Sunday, June 6, 2010

In memory of the plane tragedy

Sunday evening, just as we were heading home along ul. Polna, the police appeared and closed the intersection for a crowd that was heading our way. As they reached the roundabout it was clear that several dignitaries, the local bishop, mayor and other prominent politicians were at the head of the group.

Nearly two months after the tragic plane crash where President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and 95 others died, the three-cities area is still feeling the loss. Several people on the plane that crashed while attempting to land near Katyn, Russia were from the Gdańsk and Sopot area.

Jacek Karnowski, the mayor of Sopot, addressed the approximately 200 people in attendance and explained that the roundabout that we were gathered at was officially being named for Maciej Płażynski, the Speaker of Parliament, who died in the plane crash.

Karnowski told the group that there would be more commemorations later in the month when President Kaczyński and his wife would be honored in further ceremonies.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

3 Siostry

Two blocks from the Baltic Sea, nestled among the narrow streets, lies a cozy little club run by three sisters, Beata Szlapka, Ola Gosk and Natalia Gosk.  This Sopot establishment opened almost exactly one year ago and is aptly named 3 Siostry, Three Sisters.  A comfortable respite from the tourist-filled streets the club offers excellent food, inexpensive drinks, and a fun, quirky atmosphere.

With shoes nailed to the ceiling and an eccentric collection of old chairs arranged around small tables, entering the club feels similar to entering your crazy aunt's living room, bizarre but very cozy.  Natalia commented that the original plan was to carpet the entire ceiling and even nail some furniture to the ceiling, but it quickly became too expensive and impractical. Most of the decorations were donations from friends and patrons, though a few purchases had to be made to achieve the complete feel the sisters wanted.

After Ola left a previous small club partnership, she and Beata teamed up to find property for a new venture.  They found a perfect location on a corner of Bolesława Chobrego and Grunwaldzka, however, it was a bit too large for the two of them to manage on their own. They turned to their youngest sister, Natalia (pictured below), who just graduated from the University of Gdansk and was trying to raise money to go to school to become a Russian translator.  The three sisters do everything for the club -- cooking, cleaning, serving -- by themselves or with a few friends.

They opened their doors on May 29, 2009, and, according to Natalia, have had a pretty successful first year. Simply doing a Google search for "3 Siostry" turns up quite a few review sites that are overflowing with praise. Even their Facebook page boasts over 300 fans, quite a large response for a small local club just starting up.

“These three sisters are really efficient and brave,” patron Krzysztof Filipkowski remarked. "To start a business is no joke.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is an important event for the people in Poland. For this catholic country the day is an official holiday and most businesses are closed. Throughout the country towns and villages will close roads as processions make the rounds from the local church to temporary shrines that were put up the night before. This procession, in Gdańsk, began around 11a.m. at St. Mary's church. A huge crowd of people followed the procession as it weaved its way through the streets of the Old Town. While they were walking, the people were singing hymns. The priests stopped at the different temporary shrines to pray and parishioners would kneel down when the Holy Host passed by.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) or Boże Ciało is observed on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday in villages, towns and cities all over Poland. It is a national holiday, and virtually the whole town is involved in an organized procession that parades through the streets. A traditional procession leaves the church after mass and continues on the streets with banners and holy pictures. Young girls dressed in their first communion dresses scatter rose and other flower petals on the streets. These petals are for Christ, who is believed by Catholics to walk the streets with the people during the processions. In the central part of the procession is the shrine of The Holy Host. Many people kneel in the street as the shrine passes them. The procession walks around the streets stopping at various temporary shrines to sing hymns and pray. The shrines are decorated with branches from Birch trees, and members of the procession tear off twigs from these shrines for luck and happiness. Many homes display religious icons in their windows and traffic is stopped throughout the city.

High School Life in Poland

The high schools in Poland, although structured differently from those in the U.S., still have similarities: the sights of students frantically completing homework or studying, the social interaction and cliques, and teachers monitoring the hallways.

However, in Poland, at the end of middle school you must  take entrance exams which will determine which high school you will go to. Instead of the "A, B, C, D, and F" grading scale, Polish schools use one through five. Everyday, the class schedule varies and students can be dismissed from classes anywhere from 1 p.m. through 3:30 p.m. The classes taught during any given year include English, Polish, history, religion, and chemistry.
Throughout Poland, English is regularly being taught to students. The class is structured to include and enforce the use of conversational English, meaning that Polish is rarely heard during this period.
On this particular day, preceding the English was Polish. This class is an upper level of Polish literature, similar to the U.S. high school English classes. Polish history is another subject taught in the school systems. Several centuries are covered, including the early kings and ending with modern Polish history.