Schindler’s Factory Museum, Krakow, Poland

Day 8, Monday, September 2, 2019

We should have pre-booked tickets for Schindler’s Factory Museum today and for Auschwitz tomorrow. There is a chance of getting last minute tickets at both of these sites so we are up early for our 45 minute walk to Schindler’s Factory today.  We arrive shortly after it opens at 8:30 and we are relieved to get tickets. It’s an interesting walk. Here is some street art we see on the way.

I never watched the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ because movies about terrible factual events  haunt me. We visited Dachau years ago when we travelled to Europe one summer with our young daughter. I still remember that day and I know that today and tomorrow will be difficult, but it is something that is important to do. This is one of the signs we read after entering the museum. Jewish people were hung along the train tracks for all to see.
Walking through this dark exhibit about the wall around the ghetto. It was thought that starving the Jewish people was an effective way to weaken and destroy the morale of the Jewish population, especially the young people.

Some of the exhibits as we walk through the museum. This shows the crowded conditions inside a home in the ghetto. The corridors are covered in articles and photographs. There is so much to see and read. More exhibits, this one of everyday life in Nazi occupied Krakow. …notice the armband that Jewish people had to wear so they could be identified as Jews. One of the camps.
A hiding place in the cellar of a house in Krakow. Even though it meant death for anyone found helping a Jew, by hiding them or even offering food or assistance of any kind. many of the Polish people did exactly that.  Oskar Schindler was one of these people. He really wasn’t a man of great character, he lied, cheated and stole what he could, but he was instrumental in saving the lives of 1200 Jews. He also treated the Jews working at his factory better than in any other factory or work camp. There are videos of survivors talking about their experiences during this time.  Some of the people that were saved by Oskar Schindler. Two of the survivors became doctors and one became a Supreme Court judge. Everything in this museum is difficult to watch and listen to, but we need to know and remember what happened. I have heard it said that we need to do this so history will never be repeated, but I wonder. There is so much hatred and racism in the world today that I can no longer believe that something like this will never happen again. It is frightening wondering what the future will bring. We stop for tea at the Modern Art Museum cafe. It gives us a chance to recover form the heavy content of the Schindler Museum.  On the way out I notice this vending machine. Notice the name of the drink it dispenses. I try out the cement bicycles… and Bob checks out an installation in a town square.  Interesting artwork in one of the shops we pass. We cross this pedestrian bridge over the river and we cannot decide how these sculpture stay right upright. They appear to be balancing on cables with no support wires yet somehow manage to stay right side up. We just can’t figure it out. Here is an interesting way to keep an old building while erecting a new modern one!  We stop in at a basilica near the old town which has a very impressive altar. I wonder if it is real gold on all these altars? OK, just did a bit of research and it appears that real gold foil is used. I always peak into open doorways. They are often not very attractive doors but they sometimes open on beautiful interior courtyards and gardens. A typical street side restaurant on our walk back to our apartment. More street art on the way home.

The sky is getting darker just as we enter the main old town square. This church has one of the most impressive altars in all of Poland but there is a service happening so we are not allowed in. There are lots of horse drawn carriages for hire. I was tempted but it really felt like the rain was coming. These are enormous, about a foot high and cost between $14 and $20 each! This guy tried to challenge Bob to a fight, but no luck, so… He tried to win me over!  An interesting sculpture of Jan Matejko who was a 19th-century painter native to Kraków.  He is renowned for his large oil-on-canvas paintings of historical events in Poland.  This street leads towards the train station with its huge attached shopping mall. One more church on the street just before the train station. It was dark inside except for the light shining on the altar. A typical building in Krakow old town… Juxtaposed with the interior of the train station shopping areas. It is huge, three floors with hundreds of very modern shops.

We pick up a few groceries for supper and head home, in the rain. It has been a long day, We walked 21,262 steps!  No wonder we are both tired.

Sintra, Portugal, Day 2

Sunday, October 25

Our second day in Sintra starts out rainy but it is supposed to clear up by early afternoon. We catch the bus near the palace we visited yesterday and head up the steepest, narrowest road we have probably ever been on.  The bus had to stop and back up three times to navigate the hairpin turns.  We were standing in the front of the bus so had a view of the road ahead, which, by the way, soon lost the center line and became a one way road as it was too narrow for traffic in both directions.

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A pretty little fountain on the walk through the park on the way to the Palace of Pena image  It was very misty so we couldn’t see very far but it was pretty.imageSoon we get our first glimpse of the Palace of Pena. This palace was one of the last residences of the Portuguese Royal Family. It is a fairy tale castle with Moorish and Manueline influences and is one of the finest example of Romantic Era architecture in Portugal. This link has more information about the palace and the park that surrounds it if you are interested.   https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pena_National_Palace#image

We enter through this grand gate.image

The next gateway is just as spectacular. Love it!imageThe Cloister is part of the original 16th century Monastery that was built into the present Palace.  It is decorated with Hispanic-Arabic tiles from 1520.image  The dining room has a sculpted ceiling and tiled walls…imageand here is one of the first bathrooms in the Palace. image

I am in the bedroom of King Ferdinand II.image and both of us in the Billiard room.image The kitchen is huge and has the original pots, pans and ovens.image  Next we explore the outside of the Palace.image image image imageThe weather hasn’t improved all that much but we decide to hike up to the Cruz Alta, where there is a carved stone cross.  This is the highest point in the Sintra Hills.imageThe walk up to the cross was lovely.  The park around the castle covers 85 hectares with several historic gardens and many buildings and grottos.image imageOn the way down from the cross we take this little crooked very winding path which eventually takes us to the Valley of the Lakes but not without some detours along the way.image

The view from one of the paths.  That village way in the distance actually had sunshine.image image image imageThe Valley of the Lakes has a castle tower for a duck house. We didn’t see many ducks, but we did see this beautiful black swan.image  The leaves are falling and they are huge!image

We still want to see the Moorish Castle so we hike over there and have about an hour and a half before it closes. This castle was built between the 8th and 9th century by the Moors to defend the local territory and the Maritime access to Lisbon. There was a bit of blue sky but it quickly disappears, along with the supposedly fantastic views from the walls and towers.  On a clear day it is possible to see the Atlantic Ocean, but we are barely able to see the castle! image

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In some places along the castle walls the walkways are not much more than 18″ wide, and there are no railings!image imageWe finally admit defeat even though we have only seen a very small part of this ancient castle. We are cold and wet and can’t see much of anything so we decide to hurry back to the bus stop and try to catch an earlier bus and train home.  We get there just in time and we manage to get a seat for the ride, which takes us all the way to the train station. I am happy not to walk that long curving road from the station up to the Sintra Palace where we caught the bus this morning.imageimageThe Sintra Station is the only train station we have seen that isn’t coverd in graffiti. It has been a good day, but also a long cold, wet day and I am glad to be heading home.image

 

Guess Who is Going to the Ballet?

Nothing really went according to plan today.  I went to the Opera Garnier first, as I wanted to do a self guided tour of the building.  It is supposed to be amazing.

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When I got there, I noticed a message board saying that the auditorium was not available for viewing, so I decided I would have to try to come back another day.  Then I started thinking, decided there must be a performance and went to the ticket booth to see if there were any seats left.  I got a seat for tomorrow night to see the Ballet! It is a Harold Lander, Wlliam Forsythe production. (If there are any ballet aficionados out there).  Here is the blurb if you are interested. 

“Etudes transposes a dance class to the stage. Conceived by Harald Lander who was a choreographer, ballet master and director of the Opera’s Ballet School, this ballet can be seen as a manifesto of classical technique, of its purity, rigour and exactingness. In contrast, two works by William Forsythe, created especially for the Company, shed new light on this academic heritage, deconstructing and reconstructing its vocabulary. In Pas./parts and Woundwork, the choreographer shakes up the codes and boundaries, pushes back the limits and accelerates the pace. Three fundamental works from the repertoire that interact with each other, contributing to the study of the history of a technique which continues to evolve both as an intellectual discipline and as a living art form.”

I purchased  a mid-priced ticket, 77€ and my seat has a railing in front of it, so hopefully I will have a good view.  That accomplished I decided to head over to L’Orangerie  to have a look at Monet’s paintings but on checking the time I realized I would only have an hour or so inside before it closed and I didn’t want to feel rushed, so decided to take the metro to Notre Dame and maybe climb the tower.

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I stop to listen to this fellow and do a quick sketch.  When I showed it to him he was very pleased, he thanked me several times and asked if he could take a photo of the drawing.

Soon I arrive at. Notre Dame. The square in front of it is jam packed with tourists, including me!

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Notre Dame in the setting sun.  Well, the line up for the climb up to the towers was very long and it had been cut off for the day.  Maybe not a bad thing as I am fighting a cold that started yesterday and it is over 400 steps to the top!

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I love gargoyles!  Part of the reason why I want to do the tower climb, is so I can get a closer view of these curious sculptures.  I wander through the gardens behind the Cathedral, take a couple of pictures and decide to go inside.

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There was a bit of a line but it moved quite quickly, and soon I was gazing at the magnificent pillars, arches and stained glass windows.  A mass was just starting so I decided to stay for that.  A lot of it was sung by a young woman with the most amazing voice.  At first I thought it was a young boy singing, but when ‘he’ walked by I realized that it was a young woman.  I only understood a little bit of the service, but it really didn’t matter.  Sitting quietly in this place of worship during a service was a very special and beautiful way to experience Notre Dame.  I did a couple quick sketches in Notre Dame but I was quite far away, so…

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By the time the service was over I decided I needed to go home, which turned out to be a bit of an adventure.  I found the entrance to the Metro without too much problem but after only a couple of stations, there was an announcement and everyone got up and off the train, which then reversed and left the station!  I had no idea why this happened but managed to catch the words Barbes Rochechouart in the announcement, which is the name of the station I transfer at to get home.  Turns out there was a suspicious package so the line was shut down.  I figure out an alternative route and after two very packed trains I am home.  I am hoping for a bit better rest tonight, as I have a four hour drawing class tomorrow and then have just enough time to come home, eat, change and go to the Ballet!

A Peek Through the Big Blue Doors

 

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Another great model today.  I still haven’t spoken to very many people during these life drawing sessions, but I am on a nodding and ‘bonjouring’ level with several of the regulars. There aren’t many English speaking people here, or maybe they are like me, just not saying much.  I did have a little conversation with a woman the other day.   It was her first time here, and between my French and her English we managed just fine.

imageActually, other than the normal social niceties, the pardons, and merci’s, there hasn’t been a lot of conversation happening.  Everyone is pretty focused on their drawing, and most people tuck their finished drawings away at break time, so there is not really an opportunity to make a comment on their work and strike up a conversation that way.

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Life drawing is really almost a form of meditation, there are no thoughts about anything other than being in the moment, seeing and reacting to what you see.  In a way it is important to stop thinking about what you are doing and just let your eye be connected to your hand.  The brain can get in the way, telling us what we think we know rather than letting us see what is actually before us.

This is one of the biggest problems people have when they begin to draw.  They will draw what they think something looks like rather than really looking and seeing what they are looking at. Once a person really learns to see and draw what they see, they will begin to improve their drawing skills quite rapidly.

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The drawing sessions have a schedule for poses; the noon class has 3 x 5 minute poses, + 2 x 15 minute poses,  repos ( rest) for 15 minutes, 2 x 20 min, repos 15 min, 2 x10 min + 5 x 5 min.  I do kind of miss the fast 2 minute warm us we usually start with back home, but getting used to this routine.

As I was getting ready to leave, the model for the next session arrived and I was so tempted to stay for another three hours.  I decided to head for home, as I plan on doing both sessions tomorrow. There is a male model the second session and there aren’t many male models. Only four for the whole month; I missed the first two and there are only two more sessions with a male model, and one is  tomorrow.  I’m curious if this is because most people want to draw females, or if there is just  a shortage of men who want to model?

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This is my favourite Metro line, the M4.  It takes me to my drawing class in about a half hour.  The only reason there is no one waiting is because the train just pulled away.   Notice on the board, that another one  is due to arrive in just one minute!  I am still amazed at the efficiency of the Paris Metro.  This morning the train was absolutely jam packed for the first five stops, standing room only, and squishy standing room at that! Some people needed to step off the train so that the doors could close; it was quite the experience. We are so used to a bubble of personal space around us, and that is certainly not the case on these packed trains. My face was inches away from several people and somehow it was OK, everyone is very polite and of, course, everyone is in the same situation.

imageTaken through the window on  the M2.  All the stations have brightly coloured chairs.  Usually there is a big advertising poster on the wall, but this station had graffiti, which, by the way, is absolutely everywhere.  Most of it is just vandalism, but I have seen some rather interesting graffiti that would be classed as street art.   I’ll post some of that another time.

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And, this is where I do my blogging.  I do have a table and chairs but the bed is very comfortable, I can see out the windows, and rest a bit at the same time.  I am also have on my ‘wash and wear’ top.  I only brought one short sleeved top, thinking it was fall and that I  am usually too cold rather than too warm.  Well, today it was 28, like 33 with the humidex!  It has been way too warm to wear long sleeved tops, so this one gets rinsed out every night.

 

Monet’s Giverny

Today was a long but very enjoyable.  My alarm was set for 7:00 and I was out of the apartment by 7:30, having organized everything last night.  It is two metro rides to the St. Lazare station, which looks much as it did in when Monet painted it in 1877.  It is the second busiest railway statin in Europe, after the Gare du Nord, and I found my way!

imageI just made it onto the train in time.  Turns out my watch was more than ten minutes slow!  Soon I was in Vernon, found the bus to Giverny and a short ride later, arrived at Givernry.

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It is a magical place, with a profusion of flowers, all shapes, colours and textures.  Monet didn’t like an organized or constrained garden.  He planted according to their colours, and let them grow as they wished.  As it is late in the season everything is mature and many of the plants towered several feet over my head!  It is quite the sight.  The paths have all but disappeared, even the big wide path under the arched rose arbours is almost completely covered in Nasturtiums.  The dahlias are numerous and exquisite, so many different colours and shapes of petals.

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imageimage imageI’m afraid my pictures don’t do it justice.  I am having computer problems tonight, very slow connection and then a couple times things just disappeared, rather frustrating.

The garden is very different in each of the seasons so it would be lovely to see it in the Spring…   If you go to Giverny.org there is lots of information about the garden and the types of flowers shrubs and trees planted there.

The water lilies were in bloom and they slowly opened as the sun climbed higher in the sky.

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imageHere is the view from the famous Japanese Bridge we see in so many of Monet’s paintings.

imageThe house is so much bigger than I expected, it is 40 meters long but only 5 meters wide!  There was no access to his two large studios on the property. Too bad, and I just realized when I was looking at the site that I mentioned that I somehow missed seeing the studio that was in the house!  I can’t believe I did that!  There was so much to look at. Oh well, I guess I will have to go back one day so I can check it out.  Although there were line ups most of the day, I managed to visit the house at a time I could just walk right in.

I tried a little watercolour sketch, but it wasn’t the most successful.  I usually work in pastels when using colour so this was a bit of a challenge.

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Made it home but witnessed a lot of yelling by a young woman on the escalator at the St. Lazare station. There were a lot of people around and she seemed to be arguing with at least one man.  I was going down as she was going up, but people looked upset, not sure what it was about.  In any case, I was glad to get home and into my apartment with no problems.

I just got an email that someone didn’t get the last two days posts.  No idea if this just happened to her or to anyone else?  You can check at trudymason.com.  I have been posting every day and hope to continue to do so.