So I’ve been waddling around Warsaw for the past week. As previously mentioned, I’m here for neither business nor pleasure, for a funeral is neither something to profit from nor derive happiness from. What frightens me about life is not loss or change, it’s how quickly we get over them. Everything is so transient and we are so resilient, it invites the bleak sort of nihilism that is difficult to negotiate once it really takes hold. But in the midst of death and the philosophical inquiries it provokes, we are surrounded by life that is strong and persistent. As a result of my coming to Warsaw, I’ve seen faces that I had previously declared long-gone, dead in their own way, now resurrected. I have…
I’m going to Warsaw for my dad’s funeral. It’s a city so interwoven with his character and history that every other conceivable place in the world would be too wrong and too small for him. I’m glad, too, because it’s the only place I’ve ever felt at home.∗
Krakow: A pretty girl who hates being photographed is photographed.
In the center of Warsaw lies a tiny room. The space in the room is mostly occupied by a large Photoplasticon and a few stools. The viewer sits and the Photoplasticon rotates to show three-dimensional pictures of Warsaw from the years 1915 to 1918. This particular photograph shows market vendors working on Szeroki Dunaj in the year 1916.
Take a break in Warsaw’s botanical gardens.
A visit to the Photoplasticon is a delightfully fitting frame for my next point: Warsaw is changing rapidly and blatantly. There are two types of Warsaw of my own label – “static” Warsaw, or the parts of the city that will never change due to historical significance and the honoring of architectural and aesthetic traditions, and “dynamic” Warsaw, the areas that have adopted the modernism of London and the sleek minimalism of Scandinavia. Pre-war brick structures are now being fitted with glass walls and ceilings. Newer restaurants look like the one pictured; this pizzeria also happens to be named after one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, Powazki Cemetary, its neighbor across the street. People don’t discard old things in Warsaw; they simply allow them to grow and change with the times. For better or for worse, this mix amounts to quite a cool city.
Behold: the unbelievable beauty of a Russian autumn in Novgorod.
A friend and I were walking along Novgorod’s residential streets. A woman picked us off the street and ushered us into her garden. Tatiana was her name. She gifted us with kilos and kilos of produce: apples, plums, cucumbers, and homemade pickles. We were positively giddy.
She is so uniquely beautiful.
Hand-carved and painted domovoys. They are meant to protect your house. I couldn’t walk away without one.
If I were a guy, I’d move to Russia (but with that logic, Brazil would work too):
A Petersburg kind of night. I don’t want to be anywhere else.
As tiny children, my cousins and I would play jump rope in their empty schoolyard. It was always great fun, mostly because we played helicopter-style, the only style I could ever manage without skinning my knees on rough asphalt. Little did we know, the metal gate we walked by everyday as children would be destroyed by their friends one night far into the future. The gate would be smashed by a Skoda after their one friend consumed too many beers. Little did we jump-roping children could know, the driver would walk away fine, but the gate that I saw everyday would be severely dented. Confused neighbors and passers-by would see the gate and wonder: “When did this happen?” It would be a fleeting thought as…
Sometimes we revisit places we idealize from our childhood. Sometimes these places meet the grand expectations we develop after years of absence and reminiscing. But more often than not, we go back and things are inherently different. The place has changed and we have changed, and we can no longer view it in the same happy way.
With Zakopane and Morskie Oko, it was magic then and it’s magic now.
The very best of my childhood is rejuvenated with a return to Krakow, this time with copious day drinking and a whole event dedicated to pierogi. I personally took on the responsibility of trying all the flavors as well as the beer, as well as almond-flavored vodka topped with milk. It’s a tough life, I know. It’s August and the weather is properly freezing, the people are just as cold. Dobrze być spowrotem w Polsce. In other news, I have a Tumblr now that hosts photos that can’t be found here or elsewhere. Consider it an auxiliary travel/photo blog, but much less effort than this one.
I arrived to Bucharest on its hottest recorded day ever. What can I say, I do that to places.
Dracula’s hometown manages to attract many visitors, but it’s not difficult to leave the beaten path.
This woman is a Holocaust survivor. She also happens to be as sweet as sugar.
I was bored, okay??
Currently in Krakow; rain is pouring. I am beyond excited to be back in Poland where much of my family is. Obligatory pierogi pig-outs are happening. Trying to stop them would be like trying to pull a large ship to shore with a piece of floss.
After Krakow, it’s off to Ukraine. A bit random, I know, but I have a very important bucket-list matter to tend to. Putting it off any longer would just be woefully irresponsible and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?
The Second World snugly finds its place between the First and Third worlds. These are constructs of the Cold War, antiquated political categorizations that pigeonhole the world as we know it into a neat, fun, digestible grouping of three. The Second World isn’t halfway between ‘developed’ and ‘undeveloped’, but simply denotes countries that are communist or have recently been communist and have retained a certain Leninist flavor in their renovations, despite progressive efforts, in some places, to try to dispel it. In fact we don’t really hear the term anymore, probably because modern day communism fails to resemble traditional communism in any shape or form. Direct observation of China’s version of communism tells me, for example, that it’s little more than capitalism on steroids.…