Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Travels in 2014 - Poland, London, Copenhagen

It's been over a year since my last post. I spent significant portions of 2014 reading, writing, and traveling. I revisited two places (Poland and London) which I hoped would recall old memories and form new ones for the book I'm writing. Success!

Poland in Spring. Most places seem lovelier in the spring and Poland was no exception. Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, and Opole. People I knew from my two years as a Peace Corps volunteer many years ago, like the Dean of the University of Opole. Deja vu and jamais vu. I changed and the country changed. Former residences and places of work looked smaller because the greenery got bigger in the intervening 20 years. Superficial signs of "The West" like Zara, Sephora, Starbuck's. Comforting signs of the past like my favorite Bar Mleczny (many pierogi were consumed here), "nie ma" (though not as often), concrete, squeaky trams, long train rides with residual Polish cigarette smells (I like this!), gray buildings, beautiful flowers, friendly people. Wonderful art in every city I visited. Strych, a Slow Food restaurant in Opole's Rynek (Town Square). [May 2015 update: sadly, Strych has closed.] New friends like the photographer Piotr Klosek. Walks around Wola and the Uprising Museum. Praga. Krakow's Schindler's Factory and MOCAK. A Woody Allen film at Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science and the Jim Jarmusch vampire film in Wroclaw. Successfully locating a number of Kieskowski's Decalogue filming locations. Castles, gardens, churches.

London in the Fall. Every visit here presents things that puzzle, dazzle, and excite. Fallen golden leaves in the parks, but flowers still in bloom. More great art here: Turner at Tate Britain and Malevich at Tate Modern; The Serpentine and Whitechapel Galleries; Dennis Severs' House in Spitalfields. Gordon Ramsey's restaurant on Bread Street. Bermondsey and Brick Lane. A tart fruit tart at Pretty Cuppa. I relished seeing five friends again from various chapters of my past - but now in a new setting -  and viewing the city through their eyes. Indian food with friends in Croydon. A visit to an old friend in Acton. A stay with a friend in the villagey Putney, birthplace of Thomas Cromwell, home of the Putney Canteen, and the site of a theater that hosted one of the premieres of Gone Girl. Notting Hill's Portobello Road, where I fervently wished I could have had a pound or three every time I was asked where the blue door was. I didn't know then and I still don't know now, though I think I walked by the place used as the bookshop in the film. On my last night in London, a friend and I saw the Nick Cave film 20,000 Days on Earth at the ICA. A sad, reluctant departure back to the States the next morning.

Copenhagen in the Fall. First time here to visit a NYC/Berlin friend. A rainy boat tour. The Little Mermaid statue - much-abused, but always restored to daintiness and larger than you think. Midnight fireworks at the frivolous Tivoli Gardens. Grungy Christiania. No Noma for me, but a tuna melt at Cafe Holberg No. 19 in  Nyhaven did the trick. Sleek denizens in gray and black, elegant, tall, blond. The Meatpacking District, where meat is still packed and art is now shown. Avant-garde architecture at DAC. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a highlight of the trip for its serene setting alone. Getting lost among the sculptures at the Glyptotek.

I travel to shake up my snow globe, to prevent complacence, and to reshape my view of the world and my place within it.