Friday, June 29, 2007
Dodging a Bullet?
[Reconstruction of portion of Gwozdziec Synagogue interior]
The concert last evening was very interesting. The two musicians are the grandsons of Jews who immigrated to Argentina from Poland and Russia. They themselves never were raised in the klezmer tradition, so they developed their own jazz improvisation styles based on klezmer melodies and using klezmer themes. Sometimes I recognized the underlying melody, other times, it was on the tip of my tongue.
I decided to try a vegetarian restaurant for dinner. I went to a place called Green Way in the Stare Miasto (Old City). Unfortunately, even though I was there an hour before closing they were almost out of food. I ended up with the kofta and rice. Not bad, but not really what I wanted.
I should preface the following remarks with the note that I really like the hotel I stayed at last night. In fact, the Wielopole Guest House got a positive write up in the New York Times a few months ago. I stayed here last year and really enjoyed the experience. I wish I could say the same about last night.
I had thought I had screwed up by not booking my hotel for two nights (I had originally wanted all five nights, but that wasn't possible, either); now I think I may have dodged a bullet. When I came back yesterday afternoon to drop off my umbrella, I saw a whole gang of about 10-12 brits, all wearing matching blue stag party shirts, milling about in the lobby and elevator, all yelling at each other. Just my luck, too, they were all staying on my floor.
The first wave came home around 2:30, with lots of banging and yelling, but the real fun didn't start until 3, when the rest came home, and started banging on the doors of the ones who came earlier, screaming through the door to relate various drunken (mis)adventures. At that point, I began to wonder how advanced the Polish CSI would be, and whether I was prepared to live with the guilt, if I started bopping them over the head with my empty apple juice bottle.
They finally quieted down and I drifted back to sleep, when they started up again around 3:30. By then, my stomache was in knots. I have very good earplugs, but even they can't blot out full-voiced screaming and door banging. I tried breathing exercises and finally relaxed enough to fall back asleep, and managed to sleep until 8. I had to keep restraining myself from engaging in clearly passive-aggressive behavior and banging on all their doors when I checked out this morning.
I changed to the hostel where I managed to get a last minute reservation. I'm sharing a four-person room tonight (it was all they had left), but I switch to a private room tomorrow night. I guess I'll find out later if I dodged a bullet, only to find myself in front of a firing squad.
I checked to the hostel this morning, and put my stuff in my locker in my room. Then I headed out to walk around. It started to drizzle, but it had stopped by the time I got back to the hostel to pick up my umbrella. I then headed to the Galician Jewish Museum for the program on the new History of the Jewish People in Poland Museum they just broke ground on in Warsaw.
The talk was fascinating and the new museum looks great. I really like the approach they've taken. The picture at the top of this entry, by the way, show some of the art work they are planning to put in the museum as they recreate one of the wooden synagogues of 18th-century Poland. Here's another example:
[close up design for wooden synagogue exhibit in new Warsaw museum]
There was a good reception afterwards, with champagne and small finger foods. I was surprised to see shrimp on lox, and remarked to the woman next to me that the "treyfah banquet" still lives (this was the banquet the Hebrew Union College served at the graduation of its first class of rabbis, that featured shrimp cocktails).
I decided to get a small lunch afterwards at a cafeteria-type restaurant in the Stare Miasto, just next to Green Way. You find any available seat and then order of the short menu. I had a small order of peirogie stuffed with mushrooms and cabbage, followed by a small order of peirogie filled with blueberries. Unfortunately, I'm convinced the savory peirogie are covered in melted lard, so I really didn't enjoy them.
The International Culture Center in the Glowny Rynek has just opened a great exhibit on Jewish life in Krakow between the wars that is really good. AFter that, I went to the Museum Czarotryskie to see the Da Vinci of "Woman with an Ermine."
[Woman With an Ermine]