Poland - Krakow

by Kimp 12. May 2012 05:40
Photo Blog
Marzanna is a pagan springtime festival in Poland that signals the end of winter. It's usually aligned with the fourth week of lent. Kids make a Marzanna doll and put it on a stick. They light it on fire, run around for a while, then throw it in the river and drown it. Marzanna symbolizes death and illness, so they kill it, then Winter goes away, and Spring replaces it. Sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, until they catch someones hair on fire. Good thing plenty of people have extra large beer fire extinguishers, in their hands.
Krakow escaped most destruction during WW II, and now its old town, is much the same as it was just before WW II. Part of that is because, during communism, much of the old town businesses were shutdown, to keep people from congregating there, and it just sat and collected dust and soot.
Poland is in an unfortunate geographic location and topography. Most roads from Europe to Russia lead through Poland, it's relatively flat and easy to move lots of troops in lots of directions through it. This made it a very common battle ground throughout history. Poland has been in some type of war environment through much of recorded history.
In the 1400's Poland had a very good King, Kazimier the Great. Kazimier was smart in many areas; amongst them were Military, Diplomacy, Art and Engineering. He built his castle in Krakow and also built a great empire that covered much of what is now eastern Europe. He was a great humanitarian. At a time when many city states and countries were demoralizing their Jewish population, Kazimer invited Jewish people to settle in Poland, guaranteeing them that he would protect them and making them privileged, in Poland's banking and trade industries. This continued for the next 300 years. Jewish settlers immigrated to Poland in large numbers, where they were protected until the Nazi's gained control. Then Poland became the scene of the worst genocide ever.
Even though communism is over in their country, some do not hold hard feelings from going through that. Several liked that easier going, slow and family centric life style. Part of that might be because they never really let the communist government settle in. They were always giving them plenty of problems to deal with, and when Poland native Karol Wojytyla, was elected as Pope John Paul II in 1978, he took an anti communist position and his country rose in support of him. For some reason, the communist government let a lot of the very small family farms work their land, instead of forcing consolidation. The farmers never produced much crop yield, the government went broke subsidizing them, and the country starved from lack of food staples. Today, women operate a large number of the Polish farms.
Most households today consist of the three-generation extended family, consisting of the married couple, their children and the husband's parents. Both parents usually work, and the grandparents play a central role in raising the children. Most marry young and for life, and 75% of the population attends church regularly. An unmarried person in their late 20's is looked down upon. In the 1800's a mom would announce that her daughter was eligible for courting by painting blue stripes on their house. There are still a few of those houses around now. 
As a general rule, I found Polish people to be very polite (this is a very important part of their culture) , laid back, funny and they love Jazz.



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