Thursday, 31 March 2011

Holiday?

Me? Maybe it is because I am a lucky boy?

Or maybe it is because I am a greedy boy?

Or maybe it is because the Lady loves Milk Tray?

Scratch that last one, that was just a bit of 1980's nostalgia coming back to me...

But I will be back in a week so enjoy whatever you are upto. And yes, I will probably be blogging about this holiday. Oh, the joys of catching up on holiday time accrued over the past two years...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Corporate Speak

You've been on the receiving end of corporate speak, the way to fire up your workforce, and inspire enthusiasm in them, without actually trying to pay them. It's the oldest trick in the book, pat the dog on the head in the hope that they will work longer, harder and faster for even less pay. Some classic examples of corporate speak include:

This is a new client that we have not supplied before!

(This is our payday - do not f**k it up for us!)


We think you will be a really good ambassador for Plov Enterprises Ltd!

(We are desparate, you are the last person available...)


They expect you to appear at 7am and to report to Mr. Smith

(Wait that's not the worst bit of the terms and conditions...)

You will be expected to XXX, YYY and ZZZ. Please turn up well presented to the premises.

(And also sell your soul to the devil.)

The rate of pay will be £6.75 an hour

(Yes, we pay you so little that the profit you make will barely cover your fuel costs!)

Let us be blunt here, many of us have been on the receiving end of such emails, but this is the first time that anyone has put such a low wage to me. And really, I do work for peanuts, but this is taking the mickey.

Enjoy your corporate foibles for the day!

Monday, 28 March 2011

London Diary 43

Queues are crap to stand in. Come on, I have better things to do, but it's the only free time I got in the day. I got to work the night shift tonight. Building a life on £6.37 an hour, what kind of a life am I leading. Here I am, putting a pittance away. One hundred pounds, what is that going to do for me. A rainy day, that is what I am thinking of. That is why I am saving. Oh what's the use, a hope against hope.

Love, it is a funny thing. You do strange things because of it. I can see right now, in a room in the bank, two members of their staff. The lady wears sharp stiletto heels and while her lover sits, she stands, walking close to his legs. They are talking and it looks serious. She's attractive, approaching middle age, her best days are behind her and she wears no wedding ring, unlike her lover. She struts a bit in the office, the door slightly ajar. Her eyes catch mine and for an instant we can see into each others souls. I see the lies and deception that was fed to her all vanishing in that office. And she sees in my eyes, the slowly fading light of false hope.

It is funny. When we are young, we believe that we are swept off our feet by our perfect love. To find, cherish and grow old together with. To build a family, a future and a legacy for both of us that will stretch far into the future.

But things happen to us as we really begin to live in this world. Those childish dreams of floating castles and moonlit walks slowly evaporate. We realise, slowly at first, that our ideal thoughts and ideals are thrown out of the window. And what is left. Me, penniless, in a bank, clutching onto the small fortune that would not even last me a month should I need to call upon it. She, realising that no matter how much she purrs and tries to convince him, she will always be alone. The hopes and dreams she pinned on him, useless.

She walks out of the little office, and wipes away a tear, to another side of the bank branch, getting ready to sell a personal loan or something equally entertaining. A few moments later, he walks out, looking guilty, a wedding band on his finger. The queue moves forward, and suddenly I am called up to place my cash in the bank.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Census Day - 2011

Today is Census Day.

Once every ten years, we in the UK have to fill out a census. The Office for National Statistics will collect, collate and condense the data into little vats that will be easily digestible so government bodies and local authorities can plan for the future. Plus, the results are released (in a generic sense) for the general public to see how the UK is evolving.

So what will Census 2011 reveal? What do I think?

Well, I think our birth rates will show a slight increase. At the moment we have the fourth or fifth highest birth rate in the EU, but it has been steadily increasing. Will we hit the magical 2.0 children per woman? Who knows? But my generation is having children, anecdotal evidence shows this. As a generation we are far more open to that idea, and it is not just career but family that also permeates our minds.

London's population will probably be booming. Probably around the 7.8 million mark (from 7.2 million in 2001). Now that may not seem like a lot, but for a city that does not have the development of Mumbai or Shanghai, over 500,000 people in ten years is a massive figure. And something that the planners have not yet got to grips with. Sort it out Mayor Boris! It is only a matter of time until we hit the 8 million mark...

I expect employment to be down. Hopefully this is only a blip, but the recession will show up in the Census data this year, as more people will be putting unemployed or studying on their forms.

And I expect car use to have remained stagnant. Again, a reflection of the current economic times with the added factor of booming petrol prices. The census will probably show more people using public transport, motorbikes or cycles to get to work.

Religion will be interesting. In 2001, the Jedi's took over the census, but this will probably not return this year. But along with your personal relationship, this is one of the few bits on the census that does not incur a fine if not answered, so I expect a lot of people to not even bother.

Most of all, I expect the Census to be wildly inaccurate. We know that what we write down will be visible in 100 years time. So in the best traditions of Britain, expect a lot more keeping up with the Joneses. Our census forms will not be outright lies, but we will definitely tweak our responses to look far more respectable that we actually are...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Time to Change!

The last full weekend in March and so it is time for us (along with the rest of Europe) to change their clocks forward to Daylight Saving time or as we call it, British Summer Time. Personally, the clock change does not bother me, nay, in fact it makes me feel more optimistic as it is a sign that the days are getting longer.

Now there has been a lot of talk in the UK about aligning our clocks one hour ahead to follow 'Central European Time', the same time as Spain, France, Germany, Poland - well, you get the message. The same time as most of our continental neighbours. I can see the merits in it. We do a lot of our trade with this part of Europe, we travel there often and the same with them. So there is that advantage. The great thing is that the nights will get longer.

Of course, there are disadvantages. We are moving away from our natural clock, the mornings would become horribly dark. And if you are in Scotland, these differences would be horrendous.

Anyway, I doubt we will change our clocks to Central European Time. Western European Time, or GMT as we call it is too ingrained into the national psyche.

Now, there is a fascinating article on the BBC about time which I thoroughly recommend to anyone. Enjoy the read about a history of time. And enjoy the beginning of British Summer Time...

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Motorcycle Diaries (10) - Enjoying the Spring...

And why not. Over the past week, the weather has been great. While nippy in the mornings, whop cares? At least my backside has warmed up in the summer sun. This week, I have spent a lot of time just outside London. I had a lot of things to do. And I have been riding about on my wee beastie, all around the hills to the south of London. It is actually a really nice place to take the bike, and so here is the view from Newlands Corner a beautiful place in between the commuter towns of Dorking and Guilford, about 15-20 miles from the outskirts of the city:



To be honest, I am usually an urban rider and rarely head out of London, so it is nice to be able to see the countryside - but only occasionally. If I am going to live in any heaphole, London is about as good as it gets for me...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Sun is Back!

Yesterday was really the first day of spring - hooray! So I was out and about in town, busy, as always, but also productive. But here I was on the tube, looking westward as the afternoon was winding down...



Long may Spring live on! The year may be hurtling through, but it is good to get some warmth back into the bones...

And to everyone, thanks, yes, I am feeling better. Ah, the curses of being a left hander trying to do DIY...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Modern Workplace...

Anyone working in a large organisation or for government will appreciate this one. I got this via an email so enjoy! Whoever created this is a genius!












































Saturday, 19 March 2011

I am sick...

...and I am in pain. It hurts when I type. So forgive me, I will be taking a few days out. Kisses...

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Most Awful Superpowers Ever?

We have all heard of Superman (who is basically invincible) or Spiderman (who can crawl up walls). But what about having really awful superpowers. Something like Powdered Toast Man who would fart out bread crumbs, such was my understanding of the fantastic Ren and Stimpy.

So what would be the worst super powers to have. I am not too sure and to be honest, the list is endless. But I will get the ball rolling.

How about having Power Saws instead of hands? Imagine hugging someone, it would juse be bloody mess.

X-Ray Vision. Think about it, no boobies, just bones.

Having a body made out of wood. Yeah, you could see those flames coming towards you...

Anymore? Hit me in the comment box...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Irfan Distribution 3 - 'Distribution'

(You can see Post number 2 here)

I get paid every Friday. And so once a week, I take a look at the film festivals in my inbox and trot down to the post office to spend my wages on postage. For Caution Wet Paint I spent nearly £1,000 on stationary like stamps, DVD's, DVD cases and envelopes. Distribution is expensive stuff, but it is the only way of getting the film seen at festivals. So far I have submitted Irfan to the grand total of 24 festivals. That may not sound like a lot but that is more than three a week since the completion of the DVD's at the end of January.

And unfortunately, every festival wants it done differently. I have said it before for my last film, Jay and Kay Save the World, and I will say it again. Distribution is a thankless task. More so because the turnaround time is sooo long. But it is the thing to do. Just keep distributing. This is a a long and lonesome road that this director walks down...

So this is a thankless task. And one that has a long turnaround time. I do not expect the first replies to my festival hunt until May or June. Although I hope to get more success than CWP, you never know what can happen.

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On a side note, do not think I have forgotten the two little imps at Caution Wet Paint either. Two years down the line, distribution is still going for Jay and Kay Save the World. In fact over the past week, a further half a dozen festivals have received the screener copy and over the month, eight festivals have been contacted about that comedy short. The lag time for films is ridiculous, but that is the way this slow moving industry works...sigh!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Let's Adore and Endure Each Other

My previous post contained this picture:



You can read about the creation of the mural here, but for those who want the edited version, it was created by the artist Steve 'ESPO' Powers. No, I do not have a clue who he is, I am not into the modern art scene of London. In a way I wish I was, but, such is life...

But I really like this mural. For me, it is one of the best pieces of street art to be found in the Capital.

London is dotted with artworks. A lot of it is actually quite dull. Sculptures sponsored by the state or fashionable bits of modern art stenciled into the walls, or the ubiquitous TOX 02.

Why do I like 'adore'. Well, maybe it is its message. It resonates with me, the old sentimental sap that I am.

The Shoreditch area is filled with artists and street art is a common sight across this part of London. All the way from the boundaries of The City right up to the Olympic Park is an arc of artistic humming that still throbs within London. It is a fascinating thing, and I might well be paying a visit to this part of town later in the month (should I get the time). But for now, let us simply adore and endure each other...

Monday, 14 March 2011

Reasons to like London...



The sun is shining outside, and so I feel a little more optimistic than normal. So here are my top five reasons to like this great city of mine, affectionately known as London Town...

1 - Nowhere else on Earth is more of a rip off.

There may be places on Earth more expensive, but here in London, you can be certain that you are getting conned at the highest possible standards. This is not due to war or terror or even a lack of space, but due to artificial inflation based on profit. Marvelous!


2 - A Saturday Night on the Tiles.

In every part of the world, people go out, have a drink or two, boogie the night away and go home in the early hours of Sunday morning. Not here in London, we do things far better. Only in London is your life actually at risk on a Saturday night. From stabbings and drive-by shootings to getting your head kicked in on the pavement on the street outside the club, it is truly a thrilling experience to survive a weekend in London. Who needs bungee jumping? To boot, we are at home and in bed by 5am - now that is efficiency!


3 - The weather.

No other city on Earth has managed to base an entire economic system on the weather. In many parts of the world people get up and go to work. But here in London, the utmost care is taken to scrutinise and study meterelogical phenomena. From the BBC to old wives tales, the weathe ris a continuous source of joy to all the inhabitants of London.


4 - The Passive Nature.

Here in London, you will never meet such polite and quiet people. Get onto any tube train and ask a passenger for directions. Most likely, you will be met with a look of shock that you are talking to him/her. By the time you manage to wangle an answer, you would have missed your stop and will have to backtrack. How very considerate of the Londoner. You see, you get to see even more of the city, a free tour (never mind about missing your flight at Heathrow).


5 - ...

Look, it may be sunny, but I am not that optimistic, okay?

Enjoy your Monday!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Berlin Travel - A quick photo tour

A little postscript to add to my recent Polish holiday, my stopover in Berlin! You see, I found myself with a few hours in between landing in Germany and heading off to Poland. And so I decided that instead of keeping warm inside the legendary Hauptbahnhof, it was better for me to venture into the chilly Berlin air.



My second time in Berlin, and again, another day trip, five years since the last visit. I really do like the German capital and one day, I will actually make a proper vacation out of this place. After all, Berlin is an artistic city of renown and everywhere you go there are official and not so official pieces of expression dotted around the urban area.



But this is a just whistlestop tour, a quick jaunt through some of the famous sites. The next time I am going to make a proper journey here. One of Europe's great capital cities, I cannot be expected to simply flirt with the wonder of this town...

(The Marienkirche with the Berlin Fernsehturm in the background - the EU's tallest structure, covered with low cloud!)



Berlin is a city whose recent past has unfortunately been shaped by war. First, the devastation of the Second World War which basically leveled the city. (For film buffs, check out Der Untergang a brilliant and haunting retelling of the last days of the Third Reich and a stark reminder of one of Europe's darkest moments)

Second there was the Cold War, which split the city between the Communist Eastern Block and the toe hold of West Berlin. It resulted in the Berlin Wall a structure that was the physical manifestation of ideological idiocy which unfortunately divides the two Koreas today and wrought so much devastation during the second half of the last century (with wars in Congo, Angola, Afghanistan and Vietnam to name but a few worthless conflicts).

(Yep that line of cobblestones represents the Berlin Wall)



As I have already mentioned, this is one fascinating city, and I will be returning. When I do, expect far more photos and fun, but for now, let me leave you with Berlin's symbol, the Brandenburg Gate:

Saturday, 12 March 2011

UK Census 2011



Here it is! Every ten years in the UK we the population by law have to fill out a form. For the first time this year, it can be done online, but I have opted to go for the paper version and fill my copy of the census by hand.

Now this is my first census, and let me explain. My first census was in 1981 when I was one years old. The next in 1991 when I was 11. Both times, I was too young to know about it. In 2001 I was 21, but never bothered to fill out the census as I was in Central America, and so it was filled out for me by my mother. But this time, in 2011 at the grand age of 30 (going on 31) I have filled out my first form.

And I purposely chose hand writing. Why? Well, in the UK the census results are released into the public domain after 100 years. It gives me a thrill that in the future my descendants (should I have any) could well look up a little info about me and see my own handwriting (and witticisms) on the census forms. Long after this blog disappears into the obscurity of cyberspace, in an age where information is everywhere but short term, it is reassuring to know that one day, someone, somewhere can see what I wrote and laugh and say to him or herself, hey that was my great-great-grand-daddy!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Blogs I Admire (and will immitate one off) 1 - Skywatch Friday

Now if you want to get a look at some great views of the sky, head over here to Skywatch Friday. A set of bloggers take snapshots of the sky in their local neighbourhoods to show the world the beauty of their sky. As the name suggests, it happens every Friday.

For this week, I have decided to imitate them. Unlike many other parts of the world, Suburban London does not offer the most inspiring set of heavens. Unless you like seeing the aeroplanes. By the by, if there is one Skywatch you should check out, then head to Magiceye's Mumbai eye - where every Friday you will always catch a great Skywatch. I really do admire his snapshots from Mumbai, arguably one of the world's great cities. And check out today's posting (11th March) another beautiful shot of the Mumbai skyline.

Well, here is my one off contribution. My camera is lousy, and to be honest, I have no great rooftops to view off. But I looked up at the sky earlier in the week, and I just wanted to share this view of the moon from my back garden. Enjoy the weekend folks!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Blog of El Director - Terms and Conditions:

Please read the terms of conditions of this blog, as set out below, before proceeding to consume this great piece of information and wisdom from El Director:

1. You agree that by reading this blog, that this is all due to the original thought of Charles Michel Duke aka El Director who shall be forthwith referred to within these terms as The Kinky One.

2. By continuing to read this blog you agree to supply The Kinky One with a towel on demand. No matter where you live in this world, universe or dimension, you, the reader, will be required to produce (in person) a perfectly creased towel to The Kinky One should he so choose to demand of you, the reader, a towel.

3. According to the Laws of Physics, on reading this blog, you must hum the theme tune to Caution Wet Paint. Click here to find out more about Caution Wet Paint and to discover the theme tune behind the Paint*.

4. Not humming along the theme tune of Caution Wet Paint will result in the termination of your brain. You have been warned.

5. On reading this blog, you must learn how to cook Plov. It is of no concern to The Kinky One whether you are a vegetarian or not, you must cook Plov. Here is a recipe for Plov as revealed by The Kinky One. Now go and cook. Especially the vegetarians...

6. You are required, on reading this blog, to look up at the sky occasionally. Just do it!

7. I love you and love me, but let us keep this love strictly platonic. Stalkers and stalkies are very welcome, but should you choose to stalk me, then keep in mind that you should at least tell me that you are stalking me using the comment box below. Otherwise, you do not even reach the level of stalking, merely that of a Peeping Tom**.

8. Should you so wish to terminate your readership of this blog, be aware that I will spank you. Repeatedly. As I enjoy a good spanking, you can also spank me should you choose to continue reading this blog***.

9. This blog is bound the laws of all sane nations around the world. As a result you may not use this blog to create or distribute the following:
Nuclear, Biological or Chemical Weapons, Bad Haircuts or Pie unless the pie is to be consumed by The Kinky One.

10. Enjoy your blogging experience courtesy of The Kinky One. Under pain of the evil eye...


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* - The musician formerly known as Lars Grooven is exempt from humming anything as he is a chilli fanatic and is now pickled.

** - Actualy I like stalkers, except the ones that want to kill me. Comment is free, use the box provided...

*** - I also have a foot fetish. There, I have admitted all my dirty secrets to this world.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

London Diary 42

You were fucking her, weren't you. You little bastard!

I really don't want to hear it. A young couple, in their early twenties. She thinks this affair, his betrayal of her, is the most important thing to ever happen to her. At the front of the bus, arguing. Because he-

-slept with her. How could you, what were you thinking!

Grow up honey, this is not the end of the world. You obviously weren't fucking him right. That's why guys like him come to girls like me. Because you don't know how to-

-fuck her, while I am out working!

Please, little baby, you're not exactly with a kid now. No, I can tell. You're body has not been wrecked by the rigours of childbirth. You don't have the lines of worry on your face, the same lines that a mother has.

You betrayed me. I trusted you, and this is what I get.

The rest of the bus is uncomfortably silent. The driver seems to be ignoring this conversation. I don't blame him. Or her, to be honest, I didn't even look at the driver when I boarded. I just wanted to sit down. My head hurts. My legs hurt. My chest hurts. My chest always hurts. It's the sickness.

Suddenly everything goes silent. The couple ahead of me have stopped their argument. I call it an argument, but in reality, the boy has just sat there and accepted it. The road ahead is blocked and everyone on the bus looks on. The blue lights of a police car's siren block the road.

Someone is dead. You know that. The only time a road is closed like this is when someone is dead and the police are making the area a crime scene. The rest of the bus stirs into life. People start murmuring to each other. The doors of the bus remain open as to let people off. This vehicle is not going anywhere.

The arguing couple get off. After a moment of two arguing, she begins again. Angry, but for what, I do not know, nor do I care. Silly little brats, the both of them. Why she bothers with a man as ugly as that I do not know. And why he still sticks with her is a mystery. If he fucked about, just go. Young and foolish, the both of them.

While me? Yeah, young enough, but getting older too fast. It's the sickness. It is taking over my life. And I hate it. The pills, the constant worry, the carefulness. And now someone is in my life, what do I do? One day I will be gone, far from here, leaving her to hold her baby, alone, again. She has been betrayed so many times, and this time I, or should I say, my body will betray her. She knows already, says it does not matter, but I know when she looks at me, every time I cough, that she is scared.

My head hurts, and it is going to be along time before we get going again. The night is too cold to start walking home. I think I will stay on the bus. At least it is more peaceful, now that no one is arguing anymore...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Charlie's Holiday to Poland (16) - Looking Back...



You know, I have stretched this series of blogs on Poland out enough. So it is time to call it quits and to stop looking wistfully back on memories and to move forward in London town. But before I do, let me give a potted guide to the lows and highs of the magical land of Poland:

Food: Not exactly Poland's greatest export. This is no India or China. The food is generally stodgy, and the cliche of potatoes, cabbage and pork is a pretty accurate description of Polish eating habits. Still, the cuisine is better than Germany or Hungary. Unfortunately, unlike Western Europe, there really isn't that many immigrants in Poland, so you really are stuck with Polish food and of course Gyros. Breakfast, it has to be said is a disappointment. Still, one things that is great is the tea and coffee.

Culture: One of Poland's strong points, and to be honest, some of the most easily accessible in Europe, and that is something I am surprised to say. Europe as a whole is really good when it comes to culture. It is the continent's main draw, and Poland is no exception. The bulk of museums have displays in English, and if not, an audio guide/tour will usually be provided in English, so we are really lucky as visitors. Plus the amount of great hip bars, fantastic cinema and of course the surprise of the lot - opera! I think this has to be one of the most cultural holidays I have had in years!



History: Fascinating. As I have mentioned before, Poland has had one hell of a turbulent past. But that is not to say that the history of the nation is all tragedy. A beautiful culture has sprung from this history. Poland is one hell of an interesting place with regards to its past.

Women: Fit! Hot! Super! Really, I kid you not, the legend of beautiful Polish women is a truth.

Language: This is a tricky one. Unlike, say, Hindi which we may have some exposure to, no one really understands Polish. And reading it sends shivers down my spine. One thing that can be said to its advantage is that the rules are the same, so once you get a grasp of them, it becomes a lot easier. The best phrase I can come up with is Lubię laski Polski - and even then, I know I have screwed that line up! However, people of my age generally speak really (and I mean really) good English. A godsend to someone like me, but it does put a smile on a local's face when you can say please and thank you in their language!

Expense: Cheap by European standards, but not by world standards. Accommodation can get pricey, some museums can be extortionate. Food is reasonable, especially if you eat where the locals eat while internal travel is really cheap. The train, while long, will save you tons of cash!

Looking back on Poland, I will say that I definitely enjoyed the country. I will go back, to see other cities, other town and more of the people. It is surprisingly nice. And to be blunt, I was expecting very little from this holiday, but I am glad I made the decision to come. Krakow really is the unsung gem amongst European cities and it bedevils me to think why it is not as popular as Barcelona. Wroclaw too was an unexpectedly great city to spend a couple of days in.



My advice to you is if you are looking for romance, head to Paris. Adventure, head to Asia. Great food, pretty much anywhere else. But if you are looking for a cultural holiday, with fun things to do in a relatively unexplored part of the world, then head here. You will not find the trappings of Communism left here. No, that departed a long time ago, and this country is very much in the EU. What you will find on visiting is a fascinating land, with plenty to do and very accommodating locals at one hell of a price. Unlike much of the New EU, it has not yet been overrun by holiday makers seeking something new, so head over if you ever get the chance. You will not regret it...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Charlie's Holiday to Poland (15) - Kremowki or the Pope's Cakes...

I may have agreed on the former Pope on a few things. I may have disagreed on a few things. I think there are many people in the world who share the same opinion.

But religious or not, one thing that many of us can agree with Pope John Paul II is this. His love of Kremowki (pronounced crem-Ooof-key).



Basically the story goes like this. As a youth, the young Karol Wojtyła was part of a group of abstinence. Considering this is Poland, and the culture (at least today) pretty much revolves around booze, this was something pretty impressive. Then he qualified from school and went to the local Krewmowki shop. Now back in those days, you had to be an adult before you could go into one of these shops. And so his entering of this shop showed the world that he, Karol Wojtyła was finally come of age and able to enjoy Kremowki without any parental restrictions:



But why did the crowd laugh in the video when he mentioned Kremowki? Well, these delicious little cakes are made with a smattering of alcohol to help the cream settle. And so, the young Pope broke his abstinence vows...

And so it was this speech that set in motion a whole industry in the town of Wadowice. That of making Kremowki, known in English as the Pope's Cakes.

Now, I am not one to normally follow Ecclesiastical trends, but when it comes to eating, who am I to go against such a Holy recommendation?



Mmm, Kremowki...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Charlie's Holiday in Poland (14) - Krakow's Wawel Cathedral

And so onto the second great complex on the Wawel Hill, its Cathedral. Unlike the castle talked about yesterday, its visitor numbers are not limited, and so you will certainly notice the crowds a lot more than in the castle complex. And just like its Royal neighbor, this is a beautiful building both inside and out!



Again, a massive history to the building. Here's the wiki entry, and here's the official website. The Cathedral is dedicated to St Stanislaus and St Wenceslaus (the same guy from the Christmas carol). For anyone wanting to follow in the steps of Pope John Paul II, it was in the crypt of this Cathedral that he celebrated his first mass and it was in this Cathedral that he would later become the Archbishop of Krakow before his appointment as the Pope.

You could tour this Cathedral in just over two hours, but that would leave very little time to admire the view. Because I was dumb and decided to do both Castle and Cathedral in one day, I was rushed. There is a great museum attached to the Cathedral which I never got to see - nooo! But still, the Cathedral itself was gorgeous and I highly recommend the audio guide that comes with the ticket (for a few Zloty more it is worth it). You see, the history of Wawel reflects a lot of the political history of Poland. If you want to find out more of its history (without reading through the list of incomprehensible names) then this is the place to come. To be blunt, running through this Cathedral was an eye opener because of the amount of information that was visualised. This may be only a church, but the past of Poland is very much intertwined with the building.



Inside, as always, pictures are not allowed as this is an active place of worship. But I highly recommend a jaunt up to the bell tower (included in the admission price). The steps are very rickety and to be honest, the passageway is tight for a tubby six footer like myself. But rest assured, it is a fun part of the Cathedral!



And of course, the views over Krakow from the Bell Tower are impressive!



Practicalities:

Located on the same complex as the Castle, the Cathedral is a lot more accessible with no restriction on visitor numbers. You can enter the main knave for free (as it is a place of worship), but to access the other parts of the building, you need to get a ticket.

It is well worth paying a bit extra for an Audio Guide to the Cathedral - one of the most informative that I have ever used. They usually want some sort of ID as a deposit for safe return. Use your driver's licence, as I would personally hate handing over a passport for this sort of thing.

And take your time. I squeezed the Cathedral into two hours, but never got to see the museum, plus this visit was rushed. Take my advice, you need two days for the Wawel complex!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Charlie's Holiday in Poland (13) - Krakow's Wawel Castle



Back to Krakow went I. After visiting Salt mines and Papal Homes, there is one thing in Krakow that looks over the city - The Wawel or Castle Hill. A little history, why of course. Once upon a time there was a fearsome dragon that lived in a cave below this hilly outcrop overlooking the Vistula River. Some brave locals decided to get rid f this dragon, so they filled the guts of goats with Sulphur and fed them to the dragon. The dragon died a fiery death and so the people of the surrounding area could settle and build a settlment on this hill. Then they were kicked out as a few kings thought, hang about, I like the view from here. So the kings established a Royal Compound on the hill over looking the river, while the plebs had to go and found the city of Krakow. Here is a photo of a sculpture of the dragon, below the castle near his cave.



Wawel is big, to be blunt, well, it is huge. The main parts of the complex is the castle and the cathedral. But there are also lots of bits attached to it including little museums of various artifacts and art works, a museum about the cathedral and a museum about the castle as well. All in all, this is one huge area, and to be blunt, one day is not enough to see everything, a second day is needed. I did not have time for a second day, but I got to see a lot. So I will begin with my little tour of Wawel. Today will be the castle and either tomorrow or Sunday will be the cathedral.


(The Cathedral in the foreground with the castle to the right with the red roof in the background behind the cathedral)

The Royal Castle is a grand complex and houses the state rooms, the Royal Apartments and the Royal Armoury as well as a museum to Oriental Art. Rebuilt in the 14th Century, it was continually modified right up until the last century. The inside is lush, but of course, no photos are permitted, so here is a view of the great courtyard which the castle was built around:



To say the building is magnificent is an understatement A gross one. One of the most impressive pieces of European Architecture I have seen. It is also huge, and a lot of the rooms inside are just accessible to the public. I will explain more at the end of this post. But my hint to you is to get here early to really experience the full extent of this massive and impressive building!



The castle is divided into many areas. I got to see a few off them, but being winter, a lot of areas are closed off for refurbishment. And in the photos you will see enough pieces of scaffold and hoardings to show the the work that is being carried out. And you have to be particular about what you want to see, as visitor numbers are restricted to many parts of the castle. But you do have the State rooms open (limited visitor numbers), the Royal Private Apartments (very limited numbers of visitors allowed - 150 per day), Oriental Art Museum (limited numbers) the Museum of the Wawel (Unlimited - yey!), the Royal Gardens (closed for refurbishment) and the Dragon's Cave (closed for refurbishment). Still, what I did see was a lot and to be honest, I do not know how I fitted everything into one day. Still, I guess I am just too cool for school...



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Practicalities:

Lots of them. Arrive early. Open from 9am Tuesday to Sunday, the Wawel is a popular place and I kid you not, tickets are limited for many parts of the castle. However, it is free to wander round the courtyards and surrounding area. There are some stunning vistas of the city.



Here is a hint. If you want to take a bite to eat, there is a coffee shop and a small restaurant in the ticket office. Avoid the coffee shop as prices for a piece of cake and coffee is the same as a piece of bread and soup. Yeah. Don't ask how that works, but maybe coffee is a limited commodity on the Wawel...

Although on the same complex, the Cathedral and Castle are treated as separate institutions, and a ticket for one will not cover the other. My big hint is that if you only have one day is to head to the castle first which has limited visitor numbers before going to the Cathedral which allows everyone in. Avoid the museums as well if you wan to squeeze more into the day. But, more on the Cathedral tomorrow...