Pass the salt please….

I have been visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine for many years. I always have admired the entire splendid job Nature had done as well as the one done by People. I walked the underground tracks and licked the walls… But I never had any opportunity to visit the Salt Works Castle. It was because I always had Wieliczka on tour on Monday! All the Museums in Poland are closed on Mondays – due to a traditionally “interior day” (whatever it means)… This time however it was Sunday! So – I bade my group farewell, saw them off – taking the elevator down to the mine, and went to visit the Castle.

I know now that I shall definitely return there. I had only two hours (this is how long the tour of the mine takes) – so I did not have too much time to penetrate the whole museum thoroughly.

I took some pictures of the salt shakers – presented there, as I thought it was a charming exhibition.

“Pass the salt please” we say at the table. Never (or seldom) we think of the great importance salt had and still has to mankind. I shall not write about salt itself – as you can find the description HERE, as well as some history… However it is necessary to mention how important it was (and still is)to many. Most often we hear not to use salt – as it rises the blood pressure. It is called the “white death”… But way back in the history it was a very important trade article.

From the middle ages, the merchants of Gdansk were importing salt from Lüneburg Saltworks. Later, the greedy eyes turned to the Polish salines in the south. Wieliczka was one of such titbits. Unfortunately the Loitz family of Danzig (Gdansk) failed in the race for the shares in the Wieliczka Salines. Unfortunately, the Polish king died in the meantime, and the Polish Diet didn’t want to pay the king’s private debts (see the detailed history of the Wawel tapestries). (Note – the Loitz Family was called the Fuggers of the north).

In the 18th century Poland lost independence. Many Poles were exiled to Syberia, (from the late 18th to the 20th century) many of them died there – marking the landscape with graves. However many managed to save themselves. Those who were lucky to have returned home (if home was still existing…) gave the evidence of the tragedy. And often – proudly showed a sack of salt they managed to get somewhere in the middle of the Syberian nowhere. Such pouch full of salt could save life – sold for a good amount of money…

Today, we usually notice salt only when we cook, or need it at the table… “Pass the salt please”… Very often we do not even notice the little pieces of art salt is kept in 😉

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.

Torun’s UNESCO anniversary

It is a unique place on the map of Poland.

Torun…

Here – one can touch the gothic

Here – Nicolaus Copernicus was born…

Here – one can eat probably the most smooth and tasty pierogi in Poland…

Here – one can taste the famous gingerbread

And now – the town is celebrating its 15th anniversary of being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Congratulations My Favorite Town 🙂

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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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Plauten (Pluty) – the reminiscence of holidays

I often go back to the memories of our November East-Prussian escapade.

Not only because it was finally that dream vacation, so very well deserved after a frantic season. Also, because we visited some important places along the way… Those were places important to the history of Europe, and now often forgotten and neglected. Deliberately forgotten, I am tempted to say…

The majority of the Warmia-Mazury Voivodship is today still almost Terra Incognita.

Tourists rather go to Masuria, and the travel agencies (except for absolutely a few, which understand the place) still do not see anything interesting in the off-roads of the former East Prussia. In schools, teachers continue to avoid the subject as sensitive, moreover, they know little about it. Warmia is being discussed in isolation from reality. And thus it still is not very clear what is this phenomenon called: Warmia (Ermland).

Meanwhile, near the border between Warmia with Natangia, on the road from Pieniężno (Mehlsack) to Górowo Iławeckie (Landsberg) there is a small village Pluty (Plauten).

I do not know whether it was important for the Great History, but it is certainly important for those who appreciate the beautiful views.

The village was founded near the old Prussian settlement of Pelten. It is known that around the year 1325 the Warmia chapter in the person of the provost Jordan built a castle here. Jordan managed the chapter, in place of Bishop Eberhard of Neisse who was seriously ill at that time. Soon he himself was elected Bishop of Warmia.

Parish in Pluty was established in the first half of 14th century. In 1326 the parish endowment appeared.

In 1410 during the Great War the village was destroyed. We know that more than a century later (in 1583) a parish school operated in the village.

Parish Church of St. Lawrence dates from the mid-fourteenth century. It was several times adapted, , first in the sixteenth century and then in 1801, it was extended in a westerly direction, and the tower was added. Barely visible today date “1521” in one of the top blind arches of the sacristy can be a certificate of completion of a phase of the temple’s construction. Church was consecrated by Bishop Martin Kromer in 1581.

The church was built on a rectangular plan, and it was built of fieldstone (in the basement) and brick (the walls). It was plastered recently (except the tower). It has two extensions: the north is the vestry and the south is the porch.The interior is baroque. And I have to trust the descriptions here, for when we got there during our peregrinations – the church was closed. It was raining cats and dogs, and the wind was quite bitter. Therefore neither of us at all had in mind to look for the Reverend, to ask him to open the temple for us.

From the descriptions I just know that the main altar dates from 1694, and that it was made ​​in Königsberg. The maker of the altar was probably Isaac Riga, or his workshop. Side altars are from the same (more or less) period. In one of the side altars there is a painting o “The Last Supper” by Peter Kolberg (a prominent East Prussian artist – 1702), the pulpit dates from 1732, the choir was made in the 19th century and organ – in the  early twentieth century The only medieval part of equipment are the granite font and stoup.In the Tower there is an original clock mechanism as well as two bells. And beneath the church floor there is a crypt with coffins.

“The old Prussian settlement is situated east of the village, on a hill 30 meters high (ca. 98 feet), overlooking the Wałsza River. The remains of walls and moats can be seen.” I had no opportunity to check this as it was raining 😉 …

Last year a fair amount of money was acquired from the EU for renovation of the cultural heritage of the village. And the result of the works could be seen in some places around the church… Hopefully the funds will appear sufficient, and the enthusiasm of the locals will not fade away.

 

The church seen from the road.It is situated on a hill. Whole Warmia is hilly…

it can be seen that some work has been done..

It is a shame that the tombstone serves as a step to the church !!!!! It is a shame and a scandal!

Hopefully the funds will appear sufficient

Still there is a lot to do around the church... after years of negligence