Saturday, 27 July 2013

On the paths of the Good Soldier Švejk (part 1)

One of the great things about travelling with my friends from postcrossing is that they have amazing hobbies that help me to develop both my knowledge and my muscles. Edyta took me with her on a bike tour dedicated to the Good Soldier Švejk.

The tour was running mainly in Ukraine, close to the Polish border. 

We started in Przemyśl, where the last part of Švejk's adventures took place. Ukraine is not part of the European Union so passports are required.

We checked the bikes twice.

 We also made sure everybody knows where we are coming from.

Finally, we cross the border. I think this is the first time that I take you to a country that uses the cyrillic alphabet. And no my friends, these are not "Russian letters", they are spread in many countries in the region. On top, in Ukrainian they use a few additional letters that are specific only for this language.

The biggest city on our way was Sambir or Sambor in Polish.

The market square is spacious.

The pink building in the back is the Town Hall. I think it is a very optimistic colour for a town hall.

The tower with the clock it is 38 meters high.

I am sure that you noticed the sculpture in the frame, the same that was on the sign at the border. This is the Trident, the coat of arms of Ukraine. Its history is more than 1,000 years old

Sambir has a long history that you can see through its multicultural heritage. Like all the surrounding land, until late eighteenth century it was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. There are still some Poles living there, they even have their own church.

If you would have doubts about it, it is enough to check whose statue is next to it. Yes, you are right, it is the Polish Pope John Paul II.

Obviously the city has also orthodox churches.

More than one actually. I was once more impressed by the colours of the buildings. In Poland most churches are white. Or grey.

Inside the main colour is gold. It is typical for many churches in the region, both catholic and orthodox.

As you probably guessed, the city also has an old synagogue. It is no longer operational. Actually it houses now a night club. Quite odd to be honest.

Actually I had a feeling that many public buildings in the city were in a pretty bad shape. Like the court building.

The same is true for the library building.

Though the entrance is still inviting. Maybe they have books about Švejk ?

Finally the summer school. It must have been a beautiful building in the old days.

This was a long and tiring day. We will stay overnight in Sambir and move on tomorrow. Everybody deserved a good beer. Švejk style.

Saturday, 20 July 2013


After coming back from Paris I have found in my mailbox an invitation from one of my Postcrossing friends, Edyta. She promissed to show me South-Eastern part of Poland. I have never been there so I was really excited to go. Today we start with Medyka. When I was asking my friends what they know about Medyka, all of them were only able to mention the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine. It will be then my pleasure to prove to them and to all of you that Medyka has much more to offer.

* * *

Medyka has around 2,800 inhabitants and is the seat of a commune (gmina) so the lowest level of local government in Poland. The building of the commune management is pretty big.

Medyka includes only one parish, the parish of saints Peter and Paul. But to my surprise it is located in two churches. The old one is made out of wood.

I could not get inside since the fence was closed.

The new church is made of bricks and seems much more spacious.

Before World War II this region was multicultural. You can see it for example by this old synagogue. It was built at the beginning of the twentieth century and turned into ruins by the nazis. Nowadays, like many others, it is closed.

But the biggest attraction in town is the park and the manor house of the local noble family – Pawlikowski. The park is guarded by a very old fence.

It does not seem to be a real defense line anymore.

The park is full of interesting trees since one of the previous owners was a dendrologist. He is even commemorated in the park. 

Personally I belive it is cool to have a monument actually made out of a real stone. Though the trees are to me a living proof of what Horatius described as "Exegi monumentum aere perennius ...".

Here you can see the manor house, it is located on a little island. I could not figure out if this is an artificial or a natural one.

The lake is quite big and in many parts covered by green duckweed, similar to the one that I have shown you in the Biebrza national Park (though obviously both places are pretty distant).

Luckily we will not have to swim in the duckweed - here comes the bridge.

The manor house is right on the other side.

Here you can see it in its full shape.  Today it is a bad shape unfortunately. Edyta told me that the building is empty and waits for somebody who would like to take care of it. Personally I believe that it would make a great hotel. The surroundings are really magnificent and so calm.

On top, I have discovered that in the park they have a special place prepared to have campfire!

Let’s have a little break then and enjoy the sun and the grilled sausages my friends!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Rive Gauche

Today we will have a walk on the left bank of the Seine, known as Rive Gauche, the artistic district ruled by la bohème. In the first place we will start by the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It was founded in 6th century and comemmoratas one of the early bishops of Paris.

Inside you will find the tombs of many famous people. Since my human family lives in Poland I was most interested in the burial place of king John II Casimir. He used to be the king of Poland and Lithuania. When he has abdicated he became the abbot in this Abbey.

Otherwise, the church is quite dark and modest in style.

Let's move forward. First we pass by the famous Odeon theater. It was inaugurated by queen Marie-Antoinette in 1782.

Close to it we will find my favourite public garden in Paris - Jardin du Luxembourg. It is full of beautiful flowers forming living carpets of vibrant colours.

Here you can see another one.

The garden surrounds the Luxembourg Palace, seat of the upper chamber of the French parliament, the Senate. The palace was built as a royal residence for Marie de Médicis, the same who has created the Tuileries gardens.

The garden is full of nice statues and fountains. The Medici Fountain is probably the best known amoung them.

Let's move out of the garden. Have you noticed the fence - impressive, isn't it?

First we will take a walk in the direction of the Observatory of Paris. The first part of the lane was called in 2006 esplanade Gaston-Monnerville. Again, it is embellished by flowers.

The next part of the parc is called Jardin des Grands Explorateurs. It is best known for the fountain called Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde or Fountain of Four Parts of the World. It includes four women. And some horses of course.

Let's now turn left in the direction of the Latin District. I must admit I liked a lot the architechture of the residential buildings.

The astonishing building with the huge dome is called Panthéon. It is not a real temple but a mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. To be burried there you would need not only to do something amazing but also to get an approval by a formal act of the French Parliament.

And here comes the heart of the district, the University of Paris, the famous Sorbonne. It was founded in the middle of the 12th century and as such is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

Just next to it we will find Thermes de Cluny, ruins of Gallo-Roman thermal baths.

Unfortunately you can no longer bathe there, it is turned into a museum of the Middle Ages.

Finally, on our way out of the Left Bank we will have to turn back to admire the fountain of Saint Michael. The amazing thing about it is that it is not a stand-alone monument - it is located on a side of a residential building, covering one of its walls.

This is my last story from this trip to Paris. I did not manage to see all that I wanted so I am sure to be back again!