Picture of the Week

6 July 2018

Week 25: Poland, business and pleasure

Filed under: — Administrator @ 05:17

Another week, another business trip to Eastern Europe, although this time further north, to Warsaw. Conveniently, the event I attended was on a Thursday, allowing me to do some sight-seeing in Warsaw on Friday and then a weekend in Wrocław, where my sister and brother-in-law live (and where I was born).

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The first five images are from Alicante, though, starting with my backyard. One of the joys of living where I live is to look at the sunset over the golf course:
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This was also the last week of the 8-year tenure of the Executive Director of our agency, who is taking up the post as president of the European Patent Office on 1 July. So one fine afternoon during the week he got a nice send-off at a local restaurant/party facility, starting with a video to which those of us who have worked with him during those 8 years had contributed:
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We then moved outside for nibbles, drinks and conversation–and more backlit photos:
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Two of my fellow managers, Birgit (Danish) and Ursula (Finnish), share a laugh:
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In the evening, Monica came for dinner, and afterwards I drove her back to city centre where she now lives. This is the spot where I drop her off, on Calle Rafael Altamira next to Alicante’s town hall. The street was decorated for the upcoming Hogueras de San Juan holiday:
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On the Plaza del Ayuntamiento just behind, the huge hoguera, to be burned at midnight on 24 June, was already in place:
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I actually do not enjoy Hogueras de San Juan that much anymore; it is a week-long orgy of fireworks, noise, and general messiness, culminating during the last couple of days, 23-24 June. So I was quite pleased that this year I would be out of town, all the way in Warsaw, where I was going to make a couple of presentations on the 21st at a conference arranged by the Polish Patent Office.

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I flew to Warsaw on Wednesday, arriving around 6 p.m. The usual routine followed–train from the airport to the centre, then walk to my hotel. In this case the walk was about 1 km, so I could start taking pictures immediately, starting with this hideous Stalin-era Palace of Culture and Science, a “gift” from the Soviet Union built in the 1950s. Today it is mainly used to host conferences and other events, as far as I know:
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Just across the street, the new face of Warsaw, modern office buildings built in the years since 1990 and especially since 2004 (the year Poland joined the EU and its economy really took off):
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A bit further up the street, close to my hotel, lies Warsaw’s main synagogue. Before the war Jews comprised 1/3 of the city’s population. Today it is a small community. But it is there. Along the fence there are information panels in Polish and English:
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Kosher Kat:
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After settling in at the hotel, I set out to visit a modern art gallery (as usual) and to walk around Stare Miasto, the Old City. It was around 7 p.m., so there was little traffic, as most people stop work at 4 or 5 p.m. This is Marszałkowska Street, one of Warsaw’s main thoroughfares. In contrast to many other Polish cities, Warsaw has many really wide streets like this one. The bike paths are a relatively new addition, a good way to get around in this flat city:
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The art museum I wanted to see is called Zachęta and is one of the city’s main galleries, also notorious because a prime minister was assassinated there in the 1920s. But today it was altogether more peaceful, and as often happens during such visits, I encountered an artist for the first time. Koji Kamoji was born in Japan in 1935 but has lived and worked in Poland since 1959. I liked his colour work:
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But the real revelation were his minimalist works, very Japanese in my eyes:
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This installation is called Draught and is made of thin tissue paper:
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One of the really significant works, Shadow. The stones come from Hiroshima, and the shadows on the wall symbolise the images of people on walls created by the atomic blast in August 1945:
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Auschwitz Stone. After a visit to Auschwitz, Kamoji created this installation, built around the small stone on the floor which comes from the site of the infamous death camp:
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A final example of Kamoji’s large installations:
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Thus culturally enriched, I continued walking towards the old city. I photographed the setting sun illuminating the Church of the Visitants on Krakowskie Przemieście Street. Its claim to fame is that young Chopin used to play the organ there. Like most structures in Warsaw’s old city, it was heavily damaged in 1944-45 and restored after the war:
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Warsaw is full of history. This is the wall of the president’s residence with two plaques, one commemorating Chopin’s first public piano recital in February 1818, and the second in memory of Lech Kaczyński, Poland’s president from 2005 until he was killed in the Smolensk air disaster in 2010:
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On Thursday morning it was time for work. The walk from my hotel to the conference venue where I was speaking took me through a wonderful park called Ogród Saski (Saxon Garden):
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The venue of the conference was Hotel Bellotto, a former palace housing the primates, dating back to the 18th century in its current form. Destroyed right at the beginning of the war in September 1939, it has been painstakingly restored together with the rest of the old city:
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Dr. Alicja Adamczak, head of the Polish Patent Office, opens the conference:
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One of the panel discussions during the conference. The screen refers to the 100th anniversary of the patent office. 2018 is a significant year for Poland; the country regained its independence in 1918, after being partitioned among its neighbours Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany during the preceding 123 years. So this year the country as a whole and many institutions, like the patent office, which were established immediately after independence, are celebrating their 100th anniversaries:
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As is often the case at conferences on intellectual property enforcement, there was a small exhibition of fake goods seized by Polish customs:
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For the curious, the conference programme is here (in English), and I have immodestly noted a photo of me on the patent office page as well.

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On the way back to my hotel in late afternoon, I happened upon the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I liked the smiles on the faces of the two soldiers who have just been relieved:
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Later, I sat down for a beer and a bite to eat on an outdoors terrace on Krakowskie Przedmieście. One of the joys of eating outside is to watch the people passing by, like this lady who stopped to check the menu:
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The conference continued on Friday but since I had no interventions to make, I spent the morning on sight-seeing instead. Specifically, I wanted to visit the Museum of Polish Jews, a relatively new (opened in 2005) museum chronicling the 1000 years of Polish Jewry. The walk from my hotel, about 1 km, took me through a residential neighbourhood along the John Paul II Boulevard (there are streets named after the late Polish pope everywhere in Poland). There was an outdoor flower market:
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And an indoor market, with some unofficial vendors outside:
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I spotted several sex shops and clubs of dubious virtue along a stretch of the boulevard, ironic given its name:
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A bulletin board with curious offers of “Finnish-style loans”, whatever those might be:
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I finally reached the goal of my walk, the Museum of Polish Jews. It is called POLIN, the Yiddish word for Poland. It is located in the heart of what was Warsaw’s ghetto until the Germans destroyed it following the 1943 uprising; today, a non-descript residential neighbourhood but with a jewel in its centre:
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After my almost 3-hour visit at POLIN, I walked back to my hotel, picked up the luggage I had left there and made my way to the Warsaw Central Station. From there, I took a train to Wrocław, and some four hours later, I was with my sister and her husband in their small apartment in the centre of the city. My sister Irena:
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My brother-in-law Telesfor:
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On Saturday morning, my sister and I drove to the Century Hall complex, about 3-4 km away, to see an art exhibition at the Four Domes Pavillon. The artist in focus was Tadeusz Brzozowski, a painter, designer and photographer, particularly active in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. I really liked his early drawings:
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He also did some fairly abstract work:
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The exhibition had an interesting feature, juxtapositions of old paintings and other art objects, often by anonymous artists, and Brzozowski’s painting inspired by those objects. An example is this 17th-century painting of death and Brzozowski’s interpretation:
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Or a drawing and painting of the same motive:
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The face of Jesus:
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A shoemaker:
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We spent the rest of the weekend walking around the city and having a quiet time at home. I went to the centre on a streetcar like this one, by far the easiest way to move around central Wrocław:
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Inside the streetcar. By Western European standards, the fares are ridiculously low, with a single ride costing the equivalent of €0.40:
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The central square in front of Wrocław’s city hall, Rynek, is a beautiful place with German-era guildhouses and this modern fountain in the middle–but the old and new go together quite well, I find:
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On Sunday, Telesfor prepared lunch with some of the traditional Polish goodies. Just before digging in, I took this selfie with my sister:
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Hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise:
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One of my perennial favourites, pickled herring with onion:
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And the heart of every Polish lunch, good bread:
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The last photo of the weekend, the view from my sister’s 11th floor balcony of the neighbouring apartment building (identical to hers) and the Ronald Reagan Circle down below. The two tall buildings in the distance are popularly known as “the pencils”; these are the residence halls of the Technical University of Wrocław:
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Afterwards, Irena and Telesfor took me to the airport and I flew home–yes, Ryanair has a direct flight from Wrocław to Alicante.

More pictures of Warsaw are here, and there is a Wrocław gallery as well.

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