Saturday turned into quite a different day compared to Friday; by the time I’m up, breakfasted and out on the street, the sun is shining from an almost cloudless sky. It’s still cold though and where snow had fallen in the shade it still lies.
I’m off sightseeing today. There is a monument that I’ve seen in photographs on the web whenever Łódź is queried, it’s one of those bleak, er, monumental monuments that somehow work so well. A little research earlier in the morning showed it to be in a public park not far from my hotel, so I’m off to find it.
The park I’m heading for is about one and three quarter miles away, I’ve memorised the map; walk parallel with the main road and railway line as it goes north from Kaliska Station, come to a major crossroads, cross over towards the railway, under the railway bridge, up the other side and there’s the park.
It really is a lovely day but it’s one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t days, the sun on my back feels really warm but I know that if I remove my coat I’ll soon feel the effects of the cold.
What’s up doc?
There’s not much to see here, to my right it appears to be a site cleared for building, to my left the road cuts me off from the railway line, there is a collection of motley looking buildings which I can only assume were once part of an extensive goods yard. The traffic rumbles by, every now and again a tram rattles along on its way, the two tram lines sandwiched between the carriageways of the road. A little way before the major crossroads I pass a road sign indicating Włocławek, Warszawa and Konin. Włocławek, it’s one of those not-immediately pronounceable words, well, not-immediately pronounceable for this lowly Anglik. I stopped and looked at the sign, silently mouthing the word and as I did, as the pronunciation fell into place, “What’s up doc?” popped into my head. It was one of those left-field (if you’ll pardon the Americanism) thought processes that happen from time to time. Włocławek is, more or less, Vrots-waw-ek – vrots – what’s… can you see where I went with that? Anyway, I took a photograph of the sign and resolved to add a picture of Bugs Bunny after suitably altering the wording on the sign. Oh, the crazy things that oft wander through my head.
Another few minutes of walking and I was at the pedestrian crossing at the crossroads. I was it seemed the only pedestrian wanting to use it so I stepped up to the button and pressed it, “PROSZE CZEKAĆ” lit-up and I waited, gazing across the lanes of road carriageway and tram lines. I waited patiently for the green man, because that’s what you do In Poland and soon enough he appeared and I set off across the road thinking that I was sure to be marooned on the far side of the tram lines but no, this crossing was programmed with a sufficiently long period of green-maniness to allow me to cross right to the other side. The spell-checker wanted to put green-manliness in there and actually, that’s not such a bad idea. Ahem, this crossing was programmed with a sufficiently long period of green-manliness to allow me to cross right to the other side, which I did.
I passed under the railway and a couple of hundred yards further-on there was the park I was heading for, Park Zdrowie. After waiting to and then crossing another road, I was in the park.
There were still some leaves on the trees and lots of golden leaves on the ground. The sun, although shining down from an, as I have already observed, an almost cloudless sky, was low, as befits this time of year at this latitude and long shadows were being cast by the many trees and there was still snow laying in shady spots. I had already seen the top of the monument that I’d come to see above the trees so I made my way towards it.
As I have noted in other posts here, the history of Poland is far from simple. In 1905 Poland was very different politically and geographically to how it is today, the country was partitioned between Prussia, the Austrian Empire, and the Russian Empire, Łódź was in that part controlled by Russia and Russia was going through upheavals which would eventually lead to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In Łódź there was much industrial unrest and waves of strikes. The workers organised marches and demonstrations. The Tsarist Police and troops sent to restore order only made things worse and a full scale revolt ensued.
That potted account is in no way comprehensive but it serves to give the gist of what happened, the memorial in Park Zdrowie commemorates those citizens of Łódź who struggled against the Tsarist authorities and those who were killed in the riots.
From my vantage point at the foot of the monument I could see water so I walked off to explore. It was a small lake, dissected by a weir under a bridge forming a dumbbell shape; the sun glancing off of the water was quite magical. There was a chap on the bridge with a rather expensive looking camera and tripod setting-up to take a photograph. I stood a little way behind him as he fires off several shots, then I stepped up to the bridge parapet and pulling my small point-and-shoot from my coat pocket, I did the same.
I wondered about for some time, just enjoying the colours of the trees and the interplay between the sunlight and the lake water. They have mistletoe here in Poland, lots of mistletoe, just hanging there in the trees. Don’t they know how expensive that stuff is in the UK come Christmas? A willing entrepreneur could certainly make a killing flogging the stuff on the streets of Blighty.
Senses sated and feet just a teeny bit achy I decided that it was time to leave the park and go back to my hotel for a short rest before the concert tonight.
After re-crossing the “main” road I ambled back towards the city centre and veered off in the direction that I imagined my hotel was. Although the clouds were slowly gathering and it was cold, it was still a nice day and I happily rambled along. I crossed a street and turned a corner and things began to look familiar, yes, I was heading for the hotel, there was its tower in the distance. The hotel I’m staying at is only a 4 story building but it boasts a small tower extending upwards by at least another two stories; it has somewhat of the look of a manufactory about it, note to self: “Do a bit of research on this building”. By now it was getting into late afternoon and the sun was lowering in the sky. I’d not been long in my hotel room when I got a message from some friends asking me to go and meet them in a bar. I had walked quite a bit today already and would really have liked to take an hour or so just laying on my bed watching TV, ah, the perils of getting older, still, as my mum used to say, “It’s better than the alternative”. Hat, coat and boots back on I set out to go to the pub and arrived there some 15 – 20 minutes later. Convivial company, beer and a half-understood conversation or two. Soon it was time to leave to go to Łódzki Dom Kultury for tonight’s concert. Już? Oh my, it seemed like I’d only just sat down in the bar and now we were off again. It’s only a short walk to ŁDK and soon, once again we are all up in the café/restaurant/bar eagerly awaiting the call to descend to the concert hall.
One of the bands on tonight’s roster is called “Hegemony” and I have to say that this is the band that I’m really looking forward to seeing tonight. Hegemony are best described as… as… Hmmm, I really don’t know, I suppose Folk-Metal or maybe Folk-Rock, I’d listened to a few of their songs on YouTube and it’s the kind of stuff that I like, I like it but would be hard pressed to actually say what it is. Maybe it’s just enough to say that you like a particular band, sound, vibe and leave it at that. The group hails from Zabrze in Silesia and is fronted by a gorgeous creature who rejoices under the moniker of Valyen Songbird who sings and plays keyboards. Valyen Songbird isn’t her real name but you probably guessed that, oh no, her real name is Hanna Świtała (which to Anglo Saxon eyes look almost as mystical) and she has long blonde tresses that cascade way past her navel, I’ve always had a soft spot for women with long hair – but she’s not the reason I’m looking forward to seeing this band tonight. No, really… Ah, if only she had dark hair though, long dark hair, but I digress.
There’s no Band in Team
Now here’s a thing, there seems to be no word in Polish for “Band” or “Group” in the sense of a musical band or group, the word that is most commonly used word is “Zespół” which translates at “Team”
The first band on is a team called “Muzozoic” who I haven’t seen before but were quite enjoyable.
Next-up, Hegemony and they were every bit as good as I’d hoped. My only criticism was of their rendition of Scarborough Fair in which Ms Songbird sings,
“…he once was the true love of mine “
“…then he’ll be the true love of mine.”
“He”, because she is singing from a female perspective, that’s OK, I can cope with that but it’s the use of the word “the” that sounds so out of place. Maybe she was just trying to emphasise that this love was “the” love but somehow, in that song is just sounds wrong. Don’t misunderstand me here, I like their version of the song and it’s nice to hear it without “The side of a hill” interwoven, but… I suppose it’s that I am so accustomed to hearing “…a true love…”. Having said that, I do find that many Poles have difficulty with the whole “A”, “AN” and “THE” thing, there being no equivalents in Polish, maybe it was that but somehow I doubt it because I spoke to the singer after their set had finished and she had fairly good English.
The third band was “Art of Illusion”, a band which I have seen before and like.
By the end of the third set I realised that the day’s excursion to Park Zdrowie had (ironically) taken its toll, I was feeling tired, really tired. The final band on was “Retrospective”, again, a band I’ve seen before and a band I happen to really like but I realised that I was not going to stay the course, I really had to go and lie-down.
I collected my coat from the cloakroom, and slipped out into the cold night air which temporarily re-invigorated me but as I began to walk I realised that yes, I was very tired. Once more I reached my hotel room and fell into a deep sleep.
Overnight there had been a further flurry of snow and Sunday dawned grey. I had my breakfast, checked-out of the hotel and made my way to the railway station to catch a train the Warsaw. The journey was uneventful but I was still feeling a little tired; coming down with something maybe? Hmmm…
After I’d got to Warsaw not much happened. I booked into the hotel and helped myself to the packet of Pringle-like crisps from the room mini-bar, fully intending to then go out and find a maxi-bar but I’d made the mistake of sitting on the bed, then lying on the bed. Ahhh, that was nice, where’s the remote for the telly?
After about two hours I dragged myself out onto the streets and into a restaurant for a bite of something to eat and then strangely ended-up in JaBeerWocky. After a few beers I went back to my hotel room for the rest of the evening.
Four Tank Men and a Dog and the Temple of Dom.
Monday, like Saturday, dawned clear and bright. Still cold but sunny. Today I am being taken out by my mysterious friend from Warsaw, Tajemnicza Kobieta z Warszawy, TKzW for short. She had found a new restaurant for us to try-out, the “American House” or “Restauracja i pensjonat American House” to give it its full title, it’s a guest house and restaurant and according to TKzW has some good reviews. I hope it’s better that the last restaurant we tried, a Vietnamese affair which looked good but the food left something to be desired, a point upon which we both agreed.
Before our dinner date, I had suggested that maybe we could visit the newly opened (but not yet completed) Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw (Świątynia Opatrzności Bożej w Warszawie) located in the Wilanów district of Warsaw, TKzW agreed…
I can’t go on calling her TKzW, I’ll call her Kasia, it’s not her name but it’s better than TKzW. Kasia agreed and so when we met, I got into her car and we dove off into the south of the city to find the Temple.
Now here’s another thing, most Polish women are called; Ania, Asia, Basia, Beata, Bogna, Ela, Ewa, Gosia, Kasia or Magda. There are other names of course, in fact Kasia’s name apart from not really being Kasia isn’t any of the above names but there does seem to be a name shortage in Poland as these names crop up time and time again. Next time I’m out there I think I’ll take along a few name suggestions and just leave them laying about in pubs and restaurants.
Anyway, back to the story… As we drove south we could see the dome of the temple above the skyline of offices and flats, it looked big, it is big; eventually we found the right road and pulled into the carpark. We walked up to the main door of the Temple, the building towered above us and again, this thing with doors in Poland.
This is a national Temple, a Cathedral, it’s been planned, on and off, since 1791, but the doors are very uninspiring, uninviting even. No signage, no “Welcome”, no “Open”, no “Come on in folks”, just a plain black door, oh, and a gigantic banner which read “Jedynemu Bogu – Naród 1791 – 2016”, something along the lines of “One God – One Nation” I think…
I pointed out the door to Kasia, “It’s not finished yet.” Was her reply and yes, that much was true but, I just bet when it is finished it will have a very uninformative door. However. That’s enough criticism of that, once you go in through the door it’s another story altogether. First impressions of the building are that it’s an enormous cube with a dome on top. In actual fact it’s slightly cruciate in plan and the dome is truncated, flat on top, a bit like a suet pudding if I may use the analogy, but go in through those doors and it’s all curves, flying buttresses arching up into the air and forming the inside of the dome. I found it quite breath-taking. I don’t think Kasia quite shared my enthusiasm for the building but we both agreed that it was quite a feat of architectural engineering.
After a period of gazing up into the lofty heights we walked back out into the November sunshine, Kasia had an idea for our next visit and she drove us to see the Wilanów Palace, which we walked around the outside of whilst discussing Brexit of all things. By now, clouds were gathering (meteorological clouds, nothing to do with the politics of Brexit) and the sun had gone.
As we walked back to where Kasia had parked her car there was a small group of about four or five people bidding each other farewell, one of them, waving to the others, walked off in front of us and then stopped by a parked car, opened its door and got in. Kasia grabbed my arm, “Tony, do you know who that is?” she asked.
Well, no, of course I didn’t, but Kasia did. “That’s Włodzimierz Press…” and she proceeded to tell me the story of “Czterej pancerni i pies” (Four tank men and a dog), a Polish TV series made between 1966 and 1970. The series is set in 1944/45 and concerns the adventures of the crew of a tank and a dog, Włodzimierz played the part of the tank driver. The show is now a bit of a cult series apparently not only in Poland but in other Central and Eastern European countries too.
We reached the car park and Kasia drove us to find the “American House” which we did fairly easily but then had fun and games finding a parking space, we ended up down a side road a short walk away.
I couldn’t see anything overtly American about the American House, it was warm inside, the staff were friendly and welcoming and the menu didn’t have a hint of burgers & fries, sloppy jacks (whatever they are), pancakes and syrup or anything like that. I opted for a salad with goose breast which was rather tasty.
We sat there enjoying our food and eavesdropping on the other diners, people-watching in time honoured fashion.
Then, as ever it was over, ice cream consumed, bill paid, coats on and back out into the cold. Kasia drove me back to my hotel and we bade each other do zobaczenia.
I think then I may have gone to the pub, probably, it sounds like the sort of thing I’d have done. Pub, food or food, pub then sleep then fly back to England the next day.