Friday, June 27, 2014

Walking around Siedlce

Yesterday when driving me to the Hotel Arche, Dorota asked about the walks I do in the U.S. I told her they were usually 5k or 10K. "Well,' she said, 'you are further from the city center than that." So she graciously came to pick me up this morning and drop me at the new Galeria.

I had noticed it under construction in 2012 but when I was here in 2013 it wasn't finished. And when I was here in May we really had no free time in Siedlce. So I was delighted to see it.

The Galeria is beautifully designed, has clear signage, and it was just pure fun to see it. 

Above is part of the food court. Its customers, now about 10:30 in the morning were students who had just finished school. Dorota had told me I would see students all over town carrying certificates. Apparently on the last day of school students receive certificates indicating completion of a grade and/or news about where they are accepted for transfer as they move to gymnasium (middle school) and high school.

I certainly did window shop all over the place. I only made a purchase in the Empik Store. There I got an 18th birthday card for my granddaughter. An 18th birthday is big in Poland because then one can vote, drink, and what most young people are excited about -- get a driver's license. Many of them still have one year of high school left, since in this age group they did not enter first grade until age 7 years.

All over I saw this sign:

This means sale, and sometimes the sign is written in English too, not even in Polish.

At Empik I also got a set of English language Survival Cards. Each card has a series of phrases associated with common daily activities. I reasoned I could use the Polish half of the phrases for my "survival cards."

In this store I also found candy bouquets. In another I had found tea bouquets.

When I was ready for break I stopped at the Grycan ice cream store for a vanilla ice latte.

I decided next to take a bit of long walk to the post office and get the necessary stamps to mail my granddaughter's birthday card. I really confused the sales lady who helped me. She noted the envelope was empty. Yes, I wanted to translate the card first before mailing it, but I didn't have enough Polish to explain that, and it never occurred to me at the time to use the translator on my phone to explain that.

Next I wanted to see if the city museum had any temporary exhibits. I have seem permanent exhibits before. It is housed in the old city hall.

 I walked around to the entry door and didn't find any news about exhibits, but I did find a lovely rose garden.

Nearby is the oldest church in Siedlce.

On a cold winter night in 2010 I attended a concert in this church given in honor of Pope John Paul.

I also found a monument I've never noticed before.

It says, "This place is sanctified by the blood of those who defended the nation." It apparently relates to an event on October 17, 1943. (The person who commented below is exactly right -- the date is December 17, 1943). While I can't find definitive information I am guessing this has something to do with the transport of people of people out of Siedlce by the Nazis, these people destined for the concentration camps. This action occurred in late October. I know the people of Siedlce tried to prevent this in many ways, and I am guessing -- with sadness -- that there was retribution for their valiant efforts.

Now I decided to head for lunch at Cafe Brama.

Having had a late breakfast and then the latte I was very hungry. So I started with soup.

On the menu it said zurek with bread. I was expecting croutons in the soup, not a bread bowl. This is the first time I have seen soup served this way in Poland.

But after eating the soup, I did think dessert might fit.

I asked for something from the daily menu and was told it wasn't available, told by a shake of the head by the waitress. Then she suggested something that required about 2-3 sentences of Polish. I had no idea what I agreed to but was certain it would be good.

And indeed it was!!!

My last stop was at the Cathedral.

I use the church towers as a landmark to help me find my way around town.

I hadn't been inside for a couple of years. It was quite full of people at prayer and meditation, so I really couldn't take pictures. I stood way back the foyer for this.

By now it was time to meet Dorota for a ride back.

Back at the hotel I did a manicure, read the Minnesota news on the computer and just caught up with life a bit.

About 7:00 I wandered down to the hotel cafe for a lovely supper. A very nice day in Siedlce.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

From Amsterdam to Siedlce

Yesterday I took an afternoon KLM flight from Amsterdam to Warsaw. Again when checking in I was faced with having to pay 30 Euros to check a bag. This year is the first time I've encountered a fee for checking a bag in an inter-Europe flight. I again asked why and pulled our my Delta Sky Priority Card. In May I was told only to check with KLM Customer Service in Warsaw which I don't think excites. This time I was told my Sky Priority membership was not in their system.

The agent re-printed my boarding pass and also marked my luggage for priority delivery. He told me to go to the KLM web site and find customer service and write about the problem and the money would be refunded quite quickly. And I found that when I arrived in Warsaw my bag did receive priority service; it was the first one of the luggage belt.

I hit the bankomat and got some more Polish money and then went to the taxi stand. I got a taxi from the airport to the Boutique B&B for 40.40 PLN.  My arrival was at rush hour and the driver did an excellent job.

After checking in I walked to the nearby train station and got a ticket to go to Siedlce on jutro (tomorrow).

Then I walked to a nearby street for supper. I got a hamburger and french fries and Pepsi light. I reflected on how much Poland has changed since I came the first time in 2002. At that time getting a hamburger would have been impossible. And I got the Pepsi Light served with a glass of ice, without even asking for the ice.

I walked back to room and enjoyed a somewhat early night. But first I explored who was Hrabal.
At this B&B rooms are not numbered. Rather they carry word names. My room was Hrabal and the book shelf was full of his books -- all in Polish. The Internet didn't work well enough in my room for me to use the computer and my phone did only Google in Polish. But I figured out Hrabal is a Czech writer of renown. When I get back to the States I'm going to see if I can find one or more of his books in the library system.

This morning I was up early and enjoyed a fine breakfast at the B&B. I had some time to relax before it was time for the train.

The B&B had promised me some help with my large suitcase down the steps of the train station. It is heavy because of amount of teaching materials I am bringing as well as carrying a donated Netbook. I was told someone would meet me at the station, but didn't see anyone. So I started to do move my bags by myself. Two young Polish men rescued me, transferring my bags down to the bottom of the steps. Dziękuję bardzo,
Dziękuję bardzo.

Last summer many of the commuter line stations were closed for renovation. Now one has nearly a level surface for moving luggage, but I found there was still a large gap. There were a young man boarding the train and I said, "Proszę bardzo" and he helped me transfer the large bag. 
When I arrived in Siedlce I sat the small bag on the platform and just as I was reaching for the large one, another Polish gentlemen helped. Dorota was there in rain to help me get the luggage down the stairs and then up the stairs and to her car. 

She had found me a room in the Hotel Arche, a hotel located on the very eastern edge of Siedlce. 

The city's hotels are crowded right now due to a national mushroom growers' convention. It was only last year that I learned that growing mushrooms is a large agricultural effort in Siedlce County; thus, I wasn't surprised that the convention was here. 

After doing some hand laundry I wandered next door to place that looked like a pizza fast food shop. However, the daily menu had lots of other things, and nothing like a large slice of pizza with a drink. So I ended up just pointing to something on the daily menu written on a white board. The cook picked up a large contained, shook some in his hand so I could I see it was red pepper. I told him, "mały."

Here's what I received: 

 It was very tasty. 

I came back to the hotel and worked with the donated netbook that I carried to Poland. Discovered it lacks any software on it that is useful for what we had envisioned would be its use. (We have since made a plan to leave it here for work in the week between the Zakopane camp and the start of the language camps at Reymontowka.) Tried napping too but kept being awakened by my phone announcing that I had mail. About 5:00 I discovered the rain seemed to have blown away so decided to take a little walk. This area is furniture store heaven, and since I'm not in the market for furniture, not to much to see or do. 

I tried the Topaz market and enjoyed walking about. 

Here's what I carried back: 

chocolate Krowka, Princessa Bars, a Milka bar with raisins and nuts, and chips. Missing from the picture is instant coffee. My memory is that the hotel in Zakopane has hot pots in every room and I'm going to be prepared from Day 1!

I came back to the restaurant in the hotel. Since I had had a small lunch, at least by Polish standards, I was ready for a bigger evening meal. It was all good!

Explored the TV, but no English channels such as International CNN or BBC. And much to my surprise I couldn't find any World Cup games, only Wimbleton on Polish Sports Channel, yet I saw a World Cup game being played on a monitor in the lobby. 

Hoping tomorrow in sunshine and bit warmer. Planning to see what's new in the city center. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

From Saint Paul to Amsterdam

Early Monday evening I left my apartment, stopping at Lund's to say good-bye to my granddaughter, and then took my luggage and me to the 10th Street Station of the Green Line. From there I traveled to the Downtown East station in Minneapolis where I had to pull the bags across the tracks to the other side and catch the Mall of America train. I missed the connecting train by about 30 seconds, so had to wait a good 10 minutes for the next one. 

At the airport I took two elevators up to differing levels in the airport -- a safer way to move about with two suitcases -- and then took the blue train into the main terminal area. Then another elevator up to the ticketing level. There is an English idiom, "sweat equity," meaning one works to save money. In this case, I surely did put in some sweat equity. Traveling this way cost me the princely sum of $2.25, quite a savings over a taxi or shuttle fare.

There I went to the drop luggage line. There I found my printed out boarding pass was a problem. For some unknown reason it had printed out very small and computers can't read the bar code. That problem solved for checking luggage. I found my larger bag weighed in at 42 pounds. It holds many games and other materials for teaching English as well as a netbook another volunteer is donating to the Global Volunteer program in Poland -- oh, and some clothing for the next 9 weeks!

My boarding pass was printed with a TSA pre-check symbol, but again the bar code problem. There I was told it would be quicker to go through the regular line than back track to Delta and have a new boarding pass printed.

Through security and had plenty of time to make my flight. And again the same problem with the bar code. I will surely ask for a new boarding pass when I get to the airport if I every have this print-out problem again.

I had a very nice aisle seat. When my seat mate arrived she asked me if I liked aisle seats or window seats. I told her either one is OK. Then she asked if I would change seats with her son, so they could sit together, so I ended up in a window seat. It was right over the wing, and that was the only thing one could see out the window.

I was glad to have put a shawl into my handbag, for when I got to the changed seat I couldn't find the blanket provided by the airline. I was able to sleep perhaps two hours on the flight.

Got into Amsterdam perhaps just a few minutes early, picked up my luggage and walked to the Citizen M hotel.  I crashed out for an afternoon nap. Then I walked back to Schiphol Plaza for supper.  I was looked forward to eating at La Place. This is one of my favorite places in Amsterdam Central and only in my last visit here in May did I discover there is branch too at Schiphol Plaza. I picked up a nice supper of fruit and a "herby" cheese roll.

Then while placing it on the shelf at the cashier's line, I did something to cause it to become unbalanced and it crashed to the floor. The staff was so very nice. They told me to go back and choose again what I wanted to eat. One young woman ran for a broom and dustpan and cleaned everything up.

So I did as told and got my supper again. It was all so very good. The cheese roll did have some kind of herb, but I couldn't decided for certain just what it was. And the fruit was so very favorable. This restaurant advertises that everything is 100% natural, and it shows in the fine flavors of the food. The strawberries and pineapple were so very good.

I found my favorite shop in Schiphol Plaza for picking up water and chocolate bars is closed and under renovation. So I tried the supermarket for the chocolate bars and got a carton of water down in the canteen of the hotel.

Slept well -- perhaps my body remembers European time since I've only been away for 3 weeks.

Had my favorite raisin bun with a cappuccino for breakfast this morning. Looking forward to getting into Siedlce on Thursday where I will have time to sort through my suitcases and take out all the teaching materials I plan to use later this summer at Reymontowka. This sort-out will help me determine whether I really brought everything I planned to take or accidentally left something at home.

Off as far as Warsaw today. Hope to find it warm enough to eat supper at an outdoor cafe.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Walking in Upsala

Yesterday, Saturday June 21, I did the Volksmarch in Upsala MN. As soon as I saw this on the schedule it was on my list. I'm doing a book called Walking the US  A-Z and a Walking Minnesota A-Z. Finding a town that begins with the letter, U, is a bit of a challenge and all that I did find where located quite a distance, such as Texas or Washington, from where I live.

Upsala is named for Upsala, Sweden. The present population is a bit more than 400 persons. It is located in Morrison County. My Minnesota Geographic Names books explains this county is named for two brothers, William and Allan Morrison. Both were born in Montreal Canada near the start of the 19th century. Each came to the Minnesota territory as representatives of fur trading companies.

I started out for this walk very early in the morning, for I had an activity in Saint Paul during the afternoon. I was away a few minutes after 6:00 AM. About an hour later I saw a sign that reminded me that Emma Krumbees now has a restaurant north of the Twin Cities. I stopped there for breakfast about 7 AM.

This featured apple fritter bread. That is something I may try to make after my return from Poland in the late summer. It is very good.

After driving about another 30 minutes I took an exit from the i-94 freeway to Minnesota 283. I had never been on the road before. It went through a rural area featuring now in late June every possible color of green. Near Upsala I ran into fog and had to travel very slowly. Finally in town I found the Borgstrom House, which was the location for the start/finish of the walk.

I quickly signed up for the 5K walk; the route immediately took us by the water tower, so that those of us who are using the Water Tower book could use this walk for that.

The route directed us south along Main Street to 3rd Street West. This provided a crossing of the North Two River. Isn't that a great name!?!

There we walked a large rectangle on the streets and returned to Main Street. The route took us north on Main Street, again directing us to walk some rectangles so that we were getting the necessary meters towards a 5 K walk. Here I was walking along the very edge of the town with agricultural fields on one side.

Above is a picture of pond, a result of the deluge of rain we have had in the past weeks. Along MN 283 I saw many flooded farm fields and areas of drowned crops.

While walking along I noticed the post office across the street. It certainly looked as if it should be further west in the United States not in Minnesota.

The route next directed us to walk to the right of a church.

From that vantage point one could see another church over in the valley.

Then I headed around the school buildings and walked back south and then east back to Main Street. Here I spotted the General Store -- more signs of the West!

Then back west and south where I found a yard lined by ladybugs.

Near here I found another symbol of the western United States area.

No, there really are not road runners in Minnesota.

By now I was near the end of the walk and back to the Borgstrom House. Click here for information about the house.

The house holds many historical objects associated with Upsala.

One thing that intrigued me was the hat collection.

This was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning in summer.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Learning More about Jan Karski

On Tuesday we had conquered the move well enough that I could take some time off for something else. My first activity was to return library books before leaving for Europe next week. This was accomplished by using the new Green Line light rail for the first time for real activity, having taken a practice run to the airport on Sunday when all the buses and trains were free throughout the entire Twin Cities.

I took it to the Dale Street Station which is right next to the Rondo branch of the Saint Paul Public Library system. Then I took the train back east to the Rice Street/Capitol Station.

The art associated with this station relates to Human Rights.

 To reach the Capitol building one walks through a small park.

The roses are very fragrant this time of week. And then nearby I found a memorial to Lief Ericson.

The monument marks the discovery of North America by Ericson in the year 1000. I understand how this may have happened, now that I have become familiar with the time of years 900-1300 known as the Medieval Warm Period.

The capitol building is undergoing significant renovation. Thus, while I was approaching it from the north side, I had to walk around to the south side to enter the building.

Up the steps and then into the Capitol. I found the Karski exhibit presented in a series of posters in the North Hallway.

I had learned about Karski first when I was in Kielce, Poland and found a statue of him.

Here I first saw a picture of what he looked like at age 28.

By this time he had already lived a lifetime of experiences. He was born in Łódż and christened in the Catholic church as Jan Kozielewski. Karski is a name he adopted when he became part of the Polish Underground during World War II.  At the time he was growing up Łódż was a very multi-ethnic city with a majority population of Jewish people. 

His father died when he was six years old and his older brother, Marian, became a father figure for him. His mother, Walentenja, was very firm in her belief that Poland should be a free country. She was also firm in her belief that all people should be treated with tolerance regarding their differences. She taught her children to be kind to their Jewish neighbors.

Karski was well educated, graduating from a university where he received both military and diplomatic training. As part of his diplomatic training he served in Romania, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK. 

When Poland was invaded in September, 1939, Karski became part of the Krakow Calvary Brigade. He was captured by the Red Army and taken into an area which is now present day Ukraine. There he persuaded the army officials that he was a private, not a military officer and was allowed to return to Poland. This action saved him from the Katyn Massacre. 

In 1940 while acting as a courier for the Polish Underground, he was captured by Nazis in an area of the Tatra Mountains in present day Slovakia. He tried to commit suicide as a way to avoid possibly revealing any secrets, but was unsuccessful. He was taken to a hospital in Nowy Sacz and rescued from there by the Polish Underground. 

We say the Polish Underground but the people involved called it the Polish Secret State. 

This naming distinction becomes important later. 

By this time his brother, Marian, was part of the police force in Warsaw. Karski worked with Marian in 1942 who smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto so that he could see first hand the conditions inside. He also worked briefly disguised as an Estonian at a Death Transfer Camp near Lublin. Karksi was chosen for this mission because of his command of a number of languages, including English.

With all this information Karski now went to England where he met with Polish government in exile. He met with high-ranking British military and political figures, telling them about the Holocaust underway on the continent. He met with President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. in 1943 telling this same story. All who heard him were skeptical and unconvinced.

Karski never returned to Poland until 1989. In 1944 he worked with Hollywood to make a film about the Polish Secret State. He became a faculty member of the School of Foreign Affairs at Georgetown University for the remainder of his working life. 

In 1974 he received a Fulbright Award and used this award to write the book, The Great Powers and Poland: 1919-1945. As a Fulbrighter myself I was excited to learn of he is part of the Fulbright Family and humbled that I'm in part of a group that includes someone such as Karski. 

In 1989 Karski returned to Poland where he was awarded the Order of the Eagle. 

And in 2013 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by the United States, an action related to the coming centenary of his birth in 2014.

The story of Karski is a sad story in many ways. Lives perhaps could have been saved had the railroad lines to the death camps been bombed and destroyed. And I wish I could remember the source of this quote: Yes, Poland should have done more to help the Jews. On the other hand, Poland did more than any other country. One source I found on the internet says that Roosevelt asked Karski about the status of Polish horses, but didn't ask him anything about Jewish people living in Poland. I remember being on plane coming back from Poland with a seat mate who said it was interesting how Poland gave up the Jews. Well, that comment upset me very much, but one has to sit beside this person for the next 8 hours, so I simply said I thought he needed to learn more and hear more stories. The story of Karski is a shining star for what Polish people tried to do and what people in other countries didn't try to do.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Moving Adventure

My older granddaughter has been living with me since early April and plans to stay with me for at least two years while she starts college here in the Twin Cities. So it was time to move to a 2 bedroom apartment and get her off the sofa bed!

We started moving some things on Friday and since it was down the hall and around the corner, I moved primarily by putting things on a cart and just doing it myself and without a lot of packing -- trying to put things back in almost the same place they had left.

On Saturday afternoon I had professional movers come to move the large furniture pieces -- because they are heavy and because most of them have to be taken apart and put back together.  Also on Saturday a bed was delivered for my granddaughter. By Sunday afternoon I had everything moved except for the TV monitor mounted on the wall.

So I took off for a ride on the new light rail practicing for my trip to the airport in the coming week. When someone asked me where I was going and I said the airport, the reply was: "My, you are brave."Well I think I'm braver when I travel in other countries where I can't speak the language at all fluently and don't exactly know the procedures for how one buys tickets and what happens after that!

Today we most everything put away. Geek Squad was to come between 8:00 - 12:00 to take care of the TV monitor moving. Then I got a call it would be between 9:00 - 11:00. Finally a bit after 11:00 someone called explaining she was lost. I met her in the lobby and that's when I found she thought she was coming to repair a computer! We did get the TV off the wall safely and moved all the cables, etc, to my apartment, but couldn't get the mount off the wall. She did call for some more help for me. About an hour later someone called and said asked what was the problem and they would check my account. I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen today -- and today I had to turn in the keys to the old apartment. Then the best thing happened -- suddenly a call from someone saying he was standing in front of my old apartment. I told him I'd be right down. I could see why we couldn't bet the bolts out. -- He had to use an electric drill to do it.

He did get my TV monitor mounted in my new apartment in about 20 minutes and I turned in the keys and made a 3:00 appointment elsewhere in town.

Tomorrow Comcast is supposed to show up and then things should start to get more normal. And while writing this I received a confirmation call about this. Right now I'm writing from the Lund's store on the ground floor  of the building near the Caribou stand. So all this has kept out of mischief for the past few days, that's for sure.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Walking in Gaylord

Well, for the first time when I found an error in a blog post and started to correct that, I hit delete instead of edit and it disappeared. So if you are among those who may have read this and then find the same titled entry just a bit different, that is why.

In the last entry I wrote I mentioned taking a bad fall. Two days after that I thought about doing this walk, but that morning I couldn't even bend enough to put on socks, so it didn't seem wise to take off for a 10K walk. By the early afternoon, however, I thought perhaps I'd give it a try. So I headed out for Gaylord, MN,

When I first joined the Minnesota Department of Health my job was to be the department's consultant in the middle part of the southern half of the state, and Gaylord, in Sibley County, was a place I went often. It was my least favorite destination for at that time, one couldn't get lunch or even a cup of coffee in this county seat town.  I was curious to see how the town may have changed.

Gaylord is named for an official of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway. It is one of several towns in Sibley County arranged on an east-west axis, each about 7 miles apart. This was the distance a steam locomotive could travel before it needed either to add fuel or water.

Sibley County is named after Henry Hastings Sibley, who came to Minnesota from Michigan in the early 19th century. His first job was as an agent for the American Fur Company, which at that time was an economic giant. His political career included being a representative to Congress for the territories of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota before they became states, and he served as the first governor of Minnesota after it became a state. His Wikipedia biography notes that his six children were all born in the same house, but each was born during a time of changing boundaries, each was born in a different political unit ranging from Michigan to Iowa to Minnesota.

This walk began from a Casey's gas station and convenience store. Casey's is hosting many walks in the central part of the state. I walked out of the store and proceeded a couple of blocks south and then west and found myself on the western boundary of the town.

On one side are corn fields, growth a bit delayed because of the late spring we had in Minnesota this year.

On the other side I found a nice example of most of the homes in this town, most being built in the mid-20th century.

I continued along this road until it ended at the town's northern boundary and then turned east. There I found this picturesque barn.

Soon the route turned south. There I found this warning sign in a neighborhood.

This warns motorist that a child lives in the neighborhood who has a hearing loss. Motorists are to be especially cautious to watch for a child who may be on the road and unable to hear an approaching car. I don't know if this is a Minnesota thing or if this type of sign is also used in other states and/or other countries.

The walk route was taking me along baseball fields and tennis courts. And then I found one large stadium-type area getting ready for a game that evening.

Earlier in the walk I could see blue and white structures in the distance. These turned out to be part of the aquatic park - a place that was quite busy on this pleasant Sunday afternoon.

The walk route next directed me to take a circle walk through the cemetery. I found the very oldest gravestones to be quite interesting.

This one, for example, is marked in old German cursive. Many of the oldest gravestones represented German families. I didn't know the German influence was so large in this town. In this same area I found a number of gravestones for teens and young adults, who all died in 1919. I am guessing they were victims of the 1918-19 flu pandemic which was particularly virulent for young adults.

I circled back to the swimming area and then around to a gazebo where I found that this city park is now part of the Register of Historic Places.

Next I was directed towards a small bridge that crossing a ravine leading into a lake.

These children playing there probably represent many generations of kids who have enjoyed this spot.

Walking across the bridge gave me a good view of Titloe, sometimes spelled Titlow, Lake. My geographic names book doesn't give me any information about why this lake has this name.

My goal was to find a stone fireplace which served as a check point for this walk.

On the fireplace chimney is a sign noting the Gaylord Cornet Band was created in 1945, the factoid I needed to find for this walk.

I retraced my steps a bit, finding this interesting fungus.

Next I headed by a children's playground and then turned west to begin the final part of the walk back to the start/finish location. I noticed these guns in this distance.

I walked off route to see if I could find an explanation -- no luck. Instead what I found were time capsules. Here's an example.

And then in about five minute walk I found myself back to the start/finish location where I got a good view of the town's water tower.

This walk proved to a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And I really scored on my record books. It obviously counted for the event and distance books, but also I could mark the Minnesota County book, the National Register book, the Lakes and Reservoir book, and the Water Tower Book! Not bad for a 6K stroll.