Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last views of Poland

While we were being driven around, I really noticed the old Soviet-era look to the buildings.  Although you could see some nicely painted and repaired buildings, I would say the majority of what we saw was older, and sometimes in disrepair.

We were told this is a mental hospital.

Apartment building.

Many concrete buildings look like this- like they just need a good power-washing.

Or, plaster and paint just falling off.

This is a railway bridge and viaduct that was originally built in the 1840, but was blown up by the Germans in 1944.  They began rebuilding it in 1947.

We stayed at the Blue Beetroot hotel, which was charming!  Here is my dinner card:

This is the dining room, which is normally open as a restaurant and bar.

Polish goulash, and potato pancakes!

We also took a tour of the city centre of Boleslawiec.   This church is 1000 years old.

These buildings border the market square.

This is a government building, showing the crest of Boleslawiec.

These medallions are under a bridge.  I wish you could tell just how huge they are!

This is a memorial to a Russian general, that used to stand in the town square, and then after the war, it was moved to a side street.  

This is a WWII memorial, installed on the old town walls.

In the city center is a beautiful park, with a lake.

I'm really grateful that I got a chance to go to Poland, even if I only saw one tiny part of it.  I'd love to take a road trip and explore more of the country- especially over to the area of Bialystok/Sidra, where my great-grandmother was from.  That part of Poland is way on the Eastern side, so many hours drive from where we were.

Zamek Grodziek

Before heading back to Germany, we visited Zamek Grodziec, which is a castle that dates back to 1155.  It was hosting a medieval festival that weekend.

This is the gate entry.  We walked up a long winding driveway to get here.  Supposedly this castle is on top of a long-extinct volcano.

Parts of the castle have been restored, and it's really beautiful!  There are guest rooms where you can stay for about $15/night!

Don't try to use this walkway!

You can see which are the newer stones, and which are original.

For such an old castle, it has been preserved well!

The view from the dining room table.

Some paintings on the wall.

The dining room.

Upstairs they have some displays of traditional Polish dress.

Very very old money!

They said this was a bedchamber, but it was huge, and I would imagine it was quite cold in the winter!

We climbed up a few stories, to the room of the castle, to see the view.

Survey your kingdom.

Just one beautiful corner of Poland!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Manufaktura Factory Tour

One of my favorite factories, also happened to be the one that took us on a behind the scenes tour.  It's called Manufaktura, and was a little bit outside the main area where the other pottery shops were.  I love this factories patterns, and their pottery is good quality- nice and thick and heavy.

Here is the entrance to their shop.

They have three nice big rooms full of pottery- all neatly organized by pattern, so you could quickly find plates, or bowls, if that's what you were looking for.

Ah- organization.  You are speaking my language.

This place also sold towels and table linens in similar patterns.

We were taken in the huge factory building behind the store.  We saw this man filling molds with clay. The thick white bowls are the molds, and inside they have the thinner piece of pottery.  The pottery is fired while still in the mold.

Each one of these tools makes a different shape of pottery.

After the first firing, the pottery pulls away from the mold, and it's not hard to remove it.

This company takes orders from all over the world, and produces special patterns and sizes for each place, upon request.

I was so worried I was going to bump into a shelf and break something!

There was a room filled with painting tables.  These women are among the highest paid workers in this area.  They are trained here on the companies special patterns, and eventually they are allowed to develop their own artisan patterns.  

Each piece is turned very quickly.  They use brushes and stamps.

The last step before the final firing, was an additional glaze.  Although it looks opaque, it dries clear, and the colorful patterns can be seen.

It was really cool to see how much work goes into these pieces- and it really explains why they cost so much!  In the United States, a Polish Pottery plate could cost around $40+, and if you come here to Poland you'll pay about $15 or less for it.  I came home with 4 boxes full!

Polish Pottery trip

I really really REALLY wanted to get to Poland while we are stationed here, and it was looking like it wasn't going to happen.  It's a good 9 or 10 hour drive, and what I mainly wanted to do was go pottery shopping. I've heard of groups of friends filling up a car with people and doing a 3 day weekend trip, splitting the cost of gas and hotel- but it just didn't work out for me to do that.  So- I signed up for a USO bus tour.  We rode overnight Friday night, arrived early Saturday- shopped all day Saturday, then spent the night at the Blue Beetroot hotel.  Did a castle and a little more shopping on Sunday, and were home Monday morning around 2am.  Although it was hard to get good quality sleep on the bus, since I'm used to traveling with children, I had no problem!  No one to feed, no emergency bathroom trips, no one begging for snacks, or toys, etc.  I did a little reading, and made some new friends- it was great!

I first found out about Polish pottery from the folks at The Extra Ingredient, in Greensboro.  Since my family is Polish, I was already drawn to it- but I also love the mixtures of patterns and colors.  None of what I already have matches, so finding more would be easy.  I also studied the stamps on the back of the pottery to figure out which factory it came from, so I could be sure to get similar sized plates, etc.  Lastly, I took pictures of everything I had on my phone, and brought them with me to reference.

They announced we were getting close to the town of Boleslawiec right as the sun was coming up.

This was our bus- every person got 2 seats, and there were a few open rows.

This is the first place we went- called Andy's.  They are in the process of building a larger showroom and factory, and today only had one room open for shopping.  And it was really small!

We packed a whole bus full of people into a small room!  It was overwhelming- and hard to know what was a good deal.  I saw a few patterns that I liked, but mainly tried to take note of the prices.  After all, I knew we were headed to another 8 (or more!) stores after this one! 

Boleslawiec is known for its pottery, because of the clay soil that is in this region.  It is so pure and strong once it is baked into pottery.  Here is another little shop that was down the street- take note of the interesting power pole.  It was made out of cinder block material.

Each store offers things a little differently.  You have to carefully check the pieces for their Quality number- which is on a stamp or sticker.  The best, and most expensive are qualities 1, which are essentially perfect in shape and painting.  Quality 2 is close to perfect, but normally has one tiny flaw in the painting- you can still cook in it and use it- and many of the flaws are impossible to find..  Anything 3 or lower you wouldn't want to cook in, because it has some sort of structural or shape flaw, and could crack.  But if it's a decorative piece, it may not matter to you.  I stuck with all 1 and 2s, because a lot of what I was getting was a gift, and I would hate for someone's gift to crack when they use it!

When we left the store to head to the glass factory, we passed this cemetery.  It was really beautifully landscaped, and every grave was raised up and decorated.  It looks so different than an American cemetery, that I just had to take a picture.

This is the sign for Borowski, glass blowing factory.  They ship their creations all over the world.

We got a tour, and could see the workers.  They move so fast! 

It was amazing to me that there were so many people working so close together, and so quickly.  I wonder if anyone gets burned by accident?

Here is their showroom.  The smaller pieces were around $100, and the larger ones close to $1000!

These huge lamps are over $1000!  And gorgeous!

At least we got to the factory I was waiting for- Ceramika Artystyczna.  Most of the pottery I have comes from this factory, because that is where The Extra Ingredient gets theirs from.  It's really high quality, so one of the more expensive factories- but I could immediately see the difference.

Their shop is one big long room, and the pottery was stacked from floor to ceiling.  It was so hard to walk around, and in order to shop you had to pick up pottery and move it.  My arms were tired after 30 minutes of shopping!  But- I got plates and bowls of the same size and shape that we already had, in some new patterns.  I'm so happy!

This factory made a pattern specifically to be presented to Pope John Paul II.