As many of my friends and compatriots know, I went to Poland earlier this summer. The circumstances under which I made this trip were odd, and the trip itself was even odder. First, there was the depression-inducing discovery upon arrival that my beloved Olympus OM-1 had been busted in transit. I only realized this after running out into the Polish sunshine, brimming with photo-enthusiasm after a long transatlantic flight, clicked the shutter, and...nuttin'. The shutter was stuck open! (Coincidentally, that was one of the last times I saw the sun the entire time I was in Poland, which I'm sure was a sad portent of things to come.)
So, I was stuck in Poland with no camera. Horrifying to be sure, but it was made worse by the fact that I couldn't document some of the ridiculous things that were happening around me...not the least of which was the fact that my group (and I must be vague here, since my blogging identity is carefully hidden) was hosted by a policing organization, and hence was exposed to all kinds of mock dog attacks, real gun shooting, massive meat-eating (which, as I was informed by one of my hosts, makes Polish men "the most sexually powerful in the world." I did not test his assertion), and various other jawdropping hijinks.
Just yesterday, however, I was informed by one of my fellow travelers that photos of said events had been posted online for "sharing purposes." After careful scrutiny of this photodocumentation, I decided to take the "sharing" literally...hence I share some of these photos with you here.
First, however, we must come to an understanding about these photos. I did not take them. (And I realize that starting off my new semi-photoblog with photos that are not mine is an inauspicious beginning, but hey, I work with the hand fate deals me, okay?) Many, many of these photos are not "good," so cast a critical eye elsewhere for today. Finally, they do not include any people who can be readily identified...not by me, at least. I do have some ethics, even if I am a photothief.
Let's get started, shall we?
Ah, a nice little snap. It makes me feel a swell of sympathetic nationalism, even though I'm a half-German, and my people totally screwed Poland.
That's more like it! Lest you think police just drive around in boats flying the Polish flag, let us be clear: they also train police dogs to attack people. Dangerous criminals, of course.
They also apprehend dangerous criminals, like this distractingly hot mock criminal here.
Then they wrestle them to the ground in a display of RAW SEXUAL POWER!!!
The trip wasn't all nationalism, policing and brutalizing one another, however. While I tried my best to raise a critical voice to this madness, I mostly sat looking sadly out a bus window as beautiful scenery flashed past, or comforted myself by reading as much oppositional Polish literature as I was able to find before leaving the States. (Thank you Kazimierz Brandys, RIP.)
I perked up when we hit Gdansk. Having read Jan Kubik's book on Solidarity and the fall of state socialism several years back, I expected Big Things of the city. I thought for sure that Lech Walesa would pop out from behind a building to lead a massive strike, or we'd see some intellectuals running around or...something. Instead we saw a bunch of Italian and German tourists, a couple getting married and an astronomical clock.
Don't get me wrong--Gdansk is beautiful, and it has a long history of opposition, perseverance and good art. Unfortunately, we were not privy to those things. But we did see some pretty stuff like this:
Since I didn't take this picture, I don't remember exactly what it is. A nice building, taken while the photographer was falling over, maybe?
Both shots of the waterfront.
This site was kind of curious. Although Gdansk was massively firebombed during the war, it is unusual to find areas that have not been rebuilt. This location, according to one of our hosts, is a "contested area," with multiple people fighting over who owns it. I think that probably means that Jewish people owned it prior to being, um, "removed," but I should probably investigate that more before making assumptions.
Anyway, I wish I had seen more of Gdansk...but instead I just read Pawel Huelle's short stories about the area, and tried to get the perplexing Polish text message that had delivered itself to my phone translated.
Very close to Gdansk is Sopot, legendary Baltic Sea hotspot and birthplace of Klaus Fucking Kinski, another co-ethnic, who has a local bar named after him. After visiting a police station (where we watched two gentlemen being arrested for the murder of their brother's girlfriend, sigh), we were led out to this pier, on a totally apocalyptic-looking day.
Not much to be said about that--it was cold and it rained on us the whole time.
The endless rain did create some very scenic moments while we were on the road. The sky was often ready to explode, and hence shot out some incredible colors and clouds. Representative samples here:
After more gun-shooting, meat-eating and sexual posturing, we headed into Warsaw, where I was finally given some "free time," and promptly marched across a bridge in a lame attempt to visit a photo gallery and to buy some vodka. The gallery was closed, but the vodka was purchased...and I saw some of this stuff too:
So, that was my visit to Poland. Here is what I learned from it:
1) Traveling with cops is never a good idea, even if your airfare, meals and housing are paid for.
2) Fried cheese cutlets do not make for balanced vegetarian meals.
3) Vodka saves all, especially when things get desperate.
I prefer not to remember all the guns, the meat and the inappropriate sexual bantering I encountered in Poland, as I don't think they are representative of what the entire country or its people are like. (Well, okay, maybe the meat...) Instead, I prefer to remember this:
And guess what? I actually took that last pic myself!