30 March 2009

Warsaw !

Whats that music ? (if you don't hear it, turn on your sound !)

Why its Chopin of course, Poland's favorite son.

This past weekend I went to Warsaw to see the city and, of course, for some lacrosse.

I stayed smack dab in the middle of the city with my friend Glen, pictured above.

Glen is American but has been living in Poland for 13 years. He was nice enough to let me crash at his swanky pad in the city center for 4 days.

I coached a practice for Grom Warsaw (Warsaw Thunder) and on day two I ref'd the 1st ever Warsaw Lacrosse Tournament.

They even let me play for the Warsaw team for one half.

The Poznan Hussars won the day and took home the 1st place trophy, followed by Wroclaw and Warsaw. It was a great time.

I spent Friday afternoon and all day Sunday sightseeing including visits to :

Lazienki Park & Palace

Warsaw's biggest park and home to a beautiful Palace, as well as lots of well kept paths. I imagine it is absolutely beautiful in the summer.

The Warsaw Uprising Museum

If you aren't familiar with the suffering in Warsaw during World War 2, I encourage you to read more about the Uprising here.

The museum is huge and has a very comprehensive day by day account of the Uprising as well as the entire War. Very sad indeed.

Across town is the Uprising Monument.

During my wanderings, I cut through an underpass...which apparently must get littered frequently, look at all the garabage cans !

Warsaw has one Metro line, but I didnt have the need to use it. Although I did go down into the Metro to cut under major intersections.

Like this one...Jerusalem Avenue & John Paul II.

There are Pope John Paul II tributes all over the city as you can well imagine of a Polish Pope in his very religious home country.

But its not all doom and gloom in Warsaw. There are loads of modern buildings. 85% of Warsaw was destroyed during World War 2, so everything is relatively new. Look at this neat building.

Then of course there is the tallest building in Poland. The Palace of Culture and Science, a gift from the Soviet People.

Although its not the furthest East I have been in Europe, its pretty far. Its closer to Moscow then Dublin.

As I am very interested in the historical sites, I also had to see Pawiak Prison. A political prison built in the 1830's its most infamous wardens were the Gestapo.

120,000 people came through this prison during the War. 90,000 never made it home.

Ok so no more gloom and doom. Warsaw is a beautiful city. You need go no further then the Old Town to get the feel of Old Warsaw.

The Eastern architecture and old buildings was painfully rebuilt after the war, restoring Warsaw to its former glory.

I had an absolutely great visit and will plan on someday going back to Poland.

There is much more to see and the people are great.

Not to mention the delicious food, like these Pierogies washed down with a beer. Yum.

20 March 2009

Malmo, Sweden

Malmo is located in the far South of Sweden directly across the Oresund Straight from Copenhagen. Ferries used to be the only way to get across, but just a few years ago they built a bridge...so Kelly and I crossed it via train to visit the Swedes.

The bridge and the roads connecting it are 16km long making it the longest border crossing in the world.

We traveled on a Monday....a very chilly Monday.

Malmö is Swedens 3rd largest city with a population of 250,000

We were disappointed to learn the architecture and design center was closed on Mondays, as we were keen to study some of that famous Scandinavian designed furniture that inspired IKEA and the lot.

So we headed to Malmö Castle.

Its a Renaissance era castle built in the 1530s by King Christian III of Denmark. Not the most impressive castle, thats for sure. Kelly said it looked more like a button factory.

It as also covered in birds and bird poop.

We had a hot chocolate at the cafe and played with our new swedish money.

From outside the castle you can see the Turning Torso, Swedens tallest building.

and you can see a windmill.

So back downtown we strolled...very clean with nifty architecture as you woukld imagine.

It was a nice, lazy (COLD) monday morning.

Before we caught the train back we spent our last 158 Kroners on lunch at Pizza Hut, not one of our usual stops. They had a lovely lunch buffet that was really quite good !

and that was the end of Malmo.

Freetown Christiania

City within a City

Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a partially self-governing neighborhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in Copenhagen. Christiania has established semi-legal status as an independent community, but has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971.

Kelly and I visited Christiania while in Copenhagen. This is the entrance we went in.

Sadly, the glory days of Christiania are long gone. Reading about it before we went didn't prepare us for its very rundown appearance these days.

It is against the local rules to take pictures in Christiania along the main drag "Pusher Street" so I only snapped a few just inside the "city"

There are no cars inside, so everyone uses the famous 'Christiania Bike"

because of the photo ban, I got the rest of these pictures off the internet.

above & below, Pusher Street.

Open Cannabis sales were legal until 2004

We visited on a Sunday morning so it was deserted like in this photo. Lots of mangy dogs wandering about...and plenty of people up very early or maybe still up very late.

At 85 acres, Christiania is about 1/10th of the size of Central Park, but its still quite large. Many of the people who have been squatting there since the 70's have made very cool homes for themselves.

I imagine in its heyday it was a pretty cool place.

It has always been a haven of artists, which is apparent in all the sculptures, murals and gardens you see even today.

The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.

The Christiania Café Månefiskeren installed an outdoor countboard of police patrols on Christiania in November 2005. In the summer of 2006 this passed the 1000th patrol (about 4–6 patrols a day). These patrols normally consist of 6 to 20 police officers, often dressed in combat uniform and sometimes with police dogs.

The people in Christiania have developed their own set of rules, independently of the Danish government. The rules forbid stealing, violence, guns, knives, bulletproof vests, hard drugs and biker's colors.

Although the Danish Kroner is accepted on the streets of Christiania, the official currency is the Løn, which are minted each year. Locals are paid in Løns, and the coins can be used throughout the town. The Løn has been issued since 1997; previously Christianites used a currency called the Fed and, in one year, the Klump

Because of Christiania's self-proclaimed "freetown" status, Danish laws banning smoking in public places (workplaces, restaurants, bars and clubs) are not enforced in Christiania.

Kelly and I had a nice walk through Christiania.The original Hippie vibe is still very strong there and although there has been problems from time to time, especially over the last few years, we felt safe and enjoyed our visit.

We then re-entered the EU via the freetown's totem pole gate.

Next stop, Sweden !

18 March 2009

Copenhagen !

Kelly flew from Dublin to Frankfurt and got on the train headed to Hamburg. I hopped on 2hrs later in Gottingen and we were off on our Scandinavian adventure !

We switched trains at Hamburg. Destination Copenhagen, capitol of Denmark !

What we didnt know was that the train boards a ferry...that's right, the train drives right onto a ferry and makes a 40 minute crossing across the Fehrman straight from Puttgarden to Radby.

You have to get off the train (in case the ferry sinks), so we followed the signs :

Turns out the seance symbol means cafeteria, buts that's ok as we were hungry.

We also changed our money on the ferry, Denmark is not on the Euro so we got some Kroners. I miss the old days when every country had its own money.

We arrived in Copenhagen at 10:15 pm after 6 hours on the train (8 for Kelly...plus a flight...ugh)

After checking in our hotel, we headed straight out to a local restaurant where our waiter was very pleasant and the food scrumptious.

The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast buffet at our hotel. Although we passed on the herring, we did have some very pink salami-ish meat...and chunks of brie...yum

Then it was time to hit the streets and see what Copenhagen was all about. We headed for the main pedestrian only shopping street, the Stroget...much like Dublin's Grafton street.

We did some wandering, of course.

and when we got too chilly, we plopped down in a cafe for some cappuccino...and the best little cookies ever.

We then made for Rosenborg Castle and the Kings Gardens (Kongens Have)

Its a pretty Renaissance era castle built by King Christian IV...there are a lot of guys named Christian running around Denmark...including me.

There were soldiers patrolling around the former Royal residence. As usual, rulebreaker Kelly got shooed away as she got too close to the building in a restricted area.

I'm sure the gardens and castle are more impressive in the summer, but even in the winter it was a neat sight.

Next we headed down towards one of the canals for lunch. We knew we found the right area when we saw the brightly colored buildings, the sails and kids climbing a giant anchor.

We surveyed the menus from 10 or so places until we decided on a Mediterranean themed cafe that had heat lamps outside.

It also had a lovely view.

This is me enjoying the view.

After some bruschetta and too much wine for the middle of the day, we took off again. This time to see some official looking government buildings also patrolled by guards. This place must be important, they wear fuzzy hats.

Now even more emboldened by a half a bottle of wine, Reckless Kelly the Lawbreaker started scrambling behind barriers and even had to be told to get out of one of the red guard stations.

It was everything I could do to keep her from stealing one of their cloaks.

This is the guy who yelled at Kelly. I took his picture, I'm sure that made him happy.

Next stop...the Marble Church.

Very impressive. Saints painted on the ceilings, lots of marble...very nice.

In the last two years we've seen so many churches...but this one was surprisingly impressive.

More wandering followed...lots of statues of Christians

here, Christian X

Copenhagen is very safe and clean (except Christiana, that's a whole separate post)

In the picture below some parents let their kids play with the friendly neighborhood, beer drinking musician. We couldn't stop smiling either, it was very cute.

Dinnertime ! We went to a traditional Danish restaurant that is normally closed on Sundays, but was open for a private party in the back. They said we were welcome to eat in the main restaurant, but they were only serving one dish, we said bring it on.

Frikadellen (Meatballs)...this picture isn't flattering, but they were delicious. Served with warm mustardy potato salad and cool lightly pickled cucumber slices....and a large Carlsberg.

Day two was a day trip to Sweden ! (separate blog post also)

Upon our return we napped, then wandered around looking for dinner.

We found a mini-Copenhagen instead !

and, although it sounds lame, we went back to the same restaurant...it was just that good.

More Danish delights awaited. Kelly had some chicken pot pie looking appetizers that were very good. I opted to gamble and go for the local specialty, Herrings.

The Herrings were in a creamy herb sauce and served with capers, onions and fat with apricots mixed in....yes fat. All very delicious with the local bread.

For our entrees, Kelly had a pork tenderloin and I had a Hamburg steak (Hamburger) that came with an egg on top like Claytons ol' Truckburgers. Potatoes, and more pickles of course....and two.....count'em two bottles of Vino.

After rolling ourselves home, we went to bed early-ish so we wouldn't miss our 730am train.

It was a beautiful day for a train ride....look a wind farm ! You see lots of them in Northern Germany and in Denmark...very clever.

Also a lovely day for a ferry ride !

A quick stop in Hamburg for lunch and to change trains. Then I got off in Gottingen for another week of coaching as Kelly headed to Frankfurt airport and back to Dublin. What a trooper.