A misty morning – in a hurry to Malbork castle

It just appeared to me, that for a long time now I have not posted a single word here. Well, the touring season has not come to the end yet, so I scarcely have time to write. But I take pictures… Few of them are HERE, just as a reminder how beautiful are the LowLands, and how magic they can be – especially in a morning mist 🙂

The quality of the photos is bad, but I took them from the train to Malbork Castle, through a dirty train window, and with a mobile phone 😉 I was on my way to meet another wonderful group ready to follow me through the wonderful Biggest Pile of Bricks in the World…

 

Another … church in Poland

I am often asked why most of the Polish tours have at least one church in the itinerary… Sometimes it is describeb with an expression: “ABC” (another… church).

Before any explanation WHY another church – enjoy a short visit to the splendid ST. ANNE’S in Cracow, which is one of Europe’s outstanding examples of baroque.  🙂

And now – here is some explanation:

In Poland – so dreadfully destroyed during the last great military conflict which was the Second World War – sometimes the only REAL art is located only in churches. It is worth remembering that a great lot of the splendid art that Poland was furnished with – was simply STOLEN by both armies (first the German and then Red Army). Earlier in the history there was a Polish-Swedish military conflict, which resulted in a great Polish loss of art as well as architecture (just to mention the Krzyztopor castle in Ujazd) and what should be NOT forgotten – is the Napoleonic period – which also resulted in plundering and destruction of Polish art and goods.

After WW II that art that was luckily found or (more rarely) claimed – was placed in museums. Unfortunately many Polish museums still do not have the knowledge of how to display the possessed art. Besides – not everybody likes (or has time enough) to visit museums. Another thing is that Polish museums still do not have the opinion or reputation as (for example) the Rijksmuseum has.

Another thing is – that most of the foreign visitors think Poland still is a country far, far behind the world. Common opinion says that visiting the museums in Russia, or Western Europe gives more art reflection. Yes it does – but among their exhibitions – there are many pieces that come from Poland. Think of it when you stand in front of a wonderful huge Beer Mug with coins  in the Louvre. Do remember please, that it was made in Gdansk :), not to speak of a variety of art held in the Hermitage.

However church visiting is not only a Polish speciality. During my visit in Prague, we were rushed through nearly all the city’s churches, starting with St. Vitus Cathedral. In Rome, the sightseeing also starts with significant churches of the Eternal City (not to mention a special church to all the Catholics and art lovers – the St. Peter’s Basilica)

Also for a better understanding – please read the below fragment from The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo… Very beautifully it explains WHY are the churches so important in and to Europe 🙂

Thought was then free only in this manner; hence it never wrote itself out completely except on the books called edifices.  Having thus only this resource, masonry, in order to make its way to the light, flung itself upon it from all quarters. Hence the immense quantity of cathedrals which have covered Europe–a number so prodigious that one can hardly believe it even after having verified it. All the material forces, all the intellectual forces of society converged towards the same point: architecture. In this manner, under the pretext of building churches to God, art was developed in its magnificent proportions.Then whoever was born a poet became an architect. Genius, scattered in the masses, repressed in every quarter under feudalism, finding no issue except in the direction of architecture,–gushed forth through that art, and its Iliads assumed the form of cathedrals. All other arts obeyed, and placed themselves under the discipline of architecture. They were the workmen of the great work. The architect, the poet, the master, summed up in his person the sculpture which carved his façades, painting which illuminated his windows, music which set his bells to pealing, and breathed into his organs.Architecture was, down to the fifteenth century, the chief register of humanity; up until that interval not a thought which is in any degree  complicated made its appearance in the world, which has not been worked into an edifice; that every popular idea, and every religious law, has had its monumental records; that the human race has, in short, had no important thought which it has not written in stone. And why? Because every thought, either philosophical or religious, is interested in perpetuating itself; because the idea which has moved one generation wishes to move others also, and leave a trace. Now, what a precarious immortality is that of the manuscript! How much more solid, durable, unyielding, is a book of stone! In order to destroy the written word, a torch and a Turk are sufficient. To demolish the constructed word, a social revolution, a terrestrial revolution are required. The barbarians passed over the Coliseum; the deluge, perhaps, passed over the Pyramids.In the fifteenth century everything changes.Human thought discovers a mode of perpetuating itself, not only more durable and more resisting than architecture, but still more simple and easy. Architecture is dethroned. Gutenberg’s letters of lead are about to supersede Orpheus’s letters of stone.

Published in: on 31/12/2013 at 18:54  Comments (2)  
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A lazy day in the LowLands

Today I had a day off…

So, I went on a private tour (with friends) – of course to visit the LowLands. It seems that every time I go there I find something new, something I did not see the previous time… And so it was today.

(HERE are some pictures I took today – enjoy – may they bring some bright memories)

As usually, I went through Nowa Kościelnica (Neu Münsterberg). There I traditionally took photos of the house, which is shown on the cover of Prof. Peter Klassen‘s book (Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia). It was built in 1840 for Wilhelm Classen, and then it was owned by Dyck family… Today it is being very well cared for by the present owners, who have a lot of patience and understanding for every group of Mennonites visiting the place and wanting to take a photo there. 😉

There are good things going on in the village!! The half timbered arcaded house which is situated on the curve of the road, (once belonging to the Wiebe family) is under restoration now. Or should I rather state – is being reconstructed. The present owners finally got some refinance from the Ministry of Culture to rescue the building. It is a great success, especially that very little funds are being transferred to the LowLands for restoration of the historical heritage. 😦 I wish the owners all the best – especially that the house was in the last stage of destruction by time, and weather (as the last renovation of this splendid building took place in… 1933 !!!).

Nowa Kościelnica was founded in the medieval times (1352) by my favorite Teutonic Grand Master (Winrich von Kniprode) and had an area of 50 hufen (1 hufe = 17,955 ha = 179550 sq meters). Mennonites appeared here in the 16th century, and among the most popular surnames were: Brecht, Dick, Ens, Epp, Fehr, Harder, Isaac, Claassen, Matis, Penner, Peters, Regehr, Thiesen, Welcke, Wiens, Willms. In 1820 there were 560 inhabitants – in it: 106 Mennonites. In 1868 a petition was signed by the farmers from Nowa Kościelnica. Among them were: a Bergmann, as well as land owners: Johann Ens, Epp, Joann Harder, Joann Classen, Aron Penner, Aron Peter, Abraham van Riesen, J. Wiens.

Then I drove through Ostaszewo (Schöneberg). It was founded in 1333 and had an area of 60 hufen. In the 16th century the dikes on the Vistula river broke, and 200 people drowned in their sleep, and next 85 drowned trying to mend the broken dike. The flood of 1526 took lifes of about 5000 people, 1800 horses, and 400 cows. 15 LowLand villages suffered, and it took almost 5 years to repair the dikes. From the 18th century there were Mennonnite families listed there: Ens, Kopp, Kroecker, Mieretz, and van Roy operating the ferry on the Vistula River. In 1820 there were 775 inhabitants with only 15 Mennonites. In 1936 the noted Mennonite surnames were: Bergmann, Claassen, Dück, Epp, Friesen, Harder, Makelburger, Nickel, Purwin, Wienss.

Today – a small exhibition in memory of the past time is being organized in the Old School building. I sure will often return here, to observe the progress. 🙂

My next stop was in Stawiec (Neuteichsdorf). This little cemetery always brings back the memory of a special tour years ago… I had travelled with a lady who remembered the Ladekopp community from the former times (before 1945). She talked about her ancestors burried in this graveyard. By accident I found graves of her greatparents… Then we found the terp where her parents’ house stood (till 1945). The now huge cherry tree, she had long ago planted from a stone, was still there, and the two lilac bushes (remembered by her from childhood) were in blossom. Today – although many of the graves were destroyed by the post-war settlers, it still is a quiet little place though loaded with personal histories of this land.

After visiting Stawiec, I drove to Lubieszewo (Ladekopp).  Although the village was mentionned already in 1255, the location took place between 1315-1324.  From the 18th century such Mennonite surnames were mentionned as: Claassen, Dick, Elias, Ens, Epp, Essau, Fiegeth, Jantzen, Kroecker, Peters, Rigehr, Suckau, Toews, Wieb; Wiens, Wilms, Nikolaus Bergen, Jacob i Peter Classen, Kliewer, Joann Quiring, Jakob and Joann Wiebe. Among 640 inhabitants, 97 were Mennonites. As stated in the notes of http://www.holland.org.pl – in 1868 the village possessed 150 hufe, 66 houses, with 288 Catholics, 326 Protestants and 114 Mennonites. Among the richest land owners were noted: Jacob Claar, Kornelius Dyck, Herman Friesen…

And today ? Today it is a village en route to Malbork, or into the heart of the LowLands, with an interesting medieval church and definitely hidden history. Even the house where the saddler had lived untill 1945, is in agony…

Tuja (Tiege) – was my next stop. The architecture of the church is so peculiar, that I always stop there to take some more photos… The tomb stones by the northern wall of the  church are in decay now, and it seems that nobody is interested in even lifting them up from the ground. The once flourishing area – after the long years of Comminust brain wash – now has nothing to offer, except memories of the visitors, and rather harsh kindness of the locals. Unemployment and lack of interest from the local authorities placed the dwellers outside the frmae of society. Maybe that is why they happily welcome everyone who drives off the beaten track, to stop by and chat about the long gone days.

 

more on:

http://www.holland.org.pl

http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents

http://youtu.be/nYvkn1B6Qng

A bit of Oliwa Cathedral

Oliwa Cathedral is one of Europe’s best kept secrets.

It is the longest post-cistercian church in the world (about 107 meters long)  with exquisite accoustics. And besides the marvelous pieces of art which can be seen HERE – the cathedral has a hit of the region – an exceptional organ. It has 7876 pipes, and 110 real voices (87 of which are in the main instrument,  and 14 in the cross-nave).

Whoever comes to Gdansk, even having vague information about the city – knows one – the Oliwa Cathedral is definitely MUST SEE, when in north Poland.

So HERE are some pictures as an appetizer, for those, who have never been here yet 🙂

An echoe of a Japanese visit

Some time ago, I had a pleasure to be guiding a group of Japanese journalists form a prestigious magazine. They came to Poland to write about the country and its possibilities of development.

 The publication is called Excellent Poland Rising Polska vol. 1. And it is printed on a high quality thick paper (“art-paper”), with beautiful photographs, and thorough information.

How do I know – if I do not know Japanese? Well – I have some friends who can read Japanese, and they told me 🙂

So I awaited at the Lech Walesa Airport for a group of three persons. They finally emerged from the arrivals – without their luggage, which probably circled the world somewhere between Japan and Poland… I thought it was not the best start, but suddenly the sun came out from among the clouds, and the day turned really beautiful.

Although my guests were quite tired, they did not want to have any rest, nor meal, as their schedule was quite packed with events and meetings. Besides they wanted to see Gdansk. And – they wanted to take some pictures for their future publication. So I promised, I would show them a very good spot to take extra photos of the city’s panorama.

After all the meetings, well after sunset I took them to the promised spot, where they could admire the view across the river Motława. One of the evening photos from this place that my guests took, can be found in the publication I have in my hands.  It really is beautiful.

The time of their visit came to an end, and after exchanging business cards, and I got a promise of a copy of this publication.

So yesterday when the postman brought a large envelope stamped in Japanese I was glad that they finished editing. Inside there awaited a great and a very pleasant surprise! My guests posted a picture of me.

Thus, I had to write this post – to simply show off, as I am very honored with being pictured in such a prestigious publication.

The colors of water – Gdańsk

Since childhood, I have always been fascinated with the colors of the water in the Baltic Sea. Whenever we were sailing to Gdansk – my Dad used to wake me up early in the morning, so that I would see how the Gulf of Gdansk changes colors. From grey, or blue-grey – to green, or brown-green, the colors were changing depending on the light or the time of day.

Today I took my camera and went to the beach to take some photos of the sea.  When I came there – the water was grey-blue. And in the far distance, on the horizon, I could see the dark shadows of heavy rain or a snow storm. The water there had the color of dark graphite. It was hard to say where the sea ended and where the sky started… And suddenly the colors changed. I stood amazed – when I saw green water, and the swans in a vivid contrast with it.

Indeed, I do understand why my Dad loved the sea so much 🙂

Published in: on 08/02/2013 at 17:20  Leave a Comment  
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Amazing Gdansk

HERE is a link to my photo-blog. I posted there some photos of today’s Gdansk.

It is really a beautiful town 🙂

St. Mary’s – how much can be read from the brick walls

This time there will be no comment – just THE PICTURES of one of my favorite churches in Poland – the St. Mary’s in Gdansk …

Incerdible, how much can be read from a brick wall 😉

Enjoy 😀

Unreal and magic – Malbork

Yesterday I went to the monthly training in the Castle. This time I got off the train in Kalthof (today Kałdowo).

It was a border between the Free City of Danzig and East Prussia before WW II. In 1939 – September just before German attack on Poland – the Nazis murdered Polish customs officers based there. Of course the gloomy history is not the only connection with Kalthoff… As a part of Malbork (once Marienburg) it is a very interesting place, worth a walk. It was probably there that most of the bricks used to build the Castle were made… Most of at least 35 million bricks, so they say 😉

When I got off the train – it was already at dusk, and as I approached the bridge over Nogat River – the view which I saw amazed me. Luckilly I had my camera, so here it is – the Castle unreal in its beauty, seeing itself in the still Nogat waters, looking back into the long and turbulent history. But most of all – still in its eternal beauty.

My Malbork Castle. The biggest heap of bricks in the world.

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Evening Gdansk – a short walk

And so I walked through my Town in the evening, admiring it again and again.…

I had beautiful moon over the Manor of St. George Brotherhood and the Long Street Gate (called the Golden Gate) in front of me, with the view on the City Hall in the distance. All this pushed into my camera lens and to my ears to, as the Town Hall carillon “chimed” at the same time

And for the thousandth time or so the Long Street Gate attracted my eyes again.

It was once an ordinary medieval brick gate, just a gate, one of few leading to the town. And then in the 17th century, there came the time of changes, great changes in Gdansk. All the construction activity in the town must have been unnerving and irritating to the citizens, as it is for us today. The Gate is associated with a certain surname of a master builder and artist at the same time – Abraham van den Block.

The figures on the gable were made by Peter Ringering in 1648. But in the 19th century were taken away. So when after the Second World War destructions of the city – the decision to bring them back was made – there were no originals. There were only the copies from 1878… Speaking of the WW II destructions – I mean – we all mean – the destruction caused in March 1945 by the victorious Red Army. The town was then systematically destroyed by them while chasing the Germans out from it. House by house, street by street it was burned down. There was such a heat, that many of the bricks melted, and altogether after the fire ceased, the Town was filled with 3 million cubic meters of rubble.

So when looking at the splendidly rebuild and in places fully reconstructed town, it is worth to remember that tragic time to. The Polish restorers indeed have done their job perfectly. No wonder that they are known in the World, and often called to work abroad.

But going back to the Golden Gate (I don’t like this name as the historical name of the Gate is: Long Street Gate, but most of the guide books use this popular one)…Looking at it now – we see the effect of the last renovation – which was not a perfect one. But nevertheless we admire it and concentrate on the load of meaning it has, not noticing the shortcomings.

So I stood there, gazing at the nicely illuminated Gate in admiration. I was trying to fit the figures in my camera lens and reflected on the depth of content of the ideological meaning of the decoration. Whole town is full of ideology, and the Gate is like a short description of how to understand it.

So here we have – (looking from the west) – figures depicting Peace with palm twig and a stick entwined with olive twigs. This means triumph and victory. Next is the allegory of Freedom – holding a hat (pileus) and a statute book. Pileus was a sign of freedom, as it was placed upon a shaved head of the newly freed slave in ancient Roman times. Next we have an allegory of Abundance – and it does not need any explanation – the Horn of Plenty is all too visible. And the fourth figure on the western gable of the Gate is Fame (Pheme). Here it holds the horn of Fame and the sun (symbol of eternal eminence) and tramples down Envy (Invidia).

From the east – the figures depict: Prudence with a telescope and a clock. This means – far-sightedness and the abstemious regular rhythm of life.  So it might be rather Temperance. Next to it looping to the sky – is Religiousness holding the Holy Bible. Next is Justice with scales and a measuring rod in one hand and an olive branch and a sword in other hand. This measuring rod appears also on the plafond in the Summer Hall (Red Room) of the Town Hall. And it means (from the Gospel of St. Luke 6:38) “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. Closest to the Manor of St. George Brotherhood is Concord (Harmony). She holds a bundle of tightly linked arrows and in the other hand – she has one broken arrow. It is a depiction of the story of Skiluros, the Scythian king of Crimea. When on his death bed – he called his 80 sins, and told each of them to break a bunch of spears. None of them could. Then he gave each of them one spear, and then they easily broke each one.  This means “strength in unity”. Or rather – according to the inscription on the Gate, the maxim which says that “the small states grow in consent, the big ones collapse in disagreement (discord).”

And yet it is not the end of “reading” the Golden Gate (Long Street Gate). It is best to stand in front of it, either from the west, or from the side of the Długa (Long) Street and listen to what it tries to say about the ambitions of citizens. And about the then position of the City.

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