Saturday, 30 December 2017

Gateway to Space

Over the last six (!) years, I have taken you on many trips, both longer and shorter. But today, I will take you further than ever - we will go to outer space! Or at least we will try to.

Humans were fascinated by space since ever. In 1865, the famous writer Jules Verne, in his novel "From the Earth to the Moon" was assuming man will go to the Moon in a large columbiad, being a special cannon. And looking a bit like that.

In 1926, Robert Goddard made a break through experiment with a liquid propellant rocket.

But it was an American who made the race into space reality - when president J.F. Kennedy announced that US will go to the Moon, a new era started.

The Soviet Union joined the race with the Sputniks.

And then the Vostok program started. The two-stage Vostok rockets were specially designed to carry humans. It was 41 meters high with a maximum diameter of only 10 meters. It weight exceeded 260 tonnes.

The first man flew into space on April 12, 1961. It was Yuri Gagarin. In 1963 the first woman joined the club - it was Valentina Tereshkova.

The Russian cosmonauts were conquering the space in fancy orange space suits called Sokol. These were full pressure spacesuits, with a life support system.

Obviously, America was following the Soviet Union closely. The first American spacecraft designed to carry humans was Mercury. It had no computers so all on-board systems had to be handled by the single astronaut pilot. By the way - the space was so limited that the pilot could not be taller than 1.8 meter (5 feet 11 inches).

The US pilots had their spacesuits meant to protest them during extravehicular activity. The shiny silver outer shell was adding an extra thermal and radiation protection.

Finally, US and USSR realised that cooperation is much more efficient than competition. On that day, the Apollo-Soyuz program started. In 1975 the Apollo capsule was docked to a Soyuz spacecraft.

Three American astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts participated in the mission.

Obviously to conquer outer space it is not enough to have a rocket. Once you land on a planet, you need to move around. A lunar roving vehicle will do the job. But do not get super excited - its maximum speed is 17 km/h.

The story of the human presence in space would not be completed if we would forget about the space station Mir.

Follow me and you will have a unique chance to go inside.

The living space is by nature limited.

The control room looks quite complex.

But what I liked best in Mir was the growth chamber, where real vegetable can be grown.

In 1980s the next innovation was launched - the space shuttles, first reusable spacecraft designed for low Earth orbit.

I hope that you have enjoyed this journey beyond the boundaries of human imagination and planet. All those of you who read till the end will not have the very unique opportunity. Come closer. A bit closer. And now point your finger. You can touch, literally, the Moon.

Saturday, 23 December 2017


Gniezno was the first capital of Poland. Its name is derived from the Polish word for "nest". According to a legend, three brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus were travelling through woods when they saw a hill with an old oak and an eagle on top. Lech decided to choose this place as the main settlement for his tribe. The white eagle became then the emblem of the Polish people until current days.

The market square in Gniezno is surrounded by residential buildings.

A large paved street leads to the most important building in the city. The cathedral.

It is a gothic cathedral built of bricks. It has seen coronations of Polish kings and was the seat for bishops and archbishops for over a thousand years.

Inside you will immediately recognise the gothic style by the high vaults.

In the middle you will surely notice the figure of Christ.

In the back of the cathedral comes of course a large organ.

The Gniezno cathedral is devoted to Saint Mary and Saint Adalbert. Behind the altar you will find the relics of Saint Adalbert.

The silver sarcophagus used to contain the body of Saint Adalbert but since it was stolen by Czechs now you can see it in the cathedral of Saint Vitus in Prague.

The sarcophagus is supported by four man that are symbols of four social groups - the peasants, the clergy, the knights and the bourgeoisie.

The most important artefact in the cathedral are the doors made of bronze in 1175. Each of them includes nine panels showing the story of Saint Adalbert. The left one is a bit larger and were made out of  single large piece of bronze.

The right one was made of several smaller pieced put together.

After almost nine hundred years, the panels are still telling their story.

Our tour of the cathedral would not be complete if I would not mention the fourteen chapels that surround the main nave. In some of them you could pray in silence.

Others are closed to the public.

As we leave the cathedral you will surely see the statue of the first king of Poland - Bolesław Chrobry, who was crowned in the Gniezno cathedral in 1025.

Before we move to new adventures, I propose that we go to one of the many cafes surrounding the cathedral to taste the Saint Martin's croissants. They are a speciality of the region, usually made on 11 November, with a filling made of nuts and white poppy seeds inside.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Archaeological museum in Biskupin (Part 3)

As I have mentioned, people have lived in Biskupin for ages. When the Lusatian culture disappeared, a Slavic village was created a thousand years ago.

To be honest, it was much less impressive than the settlements from previous periods.

The houses were rather small and made of course of wood.

They were dark inside - people in this part of the world did not know how to make windows that would keep the house warm during long winters.

It is only two hundred years ago that houses started to look more like today. This one is an original house from one of the villages neighbouring Biskupin.

Biskupin does not have inhabitants today. Well, not human inhabitants. High five cousin!

* * *

The last stop of our trip to Biskupin will be the archaeological museum. Inside, we will be welcomed by Walenty Szwajcer, the teacher who discovered Biskupin.

And then professor Józef Kostrzewski who led the excavations here.

In the museum you can find some of the original constructions from Biskupin, like this fireplace.

You can learn how the archaeologists worked. To make pictures from bird-eye view, they used balloons (no helicopters or drones at that time!).

You can see here the weapons and tools left by hunters and fishermen who lived here 7 thousand years ago.

Here come the long houses.

The entry to the Lusatian settlement ...

... and the settlement itself.


If you would like to see what life in Poland looked before Christianity turned it into a real country, you can watch a movie called "The Old Tale" (Stara Baśń).

It was shot partly in Biskupin. So now you can close your eyes and imagine that you are back to the times when Sun was the God.