Sunday, August 31, 2008

Berlin 2008 - Checkpoint Charlie

There were eight border crossings between East and West Berlin, allowing visitors with necessary permits to cross between the two parts of Berlin. The most famous of them was a crossing point located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße (which, btw, coincidentally means "Wall Street"), popularly known as Checkpoint Charlie.

Today Checkpoint Charlie is an extremely touristy money-making machine. You can spend your euros there in many different ways: you can pay to get "a visa for East Berlin" stamped into your passport, you can pay to have a photo with the soldiers guarding the crossing, you can pay for a visit to "Hause Am Checkpoint Charlie" (which is essentially a museum dedicated to history of Berlin Wall), or even better, you can spend your money on various touristy items like "Berlin Wall" mugs or even "real" pieces of Berlin Wall.

View of the Checkpoint Charlie from the former Soviet sector, on the left side of the street you can see people standing in line to get into Hause Am Checkpoint Charlie:

The photo of one of the American soldiers who was stationed in Berlin during the early 1990's:

Famous "You Are Entering The American Sector" sign:

Berlin 2008 - Berlin Wall/Berliner Mauer

Berlin Wall needs little (or no) introduction. Also little is left of the Wall at its original site, as it was rapidly destroyed almost everywhere. However, you can recreate it in your imagination as it's original location is marked by a row of cobblestones placed in the streets of the central Berlin.

Temporal exhibition presenting history of Potsdamer Platz and Berlin Wall next to Potsdamer Platz with few original pieces of the Wall placed where they would have been if the Wall still had been standing:

A row of cobblestones that marks the former position of the Berlin Wall:

Famous Polish "protest" song of 1970/80's called "Mury" (The Walls) by Jacek Kaczmarski:

Berlin 2008 - Potsdam Square/Potsdamer Platz

Yet another example demonstrating the abundance of free space in the center of Berlin is the Potsdamer Platz.

Potsdamer Platz started as a trading post at the outskirts of Berlin to reach the status of the busiest traffic center in Europe and heart of Berlin's nightlife by 1920/30's. Then again, it got completely ruined during the last days of World War II and for many years it stayed totally desolate as the Berlin Wall cut it into halves. Wim Wenders movie Der Himmel über Berlin gives a good impression of the Potsdamer Platz at the time, if you are curios.

After the fall of the Wall Potsdamer Platz became "the biggest construction site" of modern Europe and within few years it turned into one of the biggest touristic attractions of Berlin.

History closes its circle - the Potsdamer Platz is once again a heart of Berlin's nightlife:

Spectacular roof of the Sony Center:

Berlin 2008 - Berlin Central Station/Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Recently (well, two years ago already...) a new "main" railway station was opened in Berlin. It is quite impressive, both in its size and architecture.

It is located in a very center of Berlin - you can easily walk from it to the Bundestag and Branderburger Gate. Not many big cities can afford (space-wise) to build something so big completely de novo in their city centers. However, as the photo below demonstrates, in the center of Berlin space is not an issue:

Friday, August 29, 2008

i love Nikon :)

This is simply mind-blowing. Nikon released a new SLR camera (D90) that can record video!

If I would be buying a camera today, Nikon D90 would undoubtfully be my first (and only) choice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Open-hands policy

While wandering on the streets of Berlin this year, I came across this extremely well labelled system of pipes outside German Ministry of Finances. I just could not resist to start laughing when I saw it - it seems as they are trying a bit too hard to prove that they have nothing to hide... :)

Berlin 2008 - BaxPax Hostel

During my last trip to Berlin I stayed at BaxPax Hostel, that I can highly recommend to you. It is centrally located, clean, inexpensive, with good atmosphere. But that is also probably true for many other hostels in Berlin. What makes this one stand out from the crowd is that each single room there is painted in different style.

E.g. the room I stayed in had Miro-like paintings on the walls:

Whereas the corridor leading to my room, was full of tele-geometric figures:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Poland 2008 - Road To Hel(l)

I managed to convince my father that Hel Peninsula is well worth a visit, so on one sunny day we got into the car and drove all the way to its end and back. That was an absolutely beautiful trip that we both enjoyed a lot.

Hel Peninsula is a very interesting geographic phenomenon. It is a 35km long strip of land of variable width. In its narrowest part it is only 100m wide and during winter storms it frequently gets separated from the mainland Poland and turns into an island. All along the peninsula run rail tracks, a bike path and a road for cars that cut through the cities of Wladyslawowo, Chalupy, Kuznica, Jastarnia, Jurata and Hel. We stopped in each of these cities, and whenever possible, we walked across them to see Baltic Sea on one side, and Bay of Puck on the other one. We also walked to the furthest point of the peninsula, where the bay waters mix with the sea.

My father at the tip of the peninsula:

Again my father next to the picture showing the furthest point of the peninsula to which we had just hiked:

Museum of Fishing in Hel:

Fishing boats of Hel:

Traditional Fishermen's House from XIXth century in Kuznica:

Poland 2008 - Gray Seals of Hel(l)/Fokarium na Helu

Hel is home to "hooked-nosed sea pig" (Halichoerus grypus), more commonly know as The Gray Seal. During our visit on Hel, we stopped at Hel Marine Station/Fokarium, where I took the photos posted below. As all other seals, also those guys are very playful, providing a lot of entertainment to the spectators.

Poland 2008 - Szymbark, House On The Roof

On the way back from Gdansk, my father and I stopped in Szymbark to see its famous "house on the roof". The house was not as interesting as I expected it to be, but since it was on our way anyway, I do not regret that we went to see it.

The house on the roof:

In Szymbark you can also find Guiness World Records certified "world's longest piece of wood cut from a single tree":

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poland 2008 - Poznan

As I studied in Poznan and I still have many close friends living there, I just can not imagine visit to Poland without stopping in Poznan. Personally, I think that it is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland with a wonderful pub-scene. I can not remember when I had had so much time at the pub, as I had in Poznan's "Zak" where I went with Artur, one of my classmates from the university. People are so nice, friendly and interactive at Polish pubs, that I would not be surprised if you would make a life-long friend during a single night's visit to a typical Polish pub.

Old Market Square in Poznan is absolutely beautiful, both during the night:

...and during the day:

Poznan University of Economics:

The Imperial Castle:

1st of May decor at Pub "Zak":

At Zak, there were many interesting types of people. One of my favorites was this girl with a very original bang:

Poland 2008 - Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortifications

Ania, Moli and I went for a day trip to Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortification System (Miedzyrzecki Rejon Umocniony), taking advantage of the fact that they were open to the public because of the holiday (1st-3rd of May) season.

Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortifications were built on Adolf Hitler's orders between 1934 and 1938 close to what was then Polish-German border as part of preparations for a war against Poland (and Russia). The construction was halted in April 1938, when it was decided that defensive positions in the east of Germany were in fact unneccessary... Then again when things changed for the worse for Germany in 1944 some attempts were once again made to improve and extend the fortifications.

The Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortifications consist of more than 50km of concrete tunnels and corridors, munition chambers, barracks, and secret rooms, buried between 20 and 50 metres below ground. They are considered to be the longest underground defensive complex in the world. They are also famous for being a home to over 30,000 bats (luckily, we did not meet a single one of them).

Small part of these fortifications is open to the public during the summer season and I would definitely think that it is worth a visit. There are many guided tours through the bunkers that last between 2 and 6h. If I remember correctly our tour lasted around 3h during which we walked through 5km of underground tunnels - part of that time in almost complete darkness, having only a few small flash lights to help us see the way... That was definitely a very interesting experience on its own.

Looking at this beautiful landscape, would you guess a secret its underground holds?

Military equipment display at the museum:

Dragon's teeth (tank defences) and 1945 independence monument at Kalawa:

Steel domes of the bunkers:

The underground tunnels of Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortification System, with a flash:

... and without the flash (try to imagine how you would feel walking in such almost-complete-darkness, many meteres underground, and without a clue how to get out from there in case you loose the guide...):

Detailed google map of Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortifications:

Wyświetl większą mapę

Poland 2008 - Miedzyrzecz

As we had a bit of spare time before we could go on our guided tour through Miedzyrzecz Underground Fortification System, we decided to visit a city of Miedzyrzecz. It is a small, but charming place with a 700-year-old castle surrounded by water from all sides:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

one year of visitor tracking

Poland 2008 - Kornik Castle and Arboretum

During this year's spring visit to Poland I was fortune to see blooming magnolias. On one rainy day my dear friend Ania suggested a trip to Kornik Arboretrum, which is famous for its magnolias and many other interesting plants. We were lucky to visit the arboretrum within a two-week window of time when magnolias are blooming. They indeed look stuning, probably even more so we arrived there immediately after refreshing rain. Below are several pictures from this nice afternoon.

Kornik Castle:

Magnolia soulangiana:

Tulip magnolia:

Star magnolia:

Rain makes all plants look greener: