Monday, 30 July 2007

season change indicator

The places to get the ‘best’ something or other in Krakow I find out from people who don’t actually live here. The best ice creamery in town was pointed out to me by my cousin Annette who was visiting us during the wedding last year. The tiny hole in the wall that you walk into sells five types of ice cream, its flavours depend on the fruit that are in season. At the moment it is apricot flavour and blueberry. There is always a huge line of people waiting to get in and purchase sweet, sweet heaven in a cone. The ice cream ladies wear white aprons and hair nets. There is no chit chat and you better know what you want before you order or the crowd will wreak havoc on your indecisive behind. ‘Lody’ means ice cream. The sign is bullshit free. And what is more exciting about this place, is that when summer ends and cold days set in, the place flips its sign to ‘pączki’ (version of a doughnut with rose flavoured marmalade), and the only thing available for purchase is the sweet, sweet dough. Served to you on a ‘napkin’ that is really just a tiny square of tissue paper. You are therefore forced to eat it at once.


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

tool of choice

I have a 100 year old typewriter that, well, isn’t in operation. Apparently all it needs is a thorough clean and some tape. But I haven’t gotten off my arse to do anything about it. It lives on our shelf looking helpless, glaring at me every time I answer a visitor’s question ‘does it work’ in the negative. I was therefore a little skeptical about my own enthusiasm for an old Singer sewing machine I dug out in a junk shop. I was taken by its wooden case with its original key attached. Forcing Michal to come with the car (the mother was heavy like all hell), I convinced him that regardless of its useless status, I was going to get the thing fixed and sew on it like no tomorrow. And my, did I get it fixed! A measly 70 zloty (round AUD $35) at the local sewing machine fixer-upperer shop later, the beauty purrs beyond my highest expectations. What’s more, the Singer sent all the fixer-upperer men in raptures, with its mint condition and rust-freeness. Turns out the machine was made in 1921, has all original engine parts, was part of the first run of portable electric sewing machines in the world and its original plug is made out of ceramic!! Woo hoo. What a friggin score. It has been put the test already and I love it. A bag has been made.

The sewing machine was purchased for 140 zloty (round AUD $70) at the junk shop.

'Portable Electric'

with wee key

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

poster art

Leszek Zebrowski

So it took a Texan to tell me that Polish poster art is some of the best poster art in the world. Sarah even took me to a poster shop in Krakow where all these treasures are collected and are for sale. How embarrassing. The place has an excellent selection from various decades of different poster art movements and tops postcards as well. It is opposite the American Consulate and the shop is called Poster Gallery on ul. Stolarska. Now I get why there are always so many international poster exhibitions in town. Thanks to Sarah I have been looking at poster walls everywhere I go these days. And I must agree with her, that the current poster vibe is pretty shit. One is really pushed to find anything decent out there. These beauties below however show how great the posters can be. They advertise movies, theatre openings, operas etc. The propaganda ones are excellent too. Even if you're not a social-realist fan. Lucky for me, I am.

Stasys Eidrigevicius

Mieczyslaw Gorowski

Monday, 16 July 2007

pit anyone?

All in all I am glad that almost-developed-but-not-quite countries such as Poland are not contributing as much to the global warming problem as their developed-and-kicking-hard friends, but geezuz will ya BLOW SOME AIRCON MY WAY PLEASE!!! Needless to say it’s been freakin’ hot here of late. Really hot. Living under the roof with slanted ceilings may be pretty and all, but it is a balmy bitch from hell. I wish I had some sweet air-conditioning bliss to send relief to my sweated arse. Instead I desperately await for the sun to set and in the meantime submerge myself in icy baths. Even the tiles in the kitchen are too hot to lie on. But the big problem really is the public transport. For the first time ever I have begun to dislike catching Krakow’s trams. Why, you adamant lover of light rail? Because the trams stink. Body odour off a sweaty young adolescent male pit anyone? Or how about the intoxicating sudor emitted from a fat moustached butcher lady? Last I checked deodorant is available on all supermarket shelves. In fact, the variety of deo sticks and sprays falsely misrepresents that the Poles are smelling musky and spring flowery. Why the hell then do a lot of people stink, despite hygiene and cleanliness being culturally acceptable? Two reasons:

1) Deodorants have only become widely available in the last 15 years or so. Commy times meant a deo stick here or there would arrive in an overseas package from an uncle living it up in the States. If you had no uncle in the States, then soap was your only friend. Or talcum powder. Which leads me to wonder if the breast cancer stats are lower in Poland. Hence the lack of deo routine has stayed with a lot of people of the older generation. Poor stinky bums.

2) The price. For some bizarre and god-knows why reason, the tax on cosmetics is extremely high in Poland. And I’m not talking just about the fancy French shit. Everyday products such as creams, shampoos, hair styling goods, scrubs, deodorants, conditioners etc, carry hefty price tags comparable to the western pocket, and are regarded as ‘luxurious’ goods by tax legislation. So many people stink because they prefer to spend their money on other staples such as food. Or beer.

Nonetheless I am an awful harsh wench, and the above two reasons are in no way justifiable. You wanted the west, then you go and clean ya pit! Deodorant companies are stupid bafoons, because they have a ready made market just waiting to be embarrassed. All you need is to send some of those free-products-for-everyone girls onto all of Krakow’s trams, hand out free deo samples and erect billboards with slogans such as “Poland stinks. Do something about it” or “If your mother didn’t teach you good hygiene maybe we can!”

Sunday, 8 July 2007

a comfortable couch it seems

Wongeloid left on Friday, heading to Rome then back to Malaysia. He slept on our sofa bed for close to 8 weeks, and now the house feels very weird and empty without him. Some would feel relief, enjoy the quiet, or revel in the personal space after a guest leaves after such a period of time. Not us. Wong was too tops of a house guest and instead he will be missed. A different kind of missing too. One that is coupled with knowing you may not see them for a fucking long time. Sigh.

Some of the things Wong left behind to make room for the 25 books he ordered on amazon:

  1. a huge bath towel
  2. a huge yellow bath robe
  3. 6 packets of envelopes
  4. 10 tins of snuff
  5. books he read and gave to us (including The Young Stalin)
  6. 2 notebooks
  7. 350 zloty to send his sea-mail stash of books he didn’t manage to finish reading (the stash includes 6 volumes of Proust and Italian vocab textbooks)
  8. about 7 bottles of grog, including a 15 year old Balvenie whiskey
  9. Czech money
  10. a nice load of boxers left in the bin (he claimed the Malaysian sizes were too restrictive)

To fill the gaping wound created by his departure, we will be having a new guest to stay with us as of tomorrow. For 6 days. Her name is Sarah, and she is the girlfriend of a guy who is the son of my mum’s neighbour friend from the 70s who lives in the States. Sarah is from Texas and is doing a thesis on Polish poster art. She is not Polish. I wonder what she will leave behind…

Wong - the man of many cakes

tough old bird 2

We went to a wedding this weekend (Michal’s good friend from high school). It could have turned into the ultimate wedding from hell. Firstly, the young couple found out only a day before the ceremony that the church they were getting married in was being renovated. On the inside! The vows were made amongst some gruesome scaffolding. The guests were forced to sit and squint at the couple from a distance. Secondly, upon sitting down to the main meal, the bride’s grandfather who looked close to being 90, started to choke on a piece of meat. People started to scream thinking he was having a heart attack, whilst he went purple and slowly started to lose consciousness, eyes rolling back. The bride initially looked on with horror and then ran out of the building bawling. We all thought pops was going to cark it right there and then, but some burley uncle pulled out the Heimlich and the pesty bit of meat popped out. Pops got his colour back. The ambulance came, the band began to play and the guests started to dance. After some tests were run at the hospital, turned out pops was ok and no bones were broken. And how did we know this? Because pops made a speedy return to the wedding! And enjoyed himself (although slightly hazed) until about 1 in the morning. Why are old Slavs so goddamn crazy?

tough old bird

Pictures below are of our plot. We spent last Saturday there cleaning it up a bit, tending to the oats (not really, it belongs to our neighbour Pani (Ms) Irenka) and planting some trees (birches, oaks and linden). Plus Michal got Pani Irenka on his side by showing her that he could indeed mow the shit out of the grass with a scythe. No pictures of our hardcore neighbour. Yet. I had one of her chained up dog, but that would have been too disturbing to show…

Pani Irenka is a tough old bird because:

  1. she has municipal water pipes coming into her property but hasn’t connected them to the house – she still uses a well.
  1. she uses an outside dunny (pit)
  1. when she caught the bus to go to the bank to check if the money for the land had gone in, she got it all out in cash (90 000 zloty), stuffed it into her handbag and then decided to walk across the fields (some 4km) back to her place. After dividing it up amongst her relos, I suspect the rest of the stash is under a mattress somewhere
  1. at the ripe age of 74 she still chops her own firewood. And yes, you guessed it, no gas heating.
(Wong doesn't think she's tough - instead views her as crazy. Maybe I'm just being too deluded).

this is our plot. It ends with the oats. The potatoes to your right
are part of the plot too. Gorce mountains in the background. Glimpses of the
Tatras behind the Gorce.

the oats is doing splendidly

Pani Irenka's house

Michal with scythe . Good workout for the boobs.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

He-Man and She-Ra shit pants

I rode my bike out of my way just to show you more hideous-but-love-it commy designs.

Check out Skelator (Szkieletor), a skyscraper built in Krakow in 1971 that was never completed due to financial issues. It towers over the city at 90m high with its 24 floors (still the highest building in the city – finished or otherwise). Appropriately the new Opera House is being built in its vicinity (unfortunately the new building does not carry a cartoon figure nickname to continue the tradition). Bums have been very happy at the Skelator residence until it got fenced off, due to obvious imminent death possibilities of the thing falling on your friggin’ head. Did I say bums? I meant useless dreaded ferals and their hash stashes. Now some ambitious Brits want to buy it. By the power of Grayskull – it is going for 4 million euro! When it finally resembles an actual and functional structure with office space, I hope a sufficient plaque with its unofficial name dons the entry way. Or a statute in the front garden! How cool would yellow Skelator with his hood look in front of the building? I’d bloody Ryan-Air it to see it, wouldn’t you?

My mother let me watch this, but refused me the
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pleasure!?