Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finding Out About Language Camps

I am really getting behind of writing my personal blog this year while I teach in the Global Volunteer language camps in Poland. Part of the reason is that I spend some time every day helping to create content for the blog that appears on the Global Volunteers page. If you are interested in this blog, please go to

Once there scroll down and  look for the blog on the left hand side of the page.To find out what I'm doing select the Poland Service Program blog. Of course this area of the Global Volunteers web site will allow you to find out similar information about other service program areas too. Happy reading.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Rynek and the Ratusz

This is the first time I have been in a Polish city where the Ratusz is such a dominant feature. But then the history of Wrocław is that is has been part of other countries.

I first saw it from the distance when I went out to supper the first evening I was there.

 On Monday of my visit to the city I decided to walk back for a better look with my guide book in hand. The Lonely Planet guide for Poland says that this building took almost two centuries to complete; building started in 1327 and ended in 1504. In our now short-term thinking about projects it is hard to imagine spending this much time on construction of a building.

The guidebook says that this south side was constructed during the early 16th century and is termed as the most ornate side.

Above is a close-up of the clock found in the central area of this side.

This is the side that faces to western direction.

The photo above shows some of the carvings on the building is greater detail.

And the rynek in this city-- wow! The Lonely Planet guidebook says that the one in Krakow is bigger, but if so it must be only by a very few square meters, for the one inWrocław seems huge. One can walk about on all four sides whereas the one in Krakow seems to me to be laid out in two large rectangles. 

As one might expect the rynek is lined with restaurants and I enjoyed many of them. The food in this city is very good. 

But it was buildings that knocked me out. I had not expected the great variety of colors nor the style of the buildings. 

The guidebook says that buildings on the north and south side were badly damaged in WW II. The photo above shows buildings from the east side which may be highly representative of what the city looked like before the WW II.

The rynek is a great place for people watching. I enjoyed all the cups of iced coffee I had there while watching what was happening in the rynek.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Walking around Wrocław

This posting is about some random things I saw while walking around the city.

I started out to see the Animals, better than I did from the city tour.

Here's the rooster:

and his friends:

Notice the goose has a golden egg, I think made even more golden by being rubbed by many hands.

I found these animals introduced a visitor to a lane of artists' shops. I live now with my granddaughter in a quite small two-bedroom apartment and really can't have more "things." But oh yes! this will fit:

I got a pair of blue glass ear rings and have already worn them twice. I really like them. Pani Czak is a wonderful artist. When I started to set my purse down on a chair by the register in order to get my wallet out to pay I found the chair was made of glass!

Walking out of the lane, I turned towards the rynek and went by a bookstore that had this in the window.

English for Seniors. On another day I went by a poster on a street advertising computer courses for Seniorow. A new market seems be emerging in Poland.

This guy amused me. A bit of cultural fusion. In Minnesota if the colors were purple and gold we would call it a Viking.

I  walked by a building with eagles displayed in its facade.

My city tour guide had explained that they are facing both directions because one is saying welcome and the other is saying farewell.

This piece of graffiti is easy to understand. And over and over again I've been told that in Central Europe graffiti is considered part of personal expression.  These peoples had to work hard to attain the right of personal expression, so I can understand why they value it even in graffiti.

I managed to find a black current ice cream cone during my travels, but still haven't found caramel ice cream that my Zakopane students recommended to me.

Came upon this lovely summer scene.

And then found an interesting street display. One of my overwhelming impressions of Wrocław starting with my taxi ride in from the airport is that this city is green. 
This poster explains a public policy effort to change school grounds from gray to green. 

This one presents information about magnolias that bloom here is the spring -- I thought it was warm here. 
This one shows that neighbors went to together to establish a dahlia garden to soften the effect of the gray buildings in their neighborhood. 

Supper on this evening produced another new view. I ate at a Georgian restaurant. 

 Above is the bread. It tasted a bit different than any I've ever had but I can't figure out why. 

And here's my supper:

I like grilled pork shoulder very much, but who knew that dipping it into pomegranate sauce would make it even better!?!

And here's a lovely sunset view of buildings I see as I make my way back from the rynek to my hotel. 

First day in Wrocław

As noted in my previous post I arrived here quite tired, slept late, and went to breakfast sometime after 10:00 AM before the breakfast closed at 10:30. Thank heavens for the weekend extension of the breakfast time

And where is here? I'm am staying at the Hotel Dikul. I looked at a lot of possibilities before selecting this one. It is noted on web sites that this a renovated hospital building, and some reviewers said it was in a chancy neighborhood. Well, I think the neighborhood is just fine.

Yes, I can see the building may be old and renovated.

The stairwell has what people on HGTV would call character.

And the hallway floors may look a little bit like a hospital.

 But the lobby is what is what I call 21st Century European design.

And my room is whiz-bang! I wish I could take it home. There is a remote control to raise the head of the bed so I can turn it into a comfortable place to read or write this blog. I can control the room lighting from a switch by the bed. A large window makes the room seem very spacious, but I thought about the 4:30 AM sunrise in Poland and wondered about how I'd like that. Then I discovered a switch by the bed that raises and lowers a shade over the window. And on the ground level there is lovely patio.

I have enjoyed sitting under the shady arbor reading on my Kindle. And the Wi-FI works great out there too. What a treat!

After getting myself a bit organized for the day I took off walking to the rynek, this time trying to to find the more direct route than the one I had taken the previous evening. I headed for a spire. That is the Church of St. Elizabeth. My Lonely Planet guide says the tower is 83 meters high, but I had no interest in purchasing a ticket to make the climb. I had walked enough steps in the hotel in Koscielsko to make my osteo-arthritis return. (As I told my students there, I don't recommend badly fracturing your left leg when you are 29 years old!)

The church building looks like this.

And notice in the parking lot -- motorcycles. I have found much to my surprise that everyday there are many motorcyles, and I don't mean scooters, in this area of the city. They come complete with riders who wear helmets and black leather jackets.

I proceeded along to the rynek where I stopped  again at the Cafe Lwowska. Here I got the first of many iced coffees that I have enjoyed here during the warm spell of weather. In fact, this city is warm enough that I am practicing the art of walking on the shady side of the street or rynek anytime that is possible.

I enjoyed the musicians who came along the rynek area and played near each cafe.

After finishing the coffee I went to the corner where one finds the

Jaś and Małgosia Houses.

My guidebook says that German and English speakers know these characters better as Hansel and Gretel. 

About this time I was approached by a young man asking me if I would like to take a city tour. I've never done this before in Poland, but have heard other Americans discuss how much they have enjoyed similar tours so decided to take a chance. 

My tour guide was a 2nd year university student here. She explained she came from a village 150 kilometers away and is so glad she decided to attend the university here, saying the city is "so logical" in its design that she can find her way around, but never could have done that in Warsaw! The tour gave me a good idea of where to find the various things I wished to visit the next couple of days. Also when we were along the Odra River she offered to take my picture. 

So I have some proof I'm really somewhere else than Minnesota! 

After the tour I returned to Cafe Lwowska this time for obiad. Then I walked back to the hotel. I had a plan to go to a concert in the evening in the museum just across the street from me. 

Earlier in the day I had walked over to see if I could buy a ticket and was told to come back after 6:00. I got there about 6:30 and got a ticket without any difficulty. The concert was held in a large tent erected in the courtyard of the Arsenal, right across the street. This building, according to my guidebook says this building is the last remnant of the 15th century fortifications for the city.

The concert presented five compositions by Bach. Two were orchestral only and three included the vocalization of a mezzo-soprano, Urszula Kryger. Often the ones with the vocalization were almost a duet with an oboe played by Sebastian Aleksandrowicz. All in all it was terrific. I paid about $8.00 for this ticket, getting a seniorow ticket without asking for it, so I guess I'm starting to look my age. 

So I had a great first day in the city.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

From Zakopane to Wrocław

We left our hotel in Koscielsko about 7:10 AM in cloudy and rainy weather. We arrived at the Kraków International Airport terminal few minutes before 10 AM. There we left the volunteer taking out an international flight as well as one who wanted to take a bus or taxi into the city for a stay for the next few days. (Six of  the other volunteers had gone to Kraków the day before and one stayed behind in Koscielsko waiting to meet a friend for a few more days of touring in Poland.)

I didn't know until arrival at the Kraków airport two weeks ago that it was in construction chaos and as a result the train was not running between the airport and center of the city. Thus I was glad I had decided to fly to Wrocław rather than taking a train. The bus driver did his best to get me close to the Domestic Terminal, the place I needed to be since my flights were all within Poland. I had plenty of time before my 12 noon flight so first enjoyed a coffee.

We left right on time and arrived in Warszawa at 12:50 as scheduled. However, we were left way out on the tarmac and first needed a portable stairwell to leave the plane and then take a bus into the terminal. All of this took past my time for boarding my plane to Wrocław at 13:05. When I got into the terminal I found I was at gate 28 and needed to be at gate 3 so I hiked as fast as I could. Finally to gate 3 and no one there except the LOT staff. I said I had a ticket to Wrocław so they told me to go down the three flights of stairs and board the bus. I got on the bus and the doors shished shut one minute later-- that's how close I came to missing the plane. 

Got to Wrocław and again we needed the portable stairs and then a bus. The bus left us right at the door for baggage pick-up. I checked the monitor and found our bags were to come in on belt D along with bags for a flight from Frankfurt. Eventually the belt turned off and I didn't have a bag. I was convinced that my bag didn't make the tight connection. I was just about ready to find the Lost Luggage area when I noticed the monitor now said our bags were on belt A.  There was my lonely bag going round and round. 

I got a taxi and in about 20 minutes had been delivered to Hotel Dikul. (More about this in another posting.). I had eaten breakfast at 6:15 and the only food on both flights was a mini Prince Polo candy bar. I was hungry. I found the hotel didn't have a restaurant except for breakfast and was directed to go to the rynek where I would find many restaurants. 

By trial and error I finally found my way there, now knowing I went the very long way, entering through the Plac Solny. 

Plac Solny means place of the salt market, but now it's a flower market. 

I stopped at the first restaurant I found and ordered. 

Oh my! did this pasta dish-- chicken, broccoli and just a hint of bacon--  taste good! After eating this I walked to another restaurant where I had a wonderful plate of nalesniki.  I walked back to my hotel, laid down on the bed to read, and woke up at 3 AM still with my clothes on. I was really tired after the last eight weeks -- two weeks in Poland, three busy weeks back in Minnesota, and then nearly three more weeks in Poland. I was very glad that the breakfast time on Sunday morning was extended to 10:30. I barely made it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Off for a day of fun

On Tuesday of the second week of language camp in Zakopane, we left bright and early for day of fun. Our first stop was the castle at Niedzica. I have been here now 4 times, but thought on this day the view across the river to the Czorsztyn castle ruins was the best I had ever seen.

After hearing the story of Niedzica we walked across the top of the Czorszyn dam.

I saw this and was convinced it wasn't there last year.

When I saw the camp director come to a sudden stop when he saw this, I knew I was right! This is a new feature this year.

The dam area is the best place to take a photo of Niedzica.

Next we went to the place to begin the raft ride down the Dunajec river gorge. Those of us who had been here before could quickly see that all the rain from last week had caused the river to rise and the current was quite swift. We had a very pleasant ride through the gorge, arriving at the end of the ride almost 30 minutes early due to the swift current.

Dorota, our team leader had taken to the bus to the final destination so she could do some work on her computer while we were on the raft. When I heard that we were one kilometer away from the end, I pulled out my phone and send her a text that were almost at koniec. It is rather amazing actually to be out in the middle of a river and sending texts. I have T-Mobile service and now in U.S. plans international coverage is included. Formerly I have carried two phones -- one U.S. and one European. It is wonderful to have only one and also to be able to send texts back to the state anywhere I get service, not limited only to the places where I can find Wi-Fi.

Next we were taking the students to the start of a hike. But on our way lightening and light rain began and so the guide said, "No hike." The students applauded this decision!

We instead went to the village of Kroscienko. I was certain I had been here before. I could remember sitting on church steps in the shade on a very hot day, and Dorota confirmed that yes, we had stopped here last year. This time we walked to see a 14th century church

    Then we had free time. (sorry readers, as I write, blogger is having fits over what font to use.) One of the volunteers wanted to get to her e-mail so we searched for a place with Wi-Fi. We were directed to a certain restaurant. We all ordered something ranging from bigos to surowki. I had a nalesniki. 

     Yum, good. 

    We started to make our way back to Zakopane, but took a stop to see the Czorszyyn Castle ruins. I was really tired when we got here and asked how long the walk was. I was told10 minuted and elected to say on the bus. 40 minutes later when the rest returned I was glad I had stayed on the bus for a nap! 

    We returned to hotel around 6:00 PM, tired but pleased with an interesting day. 

    Polish Night at Language Camp

    We returned from our weekend adventures all a bit tired. I reviewed with my students what they wanted to do for the second week -- what should we do more and what should we not do. They wanted to do activities with other groups, so I worked on that during the week. This first evening of the 2nd week was also Polish Night, one of my favorite activities.

    We had pirogi for the evening meal, both savory and sweet.

    The sweet was strawberry and for me a bit of a nostalgic taste. My mother started cooking before the time of freezers and enjoyed canned strawberries. Even when we had a freezer, she still wanted to can some strawberries because she liked the flavor. I thought the cooked strawberries in the pirogi had the same flavor.

    We all met in the activity room in the hotel for the program. The students had found some good You-Tube videos to display Polish history. Another group spoke about special Polish foods. And they finished the program singing Kocham Cię Polksa. Since I have been to Poland many times "I get" the references and images within the song and enjoy it very much. 

    This was followed by some of the Polish staff giving us a lesson is how to remove just one Polish napkin from the holder. 


    Then we moved outdoors. Much to my surprise they decided to dance the Polannaise. 

    And after this they invited all of us to join in for a second dance. 

    Then everyone enjoyed roasting kielbasa over the bonfire.