Monday, July 30, 2012

Bialo-Czerwoni (The Red and Whites)

Immediately before, during, and after the Euro 2012, there was a sudden uptick in folks (mostly women) dressed with white tops and red bottoms.  This, of course, is the way the Polish flag is.  White and red also happen to be good summer colors and are attractive.
Anyway, it seemed that every second person I saw was wearing red and white (bottom and top, respectively), so I tried to do a little photo essay incognito (read: taking photos on my phone's crappy camera.  Even the settings were put done.  It was kind of creepy like, but don't blame me, I was doing it for reporting.)
Chilling in the subway.  Sporting the "Polish flag" look.

Another lass rocking the red and white.

I was pretending to text in the blazing sun while taking this one.

Hey!  Guys wear it too!

The whole red and white thing has kind of died down now, but it's still a very popular combination.
And again, I know these pictures just look kind of creepy, but I was trying to capture the trend.  We'll see if there's more to come.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Daily Dose of Cuteness

Two great loves of Poles are Yorkshire terriers and cats.  Here's both of them outside a window in Saska Kepa.

Just chillin' on the sill.  Watching the traffic go by. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Little Trip to Kampinoski

To the north of Warsaw lies Kampinoski National Forest, a national park that spans to the west of the Vistula.  For comparison, it's about the size of the Petrified Forest in California, or almost exactly twice the size of Acadia National Park in Maine.  One can easily drive or bike there, and there are city buses that go pretty much into the heart of it.  It's a touch of nature a few miles from the outskirts of Warsaw, and offers a little more wilderness than Mlociny or Kabaty.
One of the red signs announcing an entrance to the park.

A map of the park.  No horn blowing.
A colleague and I decided to make the day of it biking up to the forest.  We started out from Metro Mlociny and biked along the winding rural roads until we reached an entrance to the park.  It started raining just as we reached the cover of the trees, (hauling ass down a bumpy dirt road to beat the shower), but the rain and storms passed so we could enjoy a sunny picnic.
Taking shelter from the rain, and having a beer.
Our first stop (besides MarcPol to get some food and drink) was a small, dirty lean-to.  As we cracked open some luke-warm ones, some wasps decided to pay us a visit (it maybe a mostly Catholic country, but there are a lot of Brits coming here in the summer, and they can be quite pesky.)  OK, stupid joke.
Yeah, but seriously, we had to kill a bunch of those buzzing bastards.  Not so many mosquitos though.

The thing about Masovia is that its mostly sand.  Really, like beach sand.  This is not Ukraine with its rich, dark loam that makes it a suitable bread basket.  Kampinos is a mixture of swamps and sand-filled forests.  I don't know how plants grow in such poor soil, but pines and birch are everywhere to be found.  There are even some very pretty meadows (one of which offered extremely soft grass for us to park on while we had our picnic.)  The trails are beaten sand that can be hazardous for bikes.  There were plenty of times we had to stop and simply walk our bikes because the sand was too soft and unsuitable for bikes.

A sandy path through the forest.

A small meadow with soft grass to lie in.

Same as above, but with a hot cuppa' on the seat of me bike.

Time restricted us, and we could only spend a few hours in the park before turning back.  A good portion was spent drinking and eating and talking, but we did try to doodle around on bikes on the sandy hills and paths.

A sign at the beginning of a trail at the bus stop.  It reads: Return (or Turn Around)  On the nearest trail, you will find that the terrain is not intended for tourists.
On the way back, we committed a rookie mistake of riding too closely to one another side-by-side.  We got tangled up, and I basically almost ran over my friend's face after he had fallen to the ground.  He was bruised a little, and his hand hurt, but no scrapes or gashes.  Later, it came out that he had broken his wrist.  Lesson learned on that one.  Luckily we were on a tiny side road with zero traffic.  Had we been on a larger road, both of us would have been smashed to pieces by some speeding car, roaring down the road.

Overall, it was a smashing trip.  Next time, I'll go earlier in the morning and explore deeper into the park.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Block is Hot

Poland's in a little bit of a summer heat wave, and I am loving it.

One thing gets me though:  all this time, I get countless inquiries as to why I'm living in Poland?  "Why Poland?"  they ask.  I usually reply, "Well, where else would I live?  Poland's a beautiful country."  They say, "Well, you could go to Spain."
"Spain?  What's so great about Spain?"
"The culture, the food, but mostly the climate.  The weather is warm all the time.  Poland is too cold for me."
And then, I shit you not, they start to bitch endlessly about how it's too hot (80-90º).  They go, "Oh, this weather is terrible for me.  Ach, it's awful.  Too hot!!!"  They complain about the warm weather in Poland, but ceaselessly talk about how great the weather is in Spain and how Poland is too cold.  When I bring this to their attention, they say, "Typical Polish."
Yes.  Yes it is.

Oh, and they put the AC on in the winter.  Can you believe that shit?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

George Clooney in Poland?

I had the chance to look at the castellan on the Kasztelan logo.  (For those of you who don't know, Kasztelan is a light, tasteless beer just like any other.)  Anyway,  the guy does look a lot like George Clooney with a beard and feathered felt hat.  What's that scroll he's gripping?  I don't know.

I think George Clooney's gonna' sue somebody.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Travelin' Blues

A recent trip took me to Warsaw's Chopin Airport.  It was the height of the Euro 2012 championship, so I expected it to be mobbed, with lines snaking this way and that, and an extra layer of security checks just to make the whole thing that much hellish.  I was greeted by a near-empty terminal.  Waiting in line to check in?  Nope.  Going through security?  A breeze.  I actually arrived to the airport way to early, and had to burn off some extra time wandering around the building wondering where everyone was.

LOT E170s and E190s with a special Euro 2012 livery on their winglets and fuselages.

Getting those visitors off on the right foot.
In both terminals, it was kind of eerie the way that there were so few people.  I have never seen them this empty, except maybe when I had some 6:00 AM flight, and I got to the airport at 4:30.
I had heard about how some 500,000 fans were supposed to come through Warsaw (or something like that, I dunno').  Tourism was supposed to pick up, partly because of the weak zloty, and partly because of the beautification of the country.  Well, I saw no immediate effects.  We're just about in the middle of the tourist season, and they're just trickling in.  I chalk it up to the problems with Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France (oh yes, they too have problems), but I don't have reams of proof to throw at you.  But, there have been several articles noting the downturn in travel within the Euro Zone.

No lines or crowds here.

There are a few people milling around, but everything is just about quiet.
By the way, the traffic in Warsaw isn't too bad, even on game days.