Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Monday, 30 July 2007
Click for link to recent stained glass window entry.
(Below:) Tissington church, an excellent example of Norman architecture, dating back to the 12th Century. The oldest tombstone we found was dated 1617.
Sunday, 29 July 2007
Having taken the trip one way with Eddie, I returned the next day by the same bus from Manchester to Duffield with daughter Monika, Eddie having been seen off to Polish cub scout camp in North Wales. Below: Between Buxton and Matlock
Friday, 27 July 2007
Thursday, 26 July 2007
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
Below: A Hurricane and Spitfire on display on the third floor of the Science Museum, just as they were 40+ years ago when I'd visit with my father. These two aircraft - their shape and markings - inspired me greatly.
Friday, 20 July 2007
The storm front rolled on to the east; as it passed it in its place left a magnificent fiery post-sunset sky (below).
Tomorrow we are off to the UK for three weeks holiday. The weather there, I am informed by family, friends and business colleagues, is uniformly awful. Fields underwater, mould and fungus everywhere. I hope for at least a week of sunshine while we are in North Wales - pics and impressions from there to follow. [Supplementary: exactly what we got! See Jul/Aug posts]
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
(Above:) The road beyond Belchatow, nice clear stretch. Playlist included Toots and the Maytals, James Brown, Miles Davis, Count Basie. Below: final destination, Walbrzych, only 40 miles from Wroclaw though quite different in every respect. Lacking the self-confidence of Lower Silesia's capital, still hit by high unemployment, this drab former coal mining town still waits for things to come right. A bright spot is the special economic zone, which has attracted several large employers, like Toyota, to the town. Landscape this far south-west is not reminscent of the United States, the hilliness and architecture create a far more European look and feel. On the road back, I sunburn my left wrist. It is in the sun for seven hours!
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
On a hot July day, the visual feasts that Wroclaw imparts to the eye are manifold. The architecture is stunning, and brought into sharp relief by the strong sunlight. Less spoilt by the tourist crowd, this is a indeed a fine city to spend a day or two in - business or pleasure.
Since the floods and Papal visit of 1997, the city has turned itself around amazingly. Cranes are everywhere, employers can't find people - sure sign of a boomtown, a city enjoying its new-found self-confidence.
The best bits of Wroclaw are the old town square, and the Ostrów Tumski island which must be home to the highest density of clerical buildings outside Vatican City - several churches, a cathedral, pilgrims' hostels and a seminary school packed into a few streets.
A lack of bars and restaurants means it's less crowded with tourists. To the north lies the botanical gardens, which sadly I did not have time to visit this time.
To me, the most thrilling tales concern the vast forests that lined the Horyn River - and the character of my maternal grandfather, Pyotr Stepanovich Bortnikov. He was a Russian, born in Odessa, and fought on the side of the Whites in the Civil War, ending up in eastern Poland after it ended in victory for the Bolsheviks. He worked as the forest estates manager for a Belgian magnate, de Pourbaix.
Ciocia Dziunia corresponds with old friends from Horodziec (today "Gorodyets" in western Ukraine). Below is a snap of a photocopy of a rare pre-war photograph of the de Pourbaix palace in Horodziec. Today, nothing remains of either the palace or of the its estate manager's house where my mother and her sisters grew up.
Monday, 16 July 2007
Saturday, 14 July 2007
(Above:) A meadow halfway along ul. Trombity. (Below:) A flock of barn swallows brooding on telephone lines. The national bird of Estonia, they represent 'free blue sky and eternal happiness'.
(Below:) Home again - evening light on ul. Trombity, a scene of summer contentment.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
Below: Later today the sun emerged as I crossed the park for a dinner engagement. I caught this guy hanging out. Like the peafowl, completely relaxed about passers-by.
Monday, 9 July 2007
Another road trip beckoned on Sunday, this time up to the Lithuanian frontier - 680 km (450 miles) there and back - to drop off our daughter Monika at girl guides' camp. We set off in sunshine at 05:30; half an hour later we were in Praga, on the right bank of the Vistula river. Here, shafts of early-morning light illuminated the Orthodox Cathedral (below). As we left Warsaw, the sky clouded over.
North-east Poland has had the worst of the recent rains. As we left Mazowsze and entered Podlasie, rivers were swollen, fields had standing water on them, storks looked bedraggled and mud-streaked. This pair (below) look decided unhappy with the situation.
I felt sorry for the scouts and guides that had spent the last week under canvas; the forecasts look little better. The camp itself was at the end of a 2km grass track through fields and forest. It was so wet that twice our Yaris was threatened with being stuck in axle-deep mud. We made it there, I barely made it back out. The camp reminded me of a Warsaw Pact version of Kit and Holly's forest hideout in Badlands. Monika (below, left, pink top and jeans) was pleased to join her guide group, which was just having tent inspection as we arrived.
The camp being a mere 5km from the Lithuanian border, I decided to take a look before heading back for home. The road to the border (below) was unchanged from 1939; overgrown cobblestones. This being the former Polish-Soviet border, the lie of the land was quite different to the Polish-Czech border we visited in May. There were no houses within 5km of either side of the border. Arriving at there, I saw signs saying 'No photography'. The border guards said there was nothing to photograph anyway - just trees. The border itself was marked by a 60m wide ploughed strip. Although today there's no barbed wire, dogs or mines, the atmosphere was far more intimidating than at the Czech border, despite this being a common EU crossing. Our Yaris emerged triumphant despite a caking in mud and a clattery ride over broken road surfaces.
Heading back to Warsaw, I chose the more direct though narrower road through Lomza. The landscapes quite different from the Lublin road, travelled on Thursday, somehow the trip home was less joyous. However, the road again creates associations with America, a constant theme running through this blog like Route 66 itself.