A Visit to Lublin…

I’ve never been to Poland before, but a wedding invite to a traditional Polish wedding – a short ceremony followed by a 12 hour party with food every couple of hours or so, with vodka on tap, and a second day of celebrations the following day – took us to Lublin (tourist guide) last week for a few days.

I’m not sure how building regs work but I was intrigued to see that some of the buildings just outside the Old Town appeared to be strapped together for mutual support.

(There were people continually milling through the gate, so I couldn’t get a photo to the ground that wasn’t busy with folk…) Another aerial sculpture had a person on a tightrope…

In the Lithuanian Square, a wonder set of water lights that my crappy old phone camera couldn’t really cope with…

The fountains and lights were independently programmable, and gave a wonderful show. Overflowing them, some art I couldn’t decipher the caption for, but that I took to be a commentary on banking… (The Lubliners seem keen on art that makes you look up…)

Our evening trip to the following day’s wedding venue caused some concern in the telling… our taxi had pulled into a shopping center carpark midway through the journey, and we’d be ushered out of the car and into another waiting taxi with no word of explanation to us. We assumed it as one of those things rather than paying heed to the joke(?) in the joining instructions about crazy cabs and kidnapping…

As I was (naively) photoing a warbus with a committed driver (in travel, the mundane yet misaligned become ever more interesting)…

… the taxi driver uttered something unintelligible to us and then pointed at a (live) Google translation of explanation – a family emergency had meant the other taxi driver had needed to be elsewhere…

Back in Lublin, we did the sites… More looking up at the angles:

I also found the facade of this church unsettling in the way that it gave you the eye…

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We also got to look up at (and inside) Lublin Cathedral, and then down at it from the Trinitarian Tower. Rather than lug bags up and down we popped them in a (very cheap) locker in the tourist information office in the Old Town.

Inside the tower were lots of interesting angles to be seen, as well as a bell close-up…

One day I may get a proper camera… bit even so, some of the weird visual effects my crappy old phone camera comes out with when trying to capture panoramic scenes (I wanted to capture the red and white tower – that didn’t really work out…)  endear me to it at times…

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Lublin Old Town itself is quite compact — about the same size as Newport, on the island, perhaps — but offers plenty to do for a weekend.

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And some of the food you can find there is superb (as well as very affordable). The Jewish menu restaurant on the center left right(?) in the view below is well worth a visit… (the chicken broth was crystal clear and the cinnamon spiced apple drink I should really try making from some of our own apples). Fish was also much in evidence, and well worth asking for off the seasonal menus. Apples were in season too, and I couldn’t help but notice a guest cider in one of the bars from… Westons…

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The English translation menus also offered much that I suspect @nogbad would have delighted in photographing… “Food additives” is one way of calling it maybe…

From the Polish menus, I missed several opportunities to snap telling of the burgery options on offer…

Another of the sites of Lublin is Lublin Castle, home, as with many sites nearby around (including the nearby concentration camp, which we couldn’t face), to institutional, living memory, mass murder.

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I wonder if planning regs keep tall building below the horizon for this viewing point, or wether it’s just turned out like that?

Inside the Castle, some haunting corridors and artwork, but also several galleries of historical portraits and artefacts, and exhibition space for more contemporary artworks.

The current exhibition (Tadeusz Myslowski. Studio / Workshop,  Lublin Castle, May – September 2018) is of a new to me artist, Tadeusz Myslowski, and it blew me away…

Geometrics based on New York cityblocks, and other geometric pieces, reminded me of the osmnx package for working with OpenStreetMap data .

A collection of radial geometrics were just beautiful along with black and white city block progressions….

And the sculptures were impressive too…

There were also a couple of nice surprises from other artists, including a Mondrian (the white is so white, and the colour so colour), and a Bridget Riley, although being behind glass it suffered really badly from  reflections, presumably from the artist’s own collection, which I’d love to see.

I’m really regretting not taking the opportunity to pick up copies of the two or three books of his work in the Castle shop.. Bah… I should have exited through the gift shop…

By the by, I happened to notice a set up for an event in the park from the Castle Tower… Not sure who was playing…

In a weird way, the highlight of the trip – aside from the wedding – was a visit to Dom Slow, aka The House of Words, which lies just over the road from the Cathedral and the Trinitarian Tower.

A museum of printing, we opted for, and we treated to, a compelling two hour English tour. Starting with a history of a clandestine press started in Lublin in 1974(?), where I missed the opportunity of grabbing a photo of Susan(?IIRC), a duplicator that moved around the town that was used to create copies of the underground news print (“Susan is hungry” -> “we need more ink”, and other such subterfuges), a brief history of the various Solidarity organisations and their means of communication, and a flick through various banned texts bound in false covers, making it look to all intents and purposes as if the reader were brushing up on their Communist teachings rather than indulging in a Shakespearean sonnet), we then moved on to a fine collection of original printing machines, many of which are still used today to print limited edition poster runs and small books. (The center includes it’s own small paper factory, as well as a book bindery.)

One of the things I was surprised to learn was how early keyboards were added to printing presses to set the type, although I suspect the one on their original Linotype machine does not itself include the original keys…

As well as running original presses (although not, unfortunately, the Linotype), print has to be set. I’ve seen printers’ boxes in antique shops and at craft fayres filled with all sorts of tat, but it was nice to see some still be used in earnest.

The detail of some of the set type for special posters was incredible. As was the detail of some original copper etchings, that are still used for small print run specialist books.

To appreciate the detail, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself…

Dom Slow was a real find, and it would have been good to be able to spend some money in there on an (English) history of the underground press and maybe one or two posters. Exit through gift shop is not just a way of extracting tourist zlotys, it also provides a convenient collection that tourists can browse for thematic/subject related “specialist” books and guides… (I’ve since tracked down an interesting sounding book on the topic — Duplicator Underground : The Independent Publishing Industry in Communist Poland, 1976-89 — and am waiting for it now…)

Another interesting thing we learned from the tour is how (oral) storytelling still seems to be an important means of cultural communication. This has perhaps been kept relevant by circumstance, not least German and Soviet Russian occupation. The past is not so very far away.

I’m now looking for an opportunity to go back to Lublin for another weekend, not least to try to capture and write down some of the tales from Dom Slow, as well as learn a bit more of the history of the town.

If you’re interested, flights can be had from Luton to Lublin with Wizz Air. In Lublin, we stayed at the IBB Grand Hotel Lublinianka.

Thanks to Basia and James for the invite:-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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