By the time you read this, I will already be out gallivanting through New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, hunting Space Invaders, Banksys, Hanksys, Swoons, and many more of my favourite street artists. I am here for a month, housesitting in the Upper West Side. I end this year the way I began it: on my own terms, and travelling. I have never been more free.
And I win.
Enjoy some of my greatest goofy 2014 hits, in GIF form!
Rolling my eyes at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, leaving Germany for the last time.
Dancing on the streets of Bonn.
Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, built by… uh… Stalin.
The best Klezmer band in Brussels right outside my window!
(hit the volume button on the bottom right corner of the vid)
The Berlin eyes have it.
The ghosts in Shoreditch’s windows
Art imitates life imitates art.
Guns in Copenhagen are beating like hearts.
Brick Lane street art goes largely ignored. (It says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”)
Where’s the Space Invader?
I like to call this one, “Ew, I smell that, was that you?”
I like to call this one, “Oh is that really what you’re wearing? How… brave…”
I like to call this one, “Is that a bee or a fly?”
I like to call this one, “I just had a small stroke.”
How I talk to Cats (part 1), filmed whilst housesitting in London.
How I talk to Cats (part 2), filmed whilst housesitting in Copenhagen
How I talk to Cats (part 3), filmed whilst housesitting in Enkhuizen (the Netherlands)
Now let us go out of 2014 with a bang, just like we did in Paris…
Goodbye 2014. I hope I never see you again.
As you read this, I am on my way back to Warsaw to catch a flight out of here, so that means my delightful #Polska14 adventure has come to an end! But what an amazing journey! Three delightful cities in one week, and an immersion in Polish urbanism, history, culture, gastronomy, innovation, exchange, economy, but most of all, wonderment! On our final day in Poznan, we basically had a free day to explore at will. So after a leisure morning in my posh hotel, I went out to discover some more street art gems! The above is just a section of BLU’s mural which I found by accident. I photographed him in Berlin this summer, but finding his work isn’t always easy, so I was delighted to find it. Soon I will post much better pics, these are just snaps made from my iPad. BLU is to talented, and this mural is overwhelming.
Water cubes, anyone?
I posted pics of this little Poznan character yesterday, and he seems to be everywhere!
So goodbye for the second time Poland!
Day 3 of this Polish extravaganza was jammed packed! Refreshed from my glorious sleep in the fancy hotel, some of the delegates took a walk through Poznan’s old town. And wow, what a glorious city. Unlike Warsaw, which was totally destroyed during the war and rebuilt, Poznan has original architecture dating back centuries, and while some buildings are in a state of disrepair, I actually really like the “urban decay” look. It gives the city character. And just because something is old, doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness.
I love how it looks like the fountain is vomiting.
After a leisure morning, we were ushered to the convention centre to attend the POLEKO conference. When it comes to being Green, this trade fair espoused the future of innovation. I was specifically interested in the recycling sector which presented products made entirely from recycled materials…
…lathering brushes and razors…
…and artisanal chaises.
Naturally, there were some tongue in cheek pieces, like an entire dining room set made of recycled materials made to look like Sigourney Weaver’s Alien and friends…
We were treated as honoured delegates from Canada and attended a business mixer to exchange ideas and thoughts with other countries and businesses. The conference, although young, is very international, with a big German and Scandinavian presence. There were school groups and very engaging booths with a highly stylized design. And free chocolates. Good GAWD, the chocolates!
Day 2 of #Polska14 saw us travel to Łódź and the special economic zone. This area is super cool because, unlike the rest of Poland that has centuries worth of history, Łódź was founded in the 19th century by business owners. It was all factories, mostly industrialized textile factories for Ludwik Grohman. They were in use all the way until the 1980s when the textile industry collapsed, and the gorgeous 19th century factories fell into disrepair and were abandoned. Finally in 1997 the municipality of Łódź and private investors began to revitalize them. Over 10,000 bricks were cleaned by hand! Now the revitalized and gorgeous SEX is used for seven different sectors, including IT, conference space, food, cosmetics… but also, people live in these factories! Some have been converted into lofts and ateliers!
There are 22 universities in Łódź. TWENTY-TWO! Toronto only has 3! It’s citizens are highly educated, and 92% of them speak English, 39% speak German, and 12% speak Russian (that latter stat would have been higher before the fall of communism, so it’s kind of interesting to see its decline).
This merry-go-round was at the Manufaktura complex, a shopping and gastronomic area in a revitalized factory. The horses were freaking me out, I had to photograph them. The horses waited to be tamed….
After Łódź we drove a few hours to Poznan where I am now. Stay tuned to #Polska14 for more from this awesome adventure!
Day 1 in Warsaw is complete! And what a packed day! When I arrived the night before from my short flight from Brussels, my lovely hotel room in the centre of the city with a big warm comfy bed and dinner awaited!
I love waking up in an Eastern European hotel room overlooking the bustling city. I feel like Jason Bourne.
Like I posted about last time, I had been to Warsaw before and it’s strange how the human brain works because I actually remembered where everything was! I had a sense of direction, I knew where the landmarks were, and I felt perfectly at ease.
This is the gorgeous Palace of Culture and Science just around the corner from my hotel. It was built by Stalin, modelled on the Empire State building, much smaller but just as grand. The people of Warsaw tend to hate it because they were taxed heavily to pay for it… ah Stalin.
So to begin the day, all us POLEKO delegates and I were ushered to the Polblume recycling plant to see what one of the leaders of European recycling can teach Canada about going Green and truly espousing the idea of waste-not-want-not. Funded by the EU, they collect, treat, process, recover, and recycle electrical and electronic equipment, like batteries, circuit boards, glass, metals and polymers. That may not sound so high tech, but when they actually take old batteries and recycle them into new batteries, something that Canada doesn’t really do. Also, walking around their plant was actually pretty cool. There was this giant cub of compacted electronics, and it seems a pair of surgical scissors survived the event.
To me, that’s super cool.
Those are two giant crates of discarded televisions. You could make a giant monster out of televisions with these. If any of my readers like reusing old/found materials to create art installations, this plant is like your Mecca.
Next stop on the tour was to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. I’m hoping that most people know by now about the 1944 civilian uprising in Warsaw that saw an underground movement attempt to drive the Nazi occupiers out of the devastated city. I mean, you can’t go through life without knowing about the absolute devastation Poland faced during WWII. The invasion of Poland is literally what kicked off the war in September 1939, the largest death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau is located in Poland, and they fought so bravely from behind the Ghetto walls and from behind occupied lines to save their people.
The museum was massive, and we didn’t have much time there unfortunately, so I tried to see as much as I could. They have excellent exhibits, most of it audio-visual. I actually sat and watched reel after reel of excellent documentary footage taken from the streets, close-up and in the face of the revolt and of the captured Nazi soldiers. They also had a great 3D film that reconstructs Warsaw at the end of the war, as it lay in absolute ruins. The city was levelled to the ground, so when you walk around Warsaw now, the entire old town had to be rebuilt from city photographs. Some old buildings were able to salvage the foundations or perhaps loading walls, but Warsaw was basically razed to the ground.
Look at this gorgeous Meteor typewriter! You all know typewriters are my kind of pornography, but this one was used by the Uprising in order to galvanize and organize the revolt. This typewriter changed history!
Some Warsaw street art for good measure! More from my adventures in Poland and #Polska14 coming up! Check the Twitter hashtag to keep up with my adventures in real time!
As I type this, I am running to catch my flight from Brussels Charleroi Airport to Warsaw Chopin! As I previously blogged about, starting today, I will be in Warsaw, then to Lodz and finally to Poznan to blog and tweet about Poland’s history, economy and environmental protection as a guest of the Polish Ministry of Economy!
I haven’t been to Poland since 2006 so I’m extra eager to see that wonderful country and people again. Here are some snaps from that epic 2006 European Extravaganza:
The old town of Warsaw at dusk. From what I remember, the entire old town was understandably destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising and the duration of World War II so they actually rebuilt the old town using pre-war photographs as a guide!
I loved the colours of the city.
And the breakdancing! The city was so alive with fervour and energy.
For years, this was the best photograph I felt I had ever taken. Those people at the end of the alley walked by just as I plunged down on the shutter, and it created a very haunting moment. I look at this photograph and I see a lot of flaws now, but I always am reminded of how I was discovering my photographic style and Warsaw helped facilitate that.
After a lot of sleuthing and getting lost a bunch of times, I also found all by myself the last remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall. Built by the occupying Nazis, this wall cordoned off an area of just 3.4 square kilometres that held over 400,000 Jews. Just think about that for a second. Imagine in Toronto, the space between Harbord Street to the CN Tower inhabited by 400,000 people. That’s insane. Of course, most of the Ghetto and the wall were destroyed by the war and of subsequent redevelopment, but there is still a small section standing, and on this particular day in the summer of 2006, I had it all to myself.
Touching the wall was something else.
I hope to have more adventures and eye-opening experiences over the course of this trip, and I’m very humbled and grateful to have been chosen to participate!
And even better – I’m bringing along one of my favourite people ever: Anny Chih! Many of you might remember way back in 2009 when both Anny and I were Top 50 finalists in the global Best Job in the World campaign. We were strangers from opposite sides of the country united through that experience, and we became great friends! We’ve explored Vancouver, New York, and Toronto together, and there’s no one else I’d rather explore Poland with 🙂
Keep an eye on this blog and on the Twitter hashtag #Polska14 to keep up with all of our Polish activities!
See you guys soon in Warsaw!
Some of you might remember in 2012 when I was invited by Eurail.com to blog & tweet my way across Europe using the rail network (read up on that month-long journey in my Eurail 2012 category!), or in 2011 when I was invited by VIA Rail to vlog and blog my way across Canada on the cross-Canada sleeper train The Canadian. There was even that weekend trip to Montreal for Labour Day 2011, courtesy of Ford Canada, who lent me a brand new Ford Fusion 2.5 for the roadtrip!
Now I’m very pleased to announce that the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Poland and Ajencja M Promotion have invited me on a press/media trip (known in the travel industry as a FAM trip) to Warsaw, Lodz, and Poznan! The week-long trip will have a special focus on Polish history, environment and economy, which will culminate in my participation in the POLEKO 2014 conference in Poznan, which is the International Trade Fair of Environmental Protection. This trip was open solely to Canadian writers as the trip is part of the Polish Economy Promotion Program in Canada, and they want me to blog and tweet all about it!
I’m extra excited about this because I haven’t been to Poland since 2006 when I backpacked across Warsaw and Krakow (with a special trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau) and I really fell for the Polish landscape and people, so another visit has been long overdue!
So if you spot me mad-dashing through a few airport terminals over the next little while, you know why.