Sunday, 30 September 2018

Quick update, Jakubowizna

Big difference over a week! Below: the kitchen, with bathroom and back bedroom at the end. Needed: kitchen cabinets, cooker/oven, sink, work surfaces, light shades, table and chairs.

Upstairs, now the floor is clear, plenty of light. Again, light fixtures needed, furniture - done!

View of the upstairs room from the front balcony.

Below: rear patio, railings need painting.

Below: the garage - whole lot of work needed here. Weatherproofing a first priority!

Below: the front - paving done, all that's needed for the elevations is thermal isolation and plasterwork, then painting.

Meanwhile, at Chynów station, track modernisation work continues apace over the weekend. Two ballast trucks stand on the (closed to passenger traffic) 'up' line. There's currently no train of an evening between 17:04 and 19:02.

Last week I showed hops growing on a no-through road sign in Jeziorki. I picked those hops and made three and half litres of hop extract to mix with sparkling mineral water to produce a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage with the bitterness of an IPA.

A fine weekend weatherwise, but temperatures now autumnal; even in the midday sun two layers are a minimum. Despite the sunshine, top temperature this weekend was 15C, ground frosts expected soon.

This time last year:
Miedzianka by Filip Springer

This time three years ago:
Out of the third, into the fourth

This time four years ago:
Inverted reflections

This time five years ago:
Observations from London's WC1
and Observations from the City of London

This time six years ago:
Civilising Jeziorki's wetlands

This time seven years ago:
Warsaw's Aleje Jerozolimskie

This time eight years ago:
Melancholy autumn mood in Łazienki

This time ten years ago:
Autumn gold, Zamienie

This time 11 years ago:
Flamenco Sketches - Seville

Friday, 28 September 2018

Zamek Topacz motor museum, Ślęza

Had the opportunity to visit the motor museum in Zamek Topacz, in Ślęza, a village just south of Wrocław. A beautifully restored castle complex, now turned into a hotel with spa, it boasts a fascinating museum with a worthy collection of cars and motorbikes. Owned by the people behind ATM Studio, a collection such as this makes sense as historical productions need cars to lend period feel.

Below: pride of place - a 1959 Buick Electra, tail fins reaching an apogee in General Motors' line-up that model year.

Below: just look at the length of that: 225 inches - that's nearly 19 feet or 5.7 metres of end-to-end chrome. Magnificent...

Oozing glamour...

Meanwhile, in the Polish People's Republic, this Nysa N59 van (below) was doing the rounds. Topacz has a comprehensive collection of Polish post-war vehicles.

And on two wheels, Poland's largest post-war motorbike, the SFM Junak M10 (below, early '60s model with headlamp integrated into the front forks, in the manner of the 1960 Triumph T100 Tiger.

Four wheels you want, towarzyszu? Here's your dream auto - the Mikrus MR-300. A product of Poland's aviation industry, this undersized, underpowered and overpriced car never entered mass production, a mere 1,713 were produced between 1957 and 1960.

Pull over - it's the highway patrol! Below: a Polish milicja East German-made MZ TS250 motorbike. Note the white truncheon fixed to the rear pannier, and the kickstarter.

Below: a collection of WW2-era motorbikes. In the middle, a Harley-Davidson WLA...

Below: the WLA's 'office'. Note the speedometer, which goes up to 120 miles per hour - in practice, WLA owners say they can barely squeeze 60mph out of the bike in standard trim.

Below: pre-war Poland's answer to the Harley-Davidson - the Sokoł 1000, which like the American bike was powered by a large air-cooled v-twin engine. A shame that only 3,400 were built.

Below: a trio of pre-war Rolls-Royces; the one in the middle is a 20/25 sedan.

Below: no automotive collection would be complete without an E-Type Jaguar, said by Enzo Ferrari to be the most beautiful car ever built

Below: one corner of the museum. Second car from the front is a...? My first guess was a Facel Vega, but that's not the right answer.

Below: what's the word? Thunderbird. A second-generation (1958-60) model, with added rear seats and more than two feet longer than the original, sportier, T-bird that first appeared in 1955. Standing behind the Ford is a Soviet GAZ-14 Chaika...

Below: driver's seat of the GAZ-14, produced between 1977 and 1988, replacing the 1950s-styled GAZ-13 Chaika. One up from the GAZ-14 was the ZIL limousine, even bigger, for the very highest in the Soviet hierarchy - the widest car ever built.

Below: sit back and wonder whether the driver has orders to take you to the Kremlin or to the Lubyanka.

The museum is definitely worth a visit, although the exhibits are a bit cramped together, a bit more space around them would allow for better viewing and photography. Still, it's great to see so many vehicles (over 130 in total) from Poland, America, Germany, Italy, Britain and the USSR covering most of the 20th century.

This time three years ago:
Curry comes to Jeziorki
[didn't stay long - but then not a good one]

This time four years ago:
Why we should all try to use less gas

This time five years ago:
Polish supermarket chain advertises on London buses

This time ten years ago:
Well-shot pheasants

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Polish railway stations named in two languages

I have been to Wrocław and back by train scores of times over the years, and yet I only noticed this yesterday, another Adlestrop moment when my train stopped unwontedly at a sleepy halt somewhere between much busier stations. A little east of Opole, the station sign caught my eye. The name is in two languages - Polish and German (below).

Now, you may consider this odd given the two nations' history. Wrocław does not have the German name Breslau on the station sign. So, what's up?

The answer is - German minority. Chrząstowice is one of 44 gminy (municipalities) which are officially bilingual. [The full list is here.] A handful of Lithuanian, Belarusian and Lemko (Ruthenian/Ukrainian) ones, plus Kashubian, but the lion's share (31 in all) are German, all but three of which are located in the Opolskie voivodship. The area has one German Minority deputy in the Polish parliament. Around 100,000 Polish citizens who consider themselves ethnically German living in Opolskie, some two-thirds of all ethnic Germans in Poland. As a result, bilingual station names.

There is another one along the line from Opole to Lubliniec; it is called Dębska Kuźnia in Polish and in German - Dembiohammer. However, the platform was on the other side of the train to my seat, so I missed the shot. There was a third - Suchy Bór (Derschau), but when the line was modernised and the older black-on-white station signs were replaced by white-on-blue ones, Derschau didn't make it back.

An exhaustive list of all Polish towns and villages with bilingual names is here; yet despite the length of the list, only two places in all of Poland have bilingual railway station name signs.

Britain has slightly more (Wales and Scotland - see picture below). But does England?

Answer - yes! This is Southall... Or ਸਾਊਥਹਾਲ (in Punjabi).

This time last year:
Two weeks - six cities

This time two years ago:
A guide to naming streets in Poland and the UK

This time seven years ago:
A glorious month

This time eight years ago:
My grandfather

This time nine years ago:
My home-made fixie bike

This time ten years ago:
Well-shot pheasants

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Jakubowizna and Jeziorki

A trip to Jakubowizna to see how the work is going on my house and działka, my first visit in two weeks (much travel); a lot has been done since the windows went in. I learned however, that owing to previous commitments, the builders won't be able to do the external thermal insulation and plastering this season, and it will have to wait to spring. Work is on budget but behind schedule due to the long wait for windows (factory could not keep up with orders) and a fortnight's heavy rain which delayed the digging around the foundations for the ground insulation.

All this is now complete; inside some finishing is needed; the biggest remaining job will be the kitchen (cabinets, cooker and oven). And the garage, which will be done last as that's where the builders store their stuff.

Left: the perimeter paving is going in; it's nearly halfway there by area. Should be finished next week.

Below: view of the back of the house; under the stairs leading up to the patio, there will be a closed-off storage locker for garden tools. There is a profusion of grapes in the garden, nearly ready for harvesting. Sadly, they are of the Concord variety, thick of skin, with large pips, and sweet; yes, you can make wine from them, but it will taste like Mogen David.

Below: view from the upstairs patio through the large upstairs room. Skirting boards need to go in, lighting, and that's about it - ready for shelving and furniture.

East side of the house, below. Old grills still hanging on the wall, now that security glass is in (the new windows being triple glazed), these old iron eyesores can go. Paving will go down on this side of the building this week.

Below: perimeter paving on the west side of the house is done. The property line's marked in white; the fence with the neighbouring plot has been temporarily removed to do this work.

Below: front room downstairs is almost ready. Skirting boards and power sockets are in place. Window sills are required for all seven windows, shelving and lighting is needed. The furniture can be moved in very soon! I was pleased to feel how warm it was in the house, despite the chill outside.

Below: meanwhile, in the neighbourhood... the next few weeks will see the cumulation of this year's apple harvest; apples are nearly ripe and there are so many of them this year that prices (for farmers and consumers) will be low. This is a good, well-tended orchard.

Below: another orchard, across the road. The apples look nice and red, but in close up it's evident that almost all of them have been affected by apple scab.

Below: an untended orchard, Jakubowizna. The apples drop; no one picks them, they rot and decompose to return into the soil.

I wrote previously that the second phase of the Warsaw-Radom railway modernisation has just started. The 'up' line has been closed to traffic. Below: work is going ahead (on a Sunday!) on the 'up' line; services are now using the remaining line in both directions. This means fewer trains; after the 10:34 departure from Chynów to Warsaw, the 11:40 has been cancelled for the duration, the next one being the 12:09.

Below: the 'up' train on the 'down' line. The Warsaw-bound train continued on the 'down' track from Chynów until just short of Czachówek Południowy station - the end of the first stretch of the modernised line. Note the pile of ballast to the right - this is intended form the new trackbed.

Below: back to Jeziorki, just under half an hour by the train. Work on the viaduct over the railway line has hit an obstacle. The weight of earth packed down on the on-ramp has damaged sewerage piping, so it all has to be dug back up again and made good. So no re-opening of the temporary level crossing on 25 September (the already-delayed date for this). I chuckle. The longer without a flood of speeding motorists along Karczunkowska the better.

And along ul. Trombity (below), a second layer of asphalt has been laid. Lovely new road surface. Still some tidying up to do - in particular the speed bumps are needed. There's a lack of pavement, pedestrians must share the roadway with drivers; despite the profusion of 30 km/h signs (prominent in the photo), cars are hurtling along here at unsafe speeds.

Finally - on the corner of ul. Nawłocka and ul. Dawidowska - wild hops have grown all over this no-through road sign! I'm back in hop-gathering mode; I collected some 25 or so hop-cones; these will be boiled for 25 minutes in a litre of water, the essence being allowed to cool, then mixed one part to two with chilled, sparkling mineral water to make a thirst-quenching, non-alcoholic beverage of India Pale Ale-like bitterness.

This time last year:
Autumn comes early

This time two years ago:
Kriegslok passes through Jeziorki

This time six years ago:
A little way west of Jeziorki

This time seven years ago:
The Old Sailor's Tale - part II 

This time eight years ago:

This time nine years ago:
The passing of Lt. Cmdr. Tadeusz Lesisz 

This time 11 years ago:
Summer ends, autumn begins

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Summer's end

That's that. Friday afternoon in Warsaw, daytime high 28C. By Saturday morning, the temperature had plunged to 13C. Cloudless skies turned overcast, the odd spittle of rain. Sunday - colder. Next week, temperatures will struggle to get much above 10C. Summer's over, but what a summer it was. From early April onward, a long cavalcade of hot days with clear blue skies, over London (!) as well as Warsaw. A magnificent summer heady with the smell of ripening fruit - indeed, the smell of it was all-pervasive and those fruity aromas - volatile organic compounds like ethylene - everywhere I turned. Raspberries, cherries, blackberries, plums, grapes, mirabelles, pears, apples. I could even smell them in my coffee tin, full of fresh Lavazza.

Musically for me, as since adolescence, the music of summer is early Pink Floyd, pre-Dark Side of the Moon. Autumn and winter were the seasons for Roxy Music, but summer, those Floyd songs capture the atmosphere, kicking off with Grantchester Meadows, which I traditionally listen to whenever I hear the first fly of summer buzzing around my study. This year has reunited me with songs from the (less often played) B-side of Atom Heart Mother and the studio LP of Ummagumma; in particular Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (Pts 1-3) and The Narrow Way (Pt 3). Old favourites - Careful With That Axe, Eugene, Echoes and the entire Atom Heart Mother suite were also frequently listened to - plus the very earliest Syd Barrett  compositions off The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. And many tunes from A Saucerful of Secrets. I still stand by my youthful assertion that Floyd went downhill after Dark Side of the Moon. For me, anyway. De gustibus non disputandum est.

Below: before summer ended - last week in Kraków. Early evening, temperatures still around 30C. The essence of European elegance. Rather than go my usual route from the station to Kazimierz, via Planty and Starowiślna, I took the direct route via back streets and discovered a whole new Kraków, but more on that next time I'm there. In the meanwhile, the splendour of ul. Lubicz at twilight.

Left: architecturally more Vienna than Warsaw; this bit of ul. Lubicz with its stone-lined underpass (over which runs the main railway line south), wrought-iron footbridge, decorative street lights and uplit facades create a magnificent atmosphere on a hot late-summer's evening. Below: the Hotel Europejski. When opened in 1884, only one of the three floors was for guests - the rest of the building was for their servants and hotel staff.

As the world tips through equinox, we here in the Northern Hemisphere move from summer to winter, the darkness and the cold await us - but then in six months' time, hopefully, another equinox and another balmy summer to look forward to, positive thoughts to keep us going through the dark months.

This time last year:
In which I lose a lot of data from my old laptop

This time two years ago:
Konin - town of aluminium, electricity and coal

This time five years ago:
Car-free day falls on a Sunday

This time six years ago:
Vistula at record low level

This time nine years ago:
Car-free day? Warsaw's roads busier than ever

This time ten years ago:
The shape of equinox

This time 11 years ago:
Potato harvest time in Jeziorki

Monday, 17 September 2018

London in the hot autumn sun

Been a busy five days; Warsaw-Rzeszów-Kraków-Wrocław-Warsaw-London. Arriving at "London" Luton on Sunday, I find the weather remains Mediterranean; bright blue skies and one-layer temperatures. Jacket stowed in rucksack, I walk to Luton "Airport" Parkway station and head for Ealing. Work on Monday, long meeting in Central London, lots of walking and architectural photography opportunities. Still Mediterranean. At times I feel like I'm in Gibraltar or Malta, familiar architecture and street furniture under a hot sun. It's 26C and again my jacket is in my rucksack.

Below: What's the English for kamienica? This. What English word describes an elegant, low-rise building consisting of many flats? This is Transept St, W2, Hyde Park Mansions; but not every mansion is a kamienica. Nor is every kamienica a tenement - a word associated with Glaswegian poverty.

Below: The Royal Exchange pub on Sale Place W2. In this weather, in the second half of September? Could well be Gibraltar.

The last two British telephone boxes I saw were both wooden replicas inside the Polish offices of British firm. Here's the real thing, which I strongly associate from childhood. (I close my eyes and recall the pong - a mixture of urine, cheap disinfectant and stale tobacco). The solid clunk of the bakelite telephone handset, the brass door handle; a true icon of Britishness (in a world where every other object is said to be iconic). Located on the corner of Shillibeer Place, named after local George Shillibeer, who, in 1829, initiated London's first horse-drawn bus service.

Below: beautiful late-Victorian/Edwardian townhouse, Devonshire, Weymouth St. "Strite out a' Maory Parpins."

Left: St Marks of St Marylebone Anglican church. (What a name!) Again, that incongruous blue sky would have me place the picture in Australia or New Zealand, or even in some cantonment in Hyderabad province, rather than on the Old Marylebone Road. Built in 1872, Gothic Revival, the very high water mark of Brictorian Britain.
Right: I give you this photo as a quiz question; this incongruous white stone church stands at odds with its very British surroundings; on the basis of the other photos above, could anyone care to suggest what this building is, who built it and when? The clues lie in the strict, sparse architectural vocabulary; fortified and pure.

Onwards to Paddington Station, and the short eight-minute journey to Ealing Broadway via the Great Western Railway (good to see the name back again). Ealing Broadway is being refurbished ahead of the opening of CrossRail, but delays mean this will not happen this year as planned.

Below: a delightful sight! An Austin Healey 3000 Mk II passes me on my way to my father's house. If I were ever to buy a petrol-engined four-wheeled vehicle again it would have to be a) classic and b) convertible. This car dates back to 1963; magnificent!

This time last year:
Full-frame and mirrorless
[my thoughts on the new Nikons, launched last month]

This time five years ago:
The rich, the poor, the entrepreneur... and the banker

This time seven years ago:
At the hipsters' ball

This time eight years ago:
Cycling through the spirit of place

This time nine years ago:
Invaders or liberators?

This time ten years ago:
Adlestrop, en route to Kraków

This time 11 years ago:
Return to Zamienie