Photo Set #09 – Kraków area

Photo 1:  Kraków rynek

Another shot of the Kraków rynek.  In our opinion, this city and Vienna are two most beautiful (and tourist friendly) cities in old-Eastern Europe.  In our last two days here we took in three attractions: 1) the Poland Aviation Museum, 2) Salt Mine, 3) Auschwitz.  I took many pictures but will only show a few essentials here.

Photo 2: “pretzel” stand

This is one of many little bread stands that sell a Polish equivalent of the pretzel (not sure of the Polish word for these).  The bread is more white than the heavier dough of the pretzel and covered in seeds rather than salt, but large in size.  The point to be made here is that these cost 1.6 zł, less than 40 cents.  We saw a lot of these kind of prices in Kraków.  This has to be the most affordable very nice European city to visit.

Photo 3:  Polish Aviation Museum.

I have visited nearly every significant aviation museum in the world, and the Polish Museum is a favorite:  it has a very interesting history.  The first picture is of the only surviving Polish-made fighter from WWII.  The PZL 11 was a high-wing fixed-gear fighter confronted with larger numbers of the much more modern Me.109, and did quite well, considering everything.  This aircraft survives because it was captured and incorporated into the Berlin Air Museum, by far the best aviation museum prior to WWII.  But the collection was bombed and dispersed and all that remains of the many significant aircraft in this museum are about twenty aircraft, most of them incomplete, that were found in some railroad cars in Poland after the war.  Those included this PZL, now returned to its homeland.

Photo 4a, b, c:  Levavasseur Antoinette

What the Polish Aviation Museum has of the old Berlin Museum is an eclectic collection of mostly pre-1920 aircraft, most with German histories.  This includes about eight WWI German aircraft, most being only the fuselage (wings were in another set of railroad cars that did not survive).  There are four pre-WWI aircraft (including one now in Berlin), the most noteworthy being an original Antoinette, though fuselage and engine only.  Very interesting early aircraft, with an interesting (first V-8!) engine.  I include several pictures.

Photo 5:  Siemens-Schuckert D.III (Albatros H-1)

I should show one of the German aircraft.  The Siemens Schuckert D-series was an odd late-war aircraft.  This had a rotary engine (the engine spun), but this design has the propeller spin in the opposite direction to reduce torque.  The aircraft was small, with an enormous propeller.  Some say this was the best fighter of the war, but showed up only in small numbers before the end.  This is the last survivor, modified by Albatros for further innovative experimental work.  Only the fuselage remains.

Photo 6:  Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Kopalnia Soli (salt mine) in Wielniczka has been in operation for over 700 years and now extends to levels several km below the ground.  We have heard much of the intricate salt carvings here and took a guided tour.  Some of the chambers are gargantuan and none of my pictures (and flash) could do justice.  There are whole cathedrals and concert halls down there; one of the chambers is large enough to host the first underground hot-air balloon flights (and bungee jumps!).

Photo 7:  Salt Mine statue

I will just offer this one photo from underground.  Every location of any size in Poland has a Jana Pavela II (John Paul II) statue.  Here is the one in the salt mine.

Photo 8:  Auschwitz

We visited Auschwitz.  I resisted, as this was definitely not on our list, but friends insisted that if we were in southern Poland we had to do this, so we did.  I took a number of pictures, but would rather describe that try to show.  The tour is fairly low-key.  You go through buildings and displays very quickly, as there is a long line – 2.2 million visitors last year, and the structures were not designed for that purpose.  Some 1.3 million died here, but that number does not include the many people who died enroute to this location, or who were here and then transported elsewhere.

At Auschwitz, what is surprising is how much survives.  Most of the buildings survived, and much of these are totally original and complete.  The victims here were shorn of hair, cloths, glasses, and etcetera, much of which the Nazis then reused in their war effort.  The Nazis did try to burn what was left of personal effects on site, knowing that this provided evidence of the crime; what was left is evidence enough.  In one display, you walk about 20 meters along a display that is a pile – more than you are tall and going back for several meters – of shoes, and there is a similar pile on the other side.  A huge pile of human hair, of eyeglasses, of hairbrushes, or suitcases (all labeled by the original owner with name and date of birth).  There is this building and that.  We had the “short” tour that was only two hours, with another hour or so at Birkenau.

Photo 9:  Birkenau

Auschwitz was the work camp; Birkenau – 20 times larger – was the death camp.  The initial brick buildings survive but the later wood buildings have only the chimneys remaining – and there are many chimneys, two per building.  The four gas chambers were blown up by the Germans and are now only ruins.  About 70% of those who arrived here went immediately to the gas chambers, the other 30% to the work camps, with most of those either executed in Auschwitz or retuned to Birkenau.  The separation of who lived and who died that day was made by the infamous Dr. Mengele, among other SS officers.  Visitors essentially walk the route of those who went to the chambers, past the site where Mengele made those selections.  We visited only one of the buildings, which had he large shelves on which the men lay side-by-side (you have probably seen pictures of these men once they were liberated).

Photo Set #08

Photo 1a and b:  Kraków rynek

After a day in Wrocław, we traveled to Kraków for three days (four nights).  Kraków is we think the prettiest city in Poland.  The city was not damaged by the war the way every other major city in Poland was, and the city is well prepared for tourists (again, unusual for Poland).  The Rynek (city center) has the largest market square in Europe, with many churches, shops and restaurants.

Photo 2a and b:  iron collection in Tarnów

Our first day here was actually spent an hour by train east of Kraków, in the smaller city of Tarnów.  Here is Jerzy, an iron collector.  We collect old laundry irons, and have visited other collections in many countries.

The subject of old irons (in Polish: stare żelaska) is very immense and diverse, and every collector has a separate focus; the collection here is irons mostly from Poland, Germany and Russia.  There are a lot of charcoal irons, which have a wide variety of latches and handles; a picture of one of these is included here that is worth hundreds of Euros.

Photo 3:  Tarnow, first independent city

Jerzy took us on a walking tour of Tarnów.  This was the first city to become an independent Polish city after the country was reestablished following the end of World War I.  This city, as all Polish cities that I have seen, has many monuments and statues to celebrate some aspect of the country’s history.

Photo 4a and b:  Jewish memorial

Forty percent of the Tarnów population prior to the war was Jewish, which included the area in which Jerzy lives.  Very near his apartment is this monument, which memorializes the first 752 Jews taken from this area, in November 1939, to become among the very first inhabitants (if that is an appropriate word) of the German work-, and later death-camps.

Nearby is this plaque on a wall that marks where a group of Jews were lined up and shot.  Jerzy’s mother was a witness to this event.  I suspect every town and city in central to eastern Poland has these stories and monuments (western Poland was previously German, so the present residents do not have memoroes of the local war history).

Photo 5a, b and c:  Basilica

I referred to this as a church and Jerzy quickly corrected me – this is a basilica (here, home base for the main priest of the diocese).  Inset into the walls are the burial sites of various princes, with the top inclined to better show the person (I have not seen the tops inclined this way before).  Nearby is a museum of the wood-carvings from old churches; the one of the left is from 1300.  Many are incomplete or missing pieces, which allow one to peer into these to see the intricate wood constructions.  Beautiful.

Photo 6a and b:  Lyceum

This is a Lyceum (grammar school).  You need to know that in my walking tour of Tarnów, I took pictures of more than a dozen statues – or kings, writers, inventors – but I will choose to show this one, of a teacher (one of two in front of the Lyceum).  I do not recall ever seeing a statue to a school teacher in the U.S.

Photo 7a and b:  Buildings

These old European cities have so much in the way of beautiful old buildings, that include various ornate designs and artwork.  I include a couple from Tarnów here.  The first of these has at the base a memorial to the previous Jewish owner, lost to the concentration camps.

Photo 8:  Polish cigarette packages.

From a store display, these are boxes of cigarettes.  The warning are much more explicit than American get from the Surgeon General (let Poles see these and still smoke – a lot!).

Photo Set #07

Rynek in Wrocław

My wife (moja żona) Kate joined me for Planet Head Day, and the next morning we left for a trip through southern Poland.  First stop is Wrocław, for a day of exploring the old Rynek (city center) there.  Wrocław has a recent history very similar to Szczecin: total devastation during the war, then the German inhabitants forcibly evicted and an entirely new (“pioneer”) population of Poles from the recently Russian-occupied region of eastern Poland came and rebuilt the city, retaining and rebuilding as much of the original architecture as could be done.

The Rynek in Wrocław is similar to the smaller one in Poznań that we visited two years ago.  I would guess that all these buildings were rebuilt from scratch after the war.  (The Rynek in Szczecin was not rebuilt as all the bricks were sent to Warsawa for rebuilding, as the sense was the Szczecin would later return to German control.)

Church in Wrocław

The churches are interesting to “deconstruct” with the eyes, which tell by the patchwork of new and old bricks the bullet and larger-caliber holes and collapsed areas that have since been repaired; often everything from halfway-up is made of new bricks (I don’t think there is a shard of original glass in the city).  This church, apparently no longer in use, has a nice door.

Farmers Market in Wrocław

We love farmers market in Europe (and the US).  As soon as we saw what looked like an old train station, we headed in that direction since that is usually where farmers markets are to be found in European cities.

Lunch with Kate

Having lunch, an oven-baked pierogi (essentially a calzone).  Note the simple but very neat décor:  wooden spatulas, forks and such are suspended to divide the booths, surround lamps, etc.  Very effective and I would think very inexpensive.

Gnomes

It seems that every city in eastern Europe has some small-statue theme.  In Wrocław this is gnomes, of which there are several hundred scattered everywhere about the city.  Here is the backstory.  In the last stage of protests prior to “The Wall” coming down, people in Wrocław took to painting anti-communist slogans on walls.  The commies were very efficient about quickly painting these out to be covered with pro-Communists slogans.  These the protesters painted out and replaced with … caricatures of gnomes.

A macho bicycle

Eastern Europe seems particularly friendly to those of us who ride the macho bicycles (ie, lack the silly gears, chains and brakes).  Not sure what this sign means, but I like it!

Photo Set #06

PHD in Poland

Some photos from Planet Head Day in Poland.  The event had 50 shaved heads and several hundred participants altogether.  As with our PHD in Maine, the event quickly outgrew the science museum and moved to a gymnasium.  These are pictures of the start (major VIPs, which includes me).

PHD in Poland

Among the shaved heads is my research colleague Jakub Witkowski, who just lost his mother-in-law to cancer, 2nd from left.  The second picture is of students from a local maritime academy.  The head-painting is nowhere near as accurate as we do – a tradition of accuracy-in-planet-painting started by Jeanie of course – and then EVERYONE sports a set of Saturn rings, which I guess has become the tradition here.

PHD in Poland

They shaved and painted the heads in sets before the audience, to the accompaniment of a jazz band – maybe a new idea for us.

Mc and Harwood

During the week of PHD, my research colleague Dave Harwood from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln came to Szczecin to work with Jakub and I on our projects.  Dave and I have co-authored a host of papers, I count maybe ten altogether with more coming.  He is a diatom specialist, but also interested in the early (Cretaceous) history as I am (Dave has always been the one to bring new-and-very-unusual silicoflagellates to my attention.

Photo Set #05

Photo 1a and b:  Galaxie Mall

This is ground floor at the Galaxie Mall.  I am going with some neighbors to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Multikino theater on the top floor landing.  The atrium has a … (what for it) … planetary theme.  On the top floor, I am waving in the direction of my second favorite object in our system (Pluton).

Photo 2:  Polish coinage.

A Polish Złoty (the ł has a w-sound) is worth about 26 cents US.  The currency is decimal, much like ours, with .01 (penny), .02, .05, .10, .20 and .50 coins.  Their “50-cent” piece is about the size of our nickel, though not as thick, and much more used than our Kennedy half-dollar.  But the small coins fill your pocket, particularly since the cashiers are much happier to get rid of their small coins than take in yours.

There is also a 1 złoty coin (a little smaller than our quarter), and 2 and 5 zł coins of bimetal constructions similar to our local Canadian “two-nies.”  The smallest paper denomination is 10 złoty, with also 20, 50, 100 and higher denominations that you would seldom see.  Actually, the cashiers hate to see a 100-note.  My wife Kate’s single most lasting memory of Poland is of being yelled at by a Polish cashier after being given a 100-note.

Photo 3a and b:  Antique shop

There is an antique shop nearby that has a fairly large number of antique irons, mostly fairly standard European slug (Poles call the metal insert the “soul”) and coal irons.  I like to look but don’t buy as getting these home is a lot of trouble, and am holding out for some nice single piece to add the collection.

Photo 4:  Flower shop

The Polish love flowers (kwiaty) and there are flower shops (kwiaciarnie) everywhere.  Sort of like being in Seattle, where you are never out of the line-of-sight of a Starbucks.  Some of these shops are open 24 hours a day.  This shop is near where I buy my Polish pottery.

Photo 5:  Kewin at work

This is me at work.  My first batch of samples and slides are prepared and I am now working to count silicoflagellates at four slides a day, which adds up to maybe six hours of scopework.  I did five slides each on Thursday and Friday, but take it easier on the weekends.  Presently working in the Oligocene of ODP Hole 748B, for those who keep track of that kind of thing.  Silicos are such pretty things; I never get tired of them.  A lot of bird calls (seagulls but other birds as well) reach me from the window.

Photo 6:  Primary school

This is a school that I visited from a small village near Szczecin.  The central area of the village has many old German buildings – beautiful, but badly in need of renovation.  This is apparently something of a factory town, but the factories are now closed.

Photo 7: School visit

What brings me to the school is a Planet Head Day program.  They have done wonders with this idea.  Visits to the school includes a program being as much about “filantropi” than about planets or cancer.  The old Communism was not about community involvement, and so these strange ideas about making the community a better place through personal involvement need to be developed in the young.

I practice the language of handshakes (or high-fives).  The kids seem fairly incredulous about a dr. Professor who goes by his first name and asks for questions.  Note that the seats are very simple, do not match and have no desks; this is a fairly poor school.  But there is an obvious interest in learning, science in particular.  Among my three classes there were two students – just by chance – who were wearing  NASA t-shirts, with another I saw in the hallway.  Also a student wearing a Planet Head Day t-shirt.

On one of the posters is a “Gallery Bohaterów” (Pictures of Heros) that show planetheads from last year.  I have only been here six weeks and have already been stopped on sidewalks, because someone has recognized me from a video and wants to shake hands with a “hero.”  You might also notice prominent placement of Rotary and UMPI logos on the posters.

Photo 8:  Soccer fan

While having dinner that night at the Cutty Sark Pub, the guys at a nearby table see my NASA hat and we fall into conversation.  They set up scaffolding at construction sites, and have just returned from a soccer game.  The Szczecin team won 3-1; they were happy. One of the guys at the table knew me – by name – as he had apparently seen the video of the soccer team getting their heads shaved last year for PHD.  The guy in the picture has a scarf that says (my translation) Go Szczecin!

Photo 9:  Polish pottery

One thing I have been working on for the past several years – an extended anniversary present for Kate – is a good set of Polish pottery. The Bratasławiec pottery is beautiful, and in many traditional and modern designs. We have picked a traditional pattern, called “mosquito,” and over several visits to a local pottery shop I pick up a lot of 25-35 pieces to pack and mail home. This is the first lot for this sabbatical: mainly square and mid-sized plates, some bowls and tea cups-and-saucers to go with teapots that I gifted during the Fulbright fellowship.

Photo 10:  more pottery

Here are the first two pieces for the second batch (the coffee cup is there for scale).  I went for a couple of larger pieces.  The shops gets a new shipment in next week and I have on order some more square plates and small bowls.

Photo Set #04

Photo 1:  Laundry out to dry

There are a lot of things that we Americans take for granted.  One is the convenience of our washing machines, dryers and laundromats.   In Poland, most houses/apartments may have a washing machine, but no dryer.  Laundry is hung out to dry.  My apartment has these odd racks above the bathtub (showers are another not readily available convenience in Poland!), there for the laundry.

Photo 2:  Eat Less sign

This is a sign in a parking lot.  Basically a Polish pun, what this says essentially is “Eat less to live better.”  Zryj means “eat” while Żyj means “live.”  Apparently this sign is controversial – some take this as good advice while others find this insulting to the heavier folks.

Photo 3a: Kababs

Near the “Eat Less” sign is this kabab restaurant.  Kabab restaurants are usually Turkish- or Kurd-owned.  The meat is on a big circular rack and is sliced thinly, to be served with fries or veggies.   I am here with two of my Polish colleagues.

Photo 3b: Turkish tea

Also at the Kabab place is Turkish tea, served in small clear cups, without handles – watch your fingers!

Photo 4: Polish elevator numbers

In Poland the ground floor is “0” (1st floor in the US).

Photo 5:  My T. rex

In the geology museum is this 1/4-scale Tyrannosaurus rex skull, donated by me.

Photo 6: Sample preparations

Here are my two Adas.  “Tall” Ada prepared samples for me when I was here for the Fulbright.  She is now training “Short” Ada, who is preparing samples for me this semester.  The general process of sample processing is now complete and these samples are being readied to me turned into microscope slides, so I can “get to work”

Photo 7a:  Kazkada Mall

I wound up with some extra time downtown, so walked into the Mall.  Anyone who knows me knows I am not a “Mally” – actually, there is not a single thing that I would go into a mall to buy (I patronize antique shops and yard sales) – but here I am, in a mall.   I assume a pretty good one if you go to these places to shop.

Photo 7b: Mall sales

It seemed that every store in the mall was having big mark-down sales, usually 70% off.  I guess they are moving out the winter stuff and getting ready for Spring in Poland.

Photo 8: Stare Miasto

This is a night-time scene in the Stare Miasto (Old City).  The buildings are not actually old as everything was lost through bombing during the war (U-boats were being built nearby).  This building is lighted, very pretty.

Photo Set #03

Photo 1:  Dinner at the Cutty Sark again

This is the scientist-of-the-day with whom I had dinner tonight.  Andy is from Birmingham England and is the world’s authority on baseball-sized foraminifera that live on the bottom of the ocean!

Wait a minute: Foraminifera are single-celled organisms.  There are baseball-sized foraminifera at the bottom of the ocean?  I did not know that!

This is the joy of science.  The world is full of really neat things that you don’t know about.  Andy, I am sure, was in turn bewildered some about the mathematics of silicoflagellate cell boundaries … (wait a minute, there is a mathematics of silico cell boundaries?)

It is a wonderful world.

Photo 2: Sign on the building

While on the subject of science, this is the sign on “my” building.  The “Nauk o Ziemi” is Knowledge of the Earth; the “Nauk o Morzu” is Knowledge of the Ocean.  I wear two hats, study the earth and study the oceans.

Photo 3a,b,c: Rocks in front of building

I will generally avoid repeating subject from my Fulbright blog, but here I will make an exception.  This is part of a display of six big rocks in front of the building.  The one rock is a pegmatitic granite, and the other a gneiss, I think.  There is great education in rocks that are just sitting there.  I have been asking for years if we can get some rocks in front of Folsom Hall.

Photo 4: Energy of a Coke

Here is something for my ENERGY students, and on the side of a Polish 250 ml bottle of Coke:  The energy from consuming this drink, is 8400 kJ (kilojoule), or 2000 kcal.

Photo 5: Russian visitor

There is an almost constant come-and-go of international visitors.  Here we are again at the Cutty Sark.  On my left (your right) is Maxim Kulikovsky, a visitor from Russia who is here to work on a paper in the diatom lab.  Max and I co-authored a paper (on Eocene age silicoflagellates from Russia) several years ago.  He and colleague Horst Lange-Bertalot named a diatom species after me a couple of years ago.

Photo 6 More visitors to the museum

I have gone downstairs to make some coffee and find another group of kids visiting the museum.  This happens every school day.

Photo 7: THE COFFEE POT

There is absolute proof of the existence of God: how else could we have coffee?  (Humans of course developed from a well understood natural process, but coffee needs additional explanation!).  The coffee pot here grinds the coffee just before brewing, and makes better coffee than our drip pots, unless perhaps you use freshly ground beans.  The machine however takes a fair amount of maintenance.  The faculty take turns each week to decalcify the innards.  But a good cup of coffee is, well, a religious experience.  I come to worship regularly.

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Photo 8: Jurassic Park pinball machine

This is a JURASSIC PARK pinball machine.  Took my 2 zlotys very quickly.  A pinball dinosaur hunter I apparently am not.

Photo 9: Groceries again

So, another grocery run.  Ten eggs, ham, cheese, rolls for breakfast sandwiches, two blocks of camembert cheese (very popular in Poland), four 330 g yogurts, a good beer (7.8%, 500 ml), 2 liters of good fruit juice, bananas and some packaging tape.  Total about $14.

Photo Set #02

Photo 1a, 1b:  Polish pottery

Much of my first two weeks are spent on outfitting the apartment and building my daily routine in a foreign country.  My first visit to the downtown area is to the pottery shop.  Polish pottery is beautiful – check it out online – though fairly expensive if bought by the piece in the US.  So, I have been slowly picking up pieces here.  I check the pottery shop every couple of weeks.

The shop is fairly small, run by Monika.  There are many Polish pottery designs, both traditional and modern, made at the pottery factories in Bolesławiec (pronounced “boleswaviets;” the ł is pronounced as a “w”, the w a “v” and the c a “ts” sound), in the southwestern corner of the country.  Monika offers about six of these designs, with many types of dishes in each style.  We have picked a traditional design, known as the mosquito pattern, with the standard traditional blue circles, plus green “mosquitos” and brown “pine cones.”

The pictures here show Monika, the display in our style (the picture does not include the top shelf) and a small platter (I bought two).

Photo 2:  For Eric

During my Fulbright sabbatical two years ago, I bought a bunch of teapots for gifts to those who have helped from afar.  This included a pot for Eric, who helps me with the photo blogs.  Eric’s daughter has much enjoyed the teapot, so we will add a couple of cups and saucer this time around.  His pot is in a traditional style, though different that the one I collect.

Photo 3:  Polish KFC

After about ten days in Poland, I need to get back to my culinary roots, so a visit to a downtown KFC (there are several in Szczecin) is in order.  The Polish restaurants are excellent, but always seem to have few diners, as most Poles eat at home.  The fast-food restaurants, however, are packed.  This picture is the scene in the KFC:  There were about 15 people in line or waiting to order when I arrived, still about 15 people when I made my order, and 15 more after I ate and was leaving.  Gangbuster business.

Photo 4:  Work environment

During my first two weeks, I worked on three manuscripts left over from my Fulbright sabbatical here two years ago.  This is my work environment.  The books contain much of the literature that I work from.  These are volumes from the deep sea drilling programs, which have been coring into the deep ocean since the late 1960s.  These volumes, by the way, are from the UMPI library – I picked these up when the library trimmed their collections, these stayed in my office for some years and then I shipped these to Szczecin, as a 1200-pound pallet of books.  They get much use here by several people, including me.

Photo 5: Geology Museum

The department here has a geology museum, which is also the site of the Polish Planet Head Day.  As any who know me knows, I LOVE (choham) science museums, and have founded one at my home university, though this does not get a lot of visitors of late.  The museum in Szczecin had 4000 school children here over the past year.  A group or more of students most days.  Here is one.  This is something of my vision for northern Maine…

Photo 6:  First Polish cup of Polish coffee in my Polish apartment

This is my first cup (in my “mosquito” design) of coffee in my apartment.  My coffee pot just heats the water, so the coffee is instant.  Not great, but starts the day…

Photo 7a,b,c:  Polish hamburger joint

Since I left here almost two years ago, a hamburger (or do we call this hamberder now?) shop (sklep) has opened in the neighborhood.  Very small – three tables altogether – and packed, mostly by a young crowd.  The burger paddies are huge, and the finished burger measured almost six inches (13 cm) across the bun.

I am something of a connoisseur of hamburgers.  The burgers in this shop are OK (not one of the best twenty I have ever had, but OK), with a sauce, lettuce and tomato; the pickles are sliced lengthwise.  My only criticism is that this is too much in the American style, with cheap cheese and white-bread-buns-that-fall-apart-before-the-burger-is-eaten.

I can honestly say that of the twenty best burgers I have ever had, ALL OF THEM were in Europe.  The better burgers have very good meat, good cheese, and a darker grainy bread that holds together well.  (A good burger is fairly big, delicious, and can be eaten comfortably with one hand while not losing anything to the plate.)

Photo 8: Pevo

I guess we should also say something about Polish beer (pevo).  Here are three bottles that have been residents of my refrigerator.  Just so you know, I drink no more than one per night.  Most so-called “beer” in the US – I will name no names, but all those that will be advertised during the Super Bowl – are to a real beer what a boxed cookie is to a cheesecake.  I guess I am the one asking for mead in the one TV ad.  Polish beer is quite good, and the better beers are outstanding.

Photo Set #01

Photo 1:  Kevin leaves for Poland (again)

I am leaving for Poland (again).  I did a sort of commentary blog during my first Poland sabbatical in 2012, and then a daily photo blog for the Fulbright in 2016-17.  We will make this sort of an occasional photo-commentary this time around: some interesting pictures, with some culture, language, history, and sights.

This first picture was taken the day before I left.  Yes, it is snowing (“śneig” – the accented s is a “sh” sound).  The physical plant had to remove a snowbank so we could get up the base of the sign for this picture.  Poland sees a LOT LESS snow, despite this being some 5 degrees higher latitude; there is presently no snow on the ground in northern Poland, though there is snow in the southern mountains.   I think the warmer conditions in northern Poland is caused in part by the Atlantic Gulf Stream with some influence by the nearby Baltic Sea.

Photo 2:  The Tram

Poland being a European city has a well-established tram system.  In the first couple of days in Poland I quickly got familiar again with the routes around my apartment and office.  By and large, I could probably move about the city easier by tram than by car.

Photo 3: Kevin’s work environment

This is my office (biuro).  My fancier microscope from the Fulbright is now in Warsawa.  There is a nearby table that will be generally full of volumes of Deep Sea Drilling literature.  I have some three or four projects from the past sabbatical, at least one big new project to do and another to start.  These papers can often take a long time.  I recently assisted some Polish colleagues down the hall with a very nice igneous paper that took three years to do (I helped with the English, not the igneous geology).

 

Photo 4:  Nearby grocery store.

This is the nearby grocery.  Polish salaries are not very high by our standards, and so most Polish cook their own food to save money.  People buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the variety of meats is quite extensive.  Also good cheese (ser).  I stop here most mornings on my way to the office to buy yogurt and some fruit.  Also at the grocery store, shovels are 18,99 ($5), next to this is antifreeze for 12,99 ($3.50).

Photo 5:  Groceries

Here are my groceries the day.  The food prices here are very inexpensive by our standards, but keep in mind salaries are low by about the same margins.  What you see here – two 2-liter containers of very good fruit juice, two mid-sized containers of yogurt, a 1,4 liter bottle of “bitter-lemon” soda (very good), some high-quality cooking oil and a four-pack of beer (piwo), plus the bag (you pay for that) – cost me 31,22 złoty [yes, Poles use commas instead of decimal points].  That amounts to $8.34 American (the 4-pack of beer is $2, and this is better than most-any beer in Caribou that you can buy in a can).

Photo 6a:  the Rotary Club

My first week in Poland is a lot about renewing acquaintances.  On Wednesday I had dinner with the UniversityChinese Club – I was not yet in the habit of taking pictures.  On Thursday, dinner at a local small (and locally historic) music hall with the Szczecin International Rotary Club.  Some good conversation.  The past president tells me about the Planet Head Day plans for the Interact Club…

Photo 6b: Rotary meal

My dinner at the Rotary meeting is a salad with some fried chicken (kurczak), some good bread … and very good Polish dark beer (served in a Guinness glass).

Photo 7: Dinner at Cutty Sark Pub

This is dinner on Friday at the Cutty Sark Pub with Cüneyt, a colleague from Turkey.  We talk a lot about the international activities at our Oceanography program at Szczecin.  (I have recently published a paper with another Turkish colleague).  Cüneyt is leaving in two days for a stay at another program in southeastern Poland – the total opposite end of the country from Szczecin.  He works to talk me into doing a talk at a phytoplankton conference there in May.

Photo 8a,b:  Farmers Market

This is my first Saturday morning in Szczecin, so I revert to my old habit of buying eggs (jajka, in cartons of ten) from a guy who comes from a nearby village to sell at the farmers market.  I also buy pears (gruszki) and a coat, as I only came with a light jacket.

Photo 9:  Dinner with friends

On Saturday (sabota) evening I have dinner with old neighbors and good friends Angieszka Babska and Krystoff Babski (the end of the last name changes with gender) and their twin children Maja (left) and Jeremy (next to the right).  They are 15 years old, and getting ready for high school, which in Poland is three years.  Maya plans to study law and Jeremy chemical engineering; he has already had three years of chemistry (in middle school!).  Krystoff does not come for dinner, but we all get together with another neighbor after dinner.

 

Colleagues

The conferences brings together, including three people who have between them jointly published more than 20 silicoflagellates articles.  From left to right are Ric Jordan (U. of Yamagata), myself (U. Maine at Presque Isle) and Jakub Witkowski (University Szczecin).