Friday, June 29, 2012

Daytime in Lublin

 In Lublin I stayed at the Grand Hotel. Just about across the street is the large Plac Litewski (Lithuanian Square). Lublin is the location of the agreement between Lithuania and Poland to establish one joint country. The Plac is large and a great source of relaxation in the center of the city.

The Plac also has a monument commemorating the agreement. This is the second monument. One was placed shortly after the agreement in the late 16th century, and later destroyed with Russia occupied this part of Poland in the 18th century. The present monument was replaced in 1826.

After two days of touring out of Lublin, I spent this day walking about.

 I  headed for the Krakow Gate shown below. More than half of it is missing from the photo because it is shrouded in renovation net. This gate is the last remains from the fortification walls that used to stand around Lublin.

 Just before entering this gate, one sees the New Town Hall on the left.

Nothing had prepared me for the beauty of the buildings in the rynek. I just gasped with wonder the first time I walked through the Krakow Gate. The Lonely Planet guidebook says this about Lublin: "... it's not a looker. Lublin was ravaged by WWII and the forced industrialization of the communist period only added insult to injury." That's what I read and overlooked the next sentence which spoke about the rynek becoming gentrified. I guess I was not expecting so much beauty, nor had anyone mentioned to me that the rynek in Lublin was quite wonderful.

Here is the Old Town Hall.

 Here are buildings around the rynek.

The blue house above is one of my favorites because I like blue very much. It also made me think of a house around the rynek in Zamosc.

The photo above shows the detail of the design on the house on the left immediately above it.

I kept walking until I found the Grodzka Gate.

On the other side I got my first view of the Lublin Castle.

To get there I had to go down a series of steps to the street level and then walk up a long flight of stairs to the castle entrance. About ten years ago an orthopedic doctor told me not to ride bicycles or walk stairs. Thus, I take elevators and escalators as much as possible rather than stairs. Whenever anyone looks askance at me and makes a comment about getting exercise by walking stairs I say, "I'm saving my knees for Poland." The walk today used up about a week of avoiding stairs!

Near the bottom of the stairs I found this sign. Lublin has a series of trails one can follow depending upon interest such as Jewish history or architecture. Not to any surprise, the Castle is on every trail.

The Castle was originally built at the time of the merger between Poland and Lithuania. It was on a travel route between Krakow and Vilnius. Only the tower and chapel are from the original time.

Some of the Castle is also under renovation so I took this photo from an open door in a museum gallery. It shows the tower in the foreground and the triangular Gothic building behind it is the chapel. 

 The present day castle was built in the late 18th century-early 19th century. Much of its history is sad. It has been used as prison by whatever government was in power -- Russian, Nazi, and Communist. Now much of it is a museum.

My primary goal was to see Chapel. The paintings within it are regarded as the best Russian-Byzantine art in Europe. I'm not a good enough photographer to take pictures that really do justice to the art found here, but I tried.

These are saints with names quite unknown in North America. And I know they are saints because of the halos. This is something I learned while visiting the monastery in Romania last month. Some paintings such as this show persons regarded as good persons, but not saints, as well, and those persons are not pictured with halos.

These paintings were made by embedding the paint with the calcium carbonate covering the walls, doing a little bit at a time, with no opportunity to change anything about the picture, for once it dries, it's there forever. However, this was all white washed and covered up for years, if not for a couple of centuries. Then one day a piece of one of the paintings was found and a careful restoration was done. The area is now under temperature and humidity control as much as possible. And the only surface not covered with paintings is the floor.

I enjoyed seeing some of the museum exhibits too.

One thing that took my eye was the straw weaving.

 You, like me, may have seen straw hats before as well as baskets and animals made from straw. But for me, anyone, straw boots were new!

From the Castle I headed back to the Grodzka Gate area and stopped for a coffee.

I enjoyed seeing all the traffic in the nearby Plac, the foundation remains of a church.

I guessed they might be headed for a nearby theater. Made me feel like I was back in Pecs where I saw children all the time headed to a puppet theater near my flat.

Next I went to the Dominican Church.

The first two photos are side altars and the photo immediately above is the pulpit. This church has many at prayer or meditation and I tried not to be disturbing.

In the back I found a model of the Dominican complex.

The church feels huge, and then one sees it is a somewhat small part of a large complex.

I also visited the Cathedral.

Again I was quite challenged to get photos as the church was crowded with worshipers even though no organized service was taking place.

I started to walk back towards the hotel and found this place, much to my amusement.

The cupcake fad has hit Poland, too.

I had a Pecs lunch.

I have never before had a date, fig, and apricot ice cream sundae.

I got back to my hotel for a few minutes of rest and then treated myself to a manicure. Napped for a bit after that and then went out of the hotel in the other direction. I wanted to find the Evangelical Church-- what in the United States we would call a Lutheran Church. Found it OK, but it was not open. However, the parsonage for it across the street is a charming reproduction of a Polish manor house and looked lovely in the late afternoon sun.

I went on a search for a restaurant my guide told me about. Don't know if I found exactly the right one, but I found a charming place with a garden off the main tourist path.

The garden area was lovely. I ordered a salad, could read most of the Polish, but kept racking my brain for what kind of salad dressing would have the word, island, in it. When the salad was served, I went, "Oh duh! Thousand Island."

See Night in Lublin below for what I did later. Just a great day altogether in Lublin.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lublin at Night

After working on my photos and writing the blog entry below, I went to McDonald's for some ice cream. When I walked out I saw how beautiful Lublin is right after the sun sets. I started to walk towards the Europa Hotel to take a picture and then heard the cheers coming from down the street, and knew one team had scored in the profinal for Euro 2012.

Here are my pictures in the evening.

Unification Monument
People watching the profinal game between Germany and Italy.

Europa Hotel
The tower of the new Town Hall shown through a straw replica of a city gate.

When the moon is over Empik doesn't sound too romantic, but that's where it was!

And meanwhile when I was doing these pictures I was being chased by two men begging for money. Perhaps I told them is too good Polish that I only speak English and not Polish!

Lublin Circle Tour -- Day 2

We were off again around 8 AM. The weather was still a bit cloudy and windy. Our destination was Chelm. (Pronounce it like helmet without the et.) However, my tour guide asked if I would like to take a bit of side trip to explore a manor house. So down the road we went.

Here's where we arrived.

We went to the secretary office and were given permission to look around. It is a beautiful house.

Here are some views.

The above photo shows how the cube shape play an important part in the architecture of this house.
Arriving in Chelm we went first to the Cathedral complex. This church is dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary. Every window in the church is an interpretation of the Virgin.

Our next activity was the underground tour of the chalk tunnels. I found it challenging to walk in the tunnels. The floor was rough rocks and sometimes stairs that were not well lighted. We were also in a tour with a large group of school children, so that made it both fun and challenging! No photos of the tour.

On the way back to the car we took a look at the Church of the Apostles.

We then took a drive to Wlodowa. Our goal was to make sure we got to the ethnographic museum before it closed at three.

Wlodowa has a very somber history. At the beginning of WWII, 7000 Jewish people lived here. At the end of the war, 143 had survived.

The ethnographic museum is housed in the area that was once the synagogue complex.  The altar from the synagogue has been reconstructed and is now housed in what was formerly the Jewish school building.

The circular area encased by the white railings is to symbolize where the Torah would have been read. This area is surrounded with Jewish artifacts -- everything from Kuddish cups to a beautifully embroidered scarf for covering the Sabbath bread. The only museum in Europe that I think rivals this is the museum associated with the synagogue in Budapest. More people should get here to become cognizant of the story of Wlodawa and to see the treasures that survived.

The original synagogue building now houses a viewer for seeing steroscopic pictures of people and scenes of Wlodawa from before WW II.

Other areas of the buildings house exhibits of Polish culture.

One thing new to me were the old items associated with living along a river, such as the fish traps shown above. To date I've primarily seen old things from agricultural areas.

Leaving the museum area I noticed this lovely viewpoint.

We went next to Cathedral complex. A funeral was in progress so our visit was short.

While there I took this photo of a bee in a rose.

 I explained to my guide that the kids at camp often are afraid of bugs and insects, and they will be impressed that Pani got close enough to take a photo of the bee in the flower.

 We drove then to the banks of the River Bug. While walking towards the river, my guide noticed the caterpillar.

Above I am on the border post for Poland, and because it is the eastern border of Poland, it's also the border of the whole EU.

The river itself is very beautiful.

The recent rains from this week as well as the heavy rains of May have this river flowing quickly and a bit at a flood stage.

Following our visit we went a bit outside the town to a karczma for a great luncheon.

On our way back to Lublin we stopped by a lake area.

The vista certainly looks like northern Minnesota; I enjoyed seeing something like this in Poland.

This photo of the boat seems to symbolize how remote this place feels. Felt good to be here and feel the sun and wind on my face.

Back in Lublin my guide said, "We have one more stop." We went by the Catholic University of Lublin. In Polish the acronym is KUL. We looked at the John Paul church there. It is yet different from anything else I've seen, but no photos because Mass was in progress, and in fact it sounded like the sermon/homily was underway. We walked through the adjoining monastery grounds. I liked this view.

I had a great two days seeing places about which I never dreamed. This all started because I wanted to go to Zamosc and found the train wouldn't work very well. If anyone finds this blog entry and wants to tour around the Lublin area, please feel free to contact me via a blog comment. I'll be glad to recommend the guide that I had. He knew his history,  the architecture, and speaks and writes English very well.