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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Let's Rule The Galaxy Together

Dearest hearts,
Dear Star Wars bother in arms,

I was one of the lucky ones that did not have "The Last Jedi" spoiled for them. I was one of the few that saw it on the 13th of December, in the evening, I believe that it was the second show in Krakow. Multikino Krakow is our Star Wars go to place :) that's where I also saw "The Force Awakens" - an extra being the posters we always receive there. The spoilers started to leak out really fast through the social media, people already saw the movie, so that is why I think it's safe to say that today may be a good moment to fire away my thoughts and feelings that I find so hard to bottle up... to tell you the full truth, after the movie ended, Wednesday evening, as I was getting out of the cinema I felt - for the very first time - the Dark Side rising in me... I wanted to badly to shout out the spoilers to everone in the queue but I just stopped myself and grinned wide, while holding tight to my poster, thinking that it's better if I would lay low, as they would club me to death with their lightsabers! Nobody could save me then - truly the SPOILERS are major and all I need to say to you is... don't read this post if you did not watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi already! SPOILERS (GALORE) AHEAD! 
The Last Jedi turned to be quite a group splitter, as some thinks it is a masterpiece (of course not to the level of the original trilogy!) and some curse "Mickey Mouse" for taking over the franchise and ruining it. I'm more of a neither Dark nor Light Side. I like to be Grey Jedi (though that's not Canon anymore) and say that The Last Jedi is totally worth seeing; true that I do not agree, as Mark Hamill didn't agree either, on the path that they took Luke. The decision was made and there is no going back, we just need to make the most of it! After all, Star Wars is a childhood movie that generations have grown up with, along with their children and grandchildren... it is all about family, trust and Love - about Light and Darkness and finding the Balance! 
I can tell you one  thing for sure, I'm going to rewatch this movie this weeend and again and again until my tears stop flowing like rivers once I see Carrie Fisher on screen - #carriefisherismyprincessforever ;) I will go again and again to see the brilliant acting and chemistry between Adam Driver (Kylo Ren/Ben Solo) and Daisy Ridley (Rey). I will go for Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and the brilliant, Oscar worthy performance that he pulled for the role of his lifetime, even if he did not agree with the direction taken - that's what shows his true character and professionalism! I will go for the amazing, heartbreaking, smooth and sensitive soundrack that John Williams has created for The Last Jedi - with all the nods and connections to the old trilogy and the beautiful and serene piece on the Binary Sunset. I will go again as I am a Star Wars fan. Some people have their additictions, their drugs, their things that they cannot help themselves from... girls usually shop for clothes and jewelry and what-nots... I'm the kind of nerd girl that needs Star Wars books and comics and wants (read that as NEEDS!!!) to see the Star Wars movies on the big screen - eyes wide open, like the first time I watched it as a child...
But without any further ado, let me share with you some The Last Jedi SPOILERS and some of my raw thoughts after the first time watching it:
1) The opening sequence - of course there was a crawl intro and an image of space and beyond, battleships in the vast open. The key to any Star Wars movie (besides the standalone Rogue One). Perfectly done!
2) The funny moments - felt a bit rather like a Marvel movie (Guardians of the galaxy style...) sometimes but overall it was enough laughter not to feel overstretched. It was an interesting idea to start the movie though with a comic relief between Poe and General Hux, but hey! It got the whole room laughing! And Poe did pull off the "Are you talking first?!" with Kylo, so we had that coming our way...
3) Multiple new characters - some that don't even have time to shine or develop until poof! They are out of the picture... I did like though Rose's sister story and their bond, though I would have liked more time on that and maybe a few moments with both of them together. Rose as a character is pure and rather childish but she has a strongness about her, an ability to speak up her mind and be true to herself and her goals. She states, later on in the movie, while saving Finn from his suicidal attempt to save the Resistance: "This is how we're going to win: not by killing those we hate, but by saving those we love" - never have I heard more truth coming from the mouth of babes! And I do believe that is what will happen in Episode 9 with the Kylo Ren - Rey relationship. Same goes for Vice Admiral Holdo - that apparently appears in the Leia book I still don't have :( - that seems such an interesting and strong character yet we don't see her growth. Though... amazing ownership on this one, taking on a Destroyer like that!
4) Force Bond - or "Force Skype" as some people started naming it... - well... you thought that Kylo Ren stopping a blaster mid way was cool?! Well wait for this: Kylo Ren and Rey share a special bond, a force connection that allows them to feel eachother and talk with eachother, see one another, at great distance. I simply love all these Force Bond scenes! Starting with the first one where they realise what is happening, that they can see each other and talk to eachother without seeing their surroundings, but just an intimate connection with one another through the Force. The first time that happens Kylo simply rushes out of the room, searching for Rey - I can see him as a child, reaching towards something he needs... her Light. I enjoyed every Force Bond scene but I believe that the scene that will get everyone who rooted for a Kylo-Rey relationship happy will be the one where Ben reached to Rey and takes off his glove. The mask (that he destroys in the first part of the movie) is not the only thing that keeps him on a Darth Vader mode - his whole outfit, his gloves, his limited skin contact makes him "untouchable". Yet he is willing to step towards the light and reach for Rey. Even the lighting of the scene is fabulous, as of Ben is physically transporting himself through the Force to be physically there, next to Rey, to touch her. Look at the light on his face, matching the light in Rey's physical location. Brilliantly done!
5) The Jedi vs Sith / Light vs Darkness / The Balance / Kylo Ren vs Ben Solo vs Rey - The whole movie revolves around 2 main points: Luke Skywalker and the Kylo Ren / Ben & Rey relationship. There are 2 main moments of full connection between Kylo and Rey, two reach-out looking for the bond moments: a) during the Force Bond, where Kylo and Rey reach out and Ben takes off his gloves and is Ben with Rey, warm and true and tender & then there is... b) Throne Room Scene with Kylo (not Ben!) reaching out again to Rey, with the idea that has been articulated by fan fiction: "Let's Rule The Galaxy Together!" Yep! You get to see that coming to life! But guess what?! Because Kylo is no longer Ben he does not take his glove off when he beacons Rey to join him. The scene is so well done it's heartbreaking! You can see the pain and the sorrow in both their eyes. Each of them saw the other one next to them, in their quest for Light / Darkness. The "Please!" uttered is heart shattering in it's pain and hopefullness...
6) Throne Room Scene - one of my personal favourite battle scenes. Well directed and well done! Now I do understand the scenes of training released previously, of Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley fighting multiple people at the same time. Rey will believe that she can bring Ben back to the Light so she engages in a rather suicide mission. She sends herself - signed, sealed, delivered... I'm yours! - to the First Order. Of course Kylo takes her into custody to the Supreme Leader Snoke. In a turn of events where Snoke demands of Kylo to kill Rey, stating that he can "see his resolve" into the kill, the tides overturn. In fact he does not want to kill Rey, but he kills Snoke in the process - clear cut in half, with Rey's (Luke's) sword that was very ably placed by Snoke right next to him. The scene with Kylo/Ben and Rey fighting side by side against the Praetorian Guards is a masterpiece in itself, a piece of ballet between the 2 protagonists. The way that they lean on eachother (Even physically!) is so poetically done! I loved how in The Force Awakens, Kylo was running for Luke's sword but here we have Rey throwing it to him, so he could defend himself. In the same way, we have Kylo / Ben throwing his lightsaber to Rey, helping her out. As I said, the "Let's Rule The Galaxy Together!" & "Please!" Lines are heartbreaking + breaking Luke's saber in two... emotional support needed!
7) Luke Skywalker - The Ultimate (Not the Last!) Jedi (Badass!) - again, I want to underline that I do not agree (as neither did Mark Hamill agree!) with the line of story that they took for our golden boy - Luke Skywalker.  I did not see him as the type that would sit alone, on a deserted island, waiting to die. I never saw him as being resigned to life and unwilling to fight. That is definitely not Luke Skywalker material, not the George Lucas type of Luke... but apparently Disney Luke is another breed... I didn't like the idea that even the notion of striking down Ben did ever appear in his head. Luke has much of his mother in him, believing that the world can be good. Of course I did like the final twists and I enjoyed immensely the reunion between the Space Twins and the fight with Kylo Ren. He has some badass Matrix moves there! I liked that he did pass the stick forward and he is NOT The Last Jedi - Rey is, even though the training was really really short. Short but intensive in a way... straight to the point, on what Rey needed to understand and to know. I loved the connection that they made with "A New Hope" - from playing the "Help me Obi Wan! You are my only Hope!" (also a tribute to Carrie Fisher) to the ending of the circle just as it all began: Luke's journey and the Binary Suns. I somehow felt I betrayed Carrie by crying more when I saw him disappear, his final journey in the Force. It was a perfect sunset over the age of the original trilogy, nothing will ever be the same again. Star Wars - for me - will always be about the Skywalker family. (Standing ovation for the magnificent Carrie Fisher, the golden boy Mark Hamill and the eternal adventurer Harrison Ford).
8) The unanswered questions - who the heck is Snoke? And how could he be killed that easily? Will we see him as a Force ghost? Will we ever know his background?! I was so disappointed on how that turned out :( even more questions! And what about Rey's parentage? Kylo tells her she's nobody ("But not for me...") yet that is done somehow in anger and frustration so I'm really not that sure if he is really telling the truth. Also... what's up with the little boy with the broom? I have a weird feeling about him. Will he be a part of the NEW Star Wars Trilogy that Kathleen was speaking of? The... no more Skywalker monopoly over the Force?! We just have to wait and find out... 2 more years to go! Start your countdown!
9) The Music / Soundtrack - John Williams is The One when it comes to composing for Star Wars.  He is eternal, moving in spheres and reaching out to the Stars, to other Galaxies. His notes combine, blend and manage to move audiences worldwide. It has a lot of nods to the Original Trilogy and especially "A New Hope" vibes. It's great to see him back, as "Rogue One" was not under his wing (though definitely had a great soundtrack itself!). Been listening to the soundtrack this week a lot and it surely can hold it's own! Looking forward to hearing it again and again.
10) Amazingly magical imagery - way to go visually! I was not sure if I'd like the Porgs, mini version of Ewoks, specially done to attract children into buying more merchandise... yet hey! They kinda grow on you... So will the other creatures introduced in the Star Wars Universe. My favourite are the "Snow Foxes" as I like to call them - shards of ice in animal form. The whole red-white-black mood / storyboard of the movie is strict. The only different place is Luke's island (blue and green - Jedi friendly). I loved the white-red salt touches on the Resistance standpost planet. I loved the at of Light and Darkness in all Kylo-Rey scenes. Visually very pleasing, throughout the movie!
Bonus: Huge eternal applause (Standing ovation!) to the one and only Princess: #carriefisherismyprincessforever ♥️ Carrie Fisher is Leia and Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher.  Surely enough she had her "drowned in the moonlight by her own bra" moment, yet she came back as SuperLeia (not sure yet how I entirely feel about that moment...) yet that was badass! Leia always had the Force in her, yet she was and is a Leader foremost. The Force does kick in though, to action, when truly needed, and we do see our Princess resurected and brought together for a final meeting with her Space Twin.  Loved her connection with Poe throughout the movie and she does prep him up to be the next leader of the Rebellion, to take his place. He loves him and raises him up for 2 good reasons: I believes she feels him like the son she lost (not trying to replace Ben though) & he reminds himself of Han (The feisty pilot that none could compare to). I am not sure what they will do with Episode 9, how they will pull that off, considering that Luke is dead now and Leia is still (in the movie) very much alive. That is again 2 years of hard waiting in front of us... May the Force Be With You! Always!

P.S. I loved that they gave Billie Lourde more screen time, especially next to her amazing Mother. Also, seeing Yoda again made my heart flutter - so much sass on that Force ghost! Aaaaand... can I just say again that this didn't go the way anyone would have expected!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Star Wars and enjoyed Episode 8: The Last Jedi Greatly!
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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Carrie Fisher Is My Princess Forever

My dear friends,

I cannot put my finger on the time and date when I fell in love with Princesses, but my childhood has been marked by two spectaclar Princesses that I will never forget: Princess Diana and Princess Leia - Carrie Fisher. As much as I have adored (and I Did, quite avidly!) Lady Di I somehow always found Carrie Fisher more touchable than her - even if she was way further physically. I never never had the courage to draw Lady Di, yet my childhood memories are filled with drawings of X-wings and R2-D2 and amazing Princess Leia in the white gown, with double buns. Princess Leia was always Carrie Fisher and Carrie was born to play that part, make it memorable for the World, for the Universe. She was and always be My Princess. Forever. Today I'm embarking on a "final journey" with her, as I set out to see "The Last Jedi". She was supposed to have Episode 9 dedicated to herself, as this one is dedicated to Luke (Mark Hamill) and "The Force Awakens" to Han Solo (Harrison Ford). When I heard the news of Carrie's passing I could not believe she was gone, The Princess of my Childhood...
Carrie Fisher was the true embodiment of free will. As Lucas also put it, she was "wise and full of hope". She was one of a kind, rare as a pearl and even though she was rough around the edges she was the natural kind that never ceases to amaze. When I look on the connection she had with everyone she worked with I cannot find a single person that would say something wrong about her. She was born and lived under the limelight, she was Royalty but at the same time you could release all censure with her and be fully natural. She was frank and true and she wore her heart on her sleeve. She had ups and downs and spoke up for women from her heart and her personal experience - she was an open book! Her books are a pleasure to read, revealing and candid and wise through the hardships that she endured. Many think that being in the limelight is fascinating and they want that, what they do not understand is the people there don't get to have a real life as everything is in the open. You will get tired of it one day! But then again... how do you get out?!
Carrie made everyone feel that the way you are is perfect; I'm bipolar - so what?! I fight with my demons. Everyone has their own demons, their own problems.  

ON HER ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS: “Stay afraid but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to want to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” —Herald Tribune Health, 2013

Carrie was the connection of many between childhood to teenage to adulthood. She once said that Star Wars is all about childhood, it's about that feeling when you were a tiny lad/lass and you were running around pretending to be the Princess who took charge - she was not saved, she would always save others! It was a never before seen image... the damsel was always in distress, the lady would always need to be helped... saved... yet she was the first to break the rules. Star Wars was and always will be, for me, a fairytale model in space. The right type, that shows the women can be powerful and they can speak their own mind - and act accordingly, getting the job done. Who wants to be Sleeping Beauty when you could be Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan?! (Even if your home planet blew up to pieces!)
Carrie was Leia and Leia was Carrie - they borrowed so much from one another, they blended so perfectly... Carrie was outspoken, fair and strong. She did lose some battles (drugs, alcohol) but I believe, with all my heart, that she won The War. The War which many people don't come out of alive and kicking - Life. She lived her life with all her heart, placed immaculately at her sleeve - for everyone to see, and she made everyone around her feel equal. I would have loved to meet her in person, her and her eternal space twin (Mark Hamill) yet she sadly passed away too quick. I would have wanted more books, more amazing interviews or her and Gary, to hear her voice, her sparkling laughter, to see her teach others how to win The War. We All Have Our Demons... We All Have Our Battles. The War.  Choose always to walk on the Light Side and don't fall into Darkness - that is what she taught me... #carriefisherismyprincessforever 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves C.F.
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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Black & White Challenge

Dearest sweethearts,

Just wanted to share with you a small picdump of my last week Instagram. I was challenged by my sweet sister to join in: 7 days - 7 pictures Black & White - no description or text or anything... hard not to say a word about what you wish to say, but I believe I've squirted myself nicely. What say you?

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves To Take Photos
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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Krakow's Szopki - Christmas Cribs

Dearest sweethearts,

No Christmas celebration is complete in Krakow without the Christmas Crib / Nativity Scene "Szopki". December 7th, 2017, marks the 75th celebration of the Annual Christmas Crib Contest. This is one of the most colorful and most unique traditions that Krakow has - and it attracts large audiences, throughout the world. Once you have seen it once you will want to come again next year, and experience it anew! The "szopki" are an odd, intriguing and magical take on the Christmas Nativity Scenes, the crib where Jesus was born, but combined with the making of gingerbread houses and a touch of nationalistic sentiments, of love for the motherland - for Poland. The "szopki" are handmade and as colorful as they can get, the uniqueness of these scenes coming from their backdrop - which usually is the Mariacki Church (St. Mary's Church) or other important, well known buildings in Krakow. People do take this competition extremely serious as the best Szopki are put on display until the next year, at one of the National Museums in Krakow.
The Szopki came a long way in time, evolution from a folk tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. They were at first used as mini theatres with mini puppets, and the play would be performed during the holiday season. Around the 1700s they were banned on church propriety and in the 19th century there was a prohibition of the Szopki to been be constructed! They were a powerful tool to make fun and point on the wrong doings of the leaders. Returning to the World Map after the First World War, the tradition of the Szopki in Krakow came back to life and it settled in as a custom, on a yearly basis. In order to support the tradition a contest was setup so each year the prettiest, most elaborate, most interesting Szopki would be rewarded with the due glory. 
Small wooden Szopki that one could buy at the Krakow Christmas Market in the Main Market Square
This year's event began today - December 7th - at about 9:30 AM when the crib makers and the specialists gather on the Main Market Square with this year's entries, displaying them to the large audience. They are always displayed at the Adam Mickiewicz statue until about 12:00. From December 11th till February 25th the Szopki are displayed officially in the Krakow History Museum, in Celestat. There you need to pay for the ticket but if you make a run for it you can still see them for free today, in Krakow's Main Market Square - next to Adam Mickiewicz statue.  It's truly a sight for sore eyes! Colorful, vibrant, they show happiness and joy to the birth of our Lord bit also the proud heart of the Polish People, who love dearly their Motherland.

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow   
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Monday, 4 December 2017

The Smog Threat in Krakow

Dearest sweethearts,

Krakow is a magical and wonderful place to spend you holidays, but when you stay here long term you will discover it's downside: the smog trauma during the winter months. From November/December till March the air is stiff and unbreathable, people turning to masks to filter out the horrid air outside. I, to tell you the truth, don't actually wear one myself, but I understand the reason behind it. At the same time I must not tell lies and must admit that since I first came here in 2011, the winters are slowly but surely starting to clean up. The municipal team does it's best to raise awareness of the issue and promotes ecological transportation, changing of the old fire places (people do get reimbursed) and cutting down on the waste burning (still quite a long way to go with that topic...). The thing about smog is the fact that it is not a natural consequence - it is human made/produced. Plain and clear: people produce it and people complain/suffer. The power of remedy is in the hands of people and educating them properly so they can understand the threat and act accordingly.
The exposure to smog on a long term basis can lower the life expectancy and cause breathing issue, pulmonary disease. The World Health Organisation has been conducting tests for several years now and has published a list of 50 most polluted cities in the European Union - 33 were located in Poland! And Krakow is the 11th one in the list... The main issue of pollution in Krakow, causing the smog, is the coal stoves. They emit damaging substances in the air, due to the bad quality of the coal used for heating (or the usage of waste for heating - for example old tires). The furnaces in Krakow count for 42% of the air pollution in the city! 21% by industrial plants and 17% by fossil fuels - cars driving in the city. Not to mention that 20% comes from smaller cities, towns around Krakow, with lesser quality of living. To be quite frank, Krakow is located in a hollow so all the air does not rise or move but rather settles down upon Krakow like a blanket of death... when there is air circulation (wind) it clears up nicely, but when it is not... the air smells of burnt rubber. From December 31st, 2016, the highest measurement was 114 µg/m3 and in January 2017 it reaches 325 µg/m3, while the allowed norm in Poland is only 50 µg/m3
But this is a long term issue, that will not be fixed over night. Until now over 7000 stoves were replaced, by the end of winter season 2016, and 7000 more applications were submitted for this year (and for sure they were replaced as I can feel the difference!). Also the public transport is being constantly modernised and more and more buses have been switched to electronic ones. Of course there is also the ad-hoc idea that when the level of air is on RED the public transport should be free for people who own a car and choose to use the public transport in order to lower the pollution level. But solutions like this should not be ad hoc - it would be nice if the tax payers in Krakow would have free public transport anyday, or at least November to March. Either way we are paying taxes and working in Krakow, bringing money to the local coffers. Also it would be nice if people would understand, on the long term, the harm that they do on others and on themselves (their children). Stay clean, stay eco friendly and think on the environment, the impact that you have - think long term! Always! 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow But Not The Horrible Winter Smog 
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Friday, 1 December 2017

Things I Am Thankful For - November 2017

Dearest sweethearts,

If you've been reading my blog this year you must have noticed the challenge I have proposed for this year. It's hard sometimes to see the bright side of life. Even when looking at a glass of water we tend to see the empty half, nor the part filled with water. In fact, all that is relatively as the glass is never empty - the other half is filled with air! So what I proposed was that at the beginning of each month we should think of the things we are thankful for.  It might be hard at first but you'll get better as time passes. Train yourself to see the beauty in the little things in life. Start with 5 things/Moments and work up from there ;) Here's my take until now for the month of January, FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember and October. For November, I am thankful for many things, but here are 5 picks:
1. Hearing Andrea Bocelli live with my Mum and Granny - Live concerts of your favourite artists are indeed a magical experience. It's a moment when you reflect upon your #bucketlist and you realise that you have cut an item out... I cut 2 at once as I went to the Andrea Bocelli concert along with my Mum and Granny. The passion of music and art has been instilled upon me at a young age and they are the ones that made me fall in love with classical music. Mum jokes that having me and my sister as teenagers was always quite a look on oposites: from one room you would hear rock and metal, from the other you would hear Celtic tunes and Irish fiddles and soundtracks never-ending... to no surprise is the fact that I got tear-eyed during "Maria"... Andrea Bocelli makes your heart melt!
2. Romanian Church Ceremonies inside the St. Mary Basilica (Mariacki Church) - I am grateful for the Romanian Community in Krakow. I know we are a couple of hundreds here but people just don't like to mingle with their own... there are always people who have "more important business", "more pressing matters to attend". I think that being part of a community means sharing and caring. I am glad I have met people from Romania whom have the same perspective upon life. I am happy that the Church Ceremonies now are getting more and more frequent and that we have a steady number - it makes me dream of further projects :)
3. Star Wars MARVEL Comic books - I am a huge fan of Star Wars, a great fan of Marvel and a rookie fan of comic books (rookie due to the fact that right now I don't own that many comic books as I would wish...). After a hard, stressful day at work, what better way to relax than with a story?! Now on the 13th of December I will have the privilege to go see Episode 8: The Last Jedi - we already have the tickets! Yet there are so many questions to be answered that I cannot wait... hence the Poe Cameron comic books I have devoured. What can I say?! Bring it on!
4. Krakow Christmas Markets - they opened up a week ago and will stay open until the first week of January. They are a constant during holidays and as soon as I see the tree being decorated o start counting the days... I can hardly wait for Christmas! Krakow Christmas Markets are the perfect way to spend time our with family and friends - plenty to eat (pierogi, kielbasa, gofry, oscypek... you name it!), plenty to drink (mulled wine, mulled beer, hot tea, hot choco), plenty of things to shop!
5. First snow - one thing that makes the world perfect again after a muddy Autumn season is the statement white coat of fluffy snowflakes. The snow that is wet yet strong and sticks together; the one that doesn't melt when it reaches the ground. The one that gets kids outside asap, all of them competing to create the first snowman of the season. The one that when you get out of work you find your car covered with a couple of inches of snow... The one that gets you excited about Winter finally coming! Are you guys ready for it?! I surely am!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Wants To Be Thankful For All The Lovely Things Life Brings Us
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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Travel Tuesday: Why Visit Poland in Winter

My dearest sweethearts,

The time of good cheer is coming slowly but surely. You know me, if it were up to my heart I would have Christmas all year round. Christmas nowdays is a bundle of contrasts: consumerism by buying loads of presents, even things that people don't necessarily need but they so want them...; then there is love and the joy of gift giving; then there is the solemnity of going to church, having the family Christmas dinner... I enjoy Christmas because it celebrates the birth of our Lord and because it's one of those warm moments when all the family comes together. I have fond memories about wintertime and I love snow falling, snowman building and sleigh rides down the hill. I love winter traditions and Christmas Markets, I love it when somehow time stands still during holidays... I love Poland as it's culture and traditions and background is very much similar to my own homeland. Now I know countries in Europe are quite similar to one another, connected by common history, but they also have something of their own. You might ask yourself... Why Visit Poland in Winter? Well there are several answers to that question, but I will give you 7 of my own reasons:
View from the top of Gubalowka, Zakopane
1. Zakopane - the go-to Winter getaway - let's face it, Zakopane is the most well known winter - mountain location that foreign people know about. It's pretty well advertised throughout Poland and everyone coming here can't miss it. The downside to that is that it became rather a touristy location, always crowded, even during off season. The view on top of Gubalowka is amazing! And you can reach it fast via the funicular or you can choose to be brave and just hike it. On top you can enjoy the view and have a break and eat some local dishes or just grab a bite of "oscypek" with "zurawina" (traditional smoked highlander cheese that usually is paired out with cranberry sauce).
English breakfast at Niebieski Migdaly, Krakow
2. Budget friendly - considering other options like going to the Alps or just grabbing some Swiss cheese fondue... well... Poland is cheap! You can have a beer for about 1-2 euros at any pub and have a regular meal for about 5 euros. Not to mention the vast options raging from local food / beer to different takes on international cuisine. There are multiple choices for the museum and/or history enthusiasts and there is always a free open day per week (usually Sunday is the one, for example for the Krakow National Museum branches). For the outdoor enthusiasts there is plenty to discover as well and there are bikes you can rent for a very low price.
Auschwitz, Poland - Nazi created death camps on Polish land
3. Out of the ordinary location - I know saying that you are spending your winter vacation in Poland doesn't sound as fancy as saying you have spent it in the Alps... but you can boast of being into historical places that are off the beaten track ;) and if you choose not to go to Zakopane, but other city in the mountains, less touristy, you might actually feel the real life and the wilderness and the uniqueness of these places. You will be able to boast out for crossing one more country from the #bucketlist of the whole world ;) on another side, you can also think of one of a kind places in the world, maybe at a UNESCO world heritage site list and pick places like Wieliczka Salt Mine or Auschwitz and Birkenau, near Krakow.
Christmas Market in Krakow, Poland - November 2017
4. Christmas Markets - they usually open up in Poland during the last week of November, they last up to 26th of December - get smaller until New Year Event - and then continue (they are extended) up to the first week of January. They are a constant that everyone waits for, while November kicks in... It's that sudden slide from drinking pumpkin spiced latte to having mulled wine (or mulled beer!). There is plenty to feast your eyes on: from traditional Amber from the Baltic Sea to handmade jewelry or handmade Christmas decorations, from the yummy oscypek (highlander cheese, made in the Zakopane region) to kielbasa (sausage) to krowki (caramel sweets)... Christmas Markets have plenty to offer for people of all ages and tastes, not to mention the photo opportunities!
Mariacki Church inside, Krakow, Poland 
5. Christmas traditions - Polish people are very much in touch with tradition and with their faith. The biggest events of the year are connected to their beliefs: Christmas (birth of Christ) and Easter (the death and resurrection of Christ). It is a must to go to church, whole family, and pray. The Christmas Eve feast must start when the first star appears on the sky, or if you see no stars - when it gets dark. The meal is comprised of 12 dishes (one for each of the 12 apostles). There is no meat for you meat lovers... There is only fish accepted as a dish. At the beginning of the meal they say prayers and there is always a passage from the Bible being read. At the end of the meal people stay and discuss, they open up and sing carols.
Wooden nativity scenes - for sale at the Christmas Market in Krakow, Poland
6. Szopki contest in Krakow - one of the Polish traditions for Christmas is to have a nativity scene right out next to your Christmas tree, in remembrance of Christ that was born. Now the nativity scenes are names "szopki" and they are portable cribs or manger scenes. Everyone has them and displays them for Christmas! Now Krakow took the Szopki one step forward and they even have a contest for the prettiest one - it has to be handmade entirely! It's a tradition dating from the 19th Century and it's still running strong, gathering people from around Poland to come and see it. The Szopki contest is being held in the first week of December and the jury announces the prize at the Adam Mickiewicz statue in Krakow's Main Market Square. What comes as odd/unusual is the fact that for the Szopki in this contest the backdrop created is usually one of the cities landmarks - for example the St. Mary Church (kosciol Mariacki).
Zakopane, Poland
7. Ski jumping events - if there is one thing for sure about Polish people and sports, is the fact that they are very much in love with winter sports - to be more specific: ski jumping! And they are quite good at that! For example Zakopane has one of the biggest slopes: Wielka Krokiew (The Great Krokiew) - 1378 meters long. It was opened in 1925 and it is a regular venue in the FIS Ski jumping World Cup. The capacity of the ski jumping stadium is 40.000 seats. You should give it a go ;) 

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Poland
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Saturday, 25 November 2017

Krakow's Christmas Market - Main Square - Is Open!

Dearest sweethearts,

I don't know your own traditions - sometimes they may be related to your country, region, faith but it could be also connected to your family and way of thinking and living - but I know for sure that each year, after I celebrate my birthday (26th of October), I already hear Christmas songs playing... of course firstly just slow tuned inside by brain, my head, then I start humming it, then I start singing parts when I get into the mood - the cheerful jolly one! I love it when others "go bonkers" with me and join in! Some people find it unacceptable to sing Christmas songs in October, November or even early December... hogwash! Christmas should be all year round, not just a single day! One of the things that I love about winter and Christmas is the numerous occasions when I just get out and bump into a Christmas Market. I love Christmas Markets in Poland: they open up always in the last week of November! When you see the stalls being erected slowly you know Christmas is surely down the corner ;) and as surely as the sun rises daily so have the Christmas Markets throughout Poland opened up this week - be it Thursday or Friday. 
The Krakow Christmas Markets are numerous and each district has one, but the most well known one and the one that attracts the most crowds and photographers is the Krakow Main Market Square Christmas Market. As you can tell by its name, it is located on the Rynek (PL: Main Market Square) and it has plenty of space for both food, sweets and traditional handmade items stalls. The Rynek is the biggest main square in Europe and it really does give one many treats for the eye: starting with St. Mary's Church (Kosciol Mariacki), St. Adalberts Church (oldest one in Krakow, built on former pagan ground), Sukiennice (the Cloth Hall), the Tower with the Clock, Adam Mickiewicz statue and the place where the oldest bookstore in Europe stands! Every person that visits Krakow inevitably founds it's way to the Rynek, so having the biggest Christmas Market in Krakow at that location was the perfect decision money wise. 
The Christmas Market in Krakow Main Market Square opened up on the 24th of November, just the other day, and it will probably stay open until the 26th of December but then be prolonged until the first days of January 2018 but probably with a bit less stands/stalls.  They will need some space and time to get ready for the New Year events. That is the occasion in which part of the market usually migrates to the Small Market Square right behind Mariacki Church. The Christmas Market offers everything ranging from food stalls with hot food made there (sausages, kielbasa, pierogi, bread with smalec, oscypek), to stalls with homemade items, to stalls filled with Amber from the Baltic Sea, Bohemian glass, Boleslawiec pottery, furs, Christmas decorations (including some giant baubles for tall and busty trees)... you name it, they probably have it! On the side of Sukiennice there is always a large scene made for the folk tradiional carolers, also there are representations of traditional dances and other performances. We must not forget the Szopki (Polish Nativity Scenes)! Polish people take them very seriously and there is even a contest of whom makes the best One, the prettiest One, the most elaborate! It's at the beginning of December so you can join in as well! :) The stalks of the Christmas Market are usually open between 10 am and 10 pm. Don't miss them out!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow's Christmas Markets 
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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Famous Polish People: Pilsudski Jozef

Dearest hearts,

#DidYouKnow that on 22nd of November 1918, Pilsudski officially received the title of provisional chief of state - Naczelnik Panstwa. His main concern was the creation of a Polish army to help safeguard Polish independence. 
Pilsudski funeral in 1935, Krakow, Poland
In case you have no clue who is this amazing human being that is being worshiped by the Polish people, I thought I might pinpoint some interesting facts about Jozef Pilsudski. Here they are:
1. Pilsudski was the very first chief of state (between 1918 and 1922) of the newly independent Poland established in November 1918.
2. Jozef Pilsudski could fluently speak Polish, Russian, French and German.
3. He would never fall asleep unless he had a loaded gun tight next to him.
4. Pilsudski liked to walk a lot but he preferred doing that alone. He liked to make sure nobody was about himself while he had his daily walks. Maybe he needed some free time with himself and the nature, a moment when he could fully disconnect. He loved walking in the Lazienki park.
5. He didn't care much for worldly possessions and he donated most of his wealth to charity. One could say nowdays that he had a minimalistic way of living.
6. Pilsudski would love working during night time. It was very quiet and maybe, like in his daily walks, he needed some time on his own. But he would also work with his wife then, and she would do a transcript of his ideas.
7. He was also very uncomfortable with parties and balls and he would much rather prefer a moment of solitude - for example when he would play solitaire by himself.
8. Pilsudski didn't enjoy coffee, just like myself :) and he always preferred strong tea. He also didn't drink alcohol, except on his name day - when he would celebrate very loudly.
9. In 1936, after his death, his heart was layed to rest into his mother's grave in Rossa, Vilno and his body can be found in the crypt beneath the Wawel Cathedral - under the Tower of the Silver Bells. Cause of death - cancer.
10. 60 years after Pilsudski's death and following the fall of communistic rule in Poland, the Sejm issued a statement on May 12th, 1995: "Jozef Pilsudski will remain in our nations memory, the founder of its dependence, and the victorious leader who fended off a foreign assault that threatened the whole of Europe and its civilisation. Jozef Pilsudski served his country well and has entered our history forever".

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Polish History and Amazing Stories
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