Sunday, May 30, 2010


Last night was the great Eurovision Song Contest, the annual performance mega-competition between the states of Europe. It is often a huge point of pride for countries who send their darling pop stars (or unknowns) to compete and win. You see, Europe doesn't fight wars anymore; they do battle on the stage and in the sports arenas (Euro Cup, etc.) These contests can be heavily politicized. Eurovision recently changed their voting rules so politics and voting blocs wouldn't get in the way. These are the wars of the future: wars of talent; to see who can hold the best melody; score the most goals; fly the highest, fastest, farthest; who can write the most annoying tune to get stuck in your head.
Well, it's an international event (one I'm not too keen on, but whatever) so many people just watch it because of the tradition. This year's winner was nineteen-year-old Lena (Meyer-Landrut is her last name, but the press knows her as Lena.) A Romanian friend of mine was most proud that the Romanian warrior placed third.

Poland's Champion has his moment to shine.

Deutschland über alles!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The recent, and rapid, decline of both the Euro and the Zloty against the US Dollar has left me a little unnerved. I expected the Euro to drop according to Greece's woes (as well as those of the entire so-called PIIGS Bloc) but was a little shocked to see how the Zloty fell as well. It's a common misconception that the Zloty is pegged to the Euro, much like the Lithuanian Litas, but isn't. This misconception, as well as the thought that the EU's economies are so tightly integrated, creates a psuedo-pegging.
See, the Zloty isn't pegged to any currency and its governing body is the NBP; however, the Polish economy is so heavily reliant on those in the Euro Area. Since Poland's economy relies so much on countries that use the Euro, it is necessary to take these economies into account when valuing the Zloty. As such, the Zloty fluctuates wildly against the US Dollar, mimicking—in a greater degree—the Euro. When the Euro rises against the dollar, the Zloty will appreciate more; when the Euro falls, the Zloty will fall even further.
All of this is fine and dandy, but it creates a problem for me: I get paid in Zloty, but I generally think of myself earning in dollars (my debts are in dollars.) Summer, 2008, was a very good time when the exchange rate was near 2:1. The Zloty had been falling against the dollar this spring (2.8:1) but has recently dropped to levels I haven't seen since the summer of last year. The Euro has dropped to about 1.2:1 and is expected to reach parity. So, this is generally good news for Europe (especially Airbus, which sells its planes in dollars, but reports earnings in Euros.)

Good for Poland? You bet. Poland is looking ripe for investment. The weaker Zloty makes Polish goods and services cheaper in international trade. Many countries are in a "race to the bottom" to devalue their currency (China has held this as national policy and it's pissing the US off.) The US was hoping to make the greenback crap its pants and lose so much value that American goods would become the most viable choice when buying big-ticket items (planes, guns, machinery.) Unfortunately, Greece had to screw everything up.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Night at the Museums

A few Saturdays ago, all of Poland hosted a fantastic event called "Night at the Museums." It was a cultural event, aimed at getting Poles to visit the country's cultural sites and be aware of the culture and learning possibilities that surround them. Most museums were open late (ranging from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM) and were free for charge. A free Chopin concert was held in Lazienki park.
In Warsaw, special bus routes were set up, taking the ABC nomenclature. Also, they brought back the old-style buses, called ogórki (cucumbers) because of their shape. It was quite nice to see these little old buses zipping about on Warsaw's streets.
It was a raucous and successful night for all, with huge lines jamming every single museum. I waited in line for twenty minutes to get into the Museum Narodowe; when I exited, the line had doubled in length. Afterwards, I had planned to head to the Royal Palace, which I hadn't been to in about four years. Alas, the line was too long and I was too impatient, so I opted for the Polish Army Museum.
The Army Museum (basically a display of Soviet war machines) was chock full of Polish soldiers allowing access to the tanks and airplanes (one could go and sit in the cockpit of the MiG-29 or a Mil Mi-8.) This I declined, but I did marvel at the group of Polish soldiers decked out in Vietnam Era US uniforms and touting M16s atop a tank. It was quite a sight indeed.
The line looks long, but moved rapidly.

By all considerations, the night was a rousing success. Thousands took to the streets to admire the collections in the museums and learn a thing or two. The lines were long, and the museums were packed (packed!), but everything was going smoothly and rapidly.

Oh, Yes; There Will Be Floods

The swollen Wisla has risen—and crested—here in Warsaw. The total toll in Poland has gone up to about seventeen souls; most were in the southern Poland where the flooding is worse. Here, in Warsaw, the Vistula has swallowed the walkways meandering along its banks and even threatened the zoo. Zookeepers were worried they would have to put down a lot of animals rather than risk their escape. (There are no other holding places for these critters?)
The Vistula became a sort of an attraction, drawing in the largest crowds the normally-sleepy Powisle district had seen in years. They lined the bridges and pressed up against the tape to watch the swift current and marvel at how quaint the benches looked under the flow.
Poland is no stranger to flooding; it happens every year and is something to be expected. This year's flooding has been the worst in a decade. The wet spring led the rivers to wreck havoc on a country known for its flat central plains.
At first glance, it doesn't seem so bad.

The road just leads underwater.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Little Vacay

I haven't been writing so much these past few weeks. I will be back with all sorts of news, from the floods, to elections, to the drastic drop in the Zloty (and everything in between.)

Spring is here and the days are marked by passing clouds and showers and some heated sun. The garden on the balcony is starting to take off. People still tote coats around, but even the nights can be sometimes balmy.

Oh, and the US just parked a PATRIOT missile battery in northern Poland. The Ruskies are pissed.