Thursday, August 20, 2015

Art at the PURO Hotel

In a previous blog I wrote about my stay at the PURO Hotel in Poznan. I had been admiring and wondering about all the art I found about the hotel. Only on the last evening there did I find a brochure that explained about this. The brochure I found says "design meets  your surrounding environment" and that "the PURO Hotels aim to capture the history and culture of the surrounding city whilst providing an artistic feast for the eyes and mind." This art makes the PURO a restful and enjoyable place to stay. 

In the restaurant there is one long wall over the entrance areas to the kitchen and above the service area for the breakfast buffet. I kept looking at the jars on the wall and it certainly looked like broken dishes to me. Well, I was right.

The brochure I found explains this art was created by a tutor and students from the Poznan School of Form. Ceramic pieces were sourced from local factories. The smashed, broken, and colorful pieces were placed in jars to create a unique and unexpected interpretation of the every day plate.

And what were the everyday plates? Some are displayed nearby on a bureau. Below is a sample.

Below is a photo of something that definitely is not an everyday dish.

This art form is the work of Marta Szostek. It is made from broken porcelain pieces highlighted with gold. Pani Szostek is a student at the School of Form.

On one wall of the restaurant within the PURO Hotel hangs this photographic work shown below.

The brochure says this work "seizes the moment inside the PURO's NIFTY NO. 20 restaurant." The PURO specially sourced this work done by Ian Lanterman of Vancouver, Canada.

On the shelving between the common area and the hallway leading to the restaurant are many interesting pieces.

This is one of a collection of works designed to reflect the Baltic Sea. It is the work of Olga Milczynska. a tutor at the Poznan School of Form. She also has works in the PURO hotels in Krakow and Gdansk.

The brochure calls the two pieces below "Commissioned Polish Lace." However, the pattern is a rather universal one. My Dutch great-grandmother crocheted the same pattern! 

In the lobby foyer hangs a painting called Cactus Flowers.

 The brochure says it is a "linear composition inspired by the colours, forms, and materials that feature strongly withing PURO's brand identity." This may not make sense until one stays at the PURO and sees how much linear stripes of black and white are used for the PURO brand. This painting is the work of Michael Afas, a resident of Arizona.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Watching the Goats!

Did I do any sight-seeing in Poznan? Well not much. The combination of heat and a sore knee put a damper on my plans. But on Tuesday of the week I spent there, I really needed to find a Bank-o-Mat, what an ATM is called in Poland. My staff at the hotel desk did their best to explain to me where to find one near-by. I didn't find one on a cross street so continued down to the rynek. There I asked a young man who was putting out chairs for an outdoor cafe where to find a Bank-o-Mat. He pointed straight ahead and with a bit more walking I found a sign for a 24 hour Bank-o-Mat. One had to open a door from the street and enter into a foyer. It actually is quite obscure from the rynek. This may be purposeful, because I hear stories about that the present mayor of Poznan has his own ideas about the design of details about the rynek. Now every umbrella must be a bland beige - all the same colors about the rynek. Personally I like the ryneks in cities that have more variety for details.

I finished my task a bit after 11:00 and decided it would be a perfect day to watch the clock on the Town Hall strike 12 noon. I went to nearby cafe where I would have a good view of the clock and ordered an iced coffee.

These and Lipton Peach ice tea sort of make hot summer days in Poland bearable.

The Town Hall was right in front of me.

The two photos below show a bit of detail on the building.

I watched this mime trying to pick up a few coins. I thought this a very hard way to make money on a day when the temperature was well over 90 degrees (34C).

The legend for the goats is that a banquet was once being prepared -- perhaps in the 17th century. The chef burned the venison and had to improvise quickly and remembered there were goats nearby. Well the goats had a different idea; they ran from the kitchen up into the clock tower -- and there they have been ever since.

There was a bit of a crowd gathered even on a Tuesday to watch the clock -- but nothing like I had observed on Sunday when I walked in the same area to have lunch with friends.

The clock strikes 12 noon and then these doors open ---

Then the goats appear --

and they engage in head butting as only goats do.

Perhaps the goats approve of our drinking coffee while we wait for their appearance. After all another legend says they are responsible for our drinking coffee in the first place. (Interested? See my blog posting from January 2015 about the dancing goats at

I had really planned to go to the museum inside the Town Hall, but got further turned off from that idea by the noise and mess from an archeological dig going on in front of the Town Hall. I couldn't even figure out where the entrance was and knew my knee simply wasn't up to the search and then walking stairs within the building. Another year will be better for that idea.

Walked back to Puro Hotel to enjoy a wonderful lunch and the air conditioning. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Everything's Up to Date in Poznan Poland

but I don't know if I would find this kind of hotel in Kansas City or any place in the United States.

My church has three services on Sunday, one starting at 4:30 PM. After the late afternoon service there is a soup supper. I don't usually stay for that, but did one time in early January because I had a volunteer activity to complete after the soup supper. My church has more than 1000 members so it is not possible to know everyone, particularly since people make a habit about which service they choose.

I sat down to eat soup by a man I'd never met before. He asked if I was retired and I told him yes, but rather was trying to be a fulltime volunteer. When I told him about teaching English in Poland, he began asking me questions about that. He said he was reading a book with the thesis that the three best educational systems in the world are found in Finland, South Korea, and Poland. He said, "How could this happen in Poland when it is an undeveloped country?" Well, I quickly told him Poland is NOT an undeveloped country.

I find technology is being implemented is wonderful ways in Poland, so I'm going to describe my hotel. Puro Hotels are found in Poznan, Krakow, Wroclaw, and Gdansk. I picked a reservation with Puro because its location was close to the rynek and because it had an in-house restaurant.

Here is the outside. I walked in and  found two Puro staff at computers ready to help me. I gave them my name and one handed me an envelope and said, "Here's your key." Just like that I was checked in.

The key is needed to operate the elevator -- many have been in elevators (lifts in British English and windy in Polish) that need a key, but this one is easy. Just swipe it. No trying to figure out what slot to put it in or whether to leave it there and so forth. And obviously it opens the room door too. The key is also needed to operate the electricity within the room.

I was given two keys and that is great help. I can leave one key in the slot to keep the electricity on to charge electronics while I'm out of the room and have the other key to use to return to the room.

The room has very modern decor. And you can see my trusty pink cane leaning against the bed.

The bathroom is wonderful.

At the right in the photo is the wonderful walk-in, rain shower.

The rectangular shape shown in the picture above is the drain. I always look for the drain after an experience in Berlin. I was in the shower, water running, when I looked down and thought, "There is no drain in this shower." Then I noticed an almost imperceptible space between the tile edge of the shower floor and the wall of the shower and that's where the water drained. Another time in Krakow I nearly flooded the bathroom. I thought the drain was plugged. I reported this to reception and they told me the construction was wrong in the room and the housekeeping has to clean up the water every time!  So shower drains are on my mind!

The wall of the shower has translucent glass. So there is a curtain that can moved across this wall if there is a need for privacy in the shower.

 The art about the hotel is very modern as well.

The ground floor has the restaurant and then common seating areas with an outdoor garden to one side.

Above is one view of the restaurant area.

Above is a view of part of the common area and the outdoor garden. My Wi-fi connections work just fine here and in the restaurant as they do in my room, but they do have to renewed every 24 hours. The key card operates the coffee machine in the common area. It is lovely to go sit there with a book and a chocolate cappuccino.

But here is the most fun, One operates everything within the room with an Ipad. It controls the lights, the temperature, can be an alarm clock, one can make local and international calls without charge, use the internet, order room service, operate the TV, put on a do not disturb symbol on the room door pad, order room cleaning, and alas check out.

The Citizen M chain, stay at the in Schiphol all the time, that began in the Netherlands is much like the Puro Hotels -- but related to can you find this in the United States -- yes, Citizen M now has a hotel in Times Square.

I had great fun yesterday afternoon using Google Translate on the Ipad while watching Polish television, What's that word -- zip through Google Translate and there it is is.

When thinking about making a reservation for the hotel I of course read reviews and found one where customers complained that they were too old to use the Ipad -- they reported their age as being in their 30s! Well my kids are almost out of their 30s and I can figure this out and I think using technology this way is awesome.

It's not all Pierogi!

I came to Poznan to enjoy in particular the Historical Museum housed in the magnificent City Hall, but a combination of the heat and arthritis has caused me to limit my walking. I have eaten most of my meals in the Puro Hotel, where I'm staying, and oh my! I'm eating well. I chose this hotel for its close location to the Stary Rynek and also for the fact that it has an in-house restaurant and free coffee in the common area, so I knew I would be fine if the arthritis problem became difficult.

In May when I was on a Global Volunteers program, one team member was of 100% Polish ancestry and lived in a Polish-American community. The May program was his first time in Poland. He told me his biggest surprise about the "real" Poland is that people don't eat pierogi for every meal. Pierogi are good, but there is so much more!!!!

The first evening after arriving in Poznan I went downstairs to the Nifty 20 Restaurant. One doesn't have to be afraid about ordering. An English menu is readily available in restaurants in large and mid-size cities. I remember once though when I got a Polish menu and was sure I had ordered pasta with fruit, thinking fruit was a bit different than vegetables with pasta for the mid-day meal. When it was served I thought I had surely made a mistake reading the Polish menu, that is until I bit into something I thought was a cherry tomato and it turned out to half of a strawberry. Hey, I did read the word for fruit correctly.

Below is not the greatest photo I've ever taken but it does show that menu is available in English.

My first evening here I chose the baked trout. This is somewhat common dish in Poland, but I think this is the first time I've ever had it. Just look at the beautiful presentation.

I finished this meal with one of the many cakes available for dessert.

This one had a pastry crust, almost like the crust for an American pie. The filling is smetana, hopefully that is spelled correctly. Smietana is all purpose word for anything between sour cream and whipped cream, and one has to figure out in context what it is. For example, one wouldn't put whipped cream on a potato. When it is the sweet version, it is less sweet than American whipped cream. And look at the beautiful fruit.

When it is hot in Poland, the drink I like best is Lipton Peach Ice Tea. Here I ask for it is ice and one time the waiter asked me too if I wanted one from the refrigerator or the room temperature shelf. Oh, yes, please the refrigerator.

My first breakfast is about like any others I have had here.

Very good scrambled eggs, excellent bacon, very nice pastry rolls, and this time only naleśninki. I put my fork beside the naleśninki(hopefully spelled correctly in Polish, this is a word I stumble on all the time) so one can see how tiny (maletki -- a new word I learned from my students when I taught them the word, tiny) they are. 

At 1:00 in the afternoon on my first day I met friends at a cafe on the rynek. I had the pork salad, chosen because I've never had a salad with pork before -- yes, chicken, shrimp, etc, but pork was new. This salad had small pieces of roast pork as well as small pieces of ham. I was so busy talking I forgot to take a picture. 

Back at the hotel I tried the carrot soup for supper. It was perfect with just the right amount of ginger. 

The next morning I had the scrambled eggs and bacon, but added this instead.

It was cool enough to enjoy a cup of cappuccino in the garden area after breakfast.

This gave me a chance to see the back side of a tenement in Poznan.

On another day of my stay I decided to have whole orange rather than orange juice. Check the label as to its origin.

On Tuesday of my stay I was running out of cash and needed to find a Bank-o-mat. That forced me to take my gimpy leg out into the heat and walk down to the Stary Rynek.  I found the Bank-o-Mat easily enough and then had to sit down in a cafe to rest.

There I ordered mrożona -- ice coffee. Well technically frosty coffee. It took me some time to figure out the word for ice coffee comes from the Polish word for frost rather than the Polish word for ice. Anyway it is a wonderful drink on a hot day.

Because I had enjoyed the above about 12:00 noon, I thought a light mid-day meal was in order so I asked for the Caesar Salad with chicken.
This was very good.

In the evening I tried the pork chop entree.

Again this was a great choice.

Now I can't remember if I had the dessert below at mid-day or in the evening. Ah, the problems of travel -- so much good food, one can't remember which meal!

This was loaded with nuts and chocolate bits.

A new thing I tried another day was a typical Greek Salad with feta cheese and olives, but as you may be able to see in the photo, also watermelon. I've never thought about adding watermelon to this type of salad.

On another day I was really hungry for the mid-day meal so ordered from the weekly special menu. This dish was called Chicken Supreme.
In the evening of the same day I had an amazing hamburger.

I don't like onions so ordered it without. Instead the chef created a layer of radishes. I ate this in layers with my fork and knife. This certainly wasn't a burger one could pick up and eat like we do burgers in the United States.

Overnight there was a rain shower and the temperature cooled down into the 80s. Thus I thought my excuse was gone -- I could walk a bit. I started out to the rynek to find a restaurant for the mid-day meal. However, about two blocks from the hotel I walked by a Why Thai. There was a sign out front saying that today's special was a chicken and cashew stir fry. I was hooked.

 The restaurant is decorated in a minimalist Asian style.

Here's the stir-fry.

I finished off this meal with an ice cream.

 One might assume this is vanilla ice cream, but again it is a version of smietana. Its flavor is a bit different than vanilla. And I'm certain this is the first time I've had star fruit as the fruit with the ice cream.

So you can see, pierogi may be wonderful -- but there is so much more to eat. And it's all so very good.,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

From Warsaw to Poznan

I am writing this blog post because I find there are many who wish to visit Poland and other Central European countries but feel they cannot do so because they do not speak the languages of Central Europe. Really, it is easy to fly to and within Central Europe. 

Last Saturday I left Reymontówka with the other team members about 8:30 in the morning. Our leaving time ensures all will make their flights back to their homes or elsewhere for their travels as well as to ensure also that the transportation back to Reymontówka is at the airport for those arriving on the next team. We arrived at the Warsaw airport about 10:00 AM. Luggage carts are readily available when one gets to an airport such as this; they are free unlike how we handle luggage carts in the United States.

My flight on last Saturday was to Poznan where I planned to visit for a few days, and I was using LOT airlines for this flight. For a LOT flight and for nearly every other airline one obtains a boarding pass by using a kiosk. This is exactly that same way that I get my boarding passes at Amsterdam Schiphol airport too. 

Next one has to check baggage. While waiting in this line I saw this billboard size poster above my head. 

The person who helped me with checking my baggage spoke very good English. One doesn't have to do this task in Polish in Poland nor in Hungarian in Hungary or in Romanian in Romania! English is spoken at nearly every international airport and also within many of the domestic airports in Central European countries. 

LOT also wished to weigh my carry-on luggage. Next comes access to the security. Now at both the Warsaw airport and Amsterdam Schiphol one gains access to this by placing the bar code of the boarding pass on a reader. 

I had plenty of time before my flight to Poznan so went looking for food. 

This is cappuccino with sernik, which is Polish cheese cake. This version  had a crust made from chocolate and nuts and then chocolate frosting on the top. What's not to love about that. If you've not had sernik before, the first serving will surprise you. It is not a rich in fat nor as sweet as most American versions of cheesecake 

Eventually I wandered to my boarding gate. It was easy to know if I was in the right area. The Warsaw airport is very modern with all digital signage. 

 Above is the sign when it appeared in Polish and below is the sign when it appeared in English. In the case of these cities the difference between Polish and English is quite subtle. 

I would just add a caution that the English spelling of the city as Cracow causes Americans to totally mispronounce it. It seems Americans too want to put an emphasis on the cow syllable. I keep saying there is no cow in that city. One American woman snottily told me, "I'll say it anyway I want to." That kind of attitude is what gives American travelers a bad rap. And I didn't correct her in any public way just quietly told her how to pronounce the name of the city. 

And the boarding gate looks like just any other boarding gate in any modern airport. 

 While waiting at the gate I spent time reading but also seeing some unique things. First a security guard came by riding on a segway. In the same area as my gate to Poznan was a gate to Kraków. One person intending to go there was priest wearing a black short sleeve shirt with a clerical collar coupled with black Bermuda shorts. That sight was a first for me -- but it surely made sense on such a hot day. And while waiting I noticed emergency medical service attendants arriving nearby, again on segways,  and checking out the vital signs on a whole family. Don't know what the story was about that for no one appeared to be in great distress.

 It is not uncommon to walk down stairs to a bus that takes one out on the tarmac to the plane We took quite a tour of the Warsaw airport before we got to the plane that took us to Poznan. 

It was a small prop jet that flew this 50 minute commuter flight. 

I quickly realized that the view to the ground might be very good. Here are a couple of pictures 

I know I'm over Poland airspace when I see the long skinny fields. Over Slovakia one sees fields shaped in rectangles and squares like one finds in the midwestern United States. And flying over the Czech Republic is way fun because there the fields have every geometric shape you can imagine. 

On this short flight we were served water and a Prince Polo bar. I had torn my open before I thought of this story that follows. 

 I first came to Poland in 2002 flying with LOT. Then we were served meals with real china and silverware. Bread was served in beautiful baskets. It was all quite elegant. But I was mystified about why the dessert, after such an elegantly presented meal, was a Tic-Tac candy bar. Then I got to Poland and discovered the love for wafer bars. Princessa is another brand of wafer candy bars that I buy here. Tic-Tac was the closest thing LOT could purchase in Chicago for the meal service back to Poland. 

In Poznan we again walked out of the plane to a bus and then were taken to the airport, 

Inside it was easy to find the right luggage belt. 

In the luggage area, too, there was advice about using a taxi. 

 The only problem I had with the taxi service is that there were more passengers wanting taxis than there were taxis. I had to wait a bit for some more to arrive and others pushed in front of me. I heard in a very proper British accent, "They don't mind queue here very much do they?" No they don't, not anywhere in Central Europe. One must be a bit more assertive in a line than I generally am when at home in Minnesota. 

So I hope this little story may help any nervous traveler to Central Europe to get here and have a very good time. This is a wonderful part of the world.