Łódź

Jo’s Monday walk : Meeting Meg

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If ever you need a sweet-natured soul to have a stroll with- or better still, a hug or five and a hoot of laughter- I have a peerless recommendation for you.  I’m a little hesitant in writing this post because I’m not sure that I can do the lady full justice.  If you saw Meg’s post, ul Piotrkowska with Jo, you’ll know that she has already done my job for me.  And that is very typical of Meg.  Swift to offer the hand of friendship, she turned my day in the city of Łódź into something quite extraordinary.

First, let me give you a little background.  The key to Meg’s being in Poland is her wnuki, her grandchildren.( pronounced f-nooki, it’s another of those tricky Polish words)  How many people do you know who would leave their beloved home (think ‘good for the soul’ quiet beaches, and Australian flora and fauna, all photographed by Meg in exquisite detail) to take up residence in Poland’s capital city, Warsaw, for a year?  To be near those children.  Speaking almost no Polish, and reduced, like myself, to a perplexed frown as conversations roll past her, Meg then agrees to meet with an English lady in an unknown city.  To make it easier for that lady, she books 3 nights in the city, alone, almost immediately after a family trip to the Polish lakes.

And now for my part.  I know all too well the frustrations of a lack of ability to communicate.  Occasionally I have thought that ‘signing’ would be a better method than trying to speak the Polish language.  I get by well on hugs and smiles within the family but that doesn’t go down so well with strangers.  Understandably the family are not keen to let this nodding, smiling person go wandering in a big city, where few of them are keen to venture themselves.  How can they know that it is in my nature to wander?  That I thrive on it.  I have even done a little research and know how to get to Łódź.   And beyond that, I will have Meg!

It is with reluctance but great patience that Andrzej accompanies me to the bus stop, and we wait and wait.  When I am almost convinced that it will not arrive, despite his phone call to the bus company and being told ‘Będzie’- ‘it will come’, a small white minibus hoves into view.  Can you imagine the bubble of excitement inside me as the lush green of Springtime Poland slides past my window?

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Enough!  The audience awaits.  I step off the bus almost into her arms and we make it to a corner cafe for much needed kawa (coffee, of course). And there I discover just how delightful a companion I am to have for my day of freedom.  The cafe is situated on a corner of Poland’s longest street, Ulica Piotrkowska.  With unfailing lack of sense of direction I point to the ‘top end’ of the street and suggest that we head that way.  Meg smiles, and points the other way.  Armed with a map from the TI and directions on how to find the bus stop from which I must later leave the city, cameras in hand and huge grins on our faces, we begin to walk.

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As Meg has pointed out in her beautiful post, the architecture in Łódź is ravishing.  There really is something for everyone, whether you favor shabby or chique.  My tendency is always to beauty and elegance, but I can sometimes be won over by the forlorn and unloved.  We are each other’s eyes, and at times it’s hard to concentrate, as smiles and snippets of conversation bob back and forth.  I have never taken photographs in tandem like this, and it is a remarkable experience.  Sometimes I pause to see what Meg has focused on, and later I realise that she was doing the same with me.  How very wonderful to find someone who understands the joy of just being there.

Part of the reassurance I tried to give my Polish family was that I would not be straying far from Ulica Piotrkowska, and there truly was little need to. Our first landmark is Plac Wolnosci, where I dance in delight at the passing trams.  Meg finds this funny.  There is every kind of transport along this street, but trams always bring a smile to my lips.

Looking up, past a rusty old gate, cavorting weasels (or maybe rats?) catch my eye, but I have my sights on Palac Poznanskiego, Museum of the History of Łódź.  Time is precious and the weather superb so, having found our target, we agree to bypass it in favour of a leafy green space.  Meg takes huge pleasure in the soft shadows and gently waving trees.  My best efforts for Jude are rather pathetic, and I start to giggle.

We are at the very top of Piotrkowska, and turn to head back.  On a corner of Plac Wolnosci, the church of Zesłania Ducha Świętego is bathed in bright sunlight.  The door is ajar, and we enter quietly.  There are only a couple of people knelt in silent worship and I manage a few shots, trying hard not to be intrusive.  ‘Are you any good at mosaics?’ asks Meg.  I shrug and try.

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Time to decide where to eat.  There are plenty of choices and we are agreed that an outdoor table will do nicely.  Ordering from the board outside our restaurant, I manage to confuse the waitress.  Or does she confuse me?  Soup, and then nalesniki  (pancakes) with spinach, appear in rapid succession.  I decide to ask again for some wine, and am greatly relieved when it arrives.

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Many confidences were exchanged before we continued along this engaging street.  Rubinstein with his piano vied for our attention with local born poet, Julian Tuwim.  Whimsy there was aplenty, and some quite enchanting sculptures of children.

Nifty little archways and passages lead off Piotrkowska, some of them quite irresistible.  Most lead to restaurants and quiet courtyards, but the art gallery and cafe Surindustrialle was one of our best finds.  Metal art from industrial waste.  Take a look at the website and you’ll see what I mean.

I have so many more photos that I could show you, but perhaps you are getting weary.  Meg showcases many of them brilliantly so, if you haven’t already paid a visit, I hope that you will do so.  One good thing about this walk- it’s almost impossible to get lost.  But reaching the end of Ulica Piotrkowska is another matter altogether.  I don’t know if we got even halfway along its 4.9km.

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All too soon it was time to look for the bus stop that would take me back to the family.  A landmark for Meg in finding her way around the city, the main tram station was chiefly a source of happiness for me.  I had glimpsed it, with curiosity, from my bus window on the way into Łódź.  Just look!

A block further south and our grand street was starting to look a little more humble. A colossal renovation project, it’s hard to know when it will be finished.  But our time together was almost at an end.  The bus stop was found too quickly and we looked for somewhere to conclude our meeting. Not a cafe in sight, we subsided onto the bench and continued to talk.  There was so much to ask… so much to say!  But 45 minutes later the bus revved its engine and I reluctantly got on board.  One last hug and a wave and Meg was gone.  I was both exhilarated and bereft!

I realise that this walk is of a far more personal nature than usual, but I wanted it to be a tribute to a very special lady.  I do hope you enjoyed your walk with ‘us’, and I very much hope that she and I will meet again someday.

Should you be tempted by what you’ve seen, you will find the Tourist Information website in Łódź a valuable source of information.

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Thank you for your patience everybody.  Often I visited your blogs whilst sitting on the sofa, as Dad and my cousins watched TV, but my Smartphone has its limits (or the truthful version- I do!)  ‘Normal service’ should be resumed now.  Welcome to my walks!  Join in if you like.  The details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.  Time for a cuppa, isn’t it?

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It always tickles me how many of our place names are the same- Monteith St. for example. Thanks, Anabel!

Toronto: an urban walk

There’s no getting away from it- Susan is a lady after my own heart :

Just for the shell of it

Classical Glass

Yvette always supplies interesting people to compliment her doors (and walks) :

Thursday Doors (walk-ing)

I’m inclined to forget that Becky has an English blog.  Come along with me and learn all about ‘navigations’ :

A lovely English stroll for a Monday

I have done this walk to the Algarve’s Fonte da Mesquita but, unlike Becky, I didn’t see the orchids.  Sad face! :

A happy case of ‘orchidelirium’ on our walk to the spring!

Sue has a warm heart and is a great espouser of good causes, but she likes a bit of fun too!

Where Do Beavers Live?

Nothing I like better than a watery walk!  Geoff chucks in a chateau or two and I’m happy :

Moi Aussi#walking#france

And some London buildings, including lovely St. Bride’s :

H is for Hawksmoor and his boss….

Drake takes us ‘home’ to beautiful Samsø in Denmark :

Here comes the sun

We’re biking again in California, but you can get off to check out the neighbourhood :

My weekly ramble- From my front door

A hint of mystery next and a great yarn, told in Tish’s best raconteur mode :

The Tale of a Hidden House that once hid a King 

And while we’re storytelling, I was delighted to have the ‘other’ Sue for company this week :

Of castles, a dancer, dragon’s teeth and tunnels…

Denzil has found us some green and pleasant land that isn’t England :

Walking in the Voerstreek

And Gilly, England at its finest :

Lanhydrock, a National Trust Stroll

That’s it for another week!  Many thanks to all of you for your support and for walking with me.  I hope that this week brings you much pleasure.

L is for Lusia, Lodzia and Łódź

Poland-eagle-150squareThis is where my Polish friends might raise their hands in protest.  You see, in Polish there is a letter L and a letter Ł (ł in lower case).  The two are quite separate, but as there are 33 letters in the Polish alphabet and I am constantly short of time, I’m combining them in this post.  To English eyes they probably look very similar, but ł is pronounced like the English “w” in “wet”.

So, the city that I’m going to tell you a little about, Łódź, is pronounced Wooj, or something very like that.  I have never actually visited this city, which is the third largest in Poland, but it has always intrigued me for its name, which translates as “boat”.  This for a city which lies right in the centre of Poland, 84 miles south-west of Warsaw, and doesn’t even have a river running through it.  Apparently the city once had a total of 18 rivers, but they were covered over due to chronic pollution.

A boat, the coat of arms of Łódź- from Wikipedia

A boat, the coat of arms of Łódź- from Wikipedia

The first written record of Łódź appears in 1332 as the village of Łodzia, and in 1423 King Władysław Jagiełło (who you may remember from my J is for Jadwiga post) granted it city rights.  It was always at the crossroads of trade but at this time most of the inhabitants worked on grain farms in the surrounding flat lands. 

Like many another Polish city, the history of Łódź is colourful.  It lost its identity to Prussia in 1793, and then at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, became part of Russian Poland.  The Tzar gave territory deeds to German immigrants to clear the land and build factories and housing.  In 1825 the first cotton mill was opened and the textile boom began, with an eager Russian market on the doorstep.  Łódź has been likened to a “Polish Manchester” due to its prosperity from textiles.  Relationships with their Russian neighbours deteriorated rapidly, climaxing in the Łódź insurrection (or June Days) in 1905, which was violently put down by the Tzarists.

Łódź monument to the 1905 insurrection- from Wikipedia

Łódź monument to the 1905 insurrection- from Wikipedia

Many of the industrialists were Jewish, thus, during the Nazi occupation, the Łódź Ghetto was set up.  It was the last major ghetto to be liquidated due to the value of the goods the occupants produced for the German military.  The Germans requisitioned all factories and machinery and transported them to Germany so that Łódź was deprived of most of its infrastructure.  Refugees from Warsaw flooded into the city and in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising, Łódź became a temporary capital.  Apart from Kraków it was the only Polish city not to have been raised to the ground.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  I knew little about Łódź, but even I had heard of the National Film School, founded in 1948, and its famous student, Roman Polanski.  The film industry and new businesses locating in Łódź due to its excellent transport links have aided the slow rebirth of the city.  Renovation is ongoing on Ul. Piotrkowska, at 5km the longest main street in Europe. OFF Piotrkowska is a lively complex of cafes, restaurants and designer shops within 19th century former cotton mill buildings.

Sculpture of pianist Artur Rubinstein on Ul. Piotrkowska- from Wikipedia

Sculpture of pianist Artur Rubinstein on Ul. Piotrkowska- from Wikipedia

OFF Piotrkowska- from "In your Pocket" Łódź guide

OFF Piotrkowska- from “In your Pocket” Łódź guide

Even better news is that the rivers I referred to at the start of this post are now the subject of a restoration project.  Who knows where it all might end for the city of Łódź?  Manchester isn’t doing so very badly.

Lusia and Lodzia

Most of my Polish family live in the neighbourhood of Bełchatów, about an hour south of Łódź.  As usual, when I was in Poland in May, I went to see my lovely Aunt Lusia in Zawady.  She is my Dad’s only surviving sister, and lives close to the farmstead where Dad grew up.  Her portion of land is a good size with a lovely pond and numerous fruit trees.  Lusia tended the huge vegetable plots herself when she was younger, but now much appreciates the help of her daughter Theresa, who lives with her.  Granddaughter Edyta completes the household (if you don’t count the rabbits, of which there are many!)

Lusia and Dad

Lusia and Dad

The pond at the bottom of the garden

The pond at the bottom of the garden

Fruit trees and the neighbours

Fruit trees and the neighbours

Lusia and Dad with Teresa and Edyta

Lusia and Dad with Theresa and Edyta

Most of the family have built houses on land from the original farm, and Lusia is now dividing hers to make life easier.  Her daughter Grażyna and son-in-law Marek live in a high rise flat in Bełchatów (I was there on my visit too!) and are now building a house next to Mum.  A widow for many years, I never met her husband  Zbigniew, but have seen photos of them as a happy young couple.  It will help Lusia to have family so close by.  A third daughter, Irena (who will feature in my letter “I”), also lives in Bełchatów.  One last little thing to share- Lusia’s given name is Otylia.  I’m not at all sure how Lusia comes from this, but that’s just how it is.

Just across the lane from Lusia is the home of Lodzia and her remaining unmarried family.  This is my Dad’s original home and was taken on by the oldest son Zygmunt, when their parents died.  Sadly Zygmunt himself died just months before the family reunion which brought Dad back to Poland.  He had tried so hard to find Dad, and maybe things would have gone differently if he had succeeded.

Lodzia has her sons Bolek and Piotrek helping on the substantial plot of land.  Dad remembers taking the cows to a stream when he was a small lad, but the cows are long gone (as is the stream, strangely enough).

A slightly blurred photo of Lodzia and Bolek at Jadwiga's home

A slightly blurred photo of Lodzia and Bolek at Jadwiga’s home

You will have seen Lodzia on my blog before.  She is my lovely cousin Jadzia’s mum and we traditionally have supper at Jadwiga’s home, pictured above.  The farmhouse is now very run down and Lodzia does not have an easy life.  She also has the care of a blind son, Adam, who suffered the injury in an explosion many years ago.  Life is never all roses, is it?  My Polish family have had their share of tragedy, but they go on smiling and welcoming us each time.

 This post is part of my Personal A-Z of Poland, for which I owe thanks to Julie Dawn Fox.   I have put links to Wikipedia and my other posts for anyone who is interested.  The logo below will take you to Julie’s A-Z page, and I’m also linking to Frizz’s LLL-challenge, even though, as usual, I’m late!  MMM arrived this morning.

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