Occupy Madrid

It’s never a good idea to make Spaniards angry. That’s exactly what their government did, and this was the result.

Capture

Protesting is high on the long list of things that Spain is good at. In the past 7 days, Madrid was subject to two very important displays of social activism, a student strike and an anti-austerity protest. Each had a different focus, but both are definitely worth talking about.

La Marcha de la Dignidad

On March 22nd, over 2.5 million people from all over Spain came together in Madrid to protest. Still recovering from financial crisis, the people of Spain aren’t happy at all with how the government has handled things. The details are complicated, which is my  way of saying that I understand little about social and political issues in Spain. Like the occupy movement back in 2011, La Marcha de la Dignidad was a way for several interest groups with different (but related) issues to unify their voices and make sure changes start happening.

La Huelga Estudiantil

Tuition is too damn high! Although that’s the biggest complaint, it’s not the only one. Students are also dissatisfied with reductions in financial aid and educational system reforms that they believe have done more harm than good. To make their voices heard, students all around Spain decided to go on strike from March 25th to the 27th. For a good part of the students, that meant skipping class to get together and protest. For others, that meant just staying home. As with any protests, there were a few violent people, vandals, and pyromaniacs sprinkled among the rowdy but otherwise innocuous students.

Aftermath

In both protests, police had to intervene in some instances. People got hurt, things got broken, and people got arrested. Luckily, this only happened in a few cases, and overall none of the protests escalated beyond control.

One thing I can guarantee is that people listened. I can vouch for the incredible solidarity and passion that echoed through the shouts of every single person marching down those streets. It’s no wonder that these protests were covered by media all around the world. There’s no doubt that government officials took notice, and now we can only hope that they will also take action.

Until next time,

Jonny K

Why you should befriend a Parisian

Hi everyone!

The past two weeks have been an absolute blur of play rehearsals and classes, so I can’t report much from London. However, last weekend I managed to get away for a few days with my friend Grégoire to stay with his family in Paris.

I’ve been to Paris a few times before, but I’ve never had a Parisian show me around. I felt like I was doing it right this time – staying in a French apartment, gorging myself on croissants and bread and cheese and wine. And who can resist a good pastry?

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Not me. In between all the eating, we walked around the city, basking in sunlight. We avoided most of the tourist spots, but we did go up to Montmarte, one of the highest points of Paris from which you can see the city.

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Montmarte village is one of the older parts of the city, with artists, musicians, and French restaurants everywhere.

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It’s very quaint and traditional – definitely go if you’re in Paris!

At night we walked around the city, undisturbed by the hoards of people that are there during the day.

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Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle never does get old.

The highlight of the trip was going up the Arc de Triomphe, something which I’d never done before. If you’re a student, you get to go up for free! The walk up is a struggle but it’s worth it in the end. You can see the whole layout of the city…

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Champs-Élysées

Cue this music… www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAMuNfs89yE

We were pretty content. Even the Parisian who is not easily impressed.

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But the best part was the sunset. We just stood there in awe for however long it took for the sun to set.

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I’m not sure there’s anything that could top that sunset.

Every time I go to Paris, I uncover something new just when I thought I had seen everything.

Til next time,

Veronika

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Differences between Germany and Canada

From the eight months being away from Toronto, I would like to dedicate this post solely to the differences I have noticed between Germany and Canada. Both countries are very similar in numerous ways, yet there are still some large disparities.

I’ll start with auto transportation. Most of the cars here are much smaller than in North America- and I mean extremely small. There are no pick-up trucks or SUVs for example. I rarely see large sedans on the streets; mostly just compact models. I think this has to do with the streets themselves. Most side streets, especially in smaller towns, are very narrow- there is literally only enough room for one car to fit. I don’t know what happens when two cars meet head on, I imagine they would need to drive halfway on the curb in order to pass each other. In comparison, my neighborhood in Toronto (North York), the streets allow that even with cars parked on both sides a large truck can still easily pass through.

The Volkswagen Up!

The Volkswagen Up!

Almost ALL cars use a manual transmission. Every single car that I peek into has a stick shift. This is true even for the typical family van, something that is almost unfathomable in North America. There are of course different kinds of cars as well which come from European manufacturers. Ford and GM are rare to see, where as makers which are not seen in Canada, such as Peugeot and Skoda, are common. Furthermore, there are specific models here which are not available on the North American market. Volkswagen makes the Polo and Up!, both of which I have never seen back home.

Normally what we have back home

Normally what we have back home

The 18-wheelers that are in Germany look totally different from those back home! They are much smaller. Their fronts are completely flat, almost as if there were squished.If I could give them descriptive words I think ours look much more “mean” and “intimidating.” I find ours look better. They’re more serious looking ready-to-haul-a-heavy-load trucks.

The version that is used over here

The version that is used over here

Oh and one more thing- the gas prices. If you think our prices are expensive in Canada, try coming here. It is crazy! While we complain at $1.25/litre, here the average is at about 1.60 Euros/litre. And don’t forget, that is in Euros, even more than the CAD. Perhaps that is another reason why the cars are much smaller.

Many people, especially in Berlin, roll their own cigarettes. They buy the rolling paper, tobacco and filters separately, then simply make them themselves. It is cheaper that way. I have noticed there are a lot more smokers here as well. In comparison to Toronto, many people are smoking on the streets. Smoking is allowed in the bars and clubs in Berlin. I find that disgusting and afterwards all of my clothes smell.

There are cigarette vending machines on the streets. You only need an ID to “prove” your age and then you can buy a pack of cigarettes. I assume underage kids take advantage of such a system. Furthermore, there are advertisements for cigarettes. Unlike in Canada, where the advertising of cigarettes is prohibited, I regularly see ads in magazines or on billboards.

A typical cigarette vending machine

A typical cigarette vending machine

What else can I say? The German computer keyboards are different. I especially get confused with the “Z” and “Y” keys when I use a public computer which are switched around. You can buy alcohol pretty much anywhere. There are no specific stores such as the LCBO or The Beer Store. Also, the alcohol is much cheaper here, but hey, it is Germany after all; they are known for their beer! Open drinking in public is also allowed.

There are many smaller, privately owned stores, such as bakeries and cafes. It is more common for people to go to a cafe to enjoy a coffee outdoors and buy a dessert. It is more common to buy bread from a local baker than go to a massive grocery store. There are no Wal-Marts for example.

Everything is closed on Sundays. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Tough luck if you forgot to buy some groceries on Saturday; you would have to wait until Monday morning. There are many more casinos too. Unlike back home, where there are the massive ones, such as Casino Rama or Casino Niagara, here there are little ones located all over. In most situations, you need to pay to use the public washrooms. Whether in the mall or on the side of the highway, 9 times out of 10, you need to pay about 50 cents to use a washroom.

"Sunday Shopping"- I took this picture during the Christmas season. An advertisement showing that a mall is opened on Sunday.

“Sunday Shopping”- I took this picture during the Christmas season. An advertisement showing that a mall is opened on Sunday.

The clubs and bars are opened much later, unlike our 2am closing time in Toronto. In Berlin for example, certain clubs are opened all weekend long, not closing until Monday morning. Germans like to use the 24 hour clock; it took me a while to get used to this. Their electrical sockets are different as well. They use 220-volt system unlike the 110-volt system, which is what we use. I needed to buy an adapter in order to use my electronic devices.

What the plugs look like over here

What the plugs look like over here

Well, those are some of the major differences I have noticed during my time here so far. There are some smaller observations, such as the fact that cashiers sit while working, or that there are barely any STOP signs in side streets. Yet I think I covered the most of them. The next two weeks I will be traveling the UK with a friend of mine from Canada, so there will be lots to share with my next post. I hope you learned something from this one!

The layout of a German keyboard

The layout of a German keyboard

“‘San Fran?’ Let me guess, you’re gonna say ‘Frisco’ next?!”

Hello all!

I know I said I would talk about Canada, so I’ll mention two moments. I had a great time waking up early to watch our hockey teams take home gold last month, especially because of the naysayers around me. I was also thrilled to win tickets to a Leafs-Rangers IMG_1048game at Madison Square Garden. The overtime victory had everything: fights, pulled goalies, even the rare two shorthanded goals scored in the SAME penalty (sadly, against the Leafs). Before then I was not too happy about missing RRROLL Up, but as luck would have it there was a Tim Hortons in MSG! Had some Timbits and hot chocolate with the other Canadians who had also won tickets – courtesy of the Urban New York ticket lottery.

Now about my spring break

I was fortunate to come to Columbia on a Killam Fellowship, a great program that works in connection with Fulbright. Along with trips to Ottawa and Washington (the latter taking place next month), Killam also offers a grant called the ‘Cultural Awareness Program,’ which fellows can use to subsidize their travel within their exchange country. Because New York epitomizes immigration to the East, I wanted to go to a key immigration hub on the West Coast: San Francisco. SF is one of the most diverse and famous areas in the US, with a Californian feel and incredible list of attractions; it is ranked among the top cities in the world to visit by Trip Advisor. Hearing that I had been awarded a grant, I literally ran home and booked my hotel, flight and Alcatraz tour that same hour. Here are a few of the amazing moments I spent during my three days there.

The first real view of the city I got after exiting the subway (called the BART, for Bay Area Rapid Transit) was the city center. With gorgeous colonial buildings all around, I marvelled IMG_1260at city hall in the middle. The city hall here and in New York really contrast the more modern Toronto City Hall, most recently featured as the backdrop to the latest Ford drunken stupor video.

I was supposed to check in to my hotel, the Aida Plaza, but postponed to check out a couple of museums. One that blew me away was the generically-named ‘International Art Museum of America.’ The exhibit was small, but featured works from an artist I had never heard of before: H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. Unusual name I know, but if you want to see a really cool blend of ancient and contemporary techniques, I recommend checking him out, and looking a bit of his unconventional background! I walked around for the rest of the day.

IMG_1304 Seriously, this museum was one of the best finds of the day

The next day I planned to do a bike tour around the city, stopping at several famous landmarks: Golden Gate Park, The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Warf, Sausalito, Alamo Square and Pier 39. I had a huge breakfast at ‘Brenda’s Soul Food,’ which served Southern food in colossal proportions. I also found out that I kinda like grits. I finished off the day by going to Twin Peaks and enjoying the stunning sunset over the city.

starting the day right

starting the day right

cherry blossoms in the Japanese Garden (Golden Gate Park)

cherry blossoms in the Japanese Garden (Golden Gate Park)

IMG_1616IMG_1598golden gate

view from Twin Peaks

view from Twin Peaks

On my last day, I planned a city bus tour in combination with a tour of Alcatraz. My friendIMG_1697 Tony flew in from NY and we did the tour together. An incredible, spooky place, this fort-turned-prison-turned-tourism goldmine presented some real food for thought about the prison system – which remains an issue in the States today – and about the nature of justice more broadly. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with that as I’m already running long. Finished off the day by having rich clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and a Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae. We went to a couple of bars on Polk Street before heading back to the hotel.

I had an unbelievable time in SF. The hotel was perfect, the sites were picturesque and the weather couldn’t have been better. And maybe I became a little more culturally aware in the process? Thank you again Killam for helping me with the cost of this truly memorable trip.

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Can’t believe the semester is more than halfway done, with so much left to do! Open offer: if you’re in the city give me a shout and we can talk/hang out somewhere fun. If not, I’ll be in touch in a couple of weeks.

Happy first day of spring!

Sam

Exploring the Latin Quarter

The past Saturday, my French professor for the History of Paris class took us on a walking tour. We explored the Latin Quarter (the 5th arrondissement, called Latin Quarter because of the high concentration of universities and places of learning), taking a winding route that passed by the Panthéon, through Rue Mouffetard and ended at Port Royal. Having lived on the left bank of Paris for 7 months, I believed myself quite familiar with the area. Even still, the walk was an enlightening experience.

I thought I would share some of the interesting things I learned on the walk:

Panthéon - The iconic Baroque Dome is sadly covered for maintenance

Panthéon – The iconic Baroque Dome is sadly covered for maintenance

1) Le Panthéon: it is built on incredibly soft ground that renders the whole structure unstable. To partly fix this problem, all the windows in the Panthéon have been covered. You can see the outlines of at least 8 windows in the photo to the right. It makes for a very dark and sombre interior, but certainly adds gravitas to the building.

Panthéon is famous for its crypts that house some of the greatest French intellects and Republicans – from Voltaire and Rousseau to Émile Zola and Victor Hugo. It is a veritable history lesson, but I will always find it funny that Victor Hugo, Émile Zola and Alexandre Dumas share the same room in the crypts.

Panthéon necropolis - central room. Voltaire and Rousseau are given the place of honour in the biggest chamber of the Panthéon

Panthéon Necropolis – central atrium. Voltaire and Rousseau are given the place of honour in the biggest chamber of the Panthéon

We did not go inside the Panthéon on the walking tour, but since I have been here previously, I will share a few photos of how the underground sections look like.

Panthéon Necropolis

Panthéon Necropolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remains of the Wall of Philip Augustus

Remains of the Wall of Philippe Auguste

2) The partially demolished three-storey tall wall may seem an innocuous part of the city landscape, but it is actually a 12th Century Paris city wall. More precisely, this is one of the remains of the Wall of Philippe Auguste, the oldest and innermost city wall in Paris whose exact boundary is known.

The physical structure of Paris is hugely influenced by its many city walls. Most these walls are destroyed when the city expanded. But they are replaced by the iconic Grand boulevards, the Marshals boulevards and the periphery boulevards.

One of the early source of annoyance for me was the fact that street name changes as I progressed from one end of the road to another. The explanation lies in the fact that name changes often signal the site of previous city walls. The street Saint-Jacques becomes Faubourg Saint-Jacques past boulevard Port Royal because that was where the Philippe Auguste wall was located, delimiting Paris from the country-side. There are also several very interesting street naming conventions on which I would recommend people do further research.

Saint Étienne du Mont Church

3) Église Saint Étienne du Mont: this Church near the Panthéon was originally named after Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. It has a beautiful interior, incredible organ performances on Sundays, and houses the tombs of Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine.

Literally in the shadows of the Panthéon, this church is often overlooked. But it is definitely something to see for those in the area.

Until next time!

Plankton Metabolism, Seagrasses Continued, & Wonda

Hej hej!

Time is flying here in Lund. Hard to believe I’ve been living in Sweden for close to seven months now. The past couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy in my Aquatic Ecology class. We were given a new project to complete in groups of three regarding environmental change and plankton metabolism. Although the groups worked independently from one another for the majority of the project, we all worked together in executing the experimental design. We specifically wanted to assess the impact of increased temperature and increased dissolved organic material (DOM) on plankton metabolism and community structure. We therefore designed an experiment with four treatments; 8°C, 8°C+DOM, 12°C, and 12°C+DOM. The water sample used was collected from the Baltic and divided into 16 buckets (four replicates per treatment) after removal of zooplankton. The remaining organisms were phytoplankton, ciliates, flagellates, and bacteria. Each group looked at a different aspect of community metabolism, such as primary production, respiration, chlorophyll a biomass, community composition, bacterial abundance, and bacterial production. What made this project particularly unique was that although we carried out our analysis independently, the results were shared among all the students. Groups then had to use these results to create a report that linked everything together. That is, we were able to discuss how the community was responding, verses the response of only one individual organism. Why is this interesting you might ask? Well, I find it interesting because organisms do not exist in isolated systems in the natural world. The purpose of scientific experimentation is to try to explain what is occurring in nature. Although it is much easier to study an organism in isolation, since it excludes confounding factors, it can also lead to false conclusions because the study has removed the other interacting organisms. Monday at 4pm was the report deadline. My group and I managed to submit our paper a whole seven minutes early, plenty of time to spare

In addition to working on the aforementioned report, I have also been dedicating time to preparing for my 20-minute presentation on seagrass reddening this coming Wednesday. Like me, you’re probably wondering how on earth someone can talk about seagrasses, particularly on the topic of leaf reddening, for 20-minutes. Well, let me tell you… I have absolutely no clue. Actually, that’s not completely true. I think I can easily fill the 20-minute time slot. My concern though is how I can present this topic in such a way that my audience, a.k.a. my fellow classmates, find it interesting. As the presenter, I do feel it is my responsibility to gain the attention of my audience and I take this matter rather seriously. Why? Because what good will my own future research do if I cannot convey my ideas and findings to colleagues? Tricky tricky business these presentations are. I still have one more full day to prepare, but then the day of reckoning will be upon me (cue foreboding music).

Finally, I have to tell you about my kick-ass little red bike. I bought her at an auction during the first week of September. She had two flat tires, one working gear, and a chain as dry as the desert. Following a few Google searches, a couple of DIY YouTube videos, and a trip to the local bike shop, I was ready to begin her revival process. After applying a little TLC, Wonda (she needed a proper name of course) was ready to go, and man can she fly! I often wonder how much faster Wonda would be if I only fixed her rather prominent rear tire wobble, present due to the untimely disappearance of three spokes. Initially I was just putting off her spoke maintenance because of the cold, which was further exasperated by my winter laziness. However, after making it nearly seven months with this mad wobble, well, now it seems like a bit of a challenge to see if she can last until June. Come on, like you wouldn’t do the same…

Until next time,

Abby

¡Fiesta!

“What happened last night?” is a question that gets asked quite a bit around here.

First, a disclaimer: I am not prone to debauchery. That being said, I’ve learned over the past few months that going out is not only an inevitable part of the exchange life, but also Spanish life in general. It can be anything from a couple of drinks and tapas with friends one evening to completely wild weekends. I’m usually somewhere in the middle, which is already a big upgrade from my library-camping life back at U of T.

In Spain, things usually start late and end late, and the night-life is the clearest of examples. First of all, it’s considered abnormal here to have dinner any time before 10pm. People then meet up for drinks around 11 or midnight, head out to clubs around 1, and then party till 5 (or later). In Canada, we usually start our nights around 10 and most places shut down around 2:30.

While we might not party as late and as long as Spaniards do, I definitely miss the music scene in Toronto. In Madrid, electro, house, techno, dubstep and everything else that sounds like robots having seizures, is 90% of what you’ll hear in clubs. The pop music that does occasionally come on is usually a little old and the hip hop (which unfortunately almost never gets played) is often much older.

But even with picky musical taste like mine, it’s really easy to have fun on a night out. One of the places I’ve been back to a few times is called Kapital. It’s a HUGE club with 7 floors, each with a different vibe. Also, Kapital and the other big clubs in the city centre are really popular with exchange students and other young people who are in town for the weekend, so they’re good places meet people from different countries.

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There’s so much more worth highlighting, prices, do’s and don’ts, stories, etc, but I’ll just sum it up by saying this: Madrid knows how to party. The night life out here is definitely one of the city’s best experiences and I recommend it to anyone who gets the chance to come by.

Until next time,

Jonny K

Berlin: A Must-See

If you ever find yourself in Europe, deciding where to travel to, consider Berlin. It’s one of the most visited cities in Europe but there’s nothing overrated about it. And for such a busy city, the pace of life is surprisingly leisurely.

If you don’t know where to stay, I recommend looking at places at Airbnb. You can find a place almost anywhere in the world, it’s much nicer than a hostel, and cheaper than a hotel.

So, if you happen to find yourself in Berlin, navigate yourself to the Berliner Dom. It’s the largest cathedral in the city, and it’s quite a sight. I’ve come to think of it as a better version of St. Paul’s in London.

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There, you can pay 4 euros to go inside and marvel at this beauty…

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.25.42 PMIf you’re feeling adventurous, you can also climb all the way to the top, where you’ll get an amazing view of the city.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.25.52 PMUnlike St. Paul’s, nobody will rush you along. You can take your time and catch your breath.

Near the cathedral, there are a bunch of museums in a cluster called Museum Island. We only visited one of them, The Pergamon, but the rest were quite impressive from the outside.

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Of course, you must also see the Brandenburg Gate. You can take a 20 minute stroll down Unter den Linden, one of the main streets, to get here from the church. My friend and I did this walk three days in a row, watching the sun set at the end of the street by the gate. By the time we got there, it was usually night time.

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One time, it wasn’t.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 3.18.22 PMAnd then there’s the sight that everyone comes to see. The East Side Gallery – part of the original Berlin Wall. The piece of the wall extends over 1km and it makes for quite a nice walk on a sunny day. There’s far too much art to capture and it changes daily, with people adding their own contributions to the murals.

Friends will be made, laughs will be had.

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Once you’ve covered all the tourist bases, you have to have a picnic in a park. It’s the Berlin way, after all. Perhaps you’ll be lucky and you’ll end up in a park next to a flea market, where a jazz funk band accompanies your lunch and there’s not a cloud in the sky.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.26.56 PMAnd then if you have time, check out the Berlin Zoo.

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Just go to Berlin. Trust me, you’ll have a blast.

Talk soon,

Veronika

Poland: An Adventure of Discovery for Me

The Palace of Culture and Science at night

The Palace of Culture and Science at night

For the past eight days I travelled Poland, visiting three major cities with friends I had made while studying in Berlin at the Humboldt University. During the trip, many laughs and fun times were had and overall it was a great week excursion. Wrocław, Krakow and Warsaw were the cities we visited and this entire trip opened up a whole new country, culture and history to me, all of which I did not know much about before. Oh and of course the food! But I will get to this part later on.

Perogies!

Perogies!

We took coach buses for our travels. In particular, the company ‘Polski Bus’ took us everywhere we needed to go. All the buses were fully loaded and super cheap. For example, our bus ride from Wrocław to Krakow, which lasted about four hours, cost only 1 złoty, which in conversion to the Euro, is only 25 cents! It even included complementary snacks and drinks along the way! This comparison speaks to the entirety of Poland, I would say. The prices of food, drinks and city transportation for example are inexpensive in contrast to many other cities (Europe and North America) that I have been to.

Ordering my obwarzanek from a typical street vendor

Ordering my obwarzanek from a typical street vendor

We first spent one night in a hostel in Wrocław. We stayed in the city centre which was surrounded by many historical buildings and rivers. We visited many old churches and landmarks, finding our way around with a tourist map. We then spent three nights in a hostel in Krakow, the second largest city in Poland. The hostel was called “Let’s Rock Hostel” and I would really recommend it to anyone who wants to visit Krakow. The staff were extremely friendly and always there to help you with anything you needed. There were even themed evenings; for example we drank sangria one night and ate waffles another.

Krakow- Cathedral beside the Wawel Castle

Krakow- famous cathedral beside the Wawel Castle

On one day, we went on an excursion to the Auschwitz concentration camps. We took a bus from the main station and the journey was about an hour and a half. I visited two concentration camps before, but nothing compared to this one. The content was heavy and the themes were deep. The entire set up of the experience was very well done, with documentation, artifacts, authentic buildings, information panels and pictures explaining the camp’s history. If anyone plans to visit in the future, it takes a whole day; there is so much to see.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

On another day, we jumped on a free walking tour of the city. The entire history of Krakow was narrated to us and we visited the most important sights to see such as the main square, Wawel Castle and St. Mary’s Basilica. Walking tours are great- you get to walk around and get some exercise, breath fresh air, enjoy the sights, all while having someone explain to you the history of the city, pointing out important landmarks. Afterwards, we went to Oskar Schindler’s former factory, which was turned into a museum dedicated to Krakow’s history of German occupation during the Second World War. In particular, I enjoyed the section about Schindler himself and his role within the city. Like from the movie, “Schindler’s List”, pictures and documentations were given about the history of the man who saved the lives of over 1000 Jews through the running of his factory.

The Palace of Culture and Science- beautiful architecture

The Palace of Culture and Science- beautiful architecture

One viewpoint from atop the Palace of Culture and Science

One viewpoint from atop the Palace of Culture and Science

Finally, the last stop of our tour took us to the capital city of Poland, Warsaw. With much thanks to a Polish friend of ours who also studied abroad for the first semester in Berlin and who currently lives and studies in Warsaw, we were able to stay at her apartment for the duration of the trip. We all did a free walking tour again, which allowed us to visit some of the important sights of the old city. Our guide was hilarious, so it made the experience that much more enjoyable. We visited the top of the ‘Palace of Culture and Science’, a building built by the Soviets in 1955. The architecture was impressive and being located within the centre of the city, it offered an amazing 360 degree view of Warsaw; definitely a highlight of the week. We also went to the ‘Warsaw Uprising Museum’. It was very well displayed and the content was great; weapons, artifacts, movie clips and documents were displayed. There was even a full-sized bomber plane hung up on the ceiling! The entire experience there reminded me of our ‘Canadian War Museum’ in Ottawa. This museum is a must if anyone ever visits Warsaw. It speaks directly to the courage and strength of the Polish fighting spirit during the German occupation of World War Two.

A massive memorial/list of names of the Polish insurgent soldiers killed during the Warsaw Uprising

A massive memorial/list of names of the Polish insurgent soldiers killed during the Warsaw Uprising

And again thanks to our host friend, I was introduced to the amazing world of Polish food! This part of my Polish experience was one of the best portions (no pun intended). Our first stop was at a traditional Polish restaurant which served authentic Polish cuisine. Here I ate perogies and they were absolutely phenomenal. It is a sort of dumpling which is made of dough and the inside is filled with different ingredients ranging from meat, to a type of potato-like filling, to cabbage, to cheese. They are boiled and then fried in butter: pure deliciousness! I also had a hot beer with this meal (shots of flavour such as ginger and raspberry could be added upon request).  It was alright, but I think next time I will stick to a good old ice cold beer 😉

Also, before when I was in Krakow, I also ate an obwarzanek, which is pretty much a pretzel. They are a known specialty within the city, as the street vendors were literally everywhere to be seen. It was really cheap and fresh. Back now to Warsaw, we went again to the restaurant but this time I ate the recommended flaki. It is a beef soup, which literally translated, means “guts”. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound too appetizing, but it was amazing. Let the taste do the talking, not the sound or impression of the ingredients! Finally, we all tried zapiekanka, which is sort of like a long-shaped baked pizza made with mushrooms and cheese. I would say it is more a take-out, fast eating type of food. Again, it was inexpensive, yet very filling and of course, like all the food I tried, truly appetizing.

My zapiekanka. This one had bacon and garlic sauce

My zapiekanka. This one had bacon and garlic sauce

Flaki

Flaki

So Poland, what can I say? You showed me a country rich in culture and you have a lot to offer to all visitors. I had a great time this past week and it didn’t hurt the wallet at all. I tasted amazing food and learned a lot about history firsthand through the museums we visited and the tours we took part in. Before I head back to Canada, I will visit Poland again because I had such a good time. Furthermore, I will definitely be going to the annual Polish Festival that we have in Toronto- I always heard about it, but never went. I just did some research, and it is actually the largest Polish festival held in North America. I need to get my fill of perogies somehow!

My first zapiekanka was so delicious, I ordered another one: salami and Mexican sauce this time

My first zapiekanka was so delicious, I ordered another one: salami and Mexican sauce this time

Snapshots

How’s it going everyone? Semester/midterms going ok? I got a great reply to my most recent blog post – thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it made my day!

Looking back on the past couple of weeks it was hard to think of a coherent theme, so I thought I would post some of my favourite pictures and provide a small explanation for each. This week my journalism class is focusing on photography and photojournalism, so putting up a few slices of life from the semester definitely seems appropriate.

Why you no study enough?

Why you no study enough?

This is a portrait that I call ‘Disapproving Dwight.’ It’s Dwight Eisenhower, former US President, and a former Columbia President as well. His picture is at the top of the stairs leading to the course reserves of Butler Library, where it has been for 15 years. It is almost Mona Lisa-esque the way his gaze seems to follow you up the stairs, as if to say “come on hurry up and start studying.” But no matter how much I come to Butler, it’s never enough for DD. I would take this as an example of synecdoche for the academic culture here, where you get simultaneously inspired and intimidated by the figures and names that literally stare back at you when you have an assignment to do.

IMG_0846Go nuts for Cronuts

The yellow sign top center marks Dominique Ansel’s infamous bakery, home of the cronut. The people in front of me are all in line for said cronuts. This was definitely the most popular location in Soho when I went last Sunday, but I really can’t understand why. Worth the cals? Maybe. worth waiting around for 30 minutes when in NYC on a beautiful day…dubious.

actually 99cents!!

actually 99cents!!

Now THIS is what I’m talking about. What could have been more fitting after a stressful interview than a beyond-cheap slice of fresh pizza (fresh because of the sheer turnover rate)?

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I saw this note posted in the Columbia School of Journalism building, where I have my class. No pomp and even less circumstance, an unassuming announcement facilitating the most prestigious journalism award in (arguably) the world. OHH the CSJ is called Pulitzer Hall, I get it now!

Holy Frick!

Holy Frick!

Alright, so it isn’t one of the 30+ museums that Columbia students get into for free, but the 50% off admission still works for me. This is the central part (indoors) of the Frick Collection, a gigantic mansion turned museum, with one of the most comprehensive collections of European Renaissance Art I’ve yet seen. But just as nice as the paintings and bronze sculptures was the ceiling above, the wooden floor below, the elaborate countertops on which priceless vases were perched, and pretty much every fixture in the entire place. Do/did people really live like this – wow.

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Signed up online – kind of sketchy – for a pub crawl in the East Village. It was a great area, accented by four cool venues for just $20. Here we are at Coyote Ugly, where a dance on the bar counter could earn you a free shot – not that I would know from personal experience (maybe if we had gone there a bit later in the night??)

halo lalo

halo lalo

My parents came to New York last weekend and I just had to take them to Café Lalo in the Upper West Side. Absolutely charming and open on very generous hours, coming on a weekend is always a risk, but with a high reward. Oh, and it was also featured in the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail!’

Just got back from the Leafs game, which I’ll talk about in my next blog post.

theme: CANADA! Stay tuned

Until next time!

Sam