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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Girl With The ****** Tattoo

"The Girl With The ****** Tattoo"

We were out, searching for some new #StreetArt in Kazimierz (the best place to find some new and original art pieces). It was a mission from the Photo Club I am in - seek and find something that makes your soul vibrate. Something that makes you pull the trigger on your camera.

It's hard to accomplish something creative when you are put under pressure, yet somehow the pressure sometimes works. There are hundreds and hundreds of small streets and turns and corners in the #JewishDistrict - you never know what you will pop up to. Or whom you will bump into... You might just turn around the corner, going your own way, and bump into someone that catches your eye and makes you want to shoot and immortalise the moment.
"The Girl With The ****** Tattoo" was sitting there, on her ciggy break, relaxed on a stair, checking the phone. She was deep in thought, smiling from time to time, and breeting deep in her smoke, relaxing from her worktime. She was covered by tattoos - both on her hand and on her leg. The Girl had not dark hair but a beautiful shade of pink - that made me think of unicorns :) Such darkness and happiness combining in one little Girl.

It is said that strong essences are always kept in small bottles - that is what "The Girl With The ****** Tattoo" was.

I stopped and I thought... should I just take the picture or ask her first? It felt right to ask her... It felt very much like invading her privacy... her time off from the daily job, her time when she was thinking of something more creative and less boring. Maybe she was a waitress, maybe she was a bartender... maybe she wanted to be something else and she was wokring on that thought.

I asked "The Girl With The ****** Tattoo" if I could take her phono. She turned to me and smiled wide (with even her eyes) and said she would not mind it. She smiled not like the regular Barbie Doll girls do, fake and dry, but the real feminine smile. Again, not the smile that you do for a "Cheese!" photo, but that smile you do when you are at peace with yourself. Not the one when you know you are perfectly beautiful, but the one which shows that you found that inner peace. The smile that shows your sould is balanced.

This one goes to all "The Girl With The ****** Tattoo" ladies out there - not only the ones that have a physical tattoo on their body, but also the ones that have their own tattoos on their soul.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Friday, 25 May 2018

Thoughts upon Summer in Krakow / Poland

#SummerInKrakow 馃悶

As the sunrays grow stronger, the day is already longer, and you can feel summer slowly creeping in... the ocasional rain helps keep the grass green, the flowers blooming smoothly - petals like silk, and the air doesn't get that hot and dry. 

The restaurants, coffee shops and bars open up their terraces and await the eager clients. Everyone goes out after work, for a drink or two  (mostly beer, and the local breweries are plenty in Poland!). You relax, tend to forget about the daily routine and enjoy the rays of sun lingering on you. 
Krakow Architecture
Don't forget to #wearsunscreen - as the famous video says... We do work at least 8 hours a day - 5 times a week (sometimes, most of the times, even more) so breaks are necessary to keep your mind and soul in order. People in Poland like to do their jobs properly but they also take seriously having their breaks. 

Working in corporations nowdays is quite frequent and Poland has many big corporations that feed upon the minds of knoedgeable people. Some may have to even book up time in their Outlook calendars to have a real break, else you get tied up into what you are doing and you end up forgetting even that...
Roses in bloom at Dolnych Mlynow, Krakow
As Spring brings a breath of fresh air, the feeling that the World is coming to life, Summer kicks life in 2nd or even 3rd gear. As Spring is like a toddler learning to walk, Summer is like a teenager waiting for some bungee jumping or anything that would pump the adrenaline up...

#SummerInKrakow does have it's downsides though... not only in Krakow but all over Poland the cities become more crowded and even though there are thousands of terraces to choose from, the city becomes a beehive. 

Take for example ul. Dolnych Mlynow, just West of Krakow's Old Town, it is a former tobacco plant that bloomed overnight. It came to life in the summer of 2016 and gathered many "followers". It's considered a rather hipsterish place... and to tell you the truth it's very crowded especially once the sun sets low. I love this place during the mornings and early afternoons.  You can find a multiple variety of places to sit, eat and relax. Or even grab a cake, a good book and spend some quality time with yourself. 
Barbakan, Krakow
Sukiennice, Krakow
View of the Wawel Hill and Castle
It's summertime, it's time to take some time for yourself. For your soul. Sit down and watch the flowers bloom, the vines twisting, the birds singing their love songs. Sit down and watch the world turn round next to the ones you love. Do the things you love, the things that make your soul blossom.

#DiscoverSummerInPoland and fall in love with it's sweet beauty. Sample the taste of the local strawberries, wildberries. Enjoy the smell of wild roses, the peonies that bloom and spread their fragrance in the wind. 

Take a stroll down the cobblestoned paths of the Old Town. Make your way to the Wawel Castle and have a picnic by the Wawel Hill. Think of checking out the local breweries? I have a better idea: take the water tram up to the Tyniec monastery and enjoy the monasteries own brew. You might even drink a beer with the local monks :) 
Wawel Castle, Krakow
#DiscoverWarsaw and enjoy THE view, early in the morning when it opens up (around 9 am) or late afternoon when the sun sets, on the Palace of Culture and Science viewpoint. On the 30th floor, at 114 metres (374 ft) high, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Warsaw. Or you can just spend an entire day relaxing at the Lazienki Gardens, listening to a free Chopin concert, while having a picnic with the one(s) you love. 
#DiscoverWroclaw with your little ones, trying to find all the 300+ gnomes, spread throughout the city. Enjoy the views provided from each of it's 1000 bridges or take the elevator up the Cathedral hosted on the Ostrow Tumski. It is the best view Wroclaw has to offer (in my humble opinion). Wroclaw is also called "WrocLove" as everyone who visits it once falls in love with it indefinitely. 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Poland in Summer (And Every Other Season)
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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Famous Polish People: Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon and Proto-feminist Artist

Good day all you lovely people!

As I was opening up my computer today, I saw the Google Doodle of the day: Tamara de Lempicka, and I realised that I've never told you anything about this remarkable woman. Tamara de Lempicka (born Maria Gorska) was born on the 16th of May 1898 and lived until 18th March 1980. She would have been 120 years old today, and as Google wrote "she developed her distinct style in the Art Deco era". She is known for capturing the true spirit of the "Roaring 20's" and here are some facts about her that you might like to know:
Tamara Autoportrait - Tamara in the Green Bugatti
  1. She was born in Warsaw but she briefly moved to Saint Petersburg, where she married a prominent Polish lawyer and then travelled to Paris. 
  2. Some people state that she is Russian due to the fact that her father was Boris Gurwik-Gorski, a Russian Jewish attorney. But wait... her mother was Malwina Decker, a Polish socialite who lived most of her life abroad and actually met her husband abroad, in a spa! 
  3. When she was 10 and she was required to sit still for a commissoned portrait, she hated posing and she did not like the final result. She took the pastels and asked her sister to pose - this was her first portrait that she created.
    Tamara de Lempicka
  4. Tamara studied painting and her style was a blend of refined cubism and neoclassical style, but her love for art and paintings was kindled on a tour of Italy - 1911.
  5. Her breakthrough came in 1925 when the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts - later gave it's name to the style (as we know it today) Art Deco.
  6. In 1927 she won her first major award: 1st prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux, for her portrait "Kizette on the Balcony".
    Kizette, the daughter, painted by Tamara
  7. In 1929 another portrait of Kizette (her only daughter), at her first communion, won a bronze medal at the International exposition in Poznan, Poland - her homeland :)
  8. In 1928 she became the mistress of Baron Raoul Kuffner (a wealthy art collector). After the death of his wife (1933), the Baron married Lempicka in 1934. Thereafter she was named (by the press) "The Baroness with a Brush".
  9. Lempicka's career reached its peak in the 1930's, when she was commissioned to paint the portraits of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece. 
  10. In 1974 she moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico. She died in her sleep on 18th March 1980. At her request, her ashes were scattered over the Popocatapetl volcano (in Mexico). 
#DidYouKnow that Madonna is an admirer and collector of Lempicka's work? She even lent paintings to events and museums. She has featured Lempicka's work in her music videos (Open Your Heart, Express Yourself, Vogue and Drowned World/Substitute for Love). Other fans are Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand - they also collect her work. 

"I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don't apply to those who live on the fringe" - Tamara de Lempicka 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves History 
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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

No More ATMs For Poland?

My dear hearts,

#DidYouKnow that the latest data published by National Bank of Poland shows that the last quarter the number of ATMs is systematically decreasing? Since the end of March 2017, 521 devices have disappeared from the Polish streets. According to NBP data, at the end of December 2017 there were 23230 ATMs in Poland. A quarter later there are 96 ATMs less! Poles are more and more willing to pay through their cards then via cash. In the last quarter of 2017, there were 167.4 million cash withdrawals in ATMs across the country. This is 6.8 million less transactions than in the previous quarter (down 3.9%). The value of the transactions have also decreased.  In the 4th quarter of 2017, cash withdrawals totalled 83.5 billion PLN, 1.8 billion less than in the previous quarter (down 2.2%). The average value of a single cash withdrawal transaction at an ATM was 499 PLN, more than in the previous quarter (490 PLN).
At the end of 2017, one device performed on average 78 withdrawals during the day. Quarterly, the number of transactions was 81. Coming at a rapid pace there are more and more contactless payments as well... Currently, contactless cards represent 79.6% of all payment cards in Poland. According to the NBP, the introduction of contactless cards on the Polish market was carried out very efficiently throughout the banking sector. It enabled the delivery of 31.1 million payment cards with customers with the contactless payment function.
In the 4th quarter of 2017, 708.3 million non-cash transactions were carried out with contactless payment cards. In comparison to the previous quarter (690.3 million), the number of transactions increased by 18 millon (2.6% increase). In Q4 2017, the share of contactless payments in the total number of non-cash payments amounted to 68.3 %! The total value of the transactions carries out was 36.7 billion PLN. Compared to the previous quarter, the value of non-cash contactless transactions increased by 6.2 billion PLN (20.2% increase). The share of contactless transactions in non-cash transactions carries out with payment cards amounted to 51.4% (period previous: 45.9%).

How about you? How often do you use the ATM? How often do you use contactless? I know I do that very often :)

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Buys Contactless
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Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Mayor of Iasi, Romania, in Krakow

Dearest hearts,

There are many minorities living in Poland, many living in Krakow. The biggest minority are the Ukrainian people but there are many small groups of other locations, that live together as one. This year, very soon - in summertime, I will have lived for 7 years in Krakow. I am a Romanian expat blogger living in Krakow for a while now, creating roots with a couple of other hundred people from my country of origin. We are not the kind that come here to "pick strawberries or tomatoes", nor the kind that sweep the floor, do the cleaning or take care of elderly people (like people do mostly in Spain, Italy or even Israel). Don't get me wrong, those jobs are not demeaning or shameful, without people working on all levels society would not work. What I mean is that people that come to Poland don't do it for physical Labour, but rather it is a migration of brains and most of the people transfer to corporations here. Just like I did - I was working in Capgemini in Iasi, was offered a better job here, and I went for it! We always strive to better ourself and learn new things in the process. 
Living in Poland provides a better lifestyle than in Romania, and many of us believe that at least we are not afraid of what tomorrow will bring. Most of the politicians in Romania are corrupt and they are hungry for more and more power. As Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars reference, and I'm not even sorry!) would put it: "Unlimited Power!!!". It does not matter if you are stepping over other people, what matters is taking it all. I remember a story my mum used to say about the Jewish family that she lived next to when she was just a child. The Jewish family had a shop and they were selling things. They always said it was alright (even expected) to steal but one should always have a limit on how much. They would say that is why God left us with the index finger, to stop ourself of the border of the box/coffer/sack - so you could go only a few fingers down, not the whole hand up to the elbow (or more). Nowdays they just like to steal it all... that is why you hear of people going in the street and government changes. There are few who would like to make the world better, and there are idealists amongst us - one of them being the mayor of my city, the mayor of Iasi: Mihai Chirica.
The mayor of Iasi (Polish version: Jassy) - Mihai Chirica - is quite a dreamer, but more than that he managed to realise more than the previous mayors, for my hometown. He is finally the one who accesses the European Funds in order to make some changes. Poland, and especially Krakow - Warsaw have been tapping on those funds, making the cities better and better. Now Mihai Chirica just finished the documentation for the acquisition of electrical buses and new trams (not second hand ones that break at any moment). That will include 16 trams with a length of 26 meters, 25 electric buses 7-10 meter long, 20 electric buses 12 meter long. But why do I speak of that? Well... Mihai Chirica went to a European Congress of Local Authorities, that was held in Krakow - 25th to 27th of April. His business agenda included a talk of creating a fraternity between Krakow and Iasi - to be brother cities. I think that is a wonderful idea, seeing that we share history together and our culture and way of living is not that much different. Both Iasi and Krakow are the cultural hearts, the cultural capitals of Romania and Poland. Also, for a while, they were the capitals of the countries. So having Mihai Chirica here, initiating a collaboration in the academical domain, but also cultural and science domain, being very interested as well on Krakow's (Poland's) model of accessing European Funds... it is a lovely and refreshing step forward. Seeing someone care enough to make a move and make a change, to talk to the people on a 1-on-1 basis. On the 27th of April, on his free afternoon in Krakow, without agenda, he choose to visit the St. Mary Basilica (Polish: Kosciol Mariacki).
  
The meeting was setup with the help of the President of the Polish-Romanian Society in Krakow - Ignat Timar - and our very own Romanian Catholic priest - Marius Bucevschi. Ignat is the one that keeps us all, Romanian people, united in one community and he is the one encouraging us to do more events that show the Romanian soul. With his help and the collaboration of the Public Library on Rajska 1 (That holds a "Romanian Corner" in the Multilingual Sector, 2nd floor, with over 600 books in Romanian language) we are able to create events on a regular basis on the special moments in our culture. We have workshops for the 1st of March - to make the Martisor - we have workshops for Easter - to paint eggs (Polish: #pisanki ) and we have ocassional gatherings with Romanian authorities (last fall we had the Romanian Minister of Defence dropping by). Of course the Rajska Public Library also allows us to have a room for voting purposes (already voted here a couple of times, even for Presidency). In Krakow we don't have a Consulate and the only Embassy is the one in Warsaw so  we feel privileged to have this option instead of travelling to and fro'. 
The meeting with the mayor of Iasi, Mihai Chirica, was on the 27th of April, afternoon. He came along with someone from the Romanian Embassy (so sorry I did not catch the name) and was a tiny bit late (not the quarter of the hour, fashionable, but earlier) to the 5 PM meeting with our Romanian priest - Marius Bucevschi. He invited the Mayor to come see the beautiful Basilica and do a small tour. He was kind enough to show the Mayor some of the most important spots and also invite him, at the end of the tour, to the chapel where we gather for the ceremony in Romanian language every 2 weeks. There was of course the exchange of gifts and words of gratitude, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Mayor had a bit more free time on his hence. Father Marius was kind enough to provide us with room to gather and I can swear I don't know where 2 hours passed talking between us - Mihai Chirica, Ignat Timar, Marius Bucevschi, the representant from the Embassy and a group of Romanian people living in Krakow (about 12 of us).
***
We talked seriously, occasionally joked, and the Mayor told us the plans of fraternity between Krakow and Iasi. He told us that in the next 2 years in Iasi he wants to modernise the Public Transport, to get new buses and trams, to get displays with the hour and time of departure - and stick to that, introduce electronic tickets and the abonament for all lines for about 80-90 lei (that's around 20 euros). He also told us that he entered negotiations with LOT Polish Airlines to see the option of making a Iasi-Warsaw or even Iasi-Krakow connection (I am praying for that one!). He also realised how long it takes to get here... only by car to the border with Romania (Oradea) it would take 15 hours. Going by plane you need to switch at least 2 planes - the best connection is Krakow-Vienna-Iasi with Austrian Airlines but that ain't cheap at all. The Mayor of Iasi has high hopes for the city and wants to invest more in the cultural side, to revive the true/authentic Romanian spirit. I believe he is an idealist and that he is a dreamer - it takes more than a flower for spring to come - but the changes he is trying to make are real and visible and good. I wish Mihai Chirica all the best in his endeavour - May God bless you and give you straight and shield you from enemy hands!
     
Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Romania & Poland 
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Friday, 27 April 2018

Polish symbols: The White and Red Flag

Dearest sweethearts, 

I don't know if you are aware, but next week will be quite a busy one for Polish people everywhere. There are 2 great national holidays next week: on the 1st of May we celebrate May Day - Labour Day ("Swieto Pracy") and that is closely followed by the 3rd of May Constitution Day. The two dates combined usually form a long weekend - holiday called "Majowka". People often take the whole week off to travel and it is also the official start of the barbecuing season. Between these two there is also the 2nd of May - a working day - a patriotic holiday: the Day of the Polish Flag (Dzien Flagi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej). It was introduced by a Parliamentary Act in February 20th, 2004. 
Disclaimer: picture taken from the Internet
This is why today I would like to tell you a bit more about this Polish symbol: The Polish Flag. The White and Red have been national colors since 1831 but the flag's history goes back way back in time. In the past the national colors of Poland were primarily a symbol of the fight for freedom and independence. In truth, the colors have been used as Polish identifying features since ancient times. The first national ensign was introduced in Poland in the 13th century - following the coronation of King Przemysl II. At that time a white eagle on a crimson background was the banner of the state. 
Disclaimer: I did not take this picture. I found it on the Internet
During the November Uprising in 1831, the Sejm (The Polish Parliament) officially adopted the white and red colors, proclaiming: "the national cockade shall be the colors of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which is the color white with red". During the Second World War, the red & white flag played an important role in the opposition movement activity. Today, just like the other national symbols, the national flag is protected by law. The Flag of the Republic of Poland Day falls on the 2nd of May but it is not a free day - 1st and 3rd May are so... let the Majowka start! 

#DidYouKnow that there are 2 variants of the Polish national flag? Plain white and red, and white and red with the national coat of arms placed in the middle of the white band.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves History 
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Friday, 20 April 2018

Collegium Maius: Kawiarnia u Pecherza

Dearest sweethearts,

If ever you find yourself on the cobblestoned paths of Old Town Krakow it would be a pitty not to visit also Collegium Maius - one of the oldest buildings of the Jagiellonian University. Collegium Maius sits on the former Jewish District - that was moved to Kazimierz due to a huge fire. Now Collegium Maius is quite off the beaten track and many tourists don't know about it, even though it is in the Old Town and just a stone throw away from the Main Market Square. Drag yourself there and enjoy some quiet time at the Cafe shop that is in it's basement: Kawiarnia "U Pecherza". 
The coffee shop "U Pecherza" (btw #DidYouKnow that Pecherza in Polish language means bladder?) is located in the basement of the oldest part of the building Collegium Maius. There are 2 sets of stairs and no elevator - hence it is not quite children friendly nor for people with disabilities. But you can sit on one of the tables upstairs and ask the person whom joins you to go down and grab a drink - that's what we did ;) Please also bare in mind that the place is setup as self-service so you need to get to the counter and get your own food and drinks. The third minus I could spot was the fact that you can pay only cash, so make sure you have some before you order ;)
From the early morning to dusk, the coffee house offers 4 well appointed halls of almost 200 square meters. They seem lovely for big gatherings with friends, especially during summertime when the basement would keep things rather chill. The coffee shop also looks like an ideal place for group and individual classes. The athmosphere is cosy and you can't hear the hustle and bustle of the city, even though you are in the Old Town. There is good coffee and very good looking chocolate (hot!). They offer also sandwiches and fresh juices. And as an extra attraction, they do offer 30% off for students and researchers.
Checking more details (in Polish, of course), on the Collegium Maius site, they also state that they can organise receptions for work purposes, training conferences, integration parties and so on. They provide catering services, waiter service, room decoration and even music. "U Pecherza" team can offer each customer an individual offer tailored to your needs. 
If one would check the rating in TripAdvisor for Kawiarnia "U Pecherza" it would see it rating at 4.5 stars (out of 5) and designated as #929 of 1373 restaurants in Krakow. I would definitely not name it Restaurant, it is most certainly a coffee shop - a pit stop place where you can grab a cold soft drink and relax, while admiring the inner quarters of the Collegium Maius. I did not stay down, in the basement, as I always prefer seeing a patch of sky (plus I have a thing for red brick buildings). 
Kawiarnia "U Pecherza" is a takeout kind of place, with outdoor seating (wooden tables and chairs on ground level), buffet, options of wine and beer but also soft drinks (lemonade and fresh juices). It is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm & Saturday from 9 am - Sunday from 10 am till 5 pm. The name of the coffee shop actually comes from the original title of the building: Dom Szczepana Pecherza. It was changed after the decree on 26th July 1400, when Wladyslaw Jagiello transferred the building to the property of the university.
Nowdays you can enjoy at the coffee shop homemade desserts, nutritious sandwiches and fine teas. It's popular amongst students who spend time between classes there or tourists that just want to have a break. The Kawiarnia is an integral part of the Museum - there are also temporary exhibitions (for example pictures hanging on the walls, as you can see in the photos above).

Location: ul. Jagiellonska 15, Krakow 31-010
The prices:
- Natural juices, bottled (glass bottle), locally produced, diverse sortiments - 5 zloty per bottle 
- Coca Cola, bottled (glass bottle) - 8 zloty per bottle
- Home-made cakes - 8-10 zloty per piece
Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow 
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Friday, 13 April 2018

FAQ about Krakow

Dearest sweethearts,

First of all I hope that you had a lovely Easter break next to the ones you love. Secondly, you have to excuse my long absence on posting here as I had to celebrate Easter twice: first the Catholic and then the Orthodox one. There is always a good time to celebrate and when you have your family, the loved ones, around you it's more worthwhile! For today's post I have prepared for you a couple of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Krakow, so let's get started:
Public transport ticket validator in a tram on line 50, Krakow, Poland - 22.09.2017 free transport day
1. How can one get from the Krakow Airport to the City Center?
Krakow has only one airport: John Paul the 2nd Airport or also known as Balice Airport. The city centre is located a mere 11 km away and there are multiple ways to get there. The fastest and cheapest option is the direct train that connects the 2 locations - a one way ticket costs 8 zloty (less than 2 euros!). The longest but the most cheap option would be taking the public transport - bus lines 208, 292 and the night bus 902 - it costs 4 zloty per ticket (it allows one to circulate in strefa I and II). Of course you can also choose having a cab - I personally recommend the Airport Taxi was it is the cheapest taxi around, very comfortable and drivers speak English.
A Tram in front of the Dominican Church, Old Town Krakow, Poland
2. Are the taxis expensive in Krakow? Should I use public transport?
Usually there are different prices for the fare, according to the hour when you take the cab - from 6 am to 10 pm and from 10 pm to 6 am. There is always an initial cost of having ordered the taxi, adding to that the tariff for the Strefa you are in. The interesting thing for the Airport Taxi is the fact that it has setup a certain price for the area in Krakow where you wish to get. The tariff is the same no matter day and night and they do not count the km. I usually prefer the public transport and I have a monthly card that allowes me to use any bus or tram from strefa I and II for around 140 zloty (around 35 euros). I love trams as they are very frequent, fast, new and comfortable. They reach every corner of the city and don't get big delays (unlike the buses).
3. When do shops close in Krakow?
Well it really depends on the shops and their location. Of course the Old Town and Kazimierz (Jewish District) close their doors at 11 pm or at their last customer. Usually the shops are open until 6-8 pm. Shorter schedule in the weekend, of course. The shopping malls open up around 8 am and close their doors at 10 pm - they do want to make "an honest buck" ;) Since this year, 2018, there are almost no more working days on Sundays. You will find everything (except gas stations and probably some small local shops) closed on Sundays, so make sure you stick up on goodies while you are here. But don't worry! You will surely not starve! Just get to the main square and get something traditionally polish from one of the local (open) restaurants.
A miniature of the Wawel Castle and Cathedral, inside the inner walls of the Castle, Krakow, Poland 
4. Where can I find more tourist information? Are there any such spots throughout the city? 
I highly recommend the InfoKrakow Points - they were of great help when I first settled down here 7 years ago and I still use them from time to time to get flyers with news about events and projects in Krakow. InfoKrakow Points let you find information about tourist attractions in the city and its vicinity, cultural events, accommdation, but tickets, hire guides and obtain free info (tourist leaflets and other material). The ones I go to are: Cloth Hall - Rynek Glowny 1/3 (Main Market Square) and Szpitalna Street - ul. Szpitalna 25. Of course you can find an info point as soon as you touchdown at the Krakow Airport - ground floor - and there are a couple in the Galeria Krakowska - where the train from the Airport stops (station: Krakow Dworzec Glowny).
Wintertime in Krakow, Poland
5. What's the weather in Krakow? 
Krakow is very beautiful and very crowded during summertime and wintertime. Summertime in Krakow is hot but we have lovely wind that comes and goes and makes things more bearable. The temperature ranges from 20 to 30+ degrees Celsius. During winter the temperature can balance between -10 and +5 degrees Celsius... but it does feel worse due to the hard winds. Spring is not that warm at the beginning. For example this year we still had about 10 degrees until a week or two ago. Now we have constant 20+ degrees. Autumn is rainy and cloudy but don't be discouraged! Autumn in Poland is my favourite season - it's not hot or cold but it's nice that you don't have to layer up! I believe Autumn is the most beautiful period in Poland - everything changes it's colour and you have shades of red and yellow and brown and green at once. There is a smell in the air of cider and pumpkin pie and szarlotka (apple pie). But to be fair, every season has its pluses and minuses - my #tipsandtricks for Poland: always have an umbrella with you!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow 
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Friday, 30 March 2018

7 Odd Easter Traditions in Poland

Dearest hearts,

Easter is just knocking at our door, is it not?! Depending on your faith, you may be celebrating Easter tomorrow - 1st of April (and that ain't no lie!) - If you are Catholic, or next week if you are Orthodox. Sometimes Easter falls at the same day for those of both Catholic and Orthodox faith, but not this year. Poland is a country of unique traditions that are still being kept alive, especially when it comes to the big holidays - like Christmas and Easter. Easter though is considered a bigger holiday than Christmas. 
Krakow Easter Market
So let's try and get a bit more familiar with this holiday. Well... you might (or might not) know that the week before Easter is named Holy Week and that during that week a lot of things tend to happen ;) but before we get into details, you need to know that the main celebration is called "Niedziela Wielkanocna" (Easter Sunday). The main dish that everyone has is eggs (boiled and pretty decorated, if possible hand painted) - they are called "pisanki". They are usually eaten with plenty of horseradish. The main decoration is the "Baranek Wielkanocny" (Easter Lamb) - which can be a baked cake or make out of white sugar. A borrowed tradition is the Easter bunny ("Zajaczek Wielkanocny") that brings presents / sweets to the little ones. 
Colorful Easter Market in Krakow's Main Market Square 
But without any further ado, let me tell you about some odd Easter Traditions in Poland:
1. Spring cleaning - everyone does it nowdays, cleaning each quarter the house - completely, is a must - so that things don't clutter up. But the Polish people see this as a Easter preparation and it usually starts at the beginning of Lent. Maybe it is also done as a way to self repent on the dirtiness and the clusters building in our house... Maybe it's a way in which one would have time to rethink their life and get a more minimalistic view over things. We are just passing through life, we should not accumulate so many things!
2. Ash Wednesay - the first day of Lent. The Catholic people go to church this day to have their foreheads marked in ash. It is a holy day of prayer and fasting. It comes from "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This custom dates from the 18th century.
Easter Market Krakow - Niedziela Palmowa 
3. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week and it is one of the most colorful and popular events. In Polish it is called "Niedziela Palmowa" and it symbolises Jesus triumphal entry on a donkey to Jerusalem, where people on his way put Palm leaves and their clothes on the ground in order to make a rug on which Jesus might walk. Of course there are no Palms in Poland due to the weather but people are inventive! They make them out of willow or bus is branches decorates with dry flowers and colorful ribbons. The highest of them reach even 12+ stories tall! There are huge contests organised in the big cities but the best are in the town of Lyse and Lipnica Murowana.
4. The Easter Basket - usually gets taken by the children in the household to be blessed at church. They put in goods that will be eaten on the Easter breakfast: bread, eggs, ham, lamb shaped cake, sausages, salt, horseradish and especially for the kids, some chocolate. The priest blesses the baskets with a little brush dipped in holy water. The tradition dates back to 7th century! And you will also find this is Romanian culture ;)
Wooden "pisanki" at the local Easter Market in Poland
5. Easter Eggs - Pisanki - there are plenty of ways in which one can decorate them, according to the region. Also depending on that the eggs will have different patterns. The most used version are the "kraszanki" - boiling eggs in coloured water. "Oklejanki" - pasting dried flowers, cloth or coloured paper to the eggs. For example, boiling eggs with beetroot will make them red. There are plenty of other ways, including some where you make small holes and take the inside out, making the shell as a delicate lace... if only one could have so much patience. 
6. Egg cracking contest - we do have the same tradition in Romania and I love It! You take the egg and your family member takes another one and tries to crack yours. In Poland, whomever has the most cracked egg is considered the most unlucky. In Romania, whomever cracks someone else's egg can take it away as a prize. 
Wikipedia representation of Smingus-Dyngus
7. Smingus-Dyngus aka "Lany Poniedzialek" aka Wet Monday - Easter Monday in Poland and Ukraine. This day boys throw water over girls (gentleman use perfume) and spank them with willow branches. Also the boys can use this moment to make verse declaration and they love to do door to door processions. It dates from pagan times (before 1000 AD). This can also happen inside the city, not only in the country side! So please be careful next Monday, girls! Better be safe then wet ;)))
Do you ladies and gentlemen know any other odd Easter Traditions in Poland? Would love to hear your voice on this topic. In the meanwhile I wish you a very Happy Easter next to the ones you love! 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Easter 
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Monday, 26 March 2018

Famous Polish People: Pope John Paul II

Dearest sweethearts,

#DidYouKnow that today, on the 26th of March, back in 1985, the Pope John Paul II proclaimed the very first ever World Youth Day? I don't know if you ever witnessed or been a part or a World Youth Day, but almost 2 years ago - summer of 2016, Krakow hosted the World Youth Day. Over 2 million extra tourists/pilgrims flocked over to come see the where The Pope preached and where he did service. The current Pope came as well and he addressed the crowds, just as Pope John Paul 2nd did, from the window in his room, next to the Dominican Church. 
Pope John Paul 2nd in Poland
But why is Pope John Paul 2nd a Famous Polish Person? He was the 264th Pope - his birth name was Karol Jozef Wojtyla. He was the 2nd longest serving pope and the very first non Italian for over 450 years! He held the office from 1978 to 2005 (his death). He loved to travel and meet people of all faiths, around the world - he visited no less than 129 countries. He firmly believed in orthodox ideals such as sexuality and abortion. He was also the one that was very open minded about accepting people of other faith - thus improving greatly relations with other faiths. 
The Pope and The Queen :)
He was quite an extraordinary man:
  • He was the first Pope to visit the White House. 
  • He was the first modern pope to visit a synagogue.
  • He is, even to this day, the most widely traveled Pope in history 
  • He re-established diplomatic relations with Great Britain after a 450 year break! 
  • His predecessor Pope John Paul I said this: "My name is John Paul the first. I will be here only a short time. The second is coming".
  • He had an audience of 300000 people who could not stop applauding for 14 minutes! During his trip back to Poland, as Pope in June 1979, he celebrated Pentecost Mass in the Victory Square to a crowd of 300000 people. At a certain point the frenetic applause lasted for more than 14 minutes! 
  • He has the honour of being the one human who has gathered the most humans together in one spot. In 1995 at the World Youth Day in Philippines, there was an estimate of 5 million people that attended the Holy Mass that he celebrated. It is considered as the largest human gathering from the creation of mankind.
But before being an amazing Pope he was an one-of-a-kind human being:
  • He was a key figure in the Polish struggle against the Nazis and he was officially placed in their "Black List" in 1944.
  • He did together and he saved the shows (most of the times) due to his fantastic memory - he had a passion for drama and literature and would memorize every line of every play (as a understudy). 
  • The communist party wanted him to become the archbishop of Krakow - is it not awkward that the person that they picked would end up bringing down communism?!
  • He went skiing until he was 73 - isn't that amazing! Sport does wonders for the body and mind - we should all take a lesson!
  • He was known as the "Daredevil of the Tatras" - a name he earned for his skiing skills in taking on the slopes of Poland's Tatra Mountains where he spent 2 weeks each winter. 
  • He skied for the last time at the Italian resort of Terminillo, 20 miles north of Rome. 
Have you ever met the Pope? Do you know any interesting stories or facts about him? I would love to know :)

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Admires Famous Polish People 
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Friday, 23 March 2018

Easter Markets in Krakow

Dearest hearts,

The Easter Markets in Krakow are one of the most colorful events that you can join. Of course the Christmas Markets are special and colorful and touching but on a different level. Easter Markets bring the Spring along, the smell of flowers blooming, the sound of birds chirping - singing about the revival of the Earth. Easter in Poland is also colorful through its traditions: painting eggs ("pisanki") & the Palm Sunday ("Niedziela Palmowa"). Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week - known as Kwietna or Wierzbna. It is a Catholic faith tradition, around the world, to bring palms to the church to be blessed. Palm trees are not common in Poland but people are inventive ;) so what they do is they bring greenery found in the fields. Usually they bring pussy willow with its buds just blooming. It's also a tradition to create "Palma Wielkanocna" - little palms made out of branches of wood, adorned with artificial made flowers (tissue or crepe paper). Sometimes, if they prepare well, they put also dried flowers (as fresh ones have not yet bloomed). To make it even more pretty and eye appealing, they put on colorful ribbons of all shapes and sizes and colors. The palms creates can be small (as small as your hand) but they can reach up to a 12 story building! There are contests in each parish whom will do the prettiest and tallest one - they are usually displayed inside the church.
The Easter Market in Krakow's Main Market Square - 2016
The Rynek Glowny (Krakow Main Market Square) is transformed into a busy market and the Sukiennice is completely surrounded by stalls that sell everything from homemade sausage or highlander cheese ("oscypek") to hand painted eggs ("pisanki") to lamb shaped sweets perfect for the traditional Easter basket. The choice is quite large and I am willing to bet you can find something for everyone at the market. The Easter Market usually runs through the Easter break into late April. It starts 10-14 days prior to Easter Sunday, lasts through Holy Week, ending on Easter Monday night (or even longer sometimes...). In 2018, the Krakow Easter Market in Krakow's Main Market Square will take place between 23rd of March and 2nd April. As usual, the fair is organises by the Urzad Miasta Krakowa and the congregation Kupiecka "Artim" SP. Z O O. you can find the most up to date info, in Polish language only, on their presentation site. For your pleasure, here are some of the highlights:
  • 24th March, Saturday - the true opening of the fair will take place at 12:00. At 11:30 there will be dances performed by the "Krakowiacy"; at 12:30 by the dancing group "Male Slowianki" and at 13:00 by Ludowego Miedzyszkolnego Zespolu Piesni I Tanca "Krakowiak"
  • 25th March, Sunday - The Showing of the Easter Palms - the contest for the prettiest Easter Palm will start at 10:00 am. The march / procession from under the Barbakan - 11:15. Dedication of the Palma in front of the church of St. Wojciech - 11:45. The presentation of the regional teams - 12:00. The final decision for the competition for the most beautiful Palm - 13:30. 
  • 26th March, Monday - between 14:00 and 18:00 - Easter plastic workshop for children: flowers from tissue paper & decorating Easter baskets - organised by the Krakow branch of the Stowarzyszwnie Tworcow Ludowych
  • 27th March, Tuesday - between 14:00 and 18:00 - Easter plastic workshop for children: decorating polystyrene eggs with colorful sequins - organised by the Krakow branch of the Stowarzyszwnie Tworcow Ludowych
  • 28th March, Wednesday - between 14:00 and 18:00 - Easter plastic workshop for children: painting wooden eggs and Easter hangers - organised by the Krakow branch of the Stowarzyszwnie Tworcow Ludowych
  • 31st March, Saturday - at 10:00 am - Easter table presentation of Easter regional baskets
  • 2nd April, Monday - Traditions and Easter Rites - "Siuda Baba" - Folklore Association "Teatr Regionalny" and "Teatr Po Latach" - 14:00 hours. Jurajska Kapela Folklorystyczna - 16:20. 
Throughout the duration of the Easter Market, there will be demonstrations of folk art and craft organised by the Krakow branch of the Stowarzyszenie Tworcow. Don't miss out on it! The Krakow Easter Market in the Main Market Square is a treat for all ages and a great opportunity for photographers in love with StreetPhoto or Portraits - plenty of people flocking by! Don't miss out on the Palm parade as well - it's so colorful and one of a kind! It's an open Market, no entrance fee so do take your time and enjoy it - it will also give you a taste on how Christmas Markets are in Poland and maybe it will make you want to come again ;) as usual... if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Yours very much truly in love with Krakow,
The Twisted Red Ladybug
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Monday, 19 March 2018

What do you know about Podgorze, Krakow?

Dearest hearts,

Most people that come to visit Krakow would rarely move outside the Old Town or Kazimierz (Jewish District). Few know much of the Podgorze area, except maybe the fact that it was a quiet suburb; most of you might know it due to the fact that it is the place where Nazis built the Jewish Ghetto during the Second World War and it is also the place where one can find Schindlers Factory / Schindlers Museum (on Lipowa 4). The renewal of historical interest and the large number of visitors created the start of the revival of this area. Spielberg's movie did the trick by starting a stream of people coming to see where the movie was filmed + the grounds of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Word of mouth spread like wildfire and more and more people come now to witness Krakow's beauty but also it's sad historical background. The World Youth Day in Krakow (2016) increased greatly the number of people flocking in to see with their own eyes the "remains of pain". Thus the Podgorze area started to bloom, to come to life, adding museums to the National Museum of Krakow list & making sure restaurants and cafes were in place for the tired travellers. 
St. Joseph's Church in Podgorze
But Podgorze was not "born yesterday"; it has been around for hundreds of years and it even was an independent city in the 19th Century (just as Kazimierz district used to be a separate city). During the Second World War, the Nazi party appropriated a huge part of the area to build a ghetto (walled in) and an area for forced labour camp. The Jews of Krakow had to leave their homes in the Kazimierz Jewish District and move there, over the Vistula river. Their homes were taken over by the German citizen. After the war, Podgorze area fell to a different kind of depression, being transformed into an industrial zone. In the Podgorze area, I believe the most important building is the former enamel works factory owned by Oskar Schindler during the Second World War. It is the same that Spielberg brought to the wide screen through "Schindlers List" and Thomas Keneally through his touching book "Schindlers Ark". He saved the lives of more than 1000 Jewish workers whom would have otherwise most likely died during the Holocaust. The museum can be found at Lipowa 4 and had his gates first opened in 2011. It is rather not a typical museum, something you would think would relate completely to Schindler. No! It is a museum dedicated to Krakow's occupation during World War II.
Inside Schindlers Museum / Factory - Krakow, Lipowa 4
Right next to the Schindlers Museum you can find MOCAK - Museum Of Contemporary Art. You can buy a ticket for the both of them at a smaller price and both of them are really worth visiting. I would recommend at least half a day for the both of them. First time I went to the Schindlers Museum it took me around 4 hours to get out... there is so much to see and read and listen and take in! When you think only of the gruesome fact that during the war the Nazis deported 16000 Jews to the over-crowded ghetto and that each person had maybe less than 2 square meters for their own usage... these things may sound hard to believe but they are true! The location that is marked out right now, and was once the centre of the ghetto, is known locally as Plac Bohaterow Getta (The Heroes of the Ghetto Square). It was a point where people were brought in and selected to go to the extermination camps. At this moment the square is filled with 70 oversized chairs - the memorial was designed by the architects Piotr Lewicki & Kazimierz Latak.  They wanted to represent in this way the remnants discarded by the people deported, that were not allowed to take with them any personal items. 
Just on the corner of Plac Bohaterow Gotta, on the South side, you will find the Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orlem). During the Second World War it was run by Tadeusz Pankiewicz. He was Polish, not Jewish, and he refused to go away when they started errectibg the Podgorze Ghetto. He wanted to stay and try to help the souls trapped in. He was allowed to exit the Ghetto and this way he was able to carry messages outside from the people within. Tadeusz also helped provide medicine and other items that were hard to get inside the Ghetto. The museum now holds a small exhibition on the history of the ghetto. It is also part of the National Museum of Krakow. Few places that show the Ghetto actually remain, but there is still a small fragment of the wall at ulica Lwowska 25-29, just South of the Plac Bohaterow Getta, with a plaque marking the location. Also worth visiting is the Plaszow Labour Camp, a forced labour and extermination camp built by the Nazis to help facilitate the liquidation of the Podgorze Ghetto. In 1943-44, at maximum capacity, the camp held 25000 people. There is not much one can see now, except plaques and memorial statues, but there is a plan to build a National Museum branch there. 
Kopiec Krakus can be visited also with the help of Free Walking Tour Krakow team 
If you do manage to get this far in Podgroze then the Krakus Mound is just a stone throw away. Polish people name it Kopiec Krakusa, Krak Mound,  and it is supposed to be the final resting place of Krakow's mythical founder: king Krakus. Together with Wanda Mound it is one of Krakow's 2 prehistoric mounds, and the oldest man made structure in Krakow. There have been always religious purposes associated to the Mound, dating from pagan times. There is a hypothesis that says the mound is of Celtic origin and dates form 2nd - 1st century BCE. Another hypothesis states that it was built having astronomy in mind: if you would stand on top of the mound and look towards Wanda Mound at sunrise on the morning of Beltane (2nd largest Celtic feast day), one would see the sun rise directly over Wanda Mound. Until the mid 1830s there was an annual food festival held on the first Tuesday after Easter. It was revived in the 2000s and it's being held again: Rekawka Festival. It has roots in pagan rites or spring. Don't miss it as it's extremely entertaining. This year it's gonna be on the 3rd of April - celebration between 12:00 and 17:30; pagan rite of "Marzanna Drowning" at around 13:00; funeral of King Krak at 17:15. Don't miss out on it or you'll have to wait till next year! 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Podgorze 
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