Saturday, October 27, 2007

Public Art

The public art in Krakow tends toward the traditional (since it wasn't destroyed during WWII), which means statues of famous generals, popular rulers - and they also love their artists (the large memorial in the middle of the town square is a statue of Adam Mickiewicz, Poland's national poet from the 1800s).

The picture at the beginning of this post is from a park in Wroclaw - a sculpture we walked by every day on our way to lunch from our classes. The sculpture below is from a very moving memorial, also in Wroclaw, tothe Polish soldiers who were slaughtered by the Soviets at Katyn. (This incident has also just been made into a movie that is now playing at the theaters here.)

Then there's the Soviet-era sculpture we saw in Krynica....

And the Poles are proud of their scientists, too. Marie Curie was Polish (Marie Sklodowska Curie) and, of course, Nicolaus Copernicus. Below, his statue in Warsaw.

Below is the Krakow statue commemorating the union of Lithuania and Poland when the Lithuanian Prince Jagiello married the Polish Queen Jadwiga. This union and the resulting Jagiellonian dynasty helped make Poland/Lithuania (The Republic of Two Nations) the greatest power in central Europe during the 15th century.

And I think the buildings are still some of the most interesting "public art" ....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Our First Visitor!

Victor Claar, an economics prof at Hope, was our first visitor! Well, he really came to go to the Krynica conference where he and I presented a paper and then stayed with us a day before returning to the U.S. As you can perhaps tell, the weather was not great for his visit, but here he is in the market square by the entrance to the Sukiennice (cloth hall). We're looking foward to more friends coming to Krakow!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beskid Sadecki ("Basket" Valleys)

One tour book describes the area around Krynica: "as good an experience of rural Poland as you could hope for, through fields where farmers still scythe the grass and forests cover the hills above. The villages are ripe for cerkiew (old wooden church) hunting and mineral water bottling facilities abound." One morning of our time at the conference in Krynica was devoted to a bus tour of this area (then the conference continued in the afternoon and evening). I've attached some pictures from the churches the tour book talks about, one of the most interesting characteristics of the area. They were originally Greek Orthodox churches of the Lemks - an ethnic minority of this area who were 'relocated' (mainly to the Ukraine) as a result of the border redrawings after WWII. Now they are Roman Catholic churches but have only been adapted slightly (such as adding an altar at the front of the church in addition to the two side altars typical of Greek Orthodox) and much of the original interior remains, as well as the very unique exterior design.

The ongoing stories of border changes and wholesale population relocations continue to amaze us. We heard someone tell a joke about their grandfather "who was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), went to school in Austria, was married in Germany, and died in Poland.....but never left his village in Silesia." It's harder to joke about your family and whole village being deported hundreds of miles to another country as a result of redrawn borders.
Cerkiew in Muszynka (on the border with Slovakia) from 1689
Cerkiew interior

Pojazdow cerkiew, 1604 (oldest in the area)

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I attended a conference sponsored by the Cracow University of Economics in Krynica this past week. Victor Claar, a colleague at Hope, discovered this conference last spring and we wrote a paper together which we presented at the conference. The whole experience of attending a Polish conference was great (the sessions had English translations available). They made sure we experienced typical Polish hospitality!

Krynica is in Southern Poland, very near the Slovakian border in the Carpathian Mountains. It's a spa town with several mineral water springs in the area. The pictures posted at the beginning of this entry are from our hotel window our first morning there. The picture below is from our window the morning we left....yes, that's snow! It was beautiful, but there's no doubt the weather has turned to winter here (and not just in the mountains).

International Students

This is my classroom at the University - can you see why I have a stiff neck by the end of the day? It goes straight up!
It's interesting that I only have a few Polish students in my classes, since I'm teaching in the English track of the International Business School. Here's the list of countries my students are from in addition to Poland: Afghanistan, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. It's great to have such different perspectives on things. What an experience!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sok and Precles

"Sok" is said just as it looks – sort of like “sock.” But it means juice. And the juices are amazing here. The selection is huge, from the normal orange, grapefruit, tomato and apple to pomegranate, raspberry, black currant, cherry, banana – yes banana juice – carrot, peach, pineapple, and some I haven’t figured out. Then they have mixtures of different juices...and then they have nectars…which I haven’t tried yet, but probably have pulp. I’m planning to try them all. They’re great alone, but also with a little poured into my kefir in the morning if I don’t have any raspberries (the old woman selling them at our tram stop hasn’t been there lately…guess the season is over). And, yes, they are all just on the shelf and not in a refrigerated case because of the way they are processed and packaged (irradiation?). Milk is on the shelf in the same type of package (though we refrigerate the juice and the milk once we open it at home).

Then there are the big, warm precles (pretzles! - the 'c' is pronouned like 'tz') that are sold in stands on almost every corner in town. They are sort of a cross between pretzels and bagels…a very good snack to have with you on long walking tours through the city.

We’ve already started on second rounds at some of our favorite restaurants, though we try to hit mostly new ones. Even eating out every day I don’t think we’d get to all of them. We haven’t been to any of the more expensive restaurants yet, though some meals have turned out to be more expensive than planned (like the time John ordered trout and found out the price on the menu was by weight, not for the whole dinner and the bill was about 5 times what we thought it would be). A common dish at many restaurants is sole on a bed of cooked spinach. It’s been good everywhere we’ve tried it. And even though beer is the most common beverage, we have been able to find some good house wines. Tonight we had our first Polish pizza at a place down the street from our apartment (figured we had to check out the pizza before our kids come to visit) and we both liked it - thin crust, very little sauce, nice toppings. All in all, the food here has been great - it's a good thing we're doing so much walking!

Friday, October 12, 2007


What can one say about a day touring the site of such unspeakable horror? A visit here is obligatory for Polish 14-year-olds, and there were several school groups on the day we went, but otherwise it was relatively quiet and un-crowded. The “barracks” of Auschwitz that housed an average of 14,000 prisoners at one time have been turned into museums. Especially difficult was Block 5 where piles of victims’ belongings are displayed….a mountain of luggage, a room full of shoes, another room with crutches and prosthetic limbs, a case full of eyeglasses, and a horrific pile of human hair (that had been packaged presumably to send off to a factory making cloth for Nazi uniforms). We spent quite a bit of time in the barrack containing the national memorial to prisoners from the Czech Republic, since that’s where the relatives John has been able to trace to Auschwitz were from.

In the picture above, note the upside-down “B” in the Arbeit Macht Frei (the cruel lie of ‘Work Will Set You Free”) gate…apparently welded on upside down by belligerent inmates.

In 1941, when the original Auschwitz camp became too small for the Nazis’ plans, they build a second camp in nearby Birkenau (Auschwitz II). At its peak, Birkenau held 100,000 people and was planned to increase to 200,000. As one tour book says: “Having explored the Auschwitz I complex, many visitors decide not to visit Auschwitz II/Birkenau. Don’t dare make the same mistake. There’s less to see (since much of it was destroyed before the camp was liberated), but the sheer size and solitude of Birkenau leaves a great impact.” There are only ruins of the four crematoriums, but it’s chilling to see such a large complex devoted only to the process of killing people and disposing of their bodies (60,000 people a day at its height - or depth…) This is also the location of the international monument, which is meant to represent gravestones and the chimney of a crematorium. The plaques, inscribed in 10 languages spoken by camp victims, explain that the memorial is “a cry of despair and a warning to humanity.”

Below, views of the train tracks into Birkenau and acres of barracks ruins

The International Memorial to Victims of Auschwitz and Birkenau

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Kosciuszko Mound

OK, so this Kosciuszko Mound is the equivalent of our Washington Monument....Tadeusz Kosciuszko (who was actually a veteran of the American War of Independence and then returned to Poland to lead their 1794 insurrection against the partition of Poland among Russia, Austria and Germany/Prussia) has come to personify the Polish fight for independence. Though his battle at Raclawice was successful and much celebrated (we toured a Panorama depicting it in Wroclaw), Kosciuszko and his patriot forces were ultimately unsuccessful and - though it was the first country in Europe to have a democratic constitution in 1791 - Poland did not regain its sovereignty as a country until 1918. (Although perhaps it was because of this constitution that they were taken over and partitioned by neighboring countries - such reform was a threat to the ruling powers. A sobering reminder of what a miracle it was that the patriots won the U.S. War of Independence and that our Constitution has lasted.)

The Kosciuszko Mound is the best know example of a uniquely Krakovian phenomenon which dates back as far as the 7th century, when man-made mounds were raised to honor chieftains (or perhaps to provide a platform for sky-worship). The people of Krakow raised this memorial mound to honor Kosciusko in 1819, two years after he died, importing dirt from his various battle sites including the U.S. Current talk suggests that the next recipient of such a tribute will be Pope John Paul II.

One gets a fairly good view of Krakow from the top of the mound, but the haze you see in the picture reminds me that my itchy eyes and sore throat are likely from the pollution and smog - a legacy from the Soviet era steel mills in nearby Nowa Huta - rather than from an oncoming cold.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

First Classes at UEK

Things work a little differently here....students have the first 2 weeks of school to go to any classes they want to and then decide which classes they want to sign up for. I had about 50% more students in each class than the administrators had predicted for the first week, but who knows how many will return next week? Hard to figure out how many copies of information to make....It seems many of the students in the "English track" here are what the Poles would call foreign students - from the Ukraine or France or Germany....or??? I guess I'll find out. Interestingly, several students came to both my classes (Management Theory and Human Resource Management) ...they were probably trying to figure out which (if any) they wanted to continue on with. At the end of class, the students started tapping their pens/pencils on the desks....their version of an applause?

I was asked today to be a guest lecturer for the school director's classes (who will be attendeding several conferences over the next few months). Guess that's all part of the package! Should be interesting, as his classes are large lectures and I'm being asked to speak on "American business practices."

My office at the University is very comfortable and easy to work in.

U.S. Embassy Newsletter

Excerpts from the Ambassador's latest newsletter (If you look closely, you'll see John and me front and center listening to Ambassador Ashe's welcome.)

Eembassy Events 2007
U.S. Fulbright Scholars Arrive in Poland
20 September 2007

Ambassador Ashe addresses newly arrived Fulbright award recipients Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe hosted the annual reception to welcome new U.S. Fulbright scholars to Poland on Wednesday Sept 19 at his residence. The group of scholars was in Warsaw for the day attending orientation sessions at the U.S. Embassy and U.S.-Polish Fulbright Commission. Polish Fulbright alumni, particularly those who received awards to go to the United States during the last academic year, also participated, as did representatives of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw University, Local and National Government and non-governmental organizations, among others.
"Fulbright is our flagship exchange program in Poland, providing opportunities for 40 Americans to come to Poland and 40 Poles to go to the United States annually," said Ambassador Ashe.
The international educational program sponsored by the United States Government is designed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries..." With this goal, the Fulbright Program has provided approximately 275,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to observe each others' political, economic, educational and cultural institutions, to exchange ideas and to embark on joint ventures of importance to the general welfare of the world's inhabitants.
The Fulbright Program provides grants for Graduate Students, Scholars and Professionals, and Teachers and Administrators from the U.S. and other countries.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Jak sie masz? (What's happening?)

Mushrooms at the street market.

Well, "Jak sie masz?" might mean "How are you?" Perhaps "Co slychac?" is the right phrase.
Today was a shopping day: we started by taking a 30-minute tram ride to Tesco (a "hyper-market" much like Meijer) just to see if we could find it, how long it would take to travel there, and if the trip was worthwhile. Though we enjoyed wandering around and did buy some things (John bought two different kinds of smoked salmon; it took us a while to find salt and pepper) I think we've decided that we can pretty much get everything we need more conveniently at the smaller grocery store just down the street.

After returning to our apartment, we turned right around and went to the sort of permanent farmer's market that's a 10-15 minute walk from our place to get fruits, veggies, and some plants for the apartment.

We've been buying some gorgeous raspberries from a nice old woman just outside our apartment near the tram stop. She's there almost every day and only has a few quarts of raspberries to sell. I'm hoping that once the raspberries are done that she'll be there with something else. We're also hooked on the smoked sheep's milk cheese that the vendors sell here - it's great for snacking.

THEN we went to the nearby grocery store to get the heavy stuff: a 5-liter bottle of drinking water, juice, milk, yogurt....I've discovered that I really like kefir - it's like plain yogurt only thinner. Poured over those fresh raspberries for breakfast - yum!

Views of our kitchen (which got stocked today).

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Kazimierz is a district of Krakow just southwest of the old town center. It was home to many of Krakow’s Jews prior to WWII. (In case I haven’t mentioned it before, Krakow was known as a place of cultural and intellectual freedom and it is estimated that up to 25% of its population was Jewish.) Today, there are very few Jews remaining, but you can still see many aspects of the area’s Jewish heritage in the synagogues and cemeteries that have survived as well as the Yiddish inscriptions over the doorways of old buildings. Much of Steven Spielberg’s film Shindler’s List was filmed here (and Shindler’s factory still stands in a suburb nearby, though it is now producing electronic component parts).

Kazimierz has become the hot spot for Krakow’s youth – sort of a bohemian mix of coffee houses, jazz clubs and long-neglected buildings that are being renovated into apartments. We spent a late morning and early afternoon just walking through the streets (and stopping at a very interesting cafĂ© for coffee on the Plac Nowy – the market square in Kazimierz). The feeling here is different from the Krakow center area. Most moving for us was the Remu’h Synagogue and cemetery, established around 1537. The only reason the cemetery survived WWII (when the newer Jewish cemetery had been destroyed) was that many of the gravestones had been covered with a layer of earth in the interwar years and just looked like grass and weed covered mounds. They are now being excavated and it is very powerful.

On days when I don’t need to go to the University, John and I have fallen into a routine of lazy mornings at home (which should be helped by our recent purchase of an old-fashioned stove-top espresso/coffee maker and the discovery of a coffee shop near-by that roasts and grinds coffee beans) followed by marathon walking to explore as much of Krakow as we can. We stop mid-afternoon for lunch/dinner at a new restaurant each day (Polish tradition is to eat the big meal in the early afternoon and just a light “lunch” in the evening and we have opted to follow). We have been having some wonderful meals for the equivalent price of eating at an Applebee’s or Logan’s. The absence of American chain restaurants is amazing: there are several McDonald’s and I think I’ve seen a Pizza Hut and a Subway, but that’s about it - no Starbucks, surprisingly.

I plan to spend most of tomorrow at the University, since my book boxes have finally been located and will be delivered to my office. I’ve been able to find internet sources for most of the material I need for Monday’s classes and the computer and printer in my office are finally working. John also picked up some computer cables at the “Saturn” store today (he had forgotten to pack both an Ethernet cable and the printer cable – things were a little crazy just before we left) so now we are fully connected and can print things in our apartment as well.

Notice the stones placed on top of the gravestones...from what I've been able to learn, the Jewish custom is to place stones on graves instead of flowers to symbolize the permanence of memory.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Inauguration of the New School Year (Convocation)

Attended the interesting (and long - 3 hours) opening ceremony for the new school year. They were celebrating the fact that the national legislature had approved their upgrade to a University (they had been an Academy). There were many introductions of University administrators, representatives from different universities with whom they have exchange programs (including Grand Valley), and local and national politicians. They also had a nice initiation of about 20 students (those who scored highest on the entrance exam) who represented the incoming class of 6,000 or so; as well as a traditional speech by the Rector (equivalent of our University President).

Then they awarded an honorary doctorate to Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist known for his work as an economic advisor to governments in many areas including Eastern Europe. He is a Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, working with international agencies on problems of poverty reduction, debt cancellation, and disease control. He is one of the only academics to have been repeatedly ranked among the world's most influential people by Time magazine. One of the best parts of the ceremony for me was the speech he gave (in English, so my assistant didn't have to translate for me).

Then, there was a concert at the end! An interesting presentation by a very accomplished classical violinist accompanied by an equally good jazz pianist.

Afterwards I went to my office (quite nice - even has a window) and got the computer working. My book boxes still have not arrived, so I don't have materials for my classes. (I have tracked them down to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, so they're close!) At least I have my computer files on a flash drive so I can get ready for my lectures (even if my students won't have anything to read).

We have been overwhelmed with the news from home: the young man who was killed in a car accident in Holland this past weekend was a very good friend of Alison's and was her boyfriend Scott's roommate. They are having a very difficult time, which makes it hard for us to be away.