Friday, 31 August 2012

Poland's Most Beautiful Street is in Gdańsk

Gdańsk is city for which I have recently acquired a strong liking, so it's good to get the chance to pay a visit and spend time wandering around the Main Town (Główne Miasto), as the old part is called. The Gothic architecture, with many buildings going back to the 15th Century, has been well preserved, and the vistas are outstanding.

Below: looking down ul. Kramarska towards ul. Piwna ('Beery Street'). The pink building is the Dom Adwokata ('Advocate's House'); above it looks the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Below: looking down ul. Kaletnicza towards the Marian basilica again, which dominates the historic centre of Gdańsk.

Below: More mediaeval high-rise; we emerge from ul. Pończoszników ('Hosiers' Street') out onto Długi Rynek ('Long Market'), the main drag of the Main Town. Again, the splendour of the architecture is spectacular. This is European culture at its finest; civilised life - 'civilised' in the meaning of 'urban'. It was in Europe's historic cities that thinking flourished alongside commerce. New ideas, new wealth.

Right: looking into what must be Gdańsk's - if not Poland's - most beautiful street, ul. Mariacka. Today it is full of shops selling amber jewellery, but it is for architecture that we must consider Mariacka. It is narrower than the other Main Town streets, cobbled, with steps leading up the front doors (stoops). Most houses have little patios, well-suited to outdoor tables for the restaurants bars and cafés that exist alongside the amber shops.

Below: a general view of ul. Mariacka, looking up towards the Marian basilica. The amber shops will usually have illuminated display cabinets out on the street which add to its charm.

The best time to catch the klimat on ul. Mariacka is not on a hot, cloudless day in high summer, with one side of the street bathed in strong sunlight and the other in deep shadow. No, it is at its finest in late afternoon-early evening, in mid-autumn. When the sun sets around the same time as the amber traders are closing for the day, the street lights come on, and yet there's still bustle in the streets. A light drizzle, enough to moisten the cobbles and reflect the lights off the roadway, improves the klimat immensely. And coming here just as it's getting dark and the first snow-flakes of winter are settling must be entirely satisfying to the soul.

Can anyone rise to the challenge I offer here by nominating Gdańsk's ul. Mariacka as Poland's Most Beautiful Street? Warsaw can't beat it; Kraków and Wrocław come close... Do you have any nominations? Maybe from some smaller town off the tourist trail?

This time last year:
Getting to grips with phrasal verbs

This time three years ago:
What Putin wrote about Molotov-Ribbentrop

This time four years ago:
Summer Sunday in the city

This time five years ago:
Last bike-ride to work of the summer

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Poland and Ireland - political parallels

Two main parties differing little in terms of policy; the divide between them is how they account for the legacy of their country's return to independence. A divide not between a party of the 'haves' and a party of the 'have nots' (as we see in Britain and America), but one determined by memory.

After the country regained sovereignty, one of the parties was content with the outcome, the other believed that the settlement was a betrayal. One party tending to be more traditionalist, more nationalist, more populist, more religious, than the other.

PO and PiS in Poland? Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in Ireland? Both. I wrote recently about the parallels between Poland and Spain; Ireland and Poland - Catholic countries that have thrown off the shackles of their eastern, imperial neighbours - display interesting similarities too.

A useful text for studying the parallels is Luck and the Irish, by Oxford history professor R.F. Foster*. I pluck out phrases from the book that I have used myself in the context of Poland; a lack of differentiation between 'policy' and 'politics'; political and cultural discourse being 'little more than the old binary oppositions and ad hominem attacks'; the use of the word 'liberal' as a term of abuse ('anti-Irish').

Looking back at 90 years of an independent Irish state, there are many lessons that Poland can learn from its development. It's very much to Poland's credit (and indeed Germany's) that there are no border disputes to worry about. No 'Polish Republican Army' wishing to seize Wilno and Lwów back 'by the ballot-paper in one hand and the Armalite in the other'; (and indeed no German Republican Army with its eyes on Breslau, Stettin or Allenstein). In this respect, Ireland is catching up with Poland, not the other way round. Thankfully, Poland did not have a civil war. Ireland and Spain ultimately only got over the pain of 1922-23 and 1936-39 after joining the EU; Ireland has been in Europe for 40 years, Spain for 26, Poland for eight.

Poland may not have had a civil war, but the Smoleńsk tragedy of 10 April 2010 has taken one's place, sharply polarising society between those who consider the crash of the presidential Tupolev to have been willful murder, and those who consider it to be an accident caused by a lethal cocktail of derring-do and sloppy procedures.

EU structural funds have proved immensely helpful in bridging the developmental gap between the rich countries of north-west Europe. Compared to Greece, Bulgaria or Romania, Ireland, Spain and Poland have absorbed Brussels money well. But Spain - and Ireland (in a big way) both went wrong with unrestrained bank lending to the construction sector. Here, Polish banks, cautious and traditional, did not open floodgates to speculative developers.

Rapidly increasing material wealth and weakening of traditional Catholicism blurred old distinctions. But nevertheless, in Irish politics today - "where was your grandfather in 1922?" is still a potent question. "Where was your grandfather in 1989?" could still function as a similar litmus test in Polish politics into the middle of this century.

* A big thanks to Peter Flanagan for the copy!

Monday, 27 August 2012

An artistic dab of paint makes all the difference

There's not much reason to photograph drab, featureless buildings, especially those as functionally alien to my thinking as city-centre car parks; trawling through my photo archives, indeed, I have no photographs of this place (on ul. Parkingowa - yes, 'Parking Street'). So here, courtesy of Google Street View, the 'before' picture. Brutalism at its purest.

Below: how it looks after an artist has given it a lick of paint - no longer does it look like a 'U'-boat pen or section from Festung Europa's Atlantic wall. View from the corner of ul. Nowogrodzka and Parkingowa.

Below: view from Parkingowa. Very jolly. Bravo all round to the artist with the colourful vision and the city authorities for agreeing to the implementation.

This time last year:
To Hel and back in 36 hours

This time two years ago:
Poles, stretch your facial muscles

This time three years ago:
Honing the Art of the Written Word

This time four years ago:
Of castles, dams and brass bands

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Twilight, ul. Karczunkowska

During the rush hours, buses travel along ul. Karczunkowska at least four times an hour; in the evenings, it's two buses an hour (a 209 and a 715). Not wishing to wait 30 minutes when faced with a ten-minute walk, I will usually alight from the 709, 727 or 739 on the corner of ul. Puławska and stroll home.

Above: ul. Karczunkowska looking west from Puławska. The west-bound bus stop is across the road, but there's no bus for 20 minutes, so I'll walk.

Left: the junction with ul. Sarabandy, majestic sunset clouds reflected off the puddles.

Above: junction of ul. Trombity and Karczunkowska, looking south. Nearly home.

This time two years ago:
First hints of autumn in the air

This time four years ago:
Slovakia - we were not impressed

This time five years ago:
Jeziorki - late August cultivation

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Offloading the risk

Time for a lick of navy-blue paint to give W-wa Jeziorki station an air of modernity. The platform shelters have been repaired, shatterable glass giving way to corrugated tin and translucent plastic. Platform paving is still insufferably cracked, the chances of tripping and knocking out teeth is as high as it ever was.

But what's this? Where once passengers crossed the tracks to get to the bus stop on ul. Karczunkowska, there's now a barrier, painted regulation navy blue.

Is is coincidence that this barrier was erected days after Poland witnessed yet another level-crossing tragedy - nine Ukrainians killed in a minibus that was hit by a train? [Incidentally, the minibus driver was seven times over the drink-drive limit, but that's another story.]

Does PKP wish to demonstrate its commitment to safety by preventing passengers from nipping across the tracks to get to the bus stop?

The alternative to the tracks is crossing along the road (above). There is no pavement; pedestrians share the tarmac with motorised traffic, on the wrong side of the road (i.e back turned to oncoming vehicles). It is evident that taking your chances with the 30 trains a day that rumble northward over this track, heralded by green signal lights, lowered barriers and hooting horns, is a far, far lesser risk than the 300+ vehicles an hour (at peak times) that charge past you unannounced as you cross the tracks on foot via the level crossing.

It's just that if you die, you are a road traffic accident victim, not a railway accident victim, so you don't show up on PKP's statistics. Spychotechnika in Polish, 'buck passing' in English. ZDM's problem, not PKP's.

The correct solution would be to lay some asphalt to form a pedestrian crossing from the platform to ul. Karczunkowska that's independent of the carriageway. But there's no precedent for that. For the time being, until someone gets hit by a car at the level crossing, PKP can rest assured that W-wa Jeziorki station is compliant with regulations and there's no unauthorised crossing of the tracks by passengers looking for a safer way.

Above: Yet the additional impediment of a new barrier is not putting passengers off from crossing where they always have crossed. It's just become less convenient, and ironically, less safe. Why can't common sense be allowed to prevail?

This time last year:
Seasonal fruit - eat it in bulk, while you can!

This time three years ago:
Russia-Polish 'unification', 1939-style

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Topiary garden by the Vistula

Behind Warsaw's Royal Castle, by Arkady Kubickiego, at the foot of the Vistula escarpment, between ul. Bugaj and Wybrzeże Gdańskie (remember your Wybrzeża?) is an intriguing topiary garden of which I had hitherto been unaware of. Google Earth reveals that it has been in existence since at least the year 2000.

By British standards, this is a large topiary, with box-cut trees as well as hedges short and tall. Its size, geometry and greenery reminds me of the ivy-clad walls of the All-England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon or the Admiralty Citadel by Horse Guards Parade.

Entrance is free, although ul. Bugaj is gated and open until 8pm during the summer (see Royal Castle website).

This time last year:
Raymond's treasure - a short story

Monday, 20 August 2012

Evening walk along ul. Żmiejwska

A road that appears on maps of Warsaw, ul. Żmijewska is no more than a farm track that begins on ul. Pozytywki ('Music-box Street') and... and just peters out amid fields before reaching the site of the old Rampa na kruszywa (now a thankfully-abandoned residential development).

Above: looking west, where once the rampa stood proud, dominating Jeziorki's flat horizon. Today it's gone, it was a unique landmark, victim of developers' over-expansive plans laid low by the global financial crash. Ul. Żmijewska is just two parallel lines of earth, the width of a tractor. It's a hot evening, but rain clouds threaten.

Above: most of the land around here is lying fallow, and on this land grows goldenrod (nawłoć) and mugwort (wrotycz). Now in late-summer bloom, the yellow mugwort flowers (below) are characteristic of the fields of Jeziorki; in the background, goldenrod (the State Flower of Nebraska, incidentally).

Below: some fields are put to arable crop. Here's some equally-yellow rapeseed growing in a field between ul. Żmijewska and ul. Karczunkowska.

Left: to the south, along Warsaw's border with Mysiadło, a new development is slowly emerging. Indeed, zoning plans suggest wall-to-wall building across the way. In the foreground grows cabbage.

Whereas Mysiadło and Nowa Iwiczna to the south have rapidly turned from fields to intensive residential developments, the fields between ul. Karczunkowska and Warsaw's southern border maintain their rural character. Long may they do so. Jeziorki Południowe gain so much from the presence of agriculture here.
This time last year:
A stroll through Pole Mokotowskie

This time two years ago:
A Serious Man reviewed (still my favourite film)

This time three years ago:
Funny old cars, 1989

This time four years ago:
The Beskid Wyspowy

This time five years ago:
Another summer storm

Sunday, 19 August 2012

On the road from Dobra, again

The Road goes on for ever, winding its way down from the mountains, to the plains of Mazovia to the north. Below: south of Rozdziele, between Limanowa and Bochnia. This is the highest point between the two towns, over 535m above sea level. A beautiful stretch of road, this is the DW (Droga Wojewódzka = Voivodship, or provincial, road) 965 from Limanowa to Świniary, by the Vistula, 54km (33 miles) all the way. I've blogged it before, it's worth another post - this time shot with the 10-24mm Nikkor.

As the DW965 approaches the Vistula, so the landscape changes; we say farewell to the hills just before Bochnia; once we pass that town, the land gets flatter and flatter until finally we reach a wide flood-plain. The flatness means the road can run straight.

And around Drwinia, nodding donkeys (left) mean oil reserves exploited by PGNiG.

the DW965, looking south. Texas, Małopolska.

The DW 965 joins the DW 964 at Świniary, and this in turn leads to the bridge over the Vistula at Nowe Brzesko, the only road crossing between Niepołomice to the west and Górka, 42km (26 miles) upstream. The bridge at Nowe Brzesko only carries one lane, so lights at either end allow contraflow traffic across the river after a wait of a few minutes.

Once the Vistula's crossed, the road offers no more moments of wonderment. From Nowe Brzesko via Proszowice to Słomniki, and then on the DK (Droga Krajowa = national road) 7, all the way to Warsaw, skirting Kielce and through Radom. The DK7 is getting better and better, but after the last 23km (14 mile) stretch of ongoing roadworks between the north Kielce turn-off and Chęciny is complete, there's little hope for new improvements for this important Polish trunk road that links Warsaw to Kraków.

This time last year:
August storm, ul. Targowa

This time two years ago:
Warsaw Central's secret underground kebab factory

This time three years ago:
Cheap holidays in other people's misery

This time four years ago:
Steam welcomes us to Dobra

This time five years ago:
New houses appear in the fields by Zgorzała

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Dobra keeps calling

A chance to get away for a long weekend with Eddie to Dobra, to tramp our beloved Beskid Wyspowy, and to spend time at a place that does my soul a world of good. I must praise Dobra Chata, where we've stayed now - ooh... nine times now, since our first visit four years ago.

Six hours away by car from Warsaw, Dobra is a place where we both feel comfortable and very happy to be. The Nowak family, who run this establishment, are wonderful hosts and it's always great to come back to Dobra - I cannot recommend it more highly.

Above: Eddie, content on his favourite place in Dobra. A new litter of kittens makes the garden fun as they scamper around. And in the evening, a grill on an open fire, sausages, kaszanka (black pudding), karkówka (pork shoulder), an a nip (or three) of local pear eau de vie (50% abv). Happy as we were to take a rest, the main event of our brief visit was a walk to the top of Mogielica (1,180m above sea level). Below: the view from the top of the observation tower at the summit of the mountain.

Eddie and I made it to the top in one hour and 50 minutes, and back down in an hour and half. And we walked to the base of the path in Jurków from Dobra and back. In total, our journey took a little under five hours including rests along the way.

A shame we couldn't have stayed a day or two longer, but work beckons.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ten Minutes Over Warsaw

A few days ago, I posted photos of the helium balloon that takes passengers up for tethered lights over Warsaw. And so - time to try it out. 35 zlots a pop for a ten-minute flight. Stacja Balon is just across the river in Praga Północ where the Most Świętokrzyski meets the Wybrzeże Szczecińskie

So - our Ascension Day. Time to visit the heavens, well, with the gondola rising up to 130m at least, which is a full 16m higher than the viewing gallery on the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture (visible at the tallest building on the panorama below). And around the same height as the London Eye at its zenith.

Directly across the river, where the orange crane stands, is the building site for what will be Powiśle Metro station on Line Two. The excavated tunnels filled with water, causing traffic chaos around this part of Warsaw early yesterday, and this is likely to continue for some time.

LinkLeft: a good view from here - you can't see the Orange logo. These are the people who sell me an 6mb/s internet connection for 60zł a month that keeps cutting out, requiring regular manual reconnection. I'd have terminated my agreement with them years ago (they sarcastically call the packet we have 'Internet mojego marzenia'), but Orange (formerly TPSA) has a monopoly on broadband round Jeziorki.

a matchless photo of the National Stadium, in the distance, the Most Siekierkowski bridge, and the Grochów district of Praga Południe to the left.

Right: Looking down on Most Świętokrzyski. Very little traffic this evening, due to the road closures associated with the flooding of the tunnels under construction at Powiśle Metro station and yesterday's midweek public holiday prompting many people to take today and tomorrow ofp.

Plenty of cyclists using the bridge's cycle paths - of equal width on both sides.

Below: the Vistula, with the Most Średnicowy, Most Poniatowskiego and Most Łazienkowski spanning the river. On the other side - Powiśle.

Below: returning to base after our ten-minute flight. A small queue has gathered for the next trip. If you're not booking a group visit, but want to go individually, keep an eye on the website (here) and on the weather. The balloon is sensitive to wind (this morning it was not flying on account of the windspeed) and there's little sense in going up in dull, overcast days. Weather permitting, the balloon will go up as late as 22:00; but I reckon going up at sunset would yield staggeringly good views.

And so, the balloon ascends once again (left). It is a great idea, and evidently popular with Varsovians and tourists alike. Originally the balloon was meant to fly for the Euro 2012 championships, but its popularity means it will stay around for a while yet. DO pop by to take a flight; it's glorious on a clear, still, summer's evening. Take a camera with wide and telephoto lenses, and work your way around the gondola to snap photos in all directions.

This time last year:
Warszawa Zachodnia - before the remont

This time two years ago:
Happiness, Polish-style

This time three years ago:
And watch the river flow...

This time five years ago:
Armed forces' day parade

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Exorcism by the Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace, Sunday 12 August. A warm and pleasant evening, a throng of Varsovians intermingled with an almost equal number of tourists, are enjoying a stroll along Nowy Świat and Krakowskie Przedmieście, as they have done for centuries. Poland, more prosperous and secure than ever in history. And yet, and yet... The police have cordoned off Krakowskie Przedmieście stopping all motorised traffic including buses.

Some kind of congregation has gathered, no more than 20 in number. In their midst is a Roman Catholic priest. He is talking about the dark powers of Satan inhabiting the Presidential Palace. The president and his aides - tools of Satan. And then, the Prayer to St. Michael. The Exorcism prayer. The small congregation repeats it in a call-and-response manner similar to the Hail Mary. I'm surprised they all know it, but then discover that the Prayer to St. Michael was regularly said after the end of Low Mass each Sunday, and abolished by the Vatican in March 1965. So to know this prayer by heart, you have to be at least in your sixties, and have been a significant God-botherer, the type who hangs around after Mass has ended (rather than going forth in peace).

The congregation was calling on St. Michael to do battle with Satan and other evil spirits, including specifically those lurking within the bodies of the staff working in the Palace.

O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God,
Thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Or for my Polish readers (the entire Exorcism to St. Michael in Polish is here):

Wodzu niebieskich zastępów,
Szatana i inne duchy złe,
Które na zgubę dusz ludzkich po tym świecie krążą
Mocą Bożą strąć do piekła.
Passers-by were amused, curious; there was none of the szarpanie (aggressive jostling) I witnessed outside the Presidential Palace when the original 'Smolensk Cross' was being defended here in the spring of 2010. The congregation itself was minimal, the police and security services were clearly expecting more.

Reflecting on the whole thing, I'd posit the following theory: people who believe in the physical presence of Satan in our universe are far more likely to vote for PiS than those who don't.

The Vistula, becoming an attraction

Time to record something that's been floating above the right bank this summer, the tourist balloon (Balon widowiskowy Warszawa) that takes 30 people up to a height of 130m for some spectacular views of the city. Euro 2012 fever has long gone, but there's evidently the appetite for this tourist attraction to continue.

Across the river from the balloon's base, a barge turned into a trendy bar (right), attracting cyclists who in turn are attracted by new cycle paths. Warsaw is slowly waking up to the potential of the Vistula as a salient feature of the city. Across the river, the newly-created beach; the strains of dance music wafting over the water. A most pleasant evening in a vibrant, increasingly self-confident city. I remember an August night in Warsaw 23 years ago; the Old Town - silent, dark and empty. How good that communism is dead.

We must not forget. Graffiti has been thankfully expunged from the surface of my favourite bridge, Most Poniatowskiego, for the football championships and has not (to my knowledge) returned - except for this stencil art below - the Home Army 'anchor' symbol and the word pamiętamy ('we remember') - day 13 of the 68th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Train travel - Kraks and back in a (full) day

Some reflections about yesterday's train journey. Friday was long; my TLK train to Kraków which would get me there in suitable time for breakfast left W-wa Centralna at 5:05, before the first Metro train of the day could get me there, yet long after the last suitable night bus had passed Jeziorki. Indeed as it did so (at 3:20) I was just waking up. The Metro Park+Rides don't open until 4:30 (too late), so I drove to Stokłosy, parked on the street near to the Metro station and caught the N37 night bus that came punctually at 4:16, depositing me (and a surprisingly large number of other passengers) at Dw. Centralny 20 minutes later.

The long ticket queue moved quickly; I was on Platform 4 with seven minutes to spare. At five am there are plenty of passengers at the station, but nothing's open, so no chance of a newspaper or snack. I brought my own sandwiches (wholegrain bread and smoked tuna steak) and a couple of mouthfuls of red wine in a small plastic bottle - to help me sleep soundly all the way down to Kraks. (Coffee at this time would have had disastrous repercussions - keeping me awake on the journey, but rendering me sleepy by the afternoon.)

Now - a word about TLK vs. InterCity. My second-class ticket for the 5:05 from W-wa Centralna to Kraków Główny on TLK cost 61 złotys. The train was clean, it arrived five minutes early, there were six seats to the compartment, with electrical socket by each seat. On the way home, my second-class ticket for the 18:51 from Kraków Główny to W-wa Centralna on InterCity cost 119.50 złotys. Nearly double the price for the same journey. On InterCity, seating was bus-style (two rows of two seats with a central aisle), there were no electrical sockets and the toilet wasn't working. I cannot understand PKP's price/quality proposition, other than the departure time - filling the seats on trains running at ungodly hours by selling the tickets cheap.

Another train operator linking the two cities by rail is Interregio (IR). Price for Warsaw-Kraks is 49 PLN; unlike TLK and IC, you cannot reserve seats on IR trains. They are often overcrowded; a downside of travelling on an IR service is that you may have to stand all the way. IR trains also tend to get routed the slow way (Kraks to Warsaw via Kielce and Radom) and use local-service rolling stock, fine for commuting but hell to be stuck in for six hours.

At Kraków Główny (view of the main building above), the station announcer who does the English version is not (as is the case in Warsaw) a native speaker. Pociąg osobowy is translated as 'passenger train' (presumably because samochód osobowy is 'passenger car'). It is not. Pociąg osobowy is 'local train' or 'slow train' - what distinguishes it from express trains is that it stops at all stations, not that it carries passengers.

The InterCity train to Warsaw is hauled by a EP09 loco painted in England livery for the Euro 2012 championships (below).

On the way home, the first hour or so of the journey was blessed with beautiful evening light. Here are some photos of Małopolska landscapes, shot from the train, between Kraków and the town called Tunel.

This time last year:
Fountains by the New Town

This time two years ago:
Old-School Saska Kępa

This time three years ago:
The land, the light

This time four years ago:
Rainbow over Jeziorki

This time five years ago:
Previously in Portmeirion

Friday, 10 August 2012

Jewish Kraków

My cousin Teresa and her husband Peter are in Poland, visiting Kraków, so I went down for the day to meet them. After breakfast at their hotel, the well-located and well-appointed Andel's, we head off for Kazimierz, what was, before the Holocaust, the centre of Jewish life in Kraków. The place has come on in recent years, but I fear it's taken on a bit of a back-packy image now with hostels and cafés and bars aimed at the youth market.

Above: a quiet corner of the main square in Kazimierz. Elsewhere, a visual cacophony of typefaces, armies of young people trying to entice you take this city tour or to eat at that restaurant, flyers for music spots and clubs litter the pavements. The result is that a place which once had a unique atmosphere - and one that requires a degree of quiet reflection - is becoming like any other international tourist draw. A taxi with a sign in the rear window saying "AUSCHWITZ Salt Mine CHEAP" touts for business. Dreadful.

We visit the 16th-Century High Synagogue, one of six synagogues in Kazimierz. Below: the interior, photographed with the 10-24mm Nikkor, which really comes into its own in situations like this. The image is unaltered in Photoshop in terms of colour, saturation or contrast (converging verticals were corrected).

We press on, walking the streets of Kazimierz. Here is the Old Synagogue, dating back to the 15th Century (below), the view is of the side and rear of the building.

On we went, across the Vistula, towards the site of the wartime Jewish Ghetto (not Kazimierz, but a separate enclave built by the Nazis after they'd invaded Kraków) and thence towards the recently opened Oscar Schindler's factory museum. An outstanding place; an absolute must-visit. It's modelled on Warsaw's Uprising museum in the way exhibits are displayed and the way the story unfolds as you walk through it. Sadly, the museum's website is poor, and does little by way of encouraging visitors.

Above: Schindler's secretary's desk. The museum is vivid and powerful, extremely well designed. The story of how Nazi party member and entrepreneur Oscar Schindler saved 1,200 Jews working at his factory from death will be familiar to all who saw Steven Spielberg's film, Schindler's List; the museum places that famous episode into the context of Kraków under Nazi occupation and the tragedy of Poles and Jews alike who found themselves there.

Below: the last room in the exhibition - the Hall of Choices. A place to reflect inwardly on what you have just seen and internalise those thoughts. How do we react in the face of evil?

The area around Schindler's factory, Zabłocie (literally 'behind the muds') is becoming trendy. Just look (below) at the sophistication of the street art around here!

We made our way back to the Stary Rynek for supper; how touristy and banal it all seemed; yet safe and secure, a world away from the horrors and inhumanity that we must never forget, for it all happened less than seven decades ago.

This time two years ago:
Dismal graffiti yields to street art, W-wa Żwirki i Wigury
[Sadly these photos are for the record only; they were sprayed over by the mindless spray-can community weeks later]

This time three years ago:
A dove in the house

This time four years ago:
Coming in to land from the east