Saturday, 27 April 2013

Cruise around Manhattan

Since the weather was nice we decided with Bartek to take a cruise around the Manhattan island. We started in the South Harbour. Old ships mingle here with skyscrapers.

Here you can see Manhattan in full sunshine.

You surely recognised the tall blue building, it is the new World Trade Center.

We approach now the Ellis Island, the busiest immigrant inspection station in USA from 1892 until 1924. It houses the mueum of immigration. Unfortunatelly, the island has been closed to the public since Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

Finally, we approach the Statue of Liberty. I am sure you all know that  she was a gift to the United States from the people of France. She represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.The Liberty Island is a  UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you may imagine, Miss Liberty is almost everywhere in the city. Here you can see the hugs we had last evening.

Let's turn now our backs to admire the magnificent panorama of Manhattan. It lookes so small and peaceful from this perspective.

Another glimpse at some nice building on our way back. Don't ask me what it is. The tour guide had such a bad accent I did not understand a thing from what he was saying.

Finally we approach the South Harbour again.

Just passing under the bridge.

I was impressed by the number of bridges in New York. But to fully appreciate them we will need to go up and see a panoramic view. This is a surprise I keep for you for the next time.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

New York, New York ...

When I found out that Bartek will take me with him on his trip to New York I was so excited that I could hardly wait for this day to come. Luckily the flight went well and we arrived safely to the JFK airport

We have spent the first day just walking around and admiring the Big Apple. We started with the Wall Street, the home of the the world's largest stock exchange - the New York Stock Exchange.

The Bull is the sign of ever increasing and improving market. The dream of any investor. I wonder if he is a relative of my friend Mike.

Here you can see the entrance to the Stock Exchange. Actually it is a backdoor. But still looks impressive.

Later on we moved to Rockeffeller Center. It is a complex of commercial buildings, originally built by the ultra-rich Rockefeller family. It is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan.

The best known building there is the GE Building. It has an observation deck on top but I was not able to go there this time. But do not worry, you will see a bird-eye view of New York later on.

We could not miss of course Ground Zero. I mean of course the place where the twin towers of the World Trade Center used to stand. After over 10 years passed it is still a place that incites saddness and silence. Here you can see the relief that commemorates the brave firefighters who risked (and sometimes left) their lives to save those entrapped in the towers.

Actually, I found out only now that they build a new WTC in New York. It will be a single tower this time. It is still under construction.

A quick view on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Another famous spot we could not miss is the Times Square. I think it is best known for just being there. And for the huge advertisements shining bright both during the day ...

... and at night. Here you can actually have a glimpse at what is happening on the Times Square at this very moment.

This was a really tiring walk. To have some rest we finally moved to Central Park. Bartek said that this is the place where the prettiest girls in New York are. And then he said he would not like his wife to know that he said so. So guys - if you ever meet Agnieszka don't tell her that I have told you!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Jewish district in Warsaw

If you would walk around Warsaw and ask people whether Warsaw has a Jewish district you are almost sure to hear that no. Only if you are lucky to meet an older person who was born in the city you may be advised to go to the surroundings of the Grzybowski Square. Before World War II it was a vibrant place that was the home for many Jews. During the war the district was almost entirely detroyed and most of the inhabitants perished in nazi concentration camps. Nowadays, you will only be able to see some sad remainings.

The square itself is not really square but triangular. In the middle there are a few benches and a little lake with a fountain that works in summer time.

The building in the back is the Jewish Theater. I've heard it is the only theater in the world that gives regular spectacles in the yiddish language.

Here is the main entry to the theater. It is named after two famous Jewish actresses, Estera and Ida Kamiński. They both worked in this theater until March 1968 when the Polish government employed anti-Semitic measures. As a result, many Polish citizens of Jewish origin had to leave the country permanently.

Behind the theater you can see some further proofs that the Jewish culture is still present in Warsaw. First of all, you can see the Nożyk Synagogue, an orthodox Synagogue named after its founders.

It has been refurbished recently.

The style is a bit similar to what we have seen in Josefov in Prague. It was designed by Leonardo Marconi.

Next to the synagogue is the seat of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland.

When you turn your back to the Jewish theater and look at the other side of the Grzybowski square, you will for sure notice a building made of brick with huge pictures. These are pictures of various Polish Jews. They are exhibited there by the Foundation Shalom.

The third side of the square (as you remember it is a triangle) is occupied by the Church of All Saints. It was designed by an architect you know well, Enrico (Henryk) Marconi, the father of Leonardo. It was for a long time the church of Christians who converted from Judaism.

Next to the stairs you can see a monument of Pope John Paul II. There are hundreds of such monuments in Poland, as you know the Pope was Polish. This particular one commemorates a mass he has held in this church. As a point of interest, one of the participants was Mother Theresa from Calcutta.

And one final remark. If you think that this Jewish district is somewhere far in a remote suburb you are wrong. It is in the very center of Warsaw. When you just take a step on the left side of the church you will see the Palace of Culture and Science, standing proudly in the sun.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Polish Parliament and its surroundings

Today I will show you the surroundings of the Polish Parliament or to be more precise, of its lower chamber called Sejm.

This is quite a big complex, its construction started in 1918 and actually continues until today. The Sejm building is very characteristic because of its round shape. You can see it by the top roof.

In the lower part there are 18 reliefs that represent different topics, like education, culture, liberation, art, handcraft, etc.

It is possible to visit the building inside but as a rule only as part of an organised group. Maybe one day I will be lucky to join one.

Next to the Sejm building you can see a monument dedicated to the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). It was the Polish Army fighting with German nazi occupation during World War II - it formed the armed wing of what became known as the "Polish Underground State".

You can see there the the list of those commemorated. Unfortunately, many of them were persecuted after the war by their own homeland, the same they risked their lives for. The communist government treated them as traitors and agents of Western powers.

It is only after 1989 that the soldiers of Armia Krajowa received the full honours they deserved. You may imagine however that most of them did not live long enough to enjoy it.

Next to the buildings of the Parliament you can also find the Chancellery of the Polish President. This is where the support staff of the President works. The official part of the Presidential duties takes place in the Presidential Palace. I have shown it to you last time we were watching the Illumination of the Royal Route.

The fact is that this part of Warsaw is a real place of power. You have here the parliament, the staff of the president and within a few yards you will find many embassies, like the Canadian Embassy ...

... the Swiss Embassy (I like a lot this small building) ...

... and the US embassy.