This is near where I was staying in Kaximierz, the old Jewish Quarter in Kraków.
Magical in daylight, magical at night.
Ever dreamt of visiting the UNESCO-protected salt mine in Wieliczka, but never really managed to get there? Now you can – and the best bit is, you don’t even need to worry about expensive air fares.
Google applied the same technology it’s been using for years to help us explore various cities around the world and created a 360-degree tour of the famous salt mine outside Krakow.
The salt mine first started operating in the 13th century and throughout the centuries the miners have not only been producing what once was one of Poland’s most precious commodities, but also carved out some mind-blowingly detailed and beautiful sculptures, halls and corridors. Most of which are made of pure salt, obviously. (Yes, some tour guides do encourage you to lick the walls or the floor to see for yourself. Don’t – it *is* salt.)
The famous St Kinga Chapel (top picture) is probably one of the most spectacular areas of the mine. Even the chandeliers are made of salt. It’s still used as a chapel, but also for classical music concerts, weddings and other occasions.
The mine itself is over 300 metres deep – not that deep compared to many coal mines – and there are almost 300 kilometres (yes, that’s right) of subterranean corridors. Only a tiny fraction of them is accessible to the public.
It looks like the Google experience has recreated the most popular tourist trail, and they’ve done a great job. It’s not the same as experiencing the real thing, obviously, but at least there are no crowds to battle with…
To mark the beginning of its “A year in images” photo exhibition in Katowice, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza has published this short time-lapse, tilt-shift video about Katowice.
I’ve mentioned the city many times on this blog, partly because I know it well, partly because it’s eventually, although very slowly, shedding its “dirty, industrial and boring” image.
Heavy industry has always been a crucial part of this city’s – and the region’s – history, but over the past 20 years Katowice and many neighbouring cities have had to reinvent themselves. The coal mines and steel factories might be gone, but they have been replaced by General Motors, Fiat and hundreds of others which helped the area reinvent itself.
Katowice itself is undergoing probably one of the most dramatic changes in its recent history. The lovely, partly neglected and partly confused city centre is being re-developed. Mariacka St, once a very dodgy, but architecurally lovely street, has been pedestrianised and the city’s biggest eyesore, the main railway station, is eventually (although not without controversy) going to be rebuilt and its sorrounding area transformed into a very modern transport and shopping hub.
All that is captured in the film. From Nikiszowiec, the old working class district of Katowice, where window frames and sills are still painted bright red, to Rynek, the curiously underused central square. From the recently modernised Rondo gyratory (with the famous flying saucer-shaped Spodek concert hall in the background), to the about-to-be-completely-rebuilt bus and train station in the heart of the city.
Those who know Katowice, will find many familiar sights here, those who don’t should probably give it a chance. After all, it’s been shortlisted as one of Poland’s candidates to become the European City of Culture in 2016.
Katowice. Rok w fotografii Gazety Wyborczej
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If you happen to be in Katowice over the next few weeks, make sure to visit the exhibition, which is open from 9.12.2010 to 14.01.2011 in the Cultural Centre in Katowice.
My occasional series Pole poll is back with a bang. Well, with a flash – as today’s ‘subject’ is a Pole, but also a very fine photographer. He’s also very private, so I’ve abandoned the usual format of five questions and five answers to concentrate more on his superb project called ‘From The Upper Deck‘.
Przemek Wajerowicz came to London some four years ago and turned his passion for street photography into a very London hobby – he started going around the city on double-decker buses, taking pictures of people and situations from a slightly different perspective.
He told me that the view from the upper deck of a double-decker bus had always fascinated him and he started taking pictures from the moment he arrived in London. However he lost the initial batch of photographs after his hard drive crashed.
But he picked himself up and carried on. Soon the hobby became a project. And an ambitious one too – Przemek wants to travel every single bus line in London – from the very first to the very last stop.
In 2008 he started publishing his daily bus pictures on his blog and once he’s tackled everything Transport for London has to offer, he wants to publish a book with the best pictures taken from the upper deck. And I’m looking forward to getting a copy. As a photographer myself I think this is a great project and Przemek executes it with passion.
I’m planning to write a bit on his project soon elsewhere, for now here’s more From The Upper Deck.
You can also follow Przemek on Twitter.
All images © Przemek Wajerowicz used with author’s permission
Today’s anniversary (read more about it here and leave your comments too!) prompted one of the largest Polish portals, Gazeta.pl to launch a couple of unique services.
The first one is called ‘A postcard from Poland’ and is a massive collection of photographs depicting what Poles were doing today at midday, twenty day after the collapse of Communism. Gazeta wants to create a gigantic archive which it wants to share online, but also with museums and archives across Poland.
As a photographer I love this idea. Images can be much more powerful than words and no doubt today will bring a few fantastic, emotional, funny or simply stunning shots. I’m looking forward to browsing the archive – and I guess if you’ve never been in Poland, the ‘postcard’ might be a good place to start exploring the country and its people.
The other project launched by Gazeta.pl is Gazetopedia.pl – which is a cross between and online archive spanning twenty years and a social networking or user-generated site (by the way, the word ‘gazeta’ itself means ‘newspaper'; Gazeta Wyborcza, nowadays often perceived as a left-leaning, liberal paper, was the first independent daily paper in Poland launched roughly a month before the June elections). Users can browse every single front page of Gazeta Wyborcza (the precursor of Gazeta.pl), have a look at a timeline of Polish and world events from the past two decades and modify the pages to give them a unique look and feel.
Browsing though the front pages I came across one article from 20th June 1989, which describes how Poland was left without sugar and flour as factories didn’t manage (allegedly) to produce enough of them to satisfy the demand… Those were the times.
During a recent bloggers meet-up in London I had a nice chat with many bloggers, but missed one, whose blog – The Londoneer – I discovered post factum.
The Londoneer is well-travelled and recently published a couple of posts after his visit to Lodz, an old industrial city in the heart of Poland, not far from Warszawa. So I got in touch with Pete, the blog’s author to ask if I could republish some of his pics and quote his Polish posts here.
I like the way he writes about Poland – trying to explain why things are the way the are, how the history shaped the country, its cities and people, paying an equal amount of attention to the ugly side of Lodz:
We were a little surprised to discover exactly how ugly Lodz is, for the most part. It has no beautiful main square like most big Polish cities, not even a reconstructed one – the one here is the ugliest town square I’ve ever seen – a brutalist 1950s communist replacement that is being allowed to slowly decay.
as well as the nicer one:
It’s not all doom and gloom however. Strangely, whilst the city is ugly, its citizens are beautiful – in fact I have never seen so many attractive people all in one place. Walking around the city centre was like walking around a film set or through the pages of a fashion catalogue. Also, its really worth noting that Lodz’ inhabitants have an unusually sunny and friendly disposition – the nicest folk in Poland I have encountered so far.
Also, check his post on the beautiful city of Wrocław (below). There are some lovely descriptions of Wrocław’s architecture, its people and some great tips for eating out too.
I wonder if any of you have been to Lodz or Wroclaw – if so, what do you think? Do you agree with Pete’s impressions of those places?
All images ©thelondoneer, reproduced with the author’s permission