Monday, September 19, 2011

Wrocław–a modern medieval city

We are now in Wrocław, Poland.  We’ve been coming here since 1991, so 20 years.  I mentioned that to the fellow in the tourist office and he said he doesn’t hear that much from tourists.  This city has changed so much since we first came here.  It was heavily bombed at the very end of WWII and since then they have been working on rebuilding, modernizing and sprucing up the city, till now it is one of the loveliest cities in Europe, in my opinion.  If you’ve never been here, try to fit it into your travel plans. Below is a photo of the eastern façade of the medieval town hall.

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We’ve been here for 5 days and will be staying 4 more.  We have an apartment, just a block off the main square, which is so convenient to almost everything.  Last week I visited the botanical garden, which I just love.  I think it is the best in the world,  well at least the nicest one I’ve been in. The labeling of the plants is excellent, with labels in Latin and Polish on almost every plant. It is very nicely laid out, with walking paths in the woods and around the ponds. I think they much have every kind of plant that will grow in this climate. But I think I’ll do a blog post just about the garden, so won’t say more here. 

This weekend we mostly walked around the city.  The large town square is wonderful, so we spent much time there.  We also climbed 307 steps to the top of a church tower that we hadn’t climbed before.  Here is a picture I took from the top of the St. Elizabeth church tower. It shows the market square, which is the center of town.  It is actually a very large area around a central group of buildings, that contains the medieval town hall and other buildings and is cut through by 2 small streets. There are many, many restaurants, cafes and shops here.

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In the photo above the clock tower on the right is the town hall; the two towers near the top left corner are the Mary Magdalene church, which is the Polish National church, which started in Chicago, by Polish-American immigrants. The two streets I mentioned cut through the central square of buildings come out through those two archways you see on the façade facing us.

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Here’s a modern fountain in the square. Straight ahead is the tourist office and to the right in the background is the smaller square called the salt square, because there was once a salt market here. I hope you can blow these pictures up, by clicking on them, if you want.

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This photo (above) is taken from my seat in a café, where we had breakfast yesterday.  It looks towards the St. Elizabeth church and the tower, from which the first picture was taken. There were not only no cafés on the square there were only 2 restaurants and one disco here the first time we came.  Now there are more than I could count, on all sides of the square. This one is a Café de France and had a wonderful breakfast, so we had brunch here yesterday, skipped lunch and had a light supper back in our apartment.

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Just a couple blocks away is this little alley of artists shops. The alley used to contain the butchers’ shops and is still called Butchers’ Alley.  You can buy all kinds of art here and some shops also sell art supplies.

Our first 3 nights here we had dinner with 3 different groups of people. Since we have been coming here for 20 years, we do know quite a few people here.  Our third dinner with good friends was in a newer restaurant that we had never been in before.  It was decorated with cutwork and lace, with some faux lace painted on walls and ceilings.  Each table had a khaki colored linen tablecloth topped with a cutwork tablecloth.  And there were little pillows with cutwork covers all around the room. The traditional Polish food was delicious.

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I have so many more pictures, but perhaps that’s enough for today.  It is raining a bit outside today. I went out twice this morning, once to get laundry detergent and a second time to get groceries. I had to go to the Super Pharm(acy) to get the laundry detergent, but both that and the grocery store are only about 3 blocks from here.The weather has been wonderful since we’ve been here and is supposed to be nice again after tomorrow, so this afternoon seemed like a good day to stay in and work on the computer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Settling in

We are settling in. We’ve been shopping almost every day since we got here last Tuesday. There were no problems with the closing. Then we set up a bank account. Then we came straight to the house.
We love it here, but have been working on making it more convenient and comfortable day by day. The weather has been lovely. We’ve been going for short walks around the town and the lake.
There are no screens here. The French don’t use window screens. It’s not much of a problem, but there are a few flies. We have been needing a fly-swatter. We forgot to put it on our list, so didn’t get one on our first trip to the store. Then we did get it on the list, but forgot it the next time. On our next trip we looked but didn’t find one. Finally today Jim saw them and put one in our cart. We bought a number of small non-food items like paper, which we forgot to buy when we bought the printer, but mostly we bought groceries. We checked out and brought the groceries home, had lunch and worked on other things.  Later we realized we never got the fly-swatter home. It must have fallen out of the cart. I think we’re just going to make friends with the flies.
We have internet, but no TV or telephone yet. That’s fine.  All we really need is the internet. I managed to get a load of clothes washed today. We had bought a collapsible drying rack a few days ago. I set it up out in our little courtyard. We bought more groceries today and I made beef stew tonight in a baking dish in the oven. It turned out just right.  We had green beans and a salad with it, and crème caramel for dessert. The ready-to-eat desserts available here are wonderful. Last week we had some delicious chocolate pudding. This time we decided to try the crème caramel. It was good.
Jim got the internet set up yesterday when the guy from Orange who was supposed to set it up for us, didn’t show up. We bought a wireless printer/scanner and Jim set that up today.
I have also been weeding the courtyard in back. It is partly concrete and partly gravel. The gravel has plastic under it, but some weeds had started growing up through the cracks in the plastic, so I pulled those up and it looks better now. We also put our name on the mailbox. It was hard getting the little plastic name plate out of the box and then getting it open and cleaned up, but we got it done. We’ve lost the key to the back gate.  Just can’t figure out what happened to it.
My car is in Le Havre. We will drive up Tuesday to pick it up. That’s the earliest we can get it. There was a problem we thought might cause some delay, but it has been resolved. When Jim dropped the car off in Baltimore they didn’t give him back the original title. Later when he called about something else, he was asked if he had the title. They said he should have it.  He said he didn’t have it. They looked apparently everywhere there, but couldn’t find it. The woman Jim was communicating with suggested it might be in the car--that Jim might have left it in the car. Since Jim knew he didn’t leave it in the car, he didn’t have much hope, but I thought maybe someone there had realized the title hadn’t gone with Jim and just put it in the car. Anyway we got a phone call yesterday morning saying they had found the title in the car.  So yay, now we can pick up the car.
Here are some pictures of our little back garden. 
Above is the gravel part between the garage and house.  I’ve removed some of the weeds that show in this photo.
We’re not sure how long the garden has been untended.  It looked pretty much like this when we saw it in May. Except then there was a rose bush in bloom. On the right wall are two pear trees. One seems to have dropped all its pears. The pears on the other don’t seem to be ripe. I am waiting to see if they will be any good.
I think I see strawberries here, among other things I don’t recognize.
That little shrub by the garage is a grape vine!
Which has grapes on it!  I tasted a couple of these and they are delicious. There a 3 other smaller bunches. How do I know when to pick grapes?
And finally here is the outhouse.  It has some old junk in it. The key in the lock still works, but I can’t get it out of the lock. It is on the outside.  I guess I could lock stuff up in there.
Okay, that’s it for today.