Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Travel Photo Wednesday

Today's travel photo wednesday...a look back at one of my favorite parts of Freiburg, the beer garden on the Schlossberg.

It's starting to feel closer and closer to winter every I'm getting nostalgic for the days of beers outside in the evening, when it got dark later than 7:00 PM.

The Return of Travel Photo Wednesday

These are photos from the Great Canadian Barn Dance in Alberta, Canada, as you can clearly see. I camped there with my family and my boyfriend this past August. It was very beautiful.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Today was my last day at my internship. In general I'm excited about the upcoming onslaught of free time, but there are always a few things to miss about leaving, even after such a relatively short time... The Center was a great place for me to practice languages--people came in speaking Polish, English, German, French, and plenty of languages I don't know... I even got to try out a little rusty Yiddish a couple times; I also loved it when the orchestra rehearsed in our concert hall, right next to the reception desk, though talking on the phone over some of Beethoven's louder swells is a trick. The best part of my days was the building staff, though.

Today the doorman, who must be one of the most friendly people I've ever met, said goodbye to me in the universal language: cake.

Of course, goodbyes are always bittersweet, but this one was definitely on the sweet side.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Speaking of wallpaper...

This photo is from one of the hundreds of great bars in Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter of Krakow. The bar is called Alchemia and features jazz shows, a beautiful brick cellar, and a long series of dark, quirky and often crowded rooms -- in short, the main staples of a good bar in Krakow.

The main room also showcases this phenomenal wallpaper, which seems to be hand-painted. The photo doesn't do it justice, really. Because of the layers and the metallic paint, it changes depending on how you look at it. Another reason to look into wallpapering everything, the way these folks do.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It Might Snow Next Week...

...But we're making the most of Fall now.

This morning I was walking across Plac Szczpański, like I usually do, and I found a large obstacle in my way. It was a corral, and inside were three women handing out small bags of apples with pamphlets.
I've seen it before: apples given as incentive to read company literature, but never more than one apple, maybe two if you ask nicely. But bags of apples? Now we're talking.

Anyway, I immediately texted Brian: Free apples! At work I thought about the bounty in my backpack. Brian got two bags, and together we had nine apples (here it starts to sound like a word problem from third grade math class). When I got home from work, I knew what to do. I mean seriously, when life gives you apples...

I love applesauce. Nothing screams Fall quite like yellow leaves and the smell of apples simmering down to their most delicious essence with some help from cinnamon and cloves. And did I mention the apples were free?

It turned out delicious, of course. Some of the apples in the bunch were really very good. Even better, I managed to press out a couple of glasses of cider, too. Together with some trail mix, a great little snack:

I have to admit, though--we still haven't read the pamphlets.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Series: Things I Love About Poland, Part II: Flowers

Spending an extended period of time in a new place, you start to perceive the little cultural differences that aren't immediately evident. Those little things--customs in Poland like hand-kissing and using exact change--those are the sweetest parts of spending time in new places.

Here's another one I love: kwiaty. In Poland, there's an appropriate flower for every occasion. At my work, we rarely get through an event without the giving of red or pink roses; for birthdays its yellow roses but yellow chrysanthemums are reserved for funerals. I once gave a carnation for an apology, and the recipient actually laughed at me.

But the best part for me isn't really the individual instances, it's the overall omnipresence of flowers and flower-sellers. On Sundays the streets are full of young women with flowers, anxious dates with small bouquets, mothers pushing strollers carrying flowers, men holding flowers in one hand and their girlfriend's hand in the other. On sunny days, the main market square in Krakow is one huge flower-shop, and it's really not a tourist trap. I'm pretty sure it's--if I may dare to use the word--authentic.

Anyway, as traditions go, it's bright and cheery and definitely something special for me.

If flowers aren't charming enough for you, though, no worries: peacock feathers are also very popular.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now That's Apartment Therapy!

It's no great secret that I'm not loving my internship these days. But I've got a secret weapon that always cheers me up during slow hours of folding, stapling and xeroxing: interior design blogs.

I love a good craft blog, and there's nothing like Simply Breakfast to lift my spirits, but lately I've been really into anything involving wallpaper, paint or ripping out carpet.

There's a reason for this. I'll be coming back to the states at the end of December and moving into a little one-bedroom with hardwood floors and high ceilings. I can't imagine my landlord will let me paint or wallpaper, but I can certainly imagine what I'd do if I could!

Anyway, I've been dreaming about dove gray pocket doors, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired wall decals, and silk-screened tea towels, but it's all very concrete inspiration (thanks, Google Reader!).

This weekend, though, I was strolling through the royal chambers of the castle in Warsaw, when I came across some remarkably charming inlaid wood floors. The one pictured above is striking and beautiful, but this one below -- this pattern I want somewhere in my apartment. Maybe not on the floor, ok, but what about just one little wall?

Dear Landlord,

How about it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Series: Things I love about Poland, Part I: Milk Bars

Remember the psychedelic black-and-white Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange? The one that serves several varieties of milk, and nothing else?
Well, it's real. Sort of.

The milk bar (bar mleczny) does exist, but I've never seen any actual glasses of milk at one, let alone a table in the shape of a woman. The milk bar is essentially a cafeteria selling really decent polish food at really decent prices. They're usually poorly decorated and there is always, without fail, an aproned woman behind the counter, holding a soup ladle.

My personal favorite items are the most basic things on the menu: pierogi ruskie, or "russian" pirogi, which are filled with delicious potato and cheese; naleśniki z serem, or cheese-filled crepes, which can be sweet or savory; and placki ziemniaczane, potato pancakes. I also love the barszcz z krokietem (borscht with a croquette), in particular because it's usually considered an appetizer, not a full meal, and thus rarely costs more than about a dollar fifty. Beautiful.

The milk bar pictured above is located in the Nowa Huta district of Krakow, a city built as a "worker's paradise" in 1949/50 for the workers at the new steel mill outside town. This milk bar sits in Plac Centralny, or Central Square, which, in 1984, was renamed in honor of Ronald Reagan.

This infatuation with Ronald Reagan is not going to make it into this series of posts on things I love about Poland, I think. Sorry, Ron.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jesień w Polsce (Fall in Poland)

My boyfriend and I are living in Krakow right now, in an apartment not far from the city center. It's my favorite time of year in one of my favorite cities. Still, it's nice to have a change of scenery from time to time, so this weekend we took the express train to Warsaw.
This is the Palace on the Water, which is surrounded by gardens. Even though it's not really gardening season, and I'll admit it, the weather this weekend was anything but ideal for strolling, I still absolutely adore walking through wooded gardens in autumn. Poland is a great place for that.

Back in Krakow, the leaves aren't quite as advanced as in Warsaw. Every day I walk through the Planty gardens, which surround the Old Town and are therefore on my way from our apartment to just about everything. For me, it's ideal and romantic and even sort of inspirational. But I love that it's not just a recreational garden -- for so many people, it's just a sidewalk like any other.

When I was in elementary school, my friend Michaela told me that if you catch a falling leaf, you won't get sick for a month. I've never been quick enough to catch very many leaves, but in gardens like these, on a windy day the leaves just swirl around and get tangled in my hair, and finally, finally I am becoming a champion falling-leaf-catcher.
Unfortunately, this weekend we got caught in a lot of that wind and some heavy rain, too, and I caught a cold.
Sorry, Michaela, it isn't true.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

so many preserves

Well, hi there. I've been quite the delinquent blogger. But I'm settled into my house now, so you'll get the blog tour soon. (When everything's clean, that is). For now, a glimpse at some of the fun projects going on around here: one of my housemates started the Food Preservation Society, a club for preserving food and exploring food traditions. The rest of us have been the lucky recipients of a large number of these tasty preserved goods.

Sauerkraut, with farmers market cabbage!

Bread and butter pickles! With cucumbers acquired for free at a local bar.

Tomatoes from the farmers market + a school-funded dehydrator:

Delicious home-dried tomatoes!

Apples picked from various trees around campus become...

Apple butter!

I think I'm pretty good at choosing housemates. Coming up: plum jam, green tomato and apple chutney, apple chips, fruit leather. Oh boy.