Archive for 'Culture'

Great museums to visit in Poland

Posted on 24. Apr, 2015 by in Culture, Museums, Places to visit

Here is a list of some great museums worth visiting in Poland! Everyone should find something interesting:)
  • Museum of the Warsaw Uprising (Warsaw) Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego: When you’re done walking through the exhibitions and watching the startling documentaries filmed during the fighting in 1944 on display here, you’ll understand a lot more about the Poles’ resolve to preserve their nation. Just the photos alone of Warsaw’s total destruction will leave you in awe that this city still exists at all.
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Image by Adam Fagen on Flickr.com

  • Museum of Zakopane Style (Zakopane) Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego/Muzeum Tatrzańskie: This low-key museum is dedicated to the fine woodworking craft of the early Zakopane architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. No stunning, high-tech visuals, just beautifully carved furnishings and a wonderful aesthetic feel. They took the lowly log cabin and made it a palace.
  • Galicia Jewish Museum (Kraków-Kazimierz) Żydowskie Muzeum Galicja: The main exhibition here features contemporary and often beautiful photographs of important Jewish sites throughout southern Poland taken by the late British photographer Chris Schwarz. Schwarz spent 12 years traveling throughout Poland using photography as a way of trying to preserve the country’s rapidly disappearing Jewish heritage. The effect here works beautifully.
  • Czartoryski Museum (Kraków) Muzeum Czartoryskich: Members of the noble Czartoryski family were gifted art collectors, and this collection is one of the finest in central Europe. Two international masterpieces are on display: Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine and Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan.
  • Gingerbread Museum (Toruń) Muzeum Piernika: The town of Toruń is famous for two things: the birthplace of Copernicus and gingerbread cookies. At this privately owned museum, you not only learn the secret ingredients of great gingerbread, but also get to make your own. Good fun and great for kids.
  • Roads to Freedom Exhibition (Gdańsk) Wystawa drogi do wolności: An inspiring and sobering history lesson of the anti-Communist struggle in Poland. The mock-up of a typical empty grocery store in late 1970s, grainy news reels, interactive displays, and documentary films keenly capture the atmosphere of the times.
  • Lódź Art Museum, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi: A must for fans of modern art, the collection includes works by Marc Chagall and Max Ernst. Skip the bottom floors and head straight for the museum’s prize pieces on the upper levels, including several of Stanislaw Witkacy’s amazing society sketches from the 1920s.
  • Amber Museum (Gdańsk) Muzeum Bursztynu w Gdańsku: A must for all fans of the beautiful ossified pine resin that helped make Gdansk wealthy. On six floors of exhibits, you’ll learn everything you’ll ever need to know about amber; if you’re thinking of buying some amber while you’re in Gdansk, you might want to stop here first for an educational primer.
Image by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland on Flickr.com

Image by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland on Flickr.com

  • Museum of Cinematography (Lódź) Muzeum Kinematografii: International film fans will want to stop here to pay tribute to Poland’s panoply of great directors, including Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, and Krzysztof Kieslowski, all of whom studied and worked in Lódz.
  • Ethnographic Museum (Tarnów) Muzeum Etnograficzne: A rare and fascinating exhibition on the history and culture of Europe’s Roma (Gypsy) population, it traces the emergence of the Roma from parts of modern-day India some 1,000 years ago to their arrival in Europe and subsequent (mostly tragic) history.
  • Chopin Museum (Warsaw) Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina: The city where Chopin was raised wants to tell you everything there is to know about the composer. The museum was recently thoroughly revamped to deliver Chopin stories and melodies via high-tech media.
  • Museum of Icons (Supraśl) Muzeum Ikon w Supraślu: This is the most extensive collection of Orthodox icons in Poland. The exhibits are thoughtfully laid out to give you a full picture of the history of the Orthodox faith.
  • Pharmacy Museum (Kraków) Muzeum Farmacji w Krakowie: One of the biggest and best old-style pharmacy museums in this part of the world, with fascinating exhibits of potions, leeches, and concoctions that show just how far modern medicine has come.

If you visited any of them, please let us know in comments below:)

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Polish economy today

Posted on 14. Apr, 2015 by in Countries, Culture, Economy

If you know Polish history, you cannot help but marvel at the country’s emergence from the ashes of its traumatic past (powstanie kraju z popiołów swojej traumatycznej przeszłości). Over the last 25 years, Poland, after centuries of war and subjugation (po wiekach wojen i niewoli), has enjoyed peace (pokój), a stable and booming economy (stabilna i kwitnąca gospodarka), and integration (integracja) with the rest of Europe.

An independent kingdom for the previous 800 years, in 1795, Poland was wiped off the map of Europe and absorbed into three great neighboring powers: the Prussian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires, a state of affairs that lasted until 1918. Reborn following World War I, Poland spent a few short years as a democracy before proving ungovernable, succumbing to dictatorship, and then once again being conquered and divided (zdobyta i podzielona), this time by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, in 1939. Over the next six years, Poland found itself at the center of what the historian Timothy Snyder has called the “bloodlands” of Europe; an estimated five million Poles died between 1939 and 1945, more than half of them Polish Jews. The Nazis and the Soviets also wiped out the cream of the crop of Poland’s intelligentsia and clergy. Warsaw was reduced to rubble, and mass graves were sown across the landscape. Then came four gray and sooty decades of communist domination (dominacja komunistyczna). Only the Catholic Church offered Poles any hope.

Since communism collapsed in 1989, however, Poland has experienced a remarkable reversal of fortune (niezwykłe odwrócenie fortuny). After leading the protest movement that toppled the old regime, the trade union Solidarity won democratic elections and initiated aggressive, market-oriented economic reforms. The communist Polish United Workers’ Party turned into the capitalist Democratic Left Alliance, which won elections in 1993 and 1995 and led the country into NATO in 1999. And in 2004, Poland joined the European Union as a full member, cementing its close alliance with Germany, its erstwhile antagonist.

The Polish economy, meanwhile, has grown rapidly for two decades, at more than four percent per year, the fastest speed in Europe, and garnered massive investment in its companies and infrastructure. Poland’s is now the sixth-largest economy in the EU. Living standards more than doubled between 1989 and 2012, reaching 62 percent of the level of the prosperous countries at the core of Europe.

Poland’s economic freedom score is 68.6, making its economy the 42nd freest in the 2015 Index. Its score is 1.6 points better than last year, driven by improvements in half of the 10 economic freedoms, especially freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, the management of government spending, and monetary freedom. Poland is ranked 19th out of 43 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is above the world average.

Over the past five years, Poland’s economic freedom score has advanced by 4.5 points, the largest improvement in the region. Gains in eight of the 10 economic freedoms include double-digit strides in financial freedom and freedom from corruption. In the 2015 Index, Poland has recorded its highest economic freedom score ever.

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Shopping in Kraków (Sukiennice)

 

How did Poland manage so decisively to move beyond the repeated tragedies of its past? The question is rarely asked by market analysts, whose sense of Poland seems to go no further back than the economic reforms of the 1990s. Those reforms are indeed part of the story, but only part it, and focusing exclusively on them obscures the deeper causes of the country’s resurgence. Explaining Poland’s economic boom, and why it is likely to last, requires a deeper look into its troubled history.

I’ve been traveling to Poland within last 10 years a lot…and I see big differences every time I go! Polish economy is amazing and I hope it will stay like this, or only will get better:)

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Niedziela Palmowa in Poland!

Posted on 29. Mar, 2015 by in Calendar, Culture, Holidays, Religion

Today is Palm Sunday (Niedziela Palmowa). It marks the official beginning of Poland’s Easter festivities – perhaps the country’s most sacred holiday. Leading up to the season you’ll see decorative handmade palms (palmy) for sale almost everywhere in Poland. These traditional decorations made from a variety of dried flowers and plants are crafted in villages all over Poland. Palms are taken to church on Sunday to be blessed before decorating homes for the duration of the season.

 

Image by PolandMFA on Flickr.com

Image by PolandMFA on Flickr.com

As a deeply Catholic country, Poland takes its Easter celebrations seriously; throughout the period, the visiting foreigner can expect large shops and shopping malls and many bars and restaurants to be either empty or closed beginning on Good Friday (Wielki Piątek). A traditional day of abstinence, dutifully observing Catholics visit church to attend stations of the cross (droga krzyżowa) – a series of prayers following Jesus Christ’s route to his crucifixion.

Image by kingary on Flickr.com

Image by kingary on Flickr.com

On Easter Saturday (Wielka Sobota) Poles, typically children, bring brightly decorated baskets of food to church to have them blessed. These baskets traditionally contain a piece of sausage (kawałek kiełbasy), bread (chleb), egg (jajko), mazurek cake (a traditional Easter cake), some salt (sól), pepper (pieprz), some horseradish (chrzan) and a symbolic ram made from dough (symboliczny baranek z ciasta). In addition ‘pisanki’ are included – painted boiled eggs which have been prepared in the lead-up to Easter by the whole family. Each of these components of the basket has a symbolic meaning. The eggs and meat symbolise new life, fertility and health, the salt protects against bad spirits and helps you follow the right path, the bread symbolise the body of Christ and by this future prosperity in terms of always having food to feed yourself, the horseradish represents strength and physical health and the cake represents skills and talents needed for the coming year. Rezurekcja (Resurrection), a traditional mass with procession, is held Saturday night or Easter morning depending on parish tradition.

On Easter Sunday (Niedziela Wielkanocna), families gather together to celebrate with an Easter breakfast of żurek (Polish rye soup), bread, eggs, sausage, horseradish and poppy seed cakes. Each person places a small piece of the blessed food on their plate before exchanging wishes with other members of the family. The symbolic dough ram is placed on the table to symbolise the resurrection of Christ.

Things take a more light-hearted twist on Easter Monday. Known as Śmingus Dyngus, the day is dominated by public water fights and everyone is given carte blanche to drench anyone they see with water. You, as a foreigner, are not exempt from this practise, so move fast if you see someone armed with a water pistol or bucket and a grin. Although it’s never pleasant to have a jug of water thrown over your head, this is an improvement from the past when young people were beaten with sticks from Palm Sunday trees – explained away as bringing luck and strength for the year ahead.

Happy Easter to all of you!

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)