Poland goes to Lisboa

One thing that relates Poland with Portugal is that they usually show up next to each other in drop-down lists when filling online registration forms.

Silly stuff aside, they’re both catholic majority countries, which probably accounts for some of the recent increase in Polish tourists walking in the streets of Lisboa. Among them, were two very special visitors.

Uma coisa que liga a Polónia a Portugal é que, normalmente, os dois aparecem ao lado um do outro nas listas de países, quando se preenchem formulários online.

Parvoíces à parte, são ambos países com população maioritariamente católica, o que provavelmente justifica parte do aumento recente de turistas Polacos nas ruas de Lisboa. Entre eles, estiveram dois visitantes muito especiais.

Kasia Szybka, from Warsaw, was visiting Portugal, invited by Turismo de Portugal – the government tourism office – to sketch the Pope’s visit to Fátima in the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the holy mother. Pedro and I invited her to come sketch with us during one of our lunch hours. We took her to cozy and picturesque Largo dos Trigueiros for a coffee and a doodle. We shared a bit of dark humor and stories about our visits to each other’s countries.

Kasia Szybka, de Varsóvia, visitou Portugal convidada pelo Turismo de Portugal , para visitar a visita do Papa a Fátima no 100º aniversário das aparições. O Pedro e eu convidámo-la a vir desenhar connosco durante a hora de almoço. Levámo-la ao acolhedor e pitoresco Largo dos Trigueiros para um café e um rabisco. Partilhámos humor negro e histórias das visitas aos países de uns e outros.

Mateusz Hajnysz from Łódź came to visit western Algarve and Lisboa with his wife and two kids. Mateusz was the first sketcher I met in Manchester the day before the Urban Sketchers International Symposium kicked-off last year. We used the same Largo dos Trigueiros as the starting point of a tour around the Castelo hill, which saw us sharing tips on lighting in watercolor, how to sketch weddings and how to manage a local urban sketchers chapter. In the end, we came to the conclusion that both our languages had tricky and illogical pronunciation rules.

Mateusz Hajnysz de Łódź veio visitar o barlavento Algarvio e Lisboa com a mulher e os dois filhos. O Mateusz foi o primeiro desenhador que conheci em Manchester, no dia anterior ao arranque do Simpósio Internacional de Urban Sketchers, no ano passado. Usamos o mesmo Largo dos Trigueiros como o início de um passeio à volta da colina do Castelo, que nos ouviu a partilhar dicas sobre luz na aguarela, como desenhar casamentos e como gerir um grupo local de urban sketchers. No final, chegámos à conclusão que ambas as nossas línguas têm regras de pronunciação estranhas e meandrosas.

Poland sketches #9 Jewish Quarter

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

“The visit to the New Jewish Cemetery, deep in the heart of the Kazimierz district had, ironically, wiped away the specter of death. A peaceful chaos of tombstones blended with nature. For many minutes, we were alone in the dead quiet alleyways, until the arrival of a small horde of Israeli orthodox jews, teenagers, clumsy, euphoric with their trip down history lane.”

cemetery, Krakow, Poland

They were actually looking for the tombstone I had chosen as a foreground to my sketch. As a gentile, I feared a theological clash, so I wandered away as the horde of teens, lead by an older rabbi, bombarded the sights and several tombstones with flashes from digital cameras and smartphones. Once upon their objective, it was prayer and picture galore! Not since visiting Jim Morrison’s grave had I seen such a devotion and touristic enthusiasm for a tombstone. Later I found the grave belonged to a certain Rabbi Akiva Kornitzer, born in the Netherlands in the 19th century, who was Chief Rabbi of Krakow at some point.

synagogue, Krakow, Poland, Remuh

Kazimierz, which contained the Jewish Ghetto during the Nazi occupation, is peppered with quite ancient synagogues. Remuh Synagogue is perhaps one of the least interesting ones, but it’s one of two which are still active in Krakow. The thing I appreciated most was the devotion to the written word that Judaism exudes, in that even a tiny synagogue like Remuh has a proportional library of books available to its community.

Poland sketches #8 Auschwitz

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

“Wandering around Krakow, one can easily feel the presence of the Jewish history and culture. But its gloomiest landmark is actually outside of the former capital, in a small town of Oświęcim, infamously known by its german name Auschwitz, and its extension, Camp 2 – Birkenau. The reasons to visit the old concentration camps are probably manyfold, as are, undoubtedly the reasons for not visiting them. But it’s only after visiting them that the reason becomes apparent. It’s a leap of faith to comprehend the human experience on Earth.”

train, Auschwitz, Oświęcim,  concentration camp

The 2-hour train ride to Oświęcim felt, for a few minutes, part of the experience of visiting the concentration camps. The train fills up as much as possible with people in Krakow’s Central Station and one wonders if all those people are going to visit the camps! It’s only after two stops, after almost everyone leaves at Krakow’s Business Park that the illusion is broken. After that a second illusion steps in: that of the increasingly desolate winter landscape of southern Poland. One can almost feel that the gloominess of the history has spread throughout these fields.

The train is a 15-minute walk away from the camps, good for relaxing in preparation to the things to come. What one finds in visiting the camps is an immense conflict of words and feelings. Words like efficiency, death, system and chaos, could be used in the same sentences to describe the things that surround us. The order of things gets messy in one’s mind, while facing the industrialization of death. The mathematics of carnage. The science of killing.

Auschwitz, Oświęcim,  concentration camp

A smell of charcoal runs through the air during the hike back to the station. It’s the reason the camps were built in this region. It is rich in fossil fuel and labor is needed to extract and process it. The very same labor that inhabited and was murdered here.

Poland sketches #7 Music in Krakow

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

street singer, street musician, opera, music, Krakow, singer, Poland

“I like to focus in people, in their facial features – a legacy from Hugo Pratt, who used to study the features of the different peoples in his stories. The opera-singing lady in a street corner in front of the Church of St. Andrew in the Old Town of Kraków abused her features in a lofty exaggeration.

Sofia, fado, fadista, Poland, Krakow, Piękny Pies, music, Talking Dog, nightlife

Whereas Sofia, a portuguese girl we stumbled upon rehearsing for a mini fado show a few minutes later, expressed herself subtely with proud postures and slight movements, traits of a proper fado singer.”

Sofia, fado, fadista, Poland, Krakow, Piękny Pies, music, Talking Dog, nightlife

Poland sketches #6 Food in Krakow

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

Polakowsky, Krakow, Poland, food, milk bar, bar mleczny

“In Poland, food is cheap and delicious! Partly due to the many Soviet-era Bar Mleczny (milk bars), a kind of social canteen for workers that used to be subsidized by the state, serving cheap and nourishing meals in a grey, depressing atmosphere, mostly with one-seat tables. Polakowski is an ultra-decorated modern interpretation of these characteristically Polish establishments. The dishese, simple, but heavy on the cream, dairy and cabbage, featuring chunky kielbasas, pungent bigos, rough golanka or pasty pierogi, are ideal for workers, students, pensioners, or weary travellers.

zapiekanka, Krakow, Poland, food, snacks, hole-in-the-wall, street food

After a few beers and wódkas, late in the evening, the simple, ubiquitous zapiekankas become intelligentsia-worthy delicacies, equivalent to Sweden’s falafels or the Portuguese bifanas.”

Krakow, Poland, food, street food, hamburger, snacks, hole-in-the-wall