Wednesday, 8 July 2015

On towns and people

I really like this town. It is pretty and a pleasure to visit. But there are things that trouble me. Or, rather, things that stimulate thought.  I have spent some time in the Jewish Quarter.  You can still get a sense of the small shops and houses that jostled with grand synagogues in the years before WWII.  At the same time there are trendy bars and clubs.  The area is becoming the Shoreditch of Krakow and its Jewish history diluted to a Fiddler on the Roof, sanitised with sentiment.  Restaurants themed as Jewish shops from the 1920s cannot convey the reality of livelihoods hard won and the terrible events that were to come.

And now, on to Dresden as we head West.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Bovifacts, Shoading, Invisible Nomads & Exotic Artefacts

Attending an academic conference on a subject about which you know nothing is the intellectual equivalent of power lifting.  It takes an inordinate number of brain cells.  So, Archaeology of the Egyptian Western Desert:New Ideas and Concepts proved demanding and often unintentionally funny.  For a start, I learned that academics should not be allowed to use PowerPoint; they are really rubbish at it.  Then, they use words that make you wonder whether they have just pulled letters out of thin air.   Bovifact, a stone thing made by being trampled by cattle.  Shoading, small scale surface extraction of minerals.  And exotic artefacts, that is stuff you find which must have come from somewhere else.

Mental note; use of the above in a sentence today.

I spent the afternoon avoiding archaeologists but found them again in the evening at the welcome reception.  I continued the anthropological field work with this strange species.  I observed that if you provide them with food and alcohol they will eat the food and drink all the alcohol thus rendering themselves incapable of sentient conversation.

I left the tribe, clearly about to embark on some arcane ritual.  But recording that must wait until another day.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

From Old Germany to Poland

Today we have travelled to Wroclaw with its wonderful main square and across industrial Silesia to Krakow.  The overriding theme or question has been about the huge transfers of populations after WWII.  200,000 Germans were expelled from Wroclaw.  And then the same number imported from Russia.  And I think of the migrants I saw a couple of days ago in Calais.  The old border is not far from here. 

A Russian chamber choir sang in the main street of Krakow tonight.  Poles joined in the folk songs they sang with energy and skill.  From my window I can see the house where Karol Wotywa lived in when he was Archbishop of Krakow.  Before he became John Paul II.  And that sparks some thoughts because, in a past life I met him on severl occasions.  This morning I went to Mass and saw Polish Catholicism in action. Sturdy and strong but ageing. 

More tomorrow

Saturday, 4 July 2015

10,000 Trabants

So we are off.  My mobile has died and I am reliant on hotel wifi.

I was going to write yesterday about the asylum seekers and stacked lorries around Calais.  Ill come back to that.

But last night we ended up in the town of Duderstadt.  It is a wonderful medieval town and we stayed in the Hotel Budapest.  Owned by Hungarians from Osijek in the Former Yugoslavia.  Over slivovitz the owner told us of the day the wall came down.  He said that there were suddenly 10,000 Trabants in this town where, by his own admission, nothing happens.

We are using the 1936 Baedeker Touring Guide published for the Berlin Olympics.  It is an extraordinary and sometimes chilling thing.  Did you know that the Heil Hitler salute has taken the place of doffing ones hat?  Well according to the guidebook it has.

Tonight we are in Swidnica, which I would like to think is the Polish for Swindon.  And we are in the Red Baron Hotel named after Baron von Richthofen, the WW1 fighter ace shot down by the British, Australians, Indians, Canadians, French...take your pick.

The hotel has been refurbished with EU money.

Tomorrow is the Greek referendum and I am in a town built by the Germans and lived in by Poles is time we had some bigger thoughts and discourse about Europe.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

It seemed like a good idea at the time

It was a quiet night in the New Inn, Winchelsea.  Truthfully, it's always a quiet night in the New Inn, Winchelsea, and my friend said.  'Let's go to Krakow'.  'Why?', said I.  'Because there's a conference on Egyptian Archaeology'. So off we are going, my friend  Peter and me. Leaving tomorrow and coming back on the 12th of July. 2000 miles, 5 countries and a relatively small Audi. 

Which is not quite an excuse for driving across Europe but is what we intend to do.

We will attend (bits of) a conference on Egyptian Archaeology despite no one in the party being an archaeologist.

More importantly, we'll have a look at Europe at a time when things are really interesting.

But, the first challenge is to get to the tunnel avoiding Operation Stack.

Last night in Winchelsea

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Time to start again

It's been a while but it's also time to rekindle this blog. Time to share some thoughts  and an account of a forthcoming 1000-mile road-trip across Europe.  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely intentional.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Happy Birthday SMCF!!

Last week I was invited to go to a reception held by the St. Matthew's Children's fund, Ethiopia to celebrate 25 years of working with their Ethiopian partner JeCCDO.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the event but, yesterday I received through the post a copy of the film that they launched.  I've posted it below.

I've been lucky enough over the years to get to know Mulugeta Grebru, JecCCDO's CEO and see the amazing work that these guys do with skill and imagination.  We always include visits to their projects on my study tours and Mulugeta comes and talks to the groups explaining what they do and how they are challenged to do it.  So, let me join many other supporters in congratulating SMCF on their first 25 years and wish them every success in the future.