Wednesday, August 31, 2011

About that rooster

Hi again.

Today we are going to have a brief talk about geography, and that funky colourful rooster up in our blog banner (if I say rainbow cock, will I get more hits? Let's try it.)

The rooster is a stylised vector image based on traditional folk art from the region of Łowicz (pronounced Whoa, vitch!).

Okay, says you, but what and where is Łowicz? Could be on the moon for all I know! Where's Poland, anyway?

There is actually a 16th century Faustian folk hero in Poland called Pan Twardowski who did ride
a magical rooster to the Moon. Legend says he is up there to this very day.  I'll talk about him at some point too.

I'm going to pretend you didn't ask that last question (seriously!) and move on to answer the first.

Today, Poland is divided into sixteen geographical regions which we call voivodships.

Say that word. Voivodships. Accent on the second syllable, please. Voiiiivodshipsss. Isn't it cool? It really just means 'provinces', but the term comes from wojewoda, or literally 'leader of the warriors'.

Oh, and it gets better. Each voivodeship consists of a number of poviats. Which in turn are made up of gminas.

Here's a pictorial demonstration, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge:

For now, all you need to pay attention to are the voivodships. As I write about all the Awesome Things that you can find in Poland, I will always include a map to show you exactly where they are. Just in case you'd like to come and see for yourselves.

Łowicz, for instance, lies in the Lodz voivodship (click here for google map!), and dates back at least as far as the 13th century. The themes of its folklore are among the most recognisable in the country and abroad, and still very much in use in the region, especially during events of importance. For the ultimate ethnographic delight, I recommend you show up in the little town exactly sixty days after Easter Sunday, and watch the Corpus Christi procession.

Corpus Christi procession
Adorable little Łowicz children!

Corpus Christi procession
Hundreds of people walk through town in handmade, traditional costumes,
carrying hand-embroidered religious banners. 

Corpus Christi procession
The prayer on the wine-red banner asks the Mother of God to bless fields,
orchards, and neighbours. The blue one asks for protection.

If that doesn't satisfy your hunger for folklore...well, you can always hit the marketplace afterwards and get your own handmade Łowicz Swag. Paper cut-outs, embroidered accessories, even whole costumes, if you can afford them.

So, in brief (very brief) that's the origin of the rooster in the logo. He's a stylised, yet distinctively Polish cousin of the koguciki (cockerels) that adorn so many of the colourful paper cut-outs of Łowicz.

Meta info:

Maps remixed from CC Wikimedia Commons files:

Moon image remixed from CC Wikimedia Commons files:

Łowicz photos from my Flickr set:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Poland is awesome

Hi there.

What do you know about Poland?

Yes, vodka. What else? Polar bears. No. Issues with screwing in lightbulbs? Hardly.

This is what you need to know: Poland is awesome.

Trust me on this. I've lived here for twenty-four years. And I haven't fallen out from under a magpie's tail, either. What? Oh. That's a Polish idiom. It means I'm not some clueless person who lives under a rock.

"Sroce spod ogona nie wypadł"

I've lived abroad, too. Four years in Dublin, and that was back in yonder days when Irish people didn't know what a Pole looked like. I've been to the States multiple times. I've seen Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Prague, Toronto, Chicago, Las Vegas, I've even been to the frickin' Galapagos Islands. And you know what?

I still think Poland is as awesome as all of those places put together.

And I'm going to prove it to you.

Watch this space.