an old National Geographic and seeing pictures from the Eastern Block. There is no real Old City in Lodz, even though the city was mostly spared the ravages of the Second World War (unlike Warsaw or Breslau/Wroclaw.) It has a gritty, grayness that is actually very satisfying to see. There are changes, but not the changes one sees in places like Krakow and Warsaw.