Friday, September 30, 2011

Upside Down House

A totally "new perspective of a family home" offers a house located in a place in Bispingen, Germany which is literally upside down.

The so called "Crazy House, a house of a family style located in Bispingen, Germany, had an open house to the public with the aim of showing a "totally renewed perspective" of a domestic life, as indicated by its builders.

Whether it be art or a tourist attraction, the Verrueckte Haus (Crazy House) calls attention of the passerbys, who cannot resist being able to experiment what life is like in a room that is completely upside down.

Coffee pots that hang dangerously in the room, bathtubs that give the impression of falling over the visitors' heads and toilet that leave an unpleasant surprise to the tourist are some of the attractions for all.



Source:  Photo Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Something To Think About


Reminders sometimes are necessary to inspire us and to value ourselves as well as others properly with respect and consideration. And I believe that if we follow certain rules of conduct, the world will be a better place.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Summary of Trip to Poland

I was impressed with the colorful buildings in the market squares of Poland, which I sometimes associate with the buildings of Prague. I also appreciate the cleanliness and the safety although once Ron heard that somebody had been a victim of a robbery. I was lucky that when I left my sunglasses on one of the choir seats in Trinity Church, Ron and Mel were able to recover them as soon as we were leaving the church when I reached inside my bag to use them.  What a relief since I tend to lose them with frequency.

I would say that their churches are filled with decorative arts and monumental relics which are an immense joy for the eyes. Being 95% of a Catholic country, it is not surprising that they have hundreds of churches all well conserved and maintained.  Sometimes you would even think that the decorations are made of gold the way they shine and reflect against the sun. Some confessionals are so huge, you would think that giants come to confess. While their pulpits are amazing with their carvings even on the stairs and their magnificent organs that play every now and then, as we visited. Just too bad that we were not able to coincide with the mass, (nor had time to watch any concert) it would have been excellent to see the church come to life with the singing of the choir, who usually have a reserved place of beauty and charm. Their churches open every day from morning till night and you see people praying and confessing most of the time.

The Poles are often good looking and well proportioned. They dress in a simple manner and quite reserved until you get to know them. I used to smile at some ladies when I caught them looking at me, and they did return my smiles sometimes with a nod.

In several occasions, we found unsolicited help as we tried to find our way. Mel was the one who always ventured to ask with sign language and managed to get through most of the time. There were times that we had been lucky to find somebody who spoke either English or Spanish and was able to help us. Writing addresses is quite helpful at times.

Taxis are not advisable if you find them in the streets and they do not have the name of the company and the telephone number printed on them.  Otherwise they are not the legal ones.  We found it simpler to call for a taxi with an English speaking operator, when we needed one, which was better than flagging directly a taxi that you can be lucky if you find an empty one in the middle of your way. When Ron and me took a taxi the first day in Poznan, even when we had the address written on a piece of paper, we were dropped to the wrong place. Luckily for us, we managed to get help from the desk attendant although we had difficulty communicating since he only spoke Polish. He called for a taxi to drive us to our apartment, which happened to be only 5 mins. away.

Trams and busses were better options when we could not walk to where we wanted to go. Although they were usually packed up to the doorway. Good enough that Poles do not smell. Some tourists did so, like the ones that we coincided in the visit to the Salt Mines. A group of them smelled so badly that it was difficult to avoid the stinking odor.

Their trains are very old and usually delayed and they blamed it always on the improvements in preparation of the sports event to be held next year. Some of those that we encountered put the issue against the Administration giving more attention to conserving and putting up with more buildings rather than focusing on transport improvement.  But times can be changing.

In the apartments where we stayed, I found it curious that mainly they looked old from the outside, but they were modern inside and apparently newly renovated. What I noted as interesting is their special ventilation in the top of the side of a room where there was no available window but just like 5x5 inches in size that you can open or close like a regular Venetian blind. It is the type that we use in our kitchen for the gas exhaust, and is made of aluminum.  Likewise interesting is that their bathtubs are not provided with shower curtains, so you have to be careful you do not flood the floors. And it is also common that the apartment is provided with some sugar, oil, salt, coffee and some soup ingredients and spices. It came very useful to have the apartment because it is not common to serve breakfast in Poland and food places usually open at 10 a.m. so we usually had breakfast in the apartments and only once did we have dinner in.

Here are some of the other interesting pictures of our trip.

    
    
    





Our trips back home went all well with the plane leaving on schedule and at home, my plants hardly suffered from my absence.  All's well that ends well. 

Travel to Cracovia Part IV


Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow (approx. 15 km) "is no less magnificent than the Egyptian pyramids" (the French traveller, Le Laboureur). For it's historical and artistic importance the mine was placed in 1978 on the First World List of Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO as "outstanding universal value to mankind".
Wieliczka Salt Mine, the oldest operating salt mine in the world, functions since the 13th century. It spreads over nine levels and reaches down to the depth of 327 meters. The underground tourist route is approx. 3,5 km long, includes 20 chambers and spreads over three levels, the deepest one is 135 meters below ground level.  (Source:  Hostel Bursa Jagiellonska)
To go down the chambers, we had to walk a long way through  more than 360 winding steps that made me quite dizzy and I would rather have been at the last of the group because then I would not have been obliged to hurry up.  I tried to let others go ahead of me  but unfortunately, they had the same thought as mine.  Soon enough, before I was starting to get nervous, we were already on the visiting level.

As we passed through the tunnels of salt, everything here is either wood or salt, but more of salt than wood, even the flooring, the roofs and the walls.  We were allowed to touch everything except the figures.  I passed my hand to taste a bit of the wall and it did not taste too salty.

Here are some of the interesting shots :


Janowice Chamber

According to legend, Poland can thank Queen Kinga for discovery of the salt mine. Kinga was the daughter of the Hungarian king Bela IV who married the Polish king Boleslaw the Modest in the 13th century. The story has Kinga throwing her engagement ring into the Maramures salt mine in Hungary. The ring miraculously travelled along with salt deposits to Wieliczka where it was rediscovered. Kinga is now the patron saint of miners. (Source of information:  Travel Blog)













After the amazing view of the salt cathedral, we were led to a tiny lift with a room for 8 tightly squeezed in people but fortunately it took only about a minute to get to the top and we did not have to wait long to get in to the lift.

I was impressed with what the miners have accomplished considering that at their time they barely had tools and there were leaks so the place was all slippery and yet they had to carry things from one place to the other and temperature was not very kind.  But they did well carving figures to entertain themselves.  It must be mentioned that some of the figures now were done by contemporary artists unlike the first ones. (Note:  the chandeliers are also made of salt and the color of salt is greyish rather than the white color that we are used to associate with salt). We were also lucky that our guide was very humorous and made the trip really enjoyable and worthwhile inspite of the long steps.

To be continued In Travel to Cracovia Part V with  some of our funny photos and anecdotes on the trip.

Travel to Cracovia Part III

Churches in Cracovia. It has been said that there are hundreds of different churches in Cracovia and not just famed for their architectural and historical value: they conceal extraordinary memorials of historical figures.  Aside from the previously mentioned Corpus Christi church with the boat-like structure of the pulpit, and the St. Mary's church, here are some others we saw: 

St. Barbara's Church -Mariacki Pl. (Old Town, by the basilica of the Virgin Mary’s) 14th-century Gothic structure with Baroque interior. Open outer chapel by the entrance with valuable stone statues from the end of the 15th c.: Christ with three Apostles on the Mount of Olives.The church was built around 1400, most probably as a cemetery chapel: St Barbara was venerated as the patron saint of a good death. It replaced the former mortuary. In 1488-1518, it had a late-Gothic Garden of Olives added, inside which there stands a group of sculptures chiselled by the Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss) related group of stonemasons. In the 17th century, the Gothic church was redeveloped; the effects of that baroque transformation are visible from the side of the Small Market Square. At the same time, the  church interior received a decidedly baroque appearance.
(Source of information:  Krakow Travel).  I specially admire the luminosity and the immaculate atmosphere of this church and the figure of the peata. Source of Peata Image : Wikipedia by Ludwig Schneider/Wikimedia/Commons



St. Francis of Assisi Church:  Check the link because this is probably the most beautiful church in Cracovia.  This was recommended to us by our train compartment companion on the way to Krakow.  Indeed something not to be missed.  This is a piece of art beatified (?). The Franciscan Church was founded in the first half of the 13th. century and it was one of the first brick constructions in Krakow. (Source of information: Krakow 4U.pl)  They have some magnificent stained glass windows that illuminate like rays from heaven. This church really inspires you to kneel down and pray.


    

The Holy Trinity Church - The great prestige enjoyed by the order of St Dominic made the church of the Holy Trinity into one of the grandest in Krakow. Both the church itself, and the monastery cloisters filled with countless number of tombs, and the set of burial chapels of the 16th and 17th centuries was second only to the Wawel Cathedral necropolis. The interior of the church gives an impression of emptiness and coldness. The opulence and formal variety of original altars disappeared with the 1850 fire and was replaced by a uniform neo-Gothic decoration.  Source of Info:Krakow 4u.pl



We had a brief rest of tea with biscuits in a nice looking bakery shop.

We had a short walk around the Wawel Castle to see part of the lake and the surroundings and saw the legendary dragon, souvenir shop and the stars's walk.



Then it was time to go to our scheduled tour of  the famous Wieliczka Salt Mines.  In the meantime we sat in front of a restaurant near the tour bus stop and while we were waiting with a cone of ice cream to pass the time,  we had the opportunity to listen to some Polish music just in front where Mel and me were seated on a bench.


The salt mines are a thirty minute bus ride from the city centre and a well trodden part of the tourist trail. They are unquestionably a marvel, and they have been under the aegis of UNESCO since 1978. This deposit of rock salt in Wieliczka-Bochnia has been mined since the 13th century. Spread over nine levels, it has 300 km of galleries with works of art, altars, and statues sculpted in the salt, making a fascinating pilgrimage into the past of a major industrial undertaking.
Not only was the Wieliczka salt mine a valuable economic raw material, it also inspired the creation of exceptional works of art, such as chapels with altars and figures made of this atypical material.

Wieliczka attract visitors because of its uniqueness and beauty almost from the beginning of its existence. The first tourist route was opened in the middle of the 19th century.

Our experience in the Salt Mines will have to wait to be related in Part IV of our travel to Cracovia.

Travel to Cracovia Part II

Other things that we have seen and done in the Jewish town of Kazimierz, Krakow:
We went to the flea market, which is considered to be  the  biggest in the area, but I have seen better ones in Madrid.  Nevertheless, we took advantage of buying a blouse for Mel to change what  she was wearing since she was getting uncomfortable, after all, the  sun was getting to its peak.  She also bought a nice, original necklace and all for a small amount of money that would help the poor a little bit.  The lady vendor who hardly knows to speak any language but Polish, was so funny  because when Mel tried the blouse on she started to say with a big smile:  "super, super".



Then we walked around to the part that we did not see the previous day and found some naif shops carrying souvenirs and I bought a pair of Polish  couple made of cloth from a charming old lady who gave us a postcard as a gift.



We saw a painted car that was cute. The blouse and the blue necklace is what Mel bought from the Flea market.


We also saw a festival the other day in the Jewish town with a lot of stands mainly selling honey, but I did not want to even go near them because the bees were hovering around them.  There were old people playing some instruments and also some food that they were serving but we did not try any.

Instead we tried their famous Zapiekanki in  Bar Oko in Plac Nowy in the vicinity of  the flea
market.  We enjoyed eating their
typical food.  It was good although I prefer the Spanish bread.  But I would not have left Cracovia without eating the well known (as I read previously and jotted down in my list of not to be missed) Zapiekanki.

    



        


The houses were not properly maintained but rather old and poor looking.


More to tell, coming in Cracovia Part III.