Sunday, January 31, 2010

31/365: The Góra Kamieńsk ski slope

31/365: The Góra Kamieńsk ski slope
January 31st

Today was considerably more exciting than yesterday! Thanks to the spontaneity of a few adventurous friends with access to a van, I ended up on a ski slope. The surprising thing about this is we live on flat land- there are a few mounds and solitary hills scattered here and there, but nothing to be too proud of. And here, just 40 miles out of the city of Lodz, we find a proper ski slope.

The Kamieńsk Mountain (Góra Kamieńsk) is a ski slope set up on the largest elevation in central Poland, an artificial mountain which was the byproduct of nearby lignite or brown coal mining. The mound began piling up in 1977 and finally reached 1266 feet above sea level in 1993. The terrain has been reclaimed for nature by planting a forest and reintroducing widlife- it is now part of a park complex. There is a wind power plant at the top with fifteen turbines:


but the northwestern view is of the massive Bełchatów power plant which the lignite mine supplies with fuel:

Kamieńsk Mountain

Bełchatów Power Plant at sunset

The plant happens to be the biggest thermal power station in Europe, and since its two exhaust chimneys are almost a thousand feet tall, it's no wonder they are visible for miles around. The less glamorous statistic is its 2009 title of the biggest carbon polluter in the European Union.

The slope works year round and has artificial snow machines, but during winters like this they're not at all necessary. I know nothing about winter sports- I tried skiing once when I was ten, so my slate is practically clean. This time everyone decided to rent snowboards, and I didn't want to be stuck trying to ski all by my lonesome.

Now I am sore all over and I am not entirely sure my knees will work tomorrow, but I had the best time, even though I'm sure I looked like a fool.

People having fun.

30/365: Laundry

30/365: Laundry
30/365: Laundry, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.

January 30th

For a slow day, all I have is a last-minute photo of slowly drying bed sheets. I have to hang them up in my room because there is no space for them in the bathroom.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

29/365: Christmas is over

29/365: Christmas is over
29/365: Christmas is over, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.

January 29th

But it is still snowing. January is coming to an end, and soon we will step into February, a month which, in Polish, is called Luty. The word means harsh, dangerous, terrible, menacing, and rightly so since February is when winter is usually at its coldest.

I'm glad for the fresh snow. It brings out contrast in the city, it gives a pure backdrop to things which would otherwise be lost in the mud. Like this discarded Christmas tree.

Besides, it is warmer when it snows. :)

I am having the hardest time picking photos for my 365 these last days, but I don't want to spam up my own blog with too many pictures all at once. Well, as always, there is more to see on my Flickr.

Friday, January 29, 2010

28/365:In the forest

28/365:In the forest
28/365:In the forest, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.

January 28th

Never ever use your built-in flash, they say. Well, I say otherwise.

I went to the forest again. Of course, there was no sunshine, but at least the temperature was just right. And it was snowing. My goodness, how it was snowing. Well, you can see for yourself in the photo. I was trying to get the falling snow with my flash without making the picture look cheap- I think I managed. I'm very happy with this shot, and pretty much all of the others, even if I didn't manage to get a good picture of the family of boars.

With all the snow walking I've been doing recently I'm seriously considering buying some snowshoes. Of course the problem is winters are unreliable- one year we're up to our necks in the stuff, the next it's all mud. Who knows if I'd ever use them again? But they would certainly come in handy. I had snow up to my knees more than once today.



That way.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

27/365: More seats, please!

No, I didn't miss a day yet. But yesterday one of my flatmates was getting his Master's degree, and we were so busy taking the piss out of him all day that I didn't have the time to upload a photo. ;)

So, with congratulations to Konrad....

27/365: More seats, please!
27/365: More seats, please!, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 27th

After a long long day of teasing, ribbing, and being taken the piss out of, Konrad (front row right) has passed his graduation defense and received a Master's degree. Well done, that man! And he got top grades all around.

Here we are back at my place, winding down at the end of the day with fake champagne in the japanese porcelain tea set my grandparents bought me to honour my own graduation three years ago. From left to right: Marta, Maciek, Robert, and our hero Konrad. I don't know how long all these people will be living with me but I hope they don't run away too quickly. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


26/365:Fountain, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 26th

The fountains at the Manufaktura shopping centre flow all year round, summer or winter. They warm the water, but it ices up anyway, especially around this arching jet.

Most of this building complex dates back to the 1870's when Jewish entrepreneur Izrael Poznański set up his enormous textile factory in industrial Łódź. There are many many legends about Poznański's wealth; the fact is the place employed 7000 people and ran 5000 spindles at its peak. It had its own gas plant, foundry, steam-engine workshop... I just realised I have not yet taken a proper photo of the palace he built for himself, adjacent to the factory. I will talk a bit more about it when I do.

For now I will just tell you that today the factory grounds and its remaining buildings have been turned into a shopping and cultural centre. There are stores, but there are also restaurants, museums, a theatre, a bowling alley...

You should come visit. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

25/365: Lace

25/365: Lace
25/365: Lace, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 25th

Nothing special today- just a window with a curtain on a sunny day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

24/365: Goodnight, forest

24/365: Goodnight, forest
24/365: Goodnight, forest, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 24th

The Łagiewnicki forest is named after the XIth century settlement of Łagiewniki which supplied the nearby court in Zgierz with vessels of wood, clay and hide. Such a bowl or flagon was called 'łagiew' and the craftsman who made it a 'łagiewnik'. Hence the name.

Today the forest is a natural preserve covering almost three thousand acres. Almost half of it is composed of oak trees- a good twenty percent is birch, which you can see in the photo.

It is a lovely place to visit at any time of year. Unfortunately it's very cold right now, so cold that when I got off the bus I almost wanted to get right back on it again. Which means I was a bit careless with my photos. The thing is, when you've got a long walk ahead before you get out of the woods, night is falling quickly and your fingers are frozen stiff, you really don't feel like messing with the tripod and the f-stops.

I think I will try putting on more clothes sometime this week and going back for another shot.

23/365: It's cold outside.

23/365: It's cold outside.
23/365: It's cold outside., originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 23rd

It's sooooo cold. I really didn't feel like going outside today, even though there was gorgeous sunshine. But for once, my extremely busy flatmate agreed to go to the cinema, and I couldn't pass that opportunity up. Even if my face nearly froze off on the way home.

This is the courtyard of the Manufaktura shopping centre, built in what used to be a huge textile factory. The cabin on the left is a temporary construction, a little restaurant to go with the ice skating rink they pour out every winter. I liked the steam billowing out of the vent.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

22/365: Angry icicles

22/365: Angry icicles
22/365: Angry icicles, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 22nd

Winter is dangerous in the city. The sunshine (which we hadn't seen yet this year) doesn't help, it just melts the snow and ice on top of the roofs and it all comes sliding down on the passers-by...

This post is late because I couldn't make up my mind which photo to post. The sun came out today for the first time in weeks and though I didn't have the time to go to the park, the city is a wonderful subject, too. Here are a few more pictures I took on my very brief walk today:

The old lace and ribbon factory


The playschool on Zielona

Back yard

Friday, January 22, 2010

21/365: The fantastic Radesh

21/365: The fantastic Radesh
21/365: The fantastic Radesh, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 21st

I put up the ladder so that I could hang my washing to dry. Radesh was so delighted to have his favourite play area back that I decided to leave it up for the few days I would be gone. He was happy to see me when I got home tonight!

49/365: Look, ma, no hands!

Hillman at the top

The Living Room

A good view.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

20/365: Alert!

20/365: Alert!
20/365: Alert!, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 20th

Guinness (like the beer, not the book of records, though both come from the same brewery) is my family's dog. He's a chocolate brown labrador retriever.

He's not a historical landmark but I will tell you his story nevertheless: in 2007, our elderly golden retriever Liffey had to be put down. She was spent, and suffering, and my parents said they didn't think they wanted another dog. We buried her in the back yard, poor thing- the vet who gave her the shot was already telling us about pups that needed a home. "We'll think about it," my parents said.

Two days later she called them and said: "There's an accidental litter of labs that need a home, and there's only one little boy left, do you want him or not?"

Yes. Yes, we did.

Guinness, like any dog, can be annoying. He'll roll around in poop and run away from you and wrap his leash around your legs and destroy the shopping when he tries to help you bring it inside. But this dog makes my family smile every day. Every single day. It doesn't matter what else happens, you look at Guinness, he looks back at you, and you have to smile and start speaking in that strange language we grown-up humans presume is what dogs, cats and babies best understand.

He was named after the Irish beer just like Liffey and Shannon were named after the Irish rivers. We all used to live in Ireland and our pets always seem to end up with relevant names. Well, not so the case with my Radesh, but I will tell you about him another time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

19/365: This billboard is always empty.

19/365: This billboard is always empty.
January 19th


No interesting story today, this is all I've got. Sorry! :) Unless you count this photo of the same billboard in December 2008:


Monday, January 18, 2010

18/365:Potoki number five

18/365:Potoki number five
18/365:Potoki number five, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 18th

I am in Warsaw for a few days to celebrate my parents' 30th anniversary. They didn't really want a portrait, so today's 365 photo is from my walk with Guinness.

This is a village very close to my parents' house that got swallowed up by Warsaw in the 1930s. Its story is as sad as its appearance. Even as a part of the capital it continued to thrive until after WW2, when the new communist government decided to take over the land. They didn't force the villagers out, but passed a law that forbade the refurbishment of old houses. This was supposed to discourage people and make them give up their land in favour of the state.

Though the law is since obsolete the bureaucratic mess of the fourties still hasn't been rectified- the elderly people living there are stuck, they cannot be evicted, but they do not formally own the land any more and so cannot sell it. And these are folks born in the early light of the 1900's, so changes do not come easily for them.

From this article a story from a local about the name of the village, Potoki, which means Sources or Streams:

"The count came riding through one day and asked his groom what the village was called. The servant replied: "It's the Thief Shacks, for the thieves that poach on your lands and the poor shacks they live in." The count didn't like this insulting name and in honour of the sources that flowed from the hill nearby he christened the village Szopy Potoki- Shacks on the Sources."

The village was also known by another name which is now official: Szopy Polskie, or Polish Shacks. Apparently that was to differentiate them from the German Shacks up the hill, where settlers from Germany and Holland made their home. Now there are huge, modern apartment towers there, you can see them in the background of the photo. They say there were also French Shacks somewhere.

Another source cites that the name 'Szopy' may have come from the Szopski family who owned quite a bit of land in the area. Hard to tell which is true.

Here is a photo of the same house taken in April last year:


Sunday, January 17, 2010

17/365: At the flea market

17/365: At the flea market
17/365: At the flea market, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 17th

My German friend asked me to come to the flea market with him to help him haggle (though I am not very good at it, knowing the language is a huge advantage). I brought my camera, but this was the only shot I took. It was so awfully cold that even the sellers packed up after a couple of hours and went home. A good ten hours later I still feel a chill in my bones.

The flea market is actually a used car market, but business follows buyers. Clever salesmen figured out that driving out every Sunday to where the people gather is probably more profitable than paying for the overhead of a salon no one has time to visit. So they set up right next to the pack rats and drunks- you can buy someone's old wicker chair or broken lamp for pennies, or order a brand new kitchen remodel straight from a company truck.

Last time we went there, my flatmate bought something very strange indeed.

I generally try to get a shot right straight out of the camera but this one was underexposed, so I brightened it a bit in Bridge. I'm trying to overcome my dislike for cleaning up shots in the computer without giving up the desire to learn how to get a good picture right in the field. Shooting in RAW is the first step. I'm happy that even with freezing fingers I got the composition exactly how I wanted it, even if the exposure wasn't good.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

16/365: Marie Skłodowska-Curie

16/365: Marie Skłodowska-Curie
January 16th

A scientist's street. Since Marie Curie's maiden name was Skłodowska we actually put it before her married name, I suspect the rest of the world omits it because they are ashamed of not being able to pronounce it. :P

The plaque (an old plaque, I wonder how it missed getting replaced) says:

Marie Skłodowska-Curie
1867-1934, Scientist

It caught my eye because we don't really use the word 'uczona' to describe a (female) scientist anymore- nowadays it's the genderless 'naukowiec' which has precise connotations to the scientific method. The archaic form 'uczona' which literally means 'a woman who has been taught' is a broader term for someone who is a renowned scholar. It suggests reverence and respect are in order.

Instead of a wiki link (because, really, you should know who Marie Curie was), here is a gratuitous link to a wonderful and relevant little comic.

On a side note, I am just not happy with my photos recently. They're fine for reference, I'd even say they would do well in a newspaper, but they're not special. There's no art in the frame, and I don't know how to catch it again. Maybe I never had it?

Also I've been having a lot of trouble managing light and sharpness recently. I know it's winter and that the daylight is bland, and that humid and cold air doesn't help with focusing, but I still feel like I'm doing extremely poorly for my capabilities.

I think I will buy a few rolls of film and try going back to one of my analog cameras. Maybe all I need to deal with this weather is a more artistic kind of grain and blur. Only film is so much more expensive than digital. :(

Anyway, here's a map of the pictures of Łódź I've taken so far this year.

Maybe I'm just cranky because I can't figure out what I'm allergic to. Right now thanks to some detective work and the elimination process it's down to meat, chocolate, and cigarette smoke (I refuse to place Guinness in this horrid calculation).

Friday, January 15, 2010


15/365:Carousel, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 15th

Not a very good photo, I'm afraid, but the most interesting one I came up with today. This is the local amusement park, shut down for the winter of course.

I love the snow but I hate the weather right now, the sky is nothing but white all day long, with no sunshine or good clouds to make the light interesting. >:(

Thursday, January 14, 2010

14/365: I changed my mind

14/365: I changed my mind
14/365: I changed my mind, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 14th

This is part of a crafty thing I was going to make, but I changed my mind. I'm going to make something else.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

13/365: Holy place

13/365: Holy place
13/365: Holy place, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 13th

A picture of the Virgin Mary hanging on a tree in what used to be forest and is now city park. These rogue chapels are usually marks for places where something significant happened- perhaps a death, a deportation, a revolt, a war crime. Sometimes they are put up as thanks or apology. Sometimes they just mark old trees, hoping to save them from being cut down. There are many of them all over the country, but there are no plaques or official signs- by and by the original meanings are forgotten and the adorned trees become simple places of worship.

Here are some more tree chapels I've found over the last few years:

Kapliczka na Zdrowiu

Chapel in Zdrowie Park

31/365: Chapel

Chapel on Popioły Street

2/366: A chapel

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12/365: The old Karolew train station

12/365: The old Karolew train station
January 12th

There are lots of abandoned buildings in Lodz. This house in the middle of the railroad tracks is the old Karolew train station. It was built in 1902. It had two platforms, both now gone as most of the tracks around it are disused. There were people living in it not too long ago (in fact I found a photograph I took in 2007 that shows it), but now it's abandoned. It can't be demolished because it is on the list of monuments to be preserved- unfortunately no one is coming up with the actual money to preserve it. So it just stands there, decaying, like many other places in Łódź. I wish I had the kind of money it would take to rent and refurbish this house, it would be a swell place to live.

Here's a photo of the station in 2007:

The house between the tracks

The windows aren't broken and there's a bike in the yard. I think what happened was the railroad wanted to demolish it, so they got rid of the tenants, and then they found out they couldn't get permission to destroy the house. Laaame.

As my flatmate said when I told him this little story:

Monday, January 11, 2010

11/365: Saving space

11/365: Saving space
11/365: Saving space, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 11th

To offset yesterday's very exciting photograph, here is something more mundane but which brings me great joy: my new kitchen arrangement. After years of promises IKEA finally opened a store in Lodz. My Christmas giftcard (thank you, mom) bought me what is hopefully a cure for our messy kitchen. Amazing what you can do with those railing systems they have- and they're cheap, too!

And bonus, only one snafu during installation! When I tried drilling into the bathroom wall, half of it fell off and I had to patch it with cement. This building is oooold.

Here's another mini-makeover on my window:


Sunday, January 10, 2010

10/365:Light willow

10/365:Light willow
10/365:Light willow, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 10th

Every year for the last eighteen years, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity has made miracles happen. This is the day when everyone opens their purse, be it only for a penny.

This year the Orchestra played for children with oncological diseases. As I type this, their website shows that they have collected 30 130 125 zł. That is over ten million dollars in a single day, and they haven't counted everything yet.

The 'Light to the Sky' is a tradition with the Charity- at eight pm all over the country fireworks go off as a thank you to everyone who took part in the event. This year instead of standing in the crowd under the concert stage I went to the nearby park where the fireworks were being shot. It was roped off, but I stood under the trees on a hunch. And I'm glad I did.

Last year:

and the year before:

14/365: The Great Orchestra's Light

Saturday, January 9, 2010

9/365: You can't eat here

9/365: You can't eat here
9/365: You can't eat here, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 9th

An abandoned oriental bar down the street. It's the most colourful building on that block, despite being boarded up and condemned.

Friday, January 8, 2010

8/365: A day at home

8/365: A day at home
8/365: A day at home, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
January 8th

A rather bad day which ended up somewhat better around 11 pm. My cat found an old ball he had lost behind a couch and chased it around the room before finally collapsing by the wall. I didn't have energy for a better shot.
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