Tug Hill Woman

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Category: Europe 2016 (page 1 of 2)

About that Wall

November 12, 2016. 11:18 Czech Time, 5:18 AM NY Time. Mikulov, Czech Republic.

On Veterans Day, November 11,  David and I walked about 5 miles along  a bike path here in Mikulov, Czech Republic   on the Austrian-Czech border. Today’s peaceful bike path was, until 25 years ago, part of the Iron Curtain, that Cold War dividing line between East and West and communism and democracy. We were looking for (and found) a recently erected memorial to locals who over the years died while trying to cross that infamous border.

On the Iron Curtain Trail, Near Mikulov, CZ

On the Iron Curtain Trail, Near Mikulov, CZ

These days, the entire 10,000 mile line, extending from Norway to Greece, is a cycling track named the Iron Curtain Trail. As you take the trail here near Mikulov, you find 13 information panels showing what this same place looked like during the communist era. The panels depict barbed wire and electric fencing, checkpoints, border guards and police dogs, and various, mostly unsuccessfully, escape attempts.

Information Panel, Iron Curtain Trail, Near Mikulov, CZ

Information Panel, Iron Curtain Trail, Near Mikulov, CZ

The memorial is made of 53 rusting steel girders, each set on end into  the ground and pointing upward. Each girder has a name and a date stamped through it and as you walk around the memorial,  the names become visible against the Austrian sky. 53 girders, 53 names and dates. One for each of the 53 individuals shot, electrocuted, or otherwise killed in this sector while attempting to step into free Austria. As we walked, we couldn’t help but think about what life must have been like for those people hemmed in by fences, walls, and guards.

Gateway to Freedom Memorial, Near Mikulov, Czech Republic

Gateway to Freedom Memorial, Near Mikulov, Czech Republic

Of course, the Czech-Austro border pre-dates the communist era, and as we walked we also found the remains of many earlier  border structures. It turns out the Iron Curtain was built along an already fortified border and the ruins were a series of concrete bunkers erected by the Czechsolvaks in 1938 in an attempt (also unsuccessful) to  keep the Nazis out. These bunkers saw continuous use by the various ruling armies until 1991.

Close up WWII Bunker, Bike Route 41, Mikulov, CZ

Close up WWII Bunker, Bike Route 41, Mikulov, CZ

The lesson for this traveler? The walls we build to keep others out, can just as effectively keep us in.

At Gateway to Freedom, Mikulov, CZ

At Gateway to Freedom, Mikulov, CZ

 

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Zalipie’s Painted Cottages

Sunday, November 6, 2016  17:40 Krakow Time, 11:40 AM NY Time

In Zalipie, Poland

In Zalipie, Poland

We are so lucky! On Friday we headed into the countryside with our local guide Krzysztof Ciacma of Taisa Travel. He drove us to the village of  Zalipie, center of Poland’s “Region of the Painted Cottage.” Here, the residents decorate the interiors and exteriors of their homes and other buildings in brightly colored and fanciful flower designs. We learned the custom began as a means to brighten up soot-stained walls in the centuries before the kitchen heater was chimneyed and over the years the practice was developed into a true folk art.

Painted House, Zalipie, Poland

Painted House, Zalipie, Poland

In  the early 20th century  a prominent artist in the field,  Felicia Curylo, took the custom to new levels and became famous in wider art circles.

Felicia Curylo Home and Museum, Zalipie, Poland 2

Felicia Curylo Home and Museum, Zalipie, Poland 2

Felicia Curylo Home and Museum, Zalipie, Poland

Felicia Curylo Home and Museum, Zalipie, Poland

Today there is a  regional center, Dom Malarek, that includes a workshop where several artists decorate pottery, household items, and other objects for sale in Poland and abroad. We were lucky enough during our visit to meet some of the artists and watch them work.

Dom Malarek, Zalipie, Poland

Dom Malarek, Zalipie, Poland

Garden Sundial at Dom Malarek

Garden Sundial at Dom Malarek

Chuch Interior, Zalipie, Poland

Chuch Interior, Zalipie, Poland

As we’ve found is usual here, we were treated with the greatest of hospitality and kindness. At the Felicia Curylo home/museum I looked at some Zalipie paper flowers and chose two for purchase. How much, I asked? And through our guide/interpreter was told, “No charge, these are a gift.” Poland truly has the nicest people in the world.

Some Catch Up

Nov. 1, 2016, 15:13 Frombork time, 10:13 NY time. Frombork, Poland

Back to blogging. We were at Wolf’s Lair in the Prussian forest for a few days, and our hotel had little to no internet, so that is why the lapse in posts.

At the Baltic Sea, Frombork, Poland

At the Baltic Sea, Frombork, Poland

I feel really proud of ourselves. We’ve gotten off the usual American tourist trail and  are way up in the  northeast of Poland, on the Baltic Sea, and about 11.6 miles from the Russian border. Of course this still is a tourist area, but more frequented by Europeans than Americans. Frombork seems to be a summer town, and here we are, very off-season. But still, I feel quite adventurous to be here today.

To play a little catch up I’ll show you some pictures I said I would in an earlier post. Remember I said Warsaw’s architecture is now quite a mix? The shot below shows you a typical baroque-era building in the front of the photo, the Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science on the back left, and some ultra-modern buildings on the right. A closer up shot of that striped building with that funky triangle side is below too. A funny thing about the Palace of Culture and Science is that it was Stalin’s “gift” to post-war Warsaw.  According to Rick Steves, the Polish people call it “Stalin’s Prick.”

Buildings, Warsaw

Buildings, Warsaw

Warsaw Buildings Close-up

Warsaw Buildings Close-up

I told you in one of the posts that we were going to visit Marie Curie’s childhood home we certainly did. Madam Curie was a woman of both romance and great accomplishment when women’s roles in life were rather limited. She was quite a heroine to me as I grew up.   We found her home on a charming, quiet, cobblestone street and it is now a simple museum exhibiting a few artifacts and many photos of her life. We were surprised to see that one of the photos is of Mme. Curie walking to the 1929 dedication of Hepburn Hall at St. Lawrence University. We thought that was really cool!

Marie Curie Home & Museum

Marie Curie Home & Museum

Bust, Marie Curie Museum

Bust, Marie Curie Museum

Replica of Marie Curie's Paris Workshop

Replica of Marie Curie’s Paris Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mme. Curie at St. Lawrence University, 1929

Mme. Curie at St. Lawrence University, 1929

I’ll end this post with a few other shots around Warsaw, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Saxon Gardens, and the Little Upriser Monument. One year after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the residents of Greater Warsaw rose against the Nazi occupiers as well. The statue you see here honors the littlest fighters, mostly Boy Scouts, who served as runners for the resistance.

The Little Upriser, Warsaw

The Little Upriser, Warsaw

Tomb of Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, Poland

Tomb of Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, Poland

Saxon Garden, Warsaw, Poland

Saxon Garden, Warsaw, Poland

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