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Monday, 24 September 2018

10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland - Part 3

Dearest pumpkins,

Yes, Autumn is here and this past week the temperature dropped visibly from 23 degrees Celsius to about 13... rain and wind is on the order of the day, but we do get occasional sun bursts, that make one leave the house and explore more ;) so don't get frightened and get out and explore the city! A weekend trip to Poland, during the golden Autumn, is a must! In my humble opinion,  Autumn (late September, early October) is the best time to visit Poland. The leaves are changing, there is the smell of apples and grapes and pumpkin in the air... and it's less crowded than during summer or winter. Anyway, without further ado, I wanted to share with you today the part 3 of the series "10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland" - for your reference, here is part 1 and part 2
1. Is Poland safe? I keep hearing this question and it baffles me that people nowdays, in this century, still believe the stupid things that people say on the social media, without researching further or analysing and filtering things themselves. I've been living in Poland for over 7 years now and never have I felt not safe. Poland is highly ranked on the list of the safest countries. People that visit have never faced any serious threats during their stay - nothing life threatening. There are, of course - as in other countries, cases of pickpocketing or petty thefts, overcharge or even ATM scams, but tell me one country where that doesn't happen! 
2. Tipping in Poland - should one tip or should not? This is the question ;) well... Tipping in Poland, in restaurants, especially in tourist areas or cities like Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw or the Tri-City area (Gdansk, Gdynia, Sopot) is the norm. Usually we tip around 10% or the bill value - 15% if you are REALLY HAPPY of the service. Usually the tip is not included in the bill, but make sure and check, so you don't double tip. Some restaurants in Krakow,  in the crowded touristy areas, already ads that to their bill (10%). For example, the very nice Israeli restaurant called AWIW, in Kazimierz, adds it to the check. 
Kosciol Mariacki (St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow)
3. Is Poland in Schengen? Do I need a Visa to get there? Well... currently the Schengen area consist of 26 European countries (of which 22 are EU states). Poland is one of them, so no need for a Visa if you are also part of the Schengen area ;) that means that you can travel border free and you are not required to show a passport or national ID card. It's recommended though to have it with you, so you can prove your age and identity. 
4. Try to learn a fee words - it's hard, I know, but it will make your life easier and it will provide you a better quality of life! Polish people love it when you try and speak polish. They know how hard it is and they appreciate it. Don't get discouraged. Everyone had a tough time learning it. Try at the beginning: Dziekuje = Thank you; Rachunek = the bill; Przepraszam = Sorry/Excuse me. 
The pedestrian crossing between Kazimierz and Podgorze, Krakow, Poland
5. (Free) Walking Tours - now I don't get to say it often, but the best way to visit Poland (It's cities) is by walking. No need to rent a car - you can walk and maybe use public transport if the distance is too big. The Free Walking Tours of Krakow are the best I've seen and there is a organisation that spreads into Warsaw and Wroclaw as well, providing tours in Polish, English, Spanish, Italian and German (for Wroclaw). These tours usually last about 1 hour and 30 minutes but it get get up to 2 hours or more, according to the topic. At the end of the tour you can decide how much you wish to pay. Remember, theguided used their time to teach you new things! Be generous! 
6. Public toilets - there are plenty and either they are for free or there is a small tax to be payed (usually 1 or 2 zloty, so make sure you have some change with you, as you can't pay by card). They are always split between male and female and they are quite clean. The Galerias (the malls) have them on each floor and they have options as well for people with disabilities. 
Prism view of the Main Podgorze Church, Krakow
7. Kissing 3 times - when you meet someone you will kiss 3 times during the official cases, like meeting family for Christmas or when you meet your Polish friends. BUT! If it's the first time you meet some, that may be a bit too much, so truth stick to a simple handshake ;) leave the kisses for later! In Romania we miss twice, one on each cheek, and it was confusing for me at the beginning :) 
8. Polish Faith - majority of the Poles are Christians and 86.7% belong to the Roman Catholic church. If you know a bit if polish language you can tune in and listen to the Catholic TV channel or the radio station - Radio Maria. Also, if you enjoy large monuments and you always walked to go to Rio and see the great statue of Christ... well... you can go to western Poland, to Swiebodzin, and see the statue of Jesus Christ (Pomnik Chrystusa Krola). Finished in November 2010, it has 33 meters and it is the tallest statue of Jesus in the world. That's right! Taller than the one in Rio de Janeiro! 
A building from 1873, still standing, in the Podgorze area in Krakow, Poland 
9. Will there be any internet connection? Neah... we live in trees and we eat bananas and we are a third world country that has no clue what internet is! Of course Poland has internet! Of course not as awesome as the one we have in Romania, but still... free internet is also available in the big cities and inside most shopping malls and cafe's like Starbucks. At the public wifi's you need to accept the Terms and conditions and maybe give an email address and/or a phone number. If you need some help, and the instructions are in Polish, feel free to go to the Info Office inside the malls. They will surely help you out ;)
10. Traditional Polish last names change depending on the sex - names that end with -ski/-ska or -cka/-cki work like adjectives and they need to match the gender of the one who takes them, in Polish. So, if your father is called Kowalski and you are a girl, you will be named Kowalska. Keep that in mind, when adressing someone ;) 

How do you feel about today's list of 10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland? Have you checked out part 1 and part 2 yet? What else would you like to know about Poland before visiting this fine country? Shout out! :)

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Poland
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Thursday, 13 September 2018

Climate Treaty Forces Poland to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Dearest sweethearts,

Autumn is here and Winter is coming soon... that means that fog and smog is coming soon our way. As "Reuters" agency also points it out, the Polish institutions are not moving fast enough against the smog. They are not improving the quality of the air fast enough as the country's Supreme Audit Office (NIK) would like. Cities in the South of Poland especially, have denser smog than New Delhi or Beijing (where you can buy cans of fresh air!). Main issues come from Polish citizen burning low quality coal or rubbish to heat their homes, combined with the density of new buildings that do not leave the air to circulate properly. 
Don't know whom is the artist. If you do, let me know so I can put in the credits. The image is brilliant IMHO
"Poland still has one of the worst air qualities in the European Union", NIK said. The European Environment Agency says pollution leads to more than 44000 premature deaths in Poland a year! Poland, that generates most of its electricity through coal burning, hosts the United Nations climate talks in December. Around 200 government environment ministers will meet and discuss the details from the 2015 Paris climate accord. 
Early morning, November 2015, Krakow, Poland 
#DidYouKnow that Poland is the only member state of the EU that is yet to formally adopt the Doha Amendments? Under its terms, by 2020, Poland must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it produces by 20% from the 1990 level of production. Poland's pollution level is a constant frown on its inhabitants. During Autumns and Winters you can see people on the street walking with smog masks on, and even production of such smaller masks (for babies) started being a trend.
Krakow (Wawel Castle in the middle of the photo) under smog - photo taken from local news site
Take for example beautiful, majestic Krakow; with its amazing castle and it's unique Old Town... many of the buildings still have the furnaces that date back decades. Krakow government has outlawed the use of the cheapest, most polluting coal, and by 2019 it aims to ban all coal and wood burning. If Krakow succeeds, than it could serve as a role model to the other cities in Poland. But it's a hard thing to change, as it also involved changing the mindset of people! Still... Krakow managed to cut the number of outdated furnaces to about 10000 (from double that number several years ago).
A minus is the national government of the Law and Justice party (PIS), that always champions and raises glory to how powerful the coal industry is. In December 2017, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced his plans to build 2 new coal mines in the Silesian region (already heavily polluted as it is...). On another hand, the government announced that it will spend 8.8 billion dollars by 2028 to combat smog. Oh... we take with one hand and we give with another... don't we?! Anyway, if you are living in Poland (or if you ever lived here before), I would love to hear what you think of this situation.

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Krakow  
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Monday, 3 September 2018

Krakow Hidden Gems: Manufaktura Porcelany - Pottery Workshop

Dearest sweethearts,

We've all been potters at a certain moment in time. Tell me, when you were small, did you not play with clay? Or went to the seaside and put together sand and seashells and water to construct tall structures? Have you not played with playdoh and tried to build certain forms and structures? I know I would play with it hours on row, creating characters and worlds of their own, next to the window, watching the rain create patterns on leafs. 
Doing manual things is good for your body and brain alike. It allows you to rest, relax from the mundane and focus on creating an one-of-a-kind piece of art. I think pottery is the most basic and down to earth form of art, dating from the 9000 or even 10000 before Christ. Clay bricks were found dating about the same time. 
#DidYouKnow that the potters wheel was invented in Mesopotamia somewhere between 6000 and 4000 BC. It revolutionised pottery production! Moulds were used to a limited extent as early as the 5th and 6th century BC by the Etruscans and more extensively by the Romans. 
Clay is quite cheap and easy to find, so you are more than welcome to buy some and play around at home. The harder part is the post production - the burning (sometimes multiple times) in the kiln, the glazing and creating the intricate details that are worth every penny/groszy. But it's great fun if you love playing around with dough, like I do :) 
The Slow Wheel - Around 3000 BC, at the beginning of the Bronze Age, people in West Asia had begun to use the slow potter’s wheel. This is a little platform made of wood that you build the pot on. You can turn the platform around so that instead of having to walk around your pot you can sit still and turn the pot around. In the hands of someone who is good at using it, the slow wheel makes potting a lot faster.
If you will choose to join the Manufaktura Porcelany workshops (and you most definitely should!), you will get the chance to try out the slow wheel yourself and see how the clay will begin to yeald (very slowly) to your hands. Be prepared though, it's quite tough at the beginning and it takes a lot of work. But it's great fun to both do this and watch this ;) 
But let me tell you a bit more about Manufaktura Porcelany,  before I get on ahead and spoil every detail about the pottery workshops. Manufaktura Porcelany is an open studio, recently opened (in the autumn of 2015), where the traditional materials meet the new designs and dreams of the wonderfully funny and talented owner Liliana (Lila). She is the Creative Director behind the Manufaktura Porcelany and the soul of the company. 
Liliana is the one that does the workshop and she is a pleasure to be around. She is fun (and funny) and always has a smile in her face. I loved it when someone walked in while we were doing the workshop, and asked what we are creating. She simply said "we do not know yet" - and it is true, creativity flows and drips from her every pore, and at the end you will love what you have done, even if you have no idea at the beginning. 
If you contact Manufaktura Porcelany through their Facebook Page, you might have the honour to speak to Michal as well. He is the "Guest of everything" - selling, marketing, painting, packing, anything you might have questions about he will be the one to bug about. Manufaktura Porcelany doesn't only do ceramics workshops but it also sells one of a kind, unique products - from tea cups to mugs to jewellery (earrings and rings). 
Manufaktura Porcelany loves playing with ceramics and loves brining clay to life, in special pieces you will not find anywhere else on Earth. Liliana offers 3 types of workshops:
1) Wheel pottery workshops - the creation of a pottery piece on the slow wheel. You can create a piece and receive it as a summary of the workshop. The minimum duration is 2 hours. If you never seen this done before imagine the Demi Moore and Patrick Swayza scene from "Ghost" ;) For couples there is a special offer ;)
2) Creating porcelain - porcelain creation from already chosen ceramic form / mould. The participants can find out more on how the porcelain gets created, how it forms, then choose the mould and create the porcelain product - 2 pieces. Minimum 2 hours. 
3) Making porcelain jewellery - continuation of the #2 workshop. They participants will learn how to decorate the porcelain and they will also be able to create porcelain jewellery. Minimum 2 hours. 
The price of the Manufaktura Porcelany workshops depend on the number of hours and the number of people whom will attend it. The cost per one hour (60 min) with one student is 60 zloty. By the way, of you want to make this workshops as a gift to someone, you can! And this year they are having many promotions. Until the end of the year, each person that takes 3 hours of training will receive another hour for free!
Liliana is such a lovely person to have a workshop with! She is able to bond with you freely and teach you as much as you would wish to know of pottery and/or ceramics. Liliana, the heart and soul of Manufaktura Porcelany, finished the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, Poland. The Academy is composed of 3 departments and educates students in designing ceramics and glass, and in the creation of art within these 2 media. It takes 5 years to get to do the diploma and the requirements include the presentation of functional and artistic works made of ceramic or glass, a written paper and an annex. All students do the first year together and then they specialise. Liliana chose ceramics, or rather the ceramics choose her :) Her project for the diploma are the forefront of Manufaktura Porcelany: the cups and mugs and pots with aviary attachments (a hens leg). 
When I first came to Manufaktura Porcelany I did not know for sure what to expect. The shop/workshop location is in the district of Podgorze, very close to the pedestrian bridge that connects this district to Kazimierz. The street is ul. Wegierska 7/2. You can get there by car or by public transport (up to Plac Bohaterow Ghetta, by tram, and then taking a brisk 5-7 minute walk). There is no big sign, but it's had to miss the unique window display. The Manufaktura Porcelany consists of a rectangular (long) shaped room, with a bathroom at the back and a small storage space. There are numerous shelves with items made of clay or ceramic in diverse stages of production. Don't touch! Better ask what you are allowed to touch, as some of them are getting dried and wait for the burning process - at that stage they can easily break just by slightly touching them! 
I was not sure on what I would be creating, but I was very sure I wanted to work with clay and I had mind mind setup on trying the wheel. Liliana informed me of the various types if workshops and what we could do and we setup on the clay. I got a fine apron (I got special treatment as that was Liliana's) with pink roses and blue sashes and we got up to doing "the dirty work" :) please note down you should not come all dressed up in your finest clothes as clay tends to splash sometimes. The first step will be moulding and "playing" roughly with the clay, so as to take all the air out and also break the tougher pieces from the inside of the clay. All must be of the same "playdoh" consistency. The "playing" looks very much like doing the dough for the bread - rolling and flattening. Once done, slice it to check for air bubbles, and if all is fine, round it up and smash it gently on the dead centre of the wheel. Then the tough part begins... 2 main things you MUST remember: keep your hands still & keep them sticked to your legs (use all your strength to keep still!). Also, always remember to water the clay, or it will garden! 
Liliana, from Manufaktura Porcelany, helped me create a cup - took us almost 2 hours but it was the greatest fun I had in ages!!! I highly recommend this workshop also for kids (I would say ages 7 and above, as they need to understand and listen and have a bit of strength). Once the wheel stops and you have the finished material, Liliana will dry it a bit with something that looks like a hairdryer, but way more powerful! You will cut your masterpiece from the wheel and take it for decoration. You will need to sign your name on the bottom & then you can draw on it - as you can see I drew a LadyBug :) and... Then you will (unfortunately) have to wait up to 2 weeks. That is not the finished product. It must go at least 2 times in the kiln,  to be burned, and then glazed.  This way it will be more resistant and you will even be able to use it in the microwave! So, unfortunately if you don't live in Krakow, you will have to setup with Liliana or Michal a postage option. That's also why writing your name on the bottom of your masterpiece is also a must, so don't forget it! 

**The opinions in this post are my own 100%. Nobody told me what I should or should not write. I have always written from my heart! Manufaktura Porcelany invited me on this workshop free of charge. In exchange, as a lovely lass, I am offering them my feedback as a happy customer. I must admit this is a new experience for me but I loved it and I would do it again anytime!**

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Manufaktura Porcelany Workshops
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