Category Archives: On the road

Personal notes

When days of acid rains are over

The Central Sudetes, one of the most forgotten, the least hip(ster) mountains in Poland – and perhaps the most beautiful ones. Compact, quiet, surprising on every turn of countless hidden, winding tracks, heavy with unsolved mysteries. It’s a region with the most convoluted history, a perfect example of Central Europe’s cultural complexity.

Despite being washed with acid rains for many decades of the former system they recover surprisingly well – and if you want to spot a pair of common linnets or Eurasian bullfinches while walking to your grocery store – come here.

And here’s Sokołowsko – a city where Krzysztof Kieślowski, the author of Three Colors trilogy, grew up. City once famous for its health resorts – now sleepy and semi ruined.

A new old Japanese addiction

It didn’t happened overnight, but it did. You might have noticed that I’ve become one of them – dirt bikers. Since my old Honda is not capable of any high speed, high power extravaganza, I tend to stay on the sluggish side – but can’t stop thinking of switching to something of a higher number of hp.

Yes, it’s like an addiction.

All pictures taken with the first iteration of Sony RX100, the best pocket photo camera ever (this blog is not supported by Sony).

Chasing reality (and beauty) at the Copernicus Festival

Yes, reality must have accelerated too much to keep up with it – leaving this blog in a slow lane. But nothing was lost. Records of the past have been kept – and will be revealed in subsequent posts.

First – Cracow and the 3rd edition of Copernicus Festival. Three of “my” real life Pioneers were invited by the organizers (Jacek Ślusarczyk from Tygodnik Powszechny was behind it) of this intellectual multithreaded May feast. 

Greg and Virginia Chaitin flew straight from Brazil, Julian Barbour came from a pre-Brexit England – all of them in order to discuss the meaning and role of the notion of beauty… no, no, I should say Beauty – in science. And in this thing we call life too, of course.

Having a spare morning we hiked with Julian in Kraków-Częstochowa Upland – guided by Piotr Seweryn, and chased by the rain which made it even more fun, considering the absolute lack of tread on the noble physicist’s shoes. We shot this short promotional video by the Prądnik river (of time).

Yes, yes, you’ve guessed it right: Julian Barbour’s Bottom’s Dream had its DVD premiere – this July! And Against the Method a month later! Things are happening, don’t they?

Both movies can be purchased here: sklep.polityka.pl. VOD premieres soon.

Here’s an Against the Method DVD trailer. Watch and check for yourselves why wearing a hat in a right way is wrong.

Below you’ll find Julian’s and Greg’s lectures, and the discussion they took part in, joined by Michał Heller, an astrophysicist, cosmologists, philosopher, the head of the Copernicus Center, and also the spiritus movens of the festival.

Those three hour long events are definitely worth watching in full extent.

Both Bottom’s Dream and Against the Method had their screenings (followed by solid discussions) at Mikro, a cuddly shabby cinema that somehow manages to stand the wave of commercialization and gentrification.

Here are some great photos – courtesy of Kamila Zarembska-Szatan.

In order to prove that Pioneers are real people enjoying both intellectual and more visceral, night pleasures I dare to attach photos taken at a retro bar (which location I can’t reveal without killing you all). It’s a place which you can be exposed to by a local only.

No soft drinks there.

Ah, yes – and there was a sunny coda in Warsaw: Greg and Virginia embarked a pendolino train to pay a sentimental visit to Mokotów, the place where Virginia spent some of the best years of her childhood. Come more often! 

To Virginia, Greg, Julian, and the whole Cracow embodied by the people too numerous (Jacek Ślusarczyk, Bartosz Brożek, Diana Sałacka, Bartosz Janik, Piotr Krasnowolski, Marta then Czubajewska, Piotr Seweryn and many others) to be listed here: that was a splendid May week – and a proof that something as ethereal as a movie can have such a wonderful and memorable side effects.

Thank you.

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On the road

Cracow is one of those cities every single kid in Poland was obliged to see, and I was no exception. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s nicely preserved. Yes, since it was not bombed during the WWII, it’s whole original, there are no postwar architectural substitutes within the old town district. Yes, it used to be the hub of the republic, before it was moved to Warsaw. But it’s also constantly hazed and crowded with tourists, so there seemed to be no reason to go there again…

It has changed rapidly this year when Docs+Science, a science section of the Cracow Film Festival, launched the series of Pioneers screenings. The series is presented episode by episode, one per month, and every screening is accompanied by a discussion with an expert.  The atmosphere is great, people flock to the welcoming halls of AGH University of Science and Technology by dozens –  thanks to wonderful job of Marta Czubajewska, Piotr Seweryn, Olga Lany and many others Cracovian friends.

Oh, yes – and going back to Cracow: There won’t be a picture from Cracow. It has been photographed to death. Here are shots taken on the way though, from a train window.

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Invisible cities of Syria

Invisible cities. The metropolis of Damascus, intellectual hub of Aleppo, steamy waterfronts Latakia, winding streets of tiny Ma’loula – places that are now suspended in semi-being, the state of war-not-war, bombed and raided again and again, waiting for a good change that will never come. Syria, the country that several decades ago was cut out, as many other in the region, along pencil drawn lines that didn’t reflect historical divisions – now is being disassembled, erased, smudged out of the Middle East map, making millions of honest and hard working people refugees for life.

I took those pictures almost 20 years ago, during the first visit to the place where all the paths of our civilization used to cross, where three great religions were born and matured, before falling into doctrines, solidifying into blocks of religions. It was one of the constitutive experiences of my life.

I went to Syria again, couple years later, only to find the same open, hospitable people. I went again to meet friends. Are they still there? How many members of their families are still alive?

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Photo archeology

I took these pictures in 1995, during my first, mind blowing, visit to New York City and New Orleans. Then I spent countless hours in the darkroom at the University of Marie Curie-Sklodowska, playing with grain, tonal ranges, experimenting with over-magnification, fighting with old and heavy Soviet made enlargers.

Pure fun. Or no – a kind of meditation rather. And I miss this analogue, deeply physical routine.

I need a darkroom. Anybody?

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A night in Malacca

Two years ago Artur Ekert, a friend who is a renowned physicist by day and crazy pilot by night took me for an unforgettable ride. We flew his old Cessna from Johor in Malaysia up North, along the shores of the Malacca Strait, to, well, Malacca.

The latter is one of those places whose name automatically and subconsciously triggers some, usually imaginary, memories from a distant childhood – brings to life verses of the books long forgotten… those of the pirates of the Southern Seas, etc…

In other words – it was a pure joy to circle above this ancient trading hub, and then to walk the streets of the city, which, despite quite a heavy influx of tourists, remains surprisingly authentic and unspoiled. I was lucky – due to a storm forecasts we got grounded, couldn’t fly back on the same day, and “had” to spend a night in Malacca. This chaotic side of nature is something I cherish.

Since Ewa Jalochowska, an art historian and a writer, who happens to be my wife, is preparing a lecture on the Peranakan (as it is known in Singapore) and Baba Nyonya (in Malaysia) culture, I was obliged to dig into the archives, looking for the photos taken during that trip. And here’s a sample output.

The Impossible past

One moment, one unrepeatable chemical reaction. No cloning possible, no copy-paste procedure at hand… A time travel like experience.

Testing the 2nd generation of the instant film developed by Impossible, the company established by a bunch of old Polaroid lovers. The pleasure is immense, though a bit pricey. But, you know… one has to have priorities.

I’m gonna use those flimsy information storage devices in the second series of the Pioneers doc series.