Monday, 28 May 2007
The shrines are decorated with flags and bunting (in the Marian colours of sky-blue and white), or, in this case, simply flowers. At this time of the evening, you may well see a group of (mostly) women from the local parish singing hymns to the Virgin.
Below is the Marian shrine at Zamienie, a village notable for the fact that it was home to a vaccine plant built in the early 1950s. The factory has now gone, the site is awaiting redevelopment. Many new homes will be built here.
Sunday, 27 May 2007
In the UK, the cornflower is endangered due to overuse of herbicides. Here, it is abundant. Above and below are two fields on ul. Sarabandy, the road running parallel to ul. Trombity.
Thursday, 24 May 2007
Symbolic. The future, as our daughter Moni says, is loading.
Saturday, 19 May 2007
Today's walk took me to the southern fringes of Jeziorki, to Warsaw's boundaries with Mysiadlo. Below is the pond on ul. Pozytywki, where I saw a grey heron as well as the usual ducks and black-headed gulls.
Further on, across the fields south of ul. Katarynki, I could see the derelict buildings of the old state collective tomato farm in Mysiadlo (below), which will soon be developed into new homes. The size of the development (80 or so hectares, I estimate) means several hundred more cars joining the morning and evening rush-hours in and out of Warsaw.
Thursday, 17 May 2007
The sky, after the sun has cleared the horizon, continues to be sufficiently luminescent to make photography still possible. Trombity is at its most charming soon after sunset, from May through to early September.
(Above) Trombity's 'silver birch house'. Ground-level lighting, an immaculate lawn and an impressive stand of birches make this the street's - indeed Jeziorki's - visually most impressive and beautiful front garden.
Monday, 14 May 2007
Sunday, 13 May 2007
Saturday, 12 May 2007
Will Warsaw 'go centrifugal' (as the Economist article Et in suburbia ego suggests), sprawling out for scores of miles in all direction, while the centre whithers? I don't think so. The central social dividing line in Poland is not race or class, but urban/rural. Poles consider urban living sophisticated. The village, which in the UK is the nation's repository of tradition and values, is in Poland equated with mud and boorishness. The village is where Brits want to retire to, it's where Poles want to escape from. Modern, newly-rich Poland would rather live in newly-built swanky uptown apartment with underground parking, security and fitness centre, and not having to worry about lengthy commutes.
Where does this leave the city's periphery? Until recently, prices of apartments in central Warsaw were shooting up at unprecendented rates (100% in 18 months not uncommon), while prices of edge-of-town villas stagnated. Now, as apartment prices become increasingly unaffordable even to the newly-affluent, home-buyers are starting to look at the suburbs.
The drawbacks are the commuting (two hours a day) and lack of town drains (we spend around 40 quid a month having our septic tank emptied). The pluses of living away from the city centre are evident in the photos. But Jeziorki is not a suburb in the usual British or American sense. There's no shops, pubs or restaurants within walking distance. We have to drive a six kilometre round trip to the shop to buy fresh bread and morning papers. This makes Jeziorki more of a village than a suburb.
Below: What better place to grow up? (our son Eddie, right, with friend Wojtek)
Most Poles live in apartments in towns and cities while having their own 'dzialka' (dacha) in the country where they can relax at weekends. Some will be posh, most basic - indeed there are quite a few around Jeziorki, where city folk have their little plots, wooden shacks and grow things, grill barbeques or just chill out. My guess is that over the coming years, as land prices rise, more and more of the dzialki will be sold and turned into building plots for suburban housing.
I recently re-watched John Betjeman's Metro-Land, his televisual poem about London's extended suburbia opened up by the Metropolitan Railway in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His observations about the furthest reaches of Metroland ring true with early 21st century Jeziorki: "Grass triumphs. And I must say, I'm rather glad".
Sunday, 6 May 2007
Below: A dandelion clock in the street outside our house, just before the rainfall. It washed away the seeds before they could be dispersed by the winds.
[Update -12 May: The beneficial effects of the rain are clearly visible - rapid and luxuriant growth of greenery everywhere.]
Saturday, 5 May 2007
The gulls were already up and settled in their habitat (below). We could hear the distinctive call of bullfrogs - like someone blowing over the top of an empty jug. I've yet to see a bullfrog. The gulls were far noisier. They did not take kindly to having their territory invaded; they were up in the air wheeling around, squawking loudly and protesting my presence. The picture below shows how many black-headed gulls live in this area; I counted around 80 individuals in this shot (taken at the equivalent of 50mm focal length).
As the gulls wheeled around me, one particular individual seemed intent on dive-bombing me while issuing a distinctive squawk. I followed this one (to the right of the pic below) with the lens; again and again he tried spooking me into turning away. Note the white leading edges of the gulls' wings, a distinguishing feature. After I'd got my shots, I wandered back towards ul. Dumki. Three gulls followed me, as if they were escorting me off the premises. Meanwhile, a solitary bullfrog continued making his bottle-blowing noise.
Friday, 4 May 2007
More of my pics showing Poland looking like a mid-western state here.
Thursday, 3 May 2007
There was also a large militaria fair taking place; we bought Warsaw Pact-issue gasmasks for 10 zlotys each (around 1.60 GBP) and a genuine unissued US Army trenchcoat from 1952 complete with liner for 270 zlotys (around 45 GBP). Below is the same T-34/85 tank within the fortress compound, which had been set-dressed to look like Berlin in May 1945.
Wednesday, 2 May 2007
An evening's stroll offered a taste of what was in store for the morning - a long walk into the Czech Republic. On 31 December this year, Poland and its two southern neighbours will join the Schengen countries and their mutual borders will effectively disappear - it will become like crossing from England into Wales. But today, there's still the frisson of excitement - will there be armed guards lurking behind the trees, like there are on the Polish-Belarusian or Polish Ukrainian borders? Will our documents be in order?In the photo above, the border runs along the path. To the right of that post is the Czech Republic, to the left is Poland. The mountain in the distance is Stożek Wielki, that notch carved into its peak is the border. We walked up there, and enjoyed some mulled beer with mead in the 85 year-old mountain restaurant just beyond the peak. Thus fortified, we descended into the Czech Republic. The plan was to do a brief incursion lasting two hours and re-emerge in Poland at Stozek Maly.
I'd checked the weather forecast the day before, and it showed clear skies and warm temperatures. But it was not to be. As soon as we'd crossed the (unmanned) border, the weather closed in on us (below). Soon we were enveloped in thick mist. Fortunately it was not too cold and the rain was light (I worry about my consumer electronics!)
Aesthetically, the Czech incursion was a success. Walking through giant silent forests shrouded in dense mist put me in mind of primordial scenes; hundred-foot high Permian horsetails and three-foot dragonflies. Recent history is also interesting. I recalled a British TV drama about Czechoslovakian dissidents making their way to the West German border, getting across, being greeting by US soldiers and debriefed by the CIA - only to discover that it was all a set-up entrapment plot and that in reality they had not left Czechoslovakia at all...
With such thoughts in mind, we rambled on following the tourist tracks until we came across a very CSSR-type establishment, a village shop that was virtually unchanged since communist days (apart from the modern selection of confectionary on display and the shopkeeper's friendly manner). We stocked up on chocolate and wafers and headed back up the mountainside towards Poland, climbing onward and upward until we made the border as planned at Stożek Mały.
Once again, the border crossing point (below) was unmanned. Notices stated that from between 06:00 and 22:00, there should be an official present to ensure that locals crossing the border do not exceed their quotas of alcohol, tobacco or meat products, that their motorcycle engines do not exceed 50cc, or that their agricultural produce is only for local consumption. We were relieved that the booth was empty; in eight months time it will be history.