A German Surprise

The next day I flew from Poland to Frankfurt, trying to pretend that the 20 kgs of hand luggage were in fact only 7kg and that I usually sit with my legs wrapped around my hand luggage as it couldn’t fit in the over head lockers on the small plane.  I also had to talk my way through travelling with 32 kgs of booked in luggage. My Qantas Club membership comes in handy for the extra load, but LOT airlines only take 20 kgs. Fortunately my few words of Polish helped, and I was allowed through. When I landed in Frankfurt I was to have my first German surprise.

When I had arrived in Frankfurt from Perth, the motel I stayed in organized for a masseur to come to my room. It was a wonderful relaxing way to get all my knotted up muscles stretched and relaxed after the 22 hour trip. A massage is also the first thing I treat myself to in times of stress or treats for myself.

 So being in a similar position this time I again arranged for a masseur. In due time there was a knock on the door and I opened it to a young woman, beautifully dressed in casual clothes, lots of bangles and necklaces. I was a bit taken aback as she said she was here to give me a massage. I asked where the massage table was. “That is Ok” she said “ I can do massage on  bed”.  Considering the soft bed was two feet from the floor, I “was not happy Jan”. The young woman made rapid phone calls to her boss, and offered to send another masseur to me. I declined, it was already late, and I was too tired to wait for another hour. Further discussion at the reception desk resulted in many apologies. Obviously somewhere a few wires or intentions had got crossed!

On the plane to London, I thought about the many unanswered questions about Poland, its cultures and its people, and I knew that someday I would have to return

Next London- Jewellery week, New Designers, Graduate shows and my first attempts at CAD.


Learning to Tango

One evening the Jubinale members climbed aboard a large bus to be taken to a palatial conference centre for a celebration dinner, dance and entertainment. It was great fun, with Zbigniew pretending to be a waiter, and toasting a young couple at our table when we found out that the wife was pregnant. Marcin Boguslaw was also at the table and I enjoyed speaking with him again.

Vodka was again the choice of drink, but fortunately no one tried to beat my record with me. However I don’t need alcohol to fire me up or to get me dancing, though I was a bit concerned when the dancing started and it was all polkas, similar dances as well as the tango. Zbigniew firmly led me in a tango, whilst I pretended that I knew what I was doing and tried desperately to get rid of the third foot that suddenly appeared. Monika cheered me on!

Once the Abba songs started, twist or jive or nightclub slow music I was in my element and kept going until the bus arrived to take us back. The Polish people certainly do know how to let their hair down and I did enjoy this night of celebration.

My last day in Poland and my last night in the country were very emotionally charged. There were many tears, as I thought of all the experiences I had had, my Polish surprises along the way (this has led to a series of Polish Surprise Rings that I am delighted with in my drawings and in my mind…. But more on that later)   the realization of all the wonderful opportunities I had been given and the help I had received bought on more tears.  I was indebted to Zbigniew Kraska for all the organizing he had on my behalf, for promoting me and encouraging other schools or lectures to book the lectures or the demonstrations so that I could travel the country and absorb as much as I could. The help given by him and Monika the curator of the Legnica Silver Gallery, will not be forgotten.

I was also very aware at the wonderful opportunity given to me as a recipient of a Creative Development Fellowship that had been financed by the Western Australian Government through the Department of Culture and the Arts.

Yes there were many tears that night.


Jewish cemetery Krakow

Jewish cemetery Krakow

Two days before I was to leave Krakow, Zbigniew Kraska, Monika and Renata traveled down from Legnica for the Jubinale. Monika and Renata had travelled down earlier with the numerous jewellery pieces necessary to make a good exhibition. They had pride of place opposite the entry. I was more than happy to allow my solo exhibition to travel to the Jubinale, and to be on hand to talk to fellow jewellers, to promote the gallery and to meet various people whom Zbigniew introduced me to. The Jubinale also had small solo exhibitions by an about 30 Polish jewellers. Marcin, who had had an exhibition in Legnica in the Under the Quails Basket, was also there. It was good to meet again with this very shy and extremely talented young jeweller. www.marcinboguslaw.com.pl  Present too were a number of gemstone merchants, silver chain and other findings as well as lots of amber for sale. I did purchase some incredibly fine but very strong chain. When I made a remark about the fineness, I was given a chance to try to break the chain. Well I couldn’t pull it apart at all. So the fine chain and a similarly square snake chain added to my ever increasing weight of things I had bought or being given whilst in Poland.

Celebrating the 20 years of Polish freedom from communist rule.

Wavel castle inside

Wavel castle inside

Whilst I was in Krakow the Polish people celebrated the overthrow of the communists rule. There were a number of events planned. I watched a continuous row of very large tinted window limousines drive up the Wawel Castle flanked by many security people on motor bikes. Whilst this was going on a big demonstration of pro communists was going on in view of the cars. The well built policemen handled the situation well. It made me think about how much the Polish people had gained over the last 20 years, and how the value of freedom and the right to free speech is sometimes glossed over, especially when people get defensive.

Wavel Castle

Wavel castle

Wavel castle

Other sightseeing that I did was to visit the Wavel (Varwell) Castle and Cathedral. This Castle is set on the edge of the Old Town on a high hill. It is the most important historical building and most visited sight in the Poland. For 500 hundred years it was the historical empire of the various Polish Kings. (www.wawel.krakow.pl). Fortunately it was the early beginning of the tourist season so I didn’t have too many people to share the magnificent cathedral, various Private Royal rooms and apartments. Once again many photographs were taken, small sketches done sitting on the sunny lawns. I did see one interesting sign- a no guns sign near the Royal Apartments. That was a bit scary

Auschwitz yes or no?

Plaques in Jewish cemetery Krakow

Plaques in Jewish cemetery Krakow

Prior to coming to Krakow I had wondered and thought hard about whether I would go to see Auschwitz. I knew a fair bit about the horror of the various concentrations camps, the Polish resistance and the courage and inhumanity that was shown by different sides during the war. But I somehow felt that to be taking part in a tour group, photographs being taken at  various quarters, where so many had died,  mobile phones ringing, simply did not feel right… to me  anyway.

I decided to wander around the Jewish quarters in Kazimierz in Krakow which I found mentally, spiritually and artistically to be a wonderful and enlightening experience. I was able to see the areas where the Jews were rounded up and taken to camps, Schindlers factory and the old pharmacy that was kept going by a non Jew during the war. I visited tiny synagogues, beautiful old graveyards, with stones in lieu of flower, carefully placed on numerous headstones. Sad plaques bemoaned the lost of 86 members of one family.

Krakow heroes square which inspired krakow ring

Krakow heroes square which inspired krakow ring

The square where the Jewish were herded to be taken away is ironically called the Plac Zogody Square (The Peace Square). It has a wonderful and thought provoking memorial to the Jews. Thirty seven empty and uniform chairs that were each 1.4 metres high and set in straight lines across the square. They were fixed to a plate of metal about 20mm above the surface, and illuminated from beneath the plate. No one sits on these chairs, or even tries to climb them or graffiti them. If you want to sit and think and contemplate you sit on the thirty three chairs which surround the square… so the place never appears crowded, thus losing its sadness or preciousness of purpose and history.

I took many photographs of the square, sat and drew, doodled, wrote down my feelings. This square and the Marches to Freedom exhibition in Gdansk were to be the two events in Polish history that moved me greatly. The memorial was to inspire me to make a ring supporting 52 miniatures chairs… But more on that later.

The Jewish area or Kazimierz area was a fascinating section of old buildings, small shops and eateries as well as other museums such as the Galicia museum. ( WWW.GALICIAJEWISHMUSEUM.ORG ) This was devoted to Jewish history as well as a reminder, in photographs of the many people, who had helped the Jews during the war.

Lovely secondhand shop in Jewish area Krakow

Lovely secondhand shop in Jewish area Krakow

A country estate

Mirek’s home was next… set deep in the country side; it was wonderful position and very relaxing in summer sun… But winter would have been another thing… The driveway was two tracks which were easy to handle, but in winter Mirek leaves his car further up the track and walks down.

The house was made of timber logs, with daubed cement, or other materials set between the logs. It had been painted along time ago, and the facing, curling paint patches were a wonderful abstract painting on the house. It had a charm of its own. Mirek’s labrador and cat welcomed us into the simply charming house, crammed with lots of family photos, artifacts, a variety of clocks, paintings etc. Mirek’s workshop was set underground in an interesting environment, if also rather rambling area. His way of casting metal was completely different than anything that I had come across before. He had also cast a lot of lace work material into beautiful cuffs and necklaces, as well as casting honeycomb pieces. A reinforcing bar made a sturdy handle for a hand made knife. I do enjoy fossisking around in other people workshops!

It had been a fun day.