Nowa Huta

9 03 2011

Around this time two years ago, I was in Poland. Hard to believe that much time has passed! I still read the Krakow Post regularly, and anything to do with Eastern Europe immediately catches my attention.

I wanted to share this article, courtesy of the Krakow Post, simply because I thought it was one of the better ones I’ve read on the subject. Much has been said about Nowa Huta’s reputation, and even as a temporary expatriate to the city, I was picked up a feeling of intimidation regarding this neighborhood. However, I did one day take a tram to visit the area, and was mostly impressed. The neighborhood was very quiet while I was there, the weather was beautiful, and most of the residents seemed to be enjoying their time socializing in one of the many parks. I walked around, took in the sites, people-watched, was tempted by the elderly ladies selling fresh spring flowers along the sidewalks, and just generally had a nice day. The architecture is typically communist in style, monumentally huge and brutal concrete structures…yet in many cases, there is something breathtaking and almost beautiful about them just the same. It certainly seemed to be a world of contradictions, and didn’t even seem to belong on the same planet as Krakow’s old town district, much less the same city. It really seemed like stepping into a giant time capsule of a by-gone era.


Anyway, enough of my observations.


Here’s the article to enjoy 🙂





Poland: The Next America?

4 12 2009

About three years ago, I took a class on Eastern Europe. I remember writing a paper about how this corner of the world was becoming more and more attractive to foreign investors. Skilled laborers and resources come relatively cheap compared to the US and Western Europe, and people are eager to take advantage of the new technologies offered by the west.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a blog written by an American expat in Poland that I thought really validated some of the predictions i remember making in my paper. He made the comment that just 5 years ago he was easily the richest man on the tram. However, today he wasn’t sure he could say the same. in 2009, Poland is far from the poor, drab country Americans tend to think of it as, especially in the urban areas. Instead, cities like Krakow are lively, flourishing and promise a bright future.

As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I was really surprised the first time I stepped into the sparkly new Galeria Krakowska, the mall in the city center. It is huge, bigger than any mall I’ve been to in the US. With three floors packed with over 200 shops, it is a testament to the fact that, despite many of their relatively modest lifestyles, Krakowians are getting much richer than they might have you believe.

There are (that I know of) five malls in Krakow. There’s one in Kazimierz, one in the town center, and two located on the outskirts of town. Now, there’s a brand new one just opened in the past month, transformed from an abandoned chemical plant in Podgórze. This mall complex, grossing 234 thousand square meters-and still growing, it won’t be completed until 2012-is the biggest mall in Poland, and comparable with some of the biggest and best malls in the US and UK (according to Wikipedia, the Mall of America has 230 thousand square meters available as retail space when you leave out the theme parks and aquariums and whatnot).

all of these malls have opened in the last 10 years. Krakowska in 2006, Kazimierz in 2005…the other two I don’t remember but certainly not before 2000.

Clearly, the Poles are becoming the world’s nouveau riche. They have money to spend, and businesses are embracing the opportunity to invest and open franchises in Poland. Everything is sparkly and fresh….and yes, supersized. Such consumerism and luxury is no longer limited to the Americas and the West…and those communist days of walking into a store and being greeted with empty shelves are long gone.

Eastern Europe has a bright future and a lot of potential. It’ll be especially interesting to see how things change in the next years and with the introduction of the Euro.

Kudos to you for making things happen, Poland 🙂

Some Stats, plus a Hello and Thank You

2 12 2009

I almost never pay any attention to statistics, either for this blog or for the others I’ve had. I just don’t really care about that kind of thing; I blog for my own enjoyment, not because I’m trying to attract a maximum amount of attention. But I’ve been doing a little blog clean-up and reorganizing behind-the-scenes this past week, and while I was shuffling things around, I decided to take a peek just for fun. I’m honestly astonished that this blog gets as many hits as it does. While it doesn’t average half as many visitors as my music blog does, it is way more than I would have thought. The exact number I won’t tell you, but it was really a pleasant surprise to me. I suppose I anticipated that it would get a few hits here and there, but it was mainly meant to be a personal journal for me to jot down memories, and also for keeping up with my friends and family while I was gone. I didn’t really think that anyone else would be that interested in it. I also don’t think it’s very well written; I rarely pay attention to grammar nor did I edit anything I write on here. Knowing that people actually read this blog makes me really embarrassed, actually. Had I known, I would have at least made sure everything was a complete sentence. I PROMISE I actually can write more coherently than is exemplified in this blog. Considering the very little amount of time I spend maintaining this blog, its amazing that it keeps up the way it does.

Here’s a little detail of my stats:

The post on Ukraine is by far the most popular, followed by the post on Amsterdam. Least popular are any posts that are actually about Poland.

The day my blog got the most hits was actually Tuesday, November 18th. 5 months after I left Poland, the blog is still getting hits and has a steady stream of visitors!

Just last week, someone even translated my blog into Italian. Ciao! (I would say more, but that’s all I know in Italian.)

I’ve been added to Stumbleupon…hi stumblers! I appreciate the thumbs up!

and I’m regularly crawled by most of the major search engines.

speaking of, I love looking to see what people searched for to find my blog! My favorite search term was “can I find brown sugar in Poland?!” It brought back fond memories of my own desperate brown sugar search. (For the record, in case I never mentioned it and someone else wants to know, brown sugar CAN be found in Krakow. The only place I can find that has it is a really cool grocery store in Galeria Kazimierz called Alma Delikatesy. It’s a fabulous place, I spent a good hour wandering around in there. Yeah, its quite a walk from old town, but on a pretty day it isn’t too unpleasant and if I’m not mistaken, there are actually free busses that shuttle back and forth between Galeria Kazimierz and Galeria Krakowia.)

Another search term that was used in google was “Polish Bathroom Symbols.” And to that person-the men’s room is the one with the triangle on the door, ladies room is the one with the circle on the door. Why Polish people have to make things complicated, rather than simply use the universal man and woman stick figures, I’ll never know.

And I love reading the comments people leave me on posts! some of you have been very kind and very helpful, and I’ve enjoyed interacting with Polish citizens, expatriates, and clueless Americans alike…along with whoever else might join in the fun. It kind of blows my mind that people out there actually read what I have to say.

I know i didn’t make it happen, as I haven’t done anything to promote this blog. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and referred me along, I appreciate it.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for being with me along the way, and for checking out JennyGoesToPoland!

Love, Jenny

ps–to those of you who are/were subscribed, I have inactivated email updates. I was previously using a feedburner subscription service, but because wordpress is now offering its own subscription service (which will be more convenient for me) so I’m going to switch over some time in the near future. more on that later

Krakow’s Football Hooligans

26 11 2009

I recently came across a documentary about one subject that rather fascinated me while I was in Poland, and which I have often wanted to write about but never felt I knew enough about.

Yes, Football Hooligans.

I suppose this is one aspect of Poland that would be easy for tourists to miss. It even took me a while to catch on to exactly why “Wisla” was written on the side of half the buildings in town. After a while though, I started to pick up bits and pieces.

Long story short–

Krakow has two main Football (soccer) teams, Wisla and Cracovia. Both have existed for something like 100 years and are well established in the city. Each team has gangs of rabid hooligan fans who support them and who spend ridiculous amounts of time spray-painting their team’s logos on various buildings–along with whatever else they do. The graffiti serves to mark territory–a gang’s symbol on a street claims that street as “theirs.” Wisla hooligans don’t go on Cracovian territory, Cracovia Hooligans don’t go on Wisla territory. At first I was puzzled at some of the anti-semitic symbols that often accompany Wisla graffiti, turns out it is in response to Cracovia historically being the Jewish football team. It is not uncommon to encounter swastikas on the side of buildings, a detail I found mildly disturbing for most of my stay in Poland.

There is a fair amount of violence between the two sides. Cracovia fans have been known to murder Wisla fans, and vice versa. the rivalry has been nicknamed the “Holy War.” Matches between the two teams are INTENSE. The two stadiums are only about a five minute walk apart, and in between them is a large field–perfect for brawls. Most conveniently, I lived right across the street from the Wisla Stadium. Whenever there was a game, I knew about it because i could hear it from my window. I really wish I’d gone to a game while I was there. It would have been most interesting. I’ve heard that games aren’t particularly safe, and they tend to get pretty rowdy. But it would have all been part of the Krakow experience, right??!

now, about the aforementioned documentary. Its called “The Real Football Factories International” and is a special segment concentrating on Polish Football. It is available on youtube in its entirety. I watched it hoping to get a glimpse into what all this football hooliganism is really about. After watching it, I really get the feeling its leaning towards sensationalism rather than pure fact. I especially found the beginning bit about where they linked the Solidarity movement to Football clubs rather far-fetched. I also think that they made too big a deal about the violence at the game they filmed. But still, interesting.

here’s the segment where the interviewer met with the Cracovia firm:

and here’s the bit on Wisla, as well as some of the big game between the two teams. It actually looked like a pretty fun atmosphere to me 🙂

and the brawl during the game:

Overall, Krakow is a beautiful, safe city. But just like any other place in the world, its got its nastier side. But really, the majority of football fans are not violent, and these gangs don’t target just anyone, they target other gangs. So unless you’re affiliated with the other side, you have nothing to fear.

I just thought it was interesting.

some more enlightening reading here:

edit 12/5/09-the Krakow Post just published a good article about this very topic of Football Hooliganism. I encourage you to read it!


13 09 2009

unintentionally stumbled across a website the other day, and i’m glad I did! It was about my Polish paper cuttings 🙂 I didn’t copy the article itself the other day, it was pretty boring—essentially it was just about a Polish Papercutting exhibit at some museum in London. But it did have some lovely pictures, so I decided to do a quick post about it—if nothing else, just so I can remember how to spell “wycinanki.” if I had to take a guess, that is pronounced vee-chi-nanki. not exactly how it looks in English, but not too bad for a polish word, either 🙂

here’s a few other examples to show the variety of subjects and styles:

Many of these are made from a silhouette cut from black paper, and then other color papers cut and layered over it for a beautiful multicolored effect, as is exemplified by the rooster in the cutting above. some of them are astonishingly intricate and detailed. I know I could never cut such thin, delicate lines with my scissors!

by the way, that last paper cutting, the round flower one above, is/was for sale for $35 on the site where I found the picture.

I bought four beautiful paper cuttings while in Poland, and I bet I didn’t spend that much for all of them. I got a deal!

type Wycinanki into google and you can find out a lot more 🙂

anyway, all I have to say, xoxo!

why, hello again!

7 09 2009

so, I arrived home from Poland two months ago, and I’m sorry I haven’t written anything on my final thoughts. Overall, of course, I had a wonderful experience, and cheesy as it sounds, in the past two months my appreciation and affection toward the country has only grown. after all, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. In fact, I’m quite homesick for Krakow now, especially since the reality that my long vacation is over has set in, and I have to return  my “real life” as a student in Chapel Hill. It’s harder than I anticipated to return. Harder than it was to leave…I suppose because when I went to Poland I went with the knowledge that it wasn’t going to last forever, and after four months I would come back to North Carolina, and chances are things would be just how I left them. However, with Poland…..I don’t know when I’ll be back. but I do know that whenever it is, the people I was with won’t be there, I wont have my daily routine of going to class, going to my favorite Piekarna for strawberry cake and a cup of tea, or walking aimlessly around the Ryneck for hours on end.  and I wont be going back to my little room in Nawojka, with my shaky little table and my rock-hard mattress and short square sheets and lumpy feather pillow. Funny the things that turn out to be pleasant memories—despite the fact that while I had them I would have traded everything I owned for a night in a decent bed.

I’m horrified at the amount of Polish I’ve already forgotten—even though I never really learned it in the first place, I did collect enough vocabulary to get around fairly well. Now I find myself struggling to remember even simple words. I even considered signing up for beginning Polish again this semester, even though I know that taking it again it will probably make me miserable.

Found out where the Polish Restaurant in Raleigh is, as well. If all goes as planned, I’m thinking about dragging a friend there next weekend 🙂 Speaking of food, I should post a picture of the polish meal I tried to make over the summer:

whatever 360

Don’t know why I couldn’t have straightened the silverware before taking that picture…oh well. Doesn’t look too bad, though, eh? I was pretty proud of myself. It took me all day to make those pierogi….8 hours or so. Polish grandmas must have more energy than I do, to be making these things all the time. So here we have pierogi (which frankly I wasn’t too impressed with. they look adorable, but didn’t taste polish at all) golumpki (cabbage with a meat/rice filling and tomato sauce) and then a carrot salad and sliced cucumbers (in lieu of pickles, I suppose).

Come to find out, there’s also actually a Polish Deli on Atlantic Avenue. I can’t wait to go. It looks like fun, and I can go there and get all excited about polish cookies or something,

what else…….I don’t know. just feeling especially nostalgic this week, I think. Got a message from my friend Eduardo (the mexican guy who was there with me, and who is staying through the fall semester as well. He has a scholarship and doesn’t get to go back to Mexico until January). He’s spent the summer writing articles for the Krakow Post, which is an english newspaper….so I’ve still kept up with Krakow by reading that regularly, and looking out for Eddie’s articles. He also says that the new Fall semester kids arrived this past week, and they all seem cool. not as cool as my group was, though, I’m sure! 😉

anyway. I guess thats enough ranting and rambling for now. I suppose I may still write now and then, when I’m feeling especially nostalgic. I don’t really know where else to pour out to, as no one else around here shared my experiences, and probably don’t care about them as much as I do. Sometimes I think about things I wish I did differently, or things I had done that I didn’t do, or what I might want to do in the future…things I wish I’d savored a little more while I had the chance. oh well. only one thing to do I suppose, and thats to go back!!


oh yeah, I forgot

21 06 2009

I was going to tell you about my bathroom drama! hah. I’m sure you need to know…

so, last Tuesday was the fateful day I actually failed a test. I told you about it the other day—it was the one-question oral exam that i didn’t know the answer to. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty upset after that…….well, actually I think upset is an understatement. I’d been up all night studying and trying to prepare for the exam (and finish up the paper I needed to write), and I was tired, and all I wanted was to come home and take a shower and collapse in my bed. However, God apparently decided that was not to be.

I walk down the hall and I immediately sensed something funny going on. Why is there a pile of wood outside my door? anyway, i get to my suite,  unlock the door, walk in, switch on the light and—–

to my horror, I find this:

poland misc 004

Why yes, that is my toilet in the hallway.

Building maintenence apparently decided that this would be a good day to begin a remodel of our bathroom—-without telling us

I might have cried. too much for one day.

so, now we have no shower, no toilet, no running water…plus the maintenence guys like to do all their hammering in there bright and early at 6am. they actually knocked a hole all the way through the floor, for a day or two we could look down into the room under us. They also like to tell really crude jokes (according to my roommate, I dunno I can’t understand them but I take her word for it) and then they all laugh like hyenas, as loud as they possibly can. it’s been kind of miserable, actually. I think seeing that little fiasco was the first time I really felt like ” man, I wish I could go back to north carolina…this kind of thing doesn’t happen at home.” And it made me even more glad to be going to Sweden. If I had to stay in Krakow this weekend I wouldn’t have made it, i would have had to check into a hotel for the last few days.

Well, whatever. 2 more days, grin and bear it…makes for an interesting memory, yeah?

I think there was another story I was going to tack on to this one, but I don’t really remember now…so I’ll leave you with that.