Monday, July 29, 2013

Fridays are Good!

On Friday I taught three classes for my camper/students. Then for the fourth hour I did a presentation about Disney World. All volunteers do a presentation usually about their state and since this is my 17th language camp I've talked about Minnesota a great deal. I wanted to do something else.

Then we all went to the Kotun train station and took the train to Warsaw East. Three of the volunteers stayed on the train for a couple more stops since they were spending the weekend in Warsaw. I helped six of them find the right platform for their train to Krakow. Then I hopped onto a train to Lodz (if written with a Polish keyboard readers may better understand why it's pronounced Woodge). Last year I went there and you can read about my visit there by clicking here.

I wanted to go back just to relax mostly, so sometime ago I reserved a room at Andel's Hotel. In the middle of last week I received an e-mail saying the swimming pool would be closed. I replied, "No problem." When I arrived at the hotel, they verified I had received the e-mail about the swimming pool and again I replied that it was not a problem. Well, much to my surprise, the next statement was, "Due to that you are being upgraded to a junior suite."

I wondered what I would find when I opened the door. Here's one view.
And another view.

The suite was almost larger than my apartment in Saint Paul. What a lovely surprise.

Reymontowka had given us bag lunch/supper to eat on the train, and so all I really wanted was an ice cream. So I headed out of the hotel.

The first thing I saw was the carousel. It is so pretty.

I couldn't find the ice cream shop that I had enjoyed last year, so I headed into the shopping mall. Didn't find ice cream there either, but did find other good things. And what was most amazing is that I hit a really good Wi-Fi from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and so I spent some time texting to my younger daughter and also to a friend. Who would have thought about KFC having Wi-Fi!

Walked back and crashed into my lovely bed. I was tired after a busy week.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Poland Videos

This blog entry will include some videos I've taken during my 2013 stay in Poland. I'm finally at a place with a strong enough Wi-FI signal to make this work within my blog. These will be in quite random order with an explanation for each. And I am sorry that the audio on most of them is not very good.

The first is of a street musician in Gdansk. This will be one of my enduring memories of Gdansk. When walking outside it seems as if one always hears music, and very good music.

The next two are from shopping malls. I think many people, particularly in the United States, do not perceive Poland as a modern and colorful country. So here's a view of couple water features in shopping malls.

The fountain pictured above is in the Galeria in Krakow, a shopping mall between the train station and the Old Town. The chairs are for a restaurant on the first floor. This is one of my favorite places to get a sandwich or a beverage. I enjoy stopping in this shopping mall to see what might be happening. For example, one time there was a huge display of old European cars --from the 1910s to the 1940s. They were so much fun to see.

The video above is from the Madison Shopping Gallery in Gdansk. I found this almost by mistake. I had walked to the Freedom Exhibition but then somehow got on other streets when walking back to the Main Town area. Luckily I had read about Madison in a brochure in the hotel so knew what I had found. Later I began to understand that this sculpture may be in remembrance of a large mill that used to be in this area.

Here is a video of kids having fun at the Four Quarters Fountain in Gdansk.

We have a busy schedule here at Reymontowka, teaching all morning, then trying to find a few moments to plan for the next day, and then interacting again with the students in their evening program. Last night we had great fun with Karaoke.

I'm off to Lodz for the weekend and not taking the computer, so the blog will be silent for a couple of days.

Hope you all enjoy these videos.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Second Teaching Day at Language Camp 1

Today I planned to do a walk around to find objects that could fill out a chart from A-Z. But first I did the usual morning opening, having the students identify today's date and now today I added also information about the weather. They wanted to say windy and cold, so I introduced the concepts of warm and cool, explaining we should save cold for temperatures approaching 0 on the Celsius scale. But quickly, even with jackets, we decided cool really was cool and finished the rest of the class inside the building. Since Reymontowka is an amazing place, we could find many objects and discuss their English name within the building.

For the 2nd lesson I had each student select a sticker that shows a bird found in the United States. Then they wrote the name of the bird and added five words that described the bird.

For the third lesson we played Number Bingo. This game has the numbers from 0 - 20. This gives students practice in pronunciation and also helps them to quickly say a particular number rather than having to go through rote memory in their heads.

During lesson four we all gathered in the tent and began to introduce American dances such as YMCA and Cotton-Eye Joe.

 The campers had great fun with this. I told the other volunteers a lesson of dancing is how we can eat the great Polish food and still go home without gaining any weight.

After lesson four we quickly ate the mid-day meal and then drove into Siedlce to meet the county governor. The County of Siedlce is our official host and volunteers groups always meet with the governor.

The Governor said he was so pleased to see young volunteers, a sign that volunteering continues to be an American value.

After the meeting most went on a tour of Siedlce. Because I have been to Siedlce so many times I went my own way for awhile. One goal was to go to the bookstore and pick up a Polish grammar book I had ordered when in Siedlce in June.

When we gathered again, we all went to the company store for Chopin Vodka, a vodka made in Siedlce, so volunteers could purchase a souvenier.

 Then Dorota and her husband took Amy and me to the train station to purchase train tickets for weekend travel. I am going to Lodz (pronounced Woodge) and the volunteers here from University of Central Missouri are all going to Krakow. We wanted to coordinate our coming and going at the Kotun train station to make it easier for transportation by Reymontowka staff.

Then we all stopped at the McDonald's on the east side of Siedlce. We have one teen volunteer, who says he is a "very picky eater" and that's no exaggeration. At Reymontowka he eats only kotlet for obiad and at breakfast and the evening meal, basically bread with nutella. He was really looking forward to McDonald's!

I enjoy a visit to McDonald's to see how they are different in European locations. I got a Magnum McFlurry. Americans will easily recognize what a McFlurry is; a Magnum McFlurry has pieces of a Magnum chocolate bar in it. Yum! good!

In the evening the campers' entertainment was Date in the Dark.

Americans of a "certain age" may remember Dating Game on TV. The idea is the same. There are three candidates who answer questions and then the contestant picks one of the candidates for a "date." Here a date might be sitting in the dining room and having ice cream sundaes together.

Some of the "young volunteers" participated.

The volunteer pictured here was picked by the boy for a "date." I asked her what the date was and then said she had gotten the best -- a horse carriage ride.

As one the volunteers said, "Yet another FANTASTYCZNY day!"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Getting Started at Reymontowak -- 2013 edition!

On Friday evening I flew down from Gdansk to Warsaw and stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel at the airport. It's always interesting to see who else is there. I found a conference going on with people coming from around Europe. By the sounds I heard I thought it was either a religious revival of some sort or a huge selling project of some sort. I found the name of the organization on the meeting notices in the hotel and looked it up on the web. It purports to be one telling people how to make money, but suspiciously to me like a big scam. I was actually glad to get away from there.

There are ten of us on this new team, the most there has ever been on summer language camp team. The size of the team is due to an anonymous donor who sponsored 6 volunteers from the University of Central Missouri.

As always we were welcomed to Reymontowka with the bread and salt ceremony.

On Sunday we always do orientation activities taking some time out in the late morning in case anyone would like to attend mass at a nearby church. None of us chose to do that so we drove by later in the morning just as mass was ending and saw something very unique. This turned out to be the Sunday when cars and drivers are blessed.

The church shown above is chosen for the volunteers' attendance because it is nearby and also because the cornerstone was laid in 1776 which is an iconic year for Americans.

On the way we stopped too for everyone to see and photograph a stork's nest. Sorry no photo here. I didn't even get out of the van. I have a huge framed picture at home of a stork in the nest that I took on a service trip here about 5 years ago. Others were quite amazed!

I have seven charming girls in my class. Tomorrow I will ask them how old they are, but I think all of them are 8 years old. Having a great time.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Visting Malbork

Having secured a hotel reservation that allowed me to stay in Gdansk more than originally planned I took off for a day trip to Malbork. Assuming I would be walking a great deal at Malbork I took a taxi from the hotel to the train station.

It is a very bright and cheerful station. I had read somewhere that the train station benefited from Euro 2012; it was one of the buildings renovated in preparation for the games.

I had found a 10:00 train to Malbork and wanted that because it was a fast train, saving me time in the morning. When I went to the Kasa the woman there looked at my note and said, "Expensive." I told her it was OK. Got to Malbork and found I couldn't open the train door to get out. Noticed a woman at the very opposite of the car asking if I wanted help. So glad she was there or I might have ended up somewhere else!

Got on the platform and found the peron/platform area at Malbork was under major renovation. I followed the Exit signs and ended up at a deadend. Started all over again and finally had a woman for help for the route to leave. Made sure I knew the secret place to access the platform for my return trip.

Got a taxi to the castle. I had thought about walking, but the route looked complicated and there wasn't a single sign directing one to the zamek. In a combination of English and Polish I asked about a return trip to the train station, and the taxi driver gave me a business card.

Went to the Kasa and bought a ticket. My wrinkles must be showing, for without any questions at all the clerk sold me a senior citizen ticket! I asked about English audio guide and was directed around the corner. There I found a sign about gathering for English tours. The next was at 1:30, so I decided obiad was next on the agenda. I walked to a charming restuarant.

This restaurant is in the corner of the Middle Castle.

Here is my lovely lunch/obiad. The cost was less than I would have paid for a similar meal in Gdansk, so the restaurants are not taking advantage of visitors to the castle.

Around the castle there is, however, no shortage of opportunities to buy souvenirs.

Walked back to the tour meeting area noting this view.

The guide started the tour right on time. She spoke very good English. She did a good job of filling in visitors about the history of the castle without making it boring. We learned there were originally three castles. The area in which we had been waiting was the Low Castle. This area was for the workers and servants.

We began the tour by entering the Middle Castle. This area was used for visitors to the castle. From the beginning -- or at least when the castle was finished after more than 100 years of building -- about 400 guests could be accommodated.
Here the guide is explaining the defenses associated with castle entrance. The small door meant a person would have to crawl through it, reducing the possibility of using weapons coming through the door.

Next we headed to the refectory area, the dining room for the guests in the castle. Because people ate with their fingers, not with cutlery, a hand washing area was provided outside the refectory.

Next we learned how the area was heated; northern winters would have required something.

A fire burned in this area of rocks.

We climbed up a flight of stairs and entered the refectory. Here are the heat registers that allowed heat from the fire below to enter the room. Quite an ingenious plan.

 The room itself looks like this.

The pillars themselves are made to look like palm trees, reminiscent of Jerusalem where the Teutonic Knights were founded.

Up a few more stairs and we were in a room to one side of the refectory. Our guide explained that not all guests were "friends." During meals the beer and wine flowed freely, (and we need to remember at this time too, that people did not drink water because it was not safe) and this door allowed the Grand Master to listen and see if anyone became indiscreet and spilled secrets while they were drunk. So what's new in the 21st century regarding spying isn't really new; it's only the application of different technology.

Next we walked to the area in which guests would have arrived when first getting to the castle.  Again there was a place for washing, including a place for washing feet. This attention to hand washing, plus the placement of the toilets a 60 M walk from any living area, certainly helped to control infectious disease. The guide said despite a large number of people about, disease was not really a problem in the medieval time, quite an achievement.
 From here we walked in the Middle Castle courtyard for a bit of break.

There we found statues of the Grand Masters who had lived and worked in the castle. (Remember the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 led to reduction in the power of the Teutonic Knights, although they remained here another 40 years. The order is still active today, now based in Vienna.)

Next we entered the High Castle. This area was reserved for the Grand Master, the House Commander, and the Head Chef and 60 knight who were also monks. (Interesting, the Head Chef's job was not cooking but rather food tasting to provide evidence and reassurance that the food being served was not poison!)

 Above is entrance to the High Castle, complete with two windows over the door. These could have been used for pouring down boiling water or oil.The figure suspended in the air is not part of the castle history; rather it is one piece from a recent modern sculpture workshop held at the castle.)

In the courtyard we found a well. The presence of water plus storage space for food meant the High Castle could have withstood siege for two years, although this ability was never truly tested.

Next the guide walked us to a poster showing what the Castle area had looked like at the end of WWII. The castle had been a Nazi fortress, housing many soldiers so was heavily assaulted by the Russian Army. When the Russian Army had the castle under control more damage was done to castle in an effort to destroy any of its religious features.  

During the tour, the guide took care to point out what was original, what was repairs from normal wear and tear before WWII, and then what was restoration post war.

We toured the cooking area of the High Castle and then walked quickly through the living quarters for the Grand Master, the House Commander and the Head Chef.

We entered the "decision room." This was the room in which issues of great importance were debated and determined. The acoustics of the room are designed to promote echoing, an effort made to prevent someone outside the room eves-dropping.

The openings in the wall are to the chapel. This allowed sounds from singing and prayers to enter the room and further mask sound and overhearing by any undesirable persons. This room is now used for concerts because of its good acoustics.

Then we were off to the toilets, a room in which I didn't take any photos.
Found the toilet area really worked quite well, because it was over the moat which had continuous water flow.

 Our next destination, shown above, was the knights' dormitory. It was located between the toilets and chapel, for the knights, who were also monks, were required to get up twice nightly for prayers.

The dormitory area is now used to display art. One very usual item is this altar piece.

The altar piece depicts the Coronation of Mary. As we view it, Jesus is on the right side and God is on the left. I think this is the first time I've ever seen a piece of religious art that attempted to show God.

Our last viewpoint was the chapel in the High Castle, still in need of restoration.

 Restoration slowly continues with funding coming from Poland, the EU, and also through its designation as a UNESCO site. Norway, as an individual country, has been a benefactor of restoration.

As you can see I had a through tour of the Malbork Castle. It took 2.5 hours which is long time to be walking, standing, and climbing up and down countless stairs! I was ready to leave. Took me a bit of puzzling to find the exit, not the same place we came in, but through the gift shop areas

My next task wast to find someone to help me call for a taxi because I was not certain anyone would speak English if I called, and my Polish isn't good enough to explain where I was and where I wanted to go with any accuracy.

The area around the Kasa was now very quiet. I was approached by a young man, university age, handing out flyers for a restaurant. I asked him if he spoke English. Yes. I explained what I wanted and handed him my Polish phone. About 10 minutes later a taxi appeared and I went back to the train station.

I went into the train station to learn what peron for my train. Wow! it's beautiful.

 The blue area on the left side is the digital display announcing the train arrivals and departures.
This photo shows more detail for the cities' coat of arms that make up the room border.

 Here is the ceiling of the hallway that leads to the train platforms. When the peron area renovation is done this will truly be a wonderful station.

Great day visiting Malbork. Glad I waited this long, for last winter on PBS in the United States I watched a series of programs about castle offensive and defensive strategies. That knowledge made this visit much more meaningful.

Touring Artus Court

Every guidebook that has information about Gdansk recommends one see Artus Court. I surely didn't know what to expect. The In-Your-Pocket guidebook says this mansion is representative of the city's power in the 16-17th centuries. It was a place for rich patricians to conduct business. After a fire in 1841 it was given a more Gothic form.

The main hall is beyond beautiful. Everywhere one looks there is breath-taking beauty. A major feature is a stove that is about 10.5 meters tall. Each tile in the stove is different.

The four walls of the room hold chairs.

As can be see all the wall surfaces above the chairs are covered with paintings.

It wasn't until I got around to the fourth side that I realized that the back of each seat opens to what appears to be a safe in which to place documents or valuables. And of course the inside the door is decorated, so that beauty continues when the door is open.

Notice the decoration on each supporting column as well as the exquisite wood working.

 Something I had never seen before is the addition of a sculpture to a painting.

My photos do not do justice to the beauty of this mansion.

 The second floor of the mansion is area for education of children.

Here is a knight's tent.

And in the middle of the room -- a roundtable.

I've heard of King Arthur and the Round Table many times, but had no idea this is what it might have looked like.

When starting to exit the building, one passes by a poster that shows how a tenement mansion looked.

In the U.S. tenement is almost synonymous with slum. Well, the original meaning was anything but a slum.

Outside there is a small exhibit of actual parts of a tenement building. The above a stone from a terrace.

I really enjoyed seeing this treasure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Evenings along the River in Gdansk

On late Monday afternoon I did my first walk through the Green Gate towards the river.

I walked across a small pedestrian bridge to Wyspa (Island) Spichrzow. (I regret that right now my access to Wi-Fi is not strong enough to add video to my blog entries. Someday when I'm in  a strong Wi-Fi area, even if that means home, I'll put up a large number of videos.) Right now I can't share with you that every time one walks through the gate openings one finds very accomplished young adults playing all kinds of instruments. In fact one of the memories I'll take away from Gdansk is that almost always when on the street one is hearing excellent music.

A short walk brought me to a view of a pleasure boat dock area.

After looking into the shops here for a bit, I walked back across the bridge and then turned right, walking towards Targ Rybny.

I saw tugboats and

and a working barge. Made me feel right home, scenes I might see on the Mississippi.

Noticing French Fries on a customer's plate in a restaurant, I decided I was hungry. Stopped at a very nice restaurant and ended up with this lovely steak dinner.

After a month of chicken and pork, oh! steak did taste good! To the left, see just a glimpse of a glass of beer. This is the very best I've ever had. It must be a local brew, never have seen it before anywhere. In English the name translates to Golden Lions.

Wandered slowly back to my room for a rest after this lovely dinner.

On Tuesday evening I decided to be a real tourist.

 I decided to give this tourist boat a try. There are two like this, but neither was in the harbor. I found a young woman sitting along a table on the river side of the fence and she sold me a ticket for the 5 PM ride. Since I had not had any lunch, I went to a nearby shop and got  zapiekanki. I wondered as I stood along the river eating zapiekanki if anyone would suspect that I was an American here in Poland as a volunteer English teacher. (In fact, the first evening when I stopped for supper, the waiter noticed me at a table. He picked up three menus; I thought there must be two other customers nearby. No -- he came to ask if I needed Polish, English, or German! Today when buying some jewelry, the woman asked me first, "German or English?")

The boat ride sailed up stream. What I saw reminded me so much of doing boat trips in the Duluth harbor.

 The shore area is very industrial, not scenic.

We saw many ocean going vessels. This one, which appears to belong to a German company by the writing on the side, has the improbable name, Don Juan, and is registered in Singapore.

This large green boat caught my eye. As we were going upstream on our return, it was leaving the harbor accompanied by a pilot boat. It is the Charlemagne and is registered in Luxembourg.

We also saw Polferrie which sails between Gdansk and port south of Stockholm several times during the week.

We saw historical sites.

This is Westerplatte, the point at which World War II began.

This is a monument to those who fought against the attacking Nazi forces.

At the end of the shipping canal where boats enter into Gdansk Gulf there are light houses on both sides. Again it felt just as if one is leaving the shipping canal in Duluth to enter into Lake Superior.

I was really glad I did this boat ride. While it seemed hokey tourist, the thought came to my mind that it's just the same as taking a ride on the riverboats just across the river my apartment in Saint Paul. Glad I did it, for it gave me another view of this area.