The trip to the Polish countryside

I’m not a big fan of the Polish countryside. I went there once and found the experience of being repeatedly bitten by insects many miles from a bar not to my liking. I tried nonchalantly sitting at the table outside the village shop with a beer but a guy with one eye suddenly wanted to be my friend and a goat ate my bag. I think they were working together.

When you live in a proper city it’s relatively easy to avoid the countryside. Krakow, however, isn’t a proper city. Any place you can cycle out of in half an hour isn’t a city in my book. Consequently it’s almost impossible to avoid finding yourself in the big green from time to time. It’s the social equivalent of Brownian motion.

polish-countryside

The Polish countryside can be very pretty, but you have to be really careful where you point your camera.

Much to my horror, this weekend I found myself deliberately stepping onto one of those loathsome minibuses and buying a ticket to Nowheresville. A mere one hour and thirty-five minutes of non-airconditioned swerving, rattling, and unadulterated armpits later I was somewhere out in one of those empty bits between proper places on the map. There were trees everywhere, also those smaller green things that look a bit like trees and those even-smaller green things with flowers on – pansies or something.

By breathing slowly and repeatedly into a paper bag I was able to retain sufficient composure to make the following observation.

Planning regulations, what planning regulations?

I’m not sure what the planning regulations are for building in the Polish countryside but I suspect it goes something like this:

Pole: I would like to build a house.

Planning officer (let’s assume they exist): I see. Do you have planning permission?

Pole:
What’s that?

Planning officer: I’m not sure. I was hoping you could tell me.

Pole: No.

Planning officer: Damn. Nevertheless, I must ask you a few questions.

Pole: Shoot.

Planning officer: Are you planning to build a concrete shell and then abandon it for years with piles of half-consumed building materials all around it?

Pole: No… well, maybe a bit.

Planning officer: Okay. Are you planning to eventually build an architectural monstrosity festooned with fake columns, bright red windows and random sticking-out bits that will give the casual observer a headache.

Pole: Well I wasn’t, but that’s not a bad idea.

Planning officer: Congratulations!

The Polish countryside is very pretty, at least the hilly parts down here in the south are, but there seem to be no restriction whatsoever on what you can build or where. There are hideous eyesores, many of them permanently half-finished, scattered on every hillside. I understand that people don’t necessarily have the funds to complete their houses in one go, and that you can’t deny people the right to improve their living conditions but seriously Poland, you’re screwing up some lovely places in an irreparable way.

island1

The author and some chick re-enacting communist agricultural propaganda

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146 thoughts on “The trip to the Polish countryside

  1. Waaaay off! She’s wearing sunglasses, sooo bourgeoisie. So… CAPITALIST!

    Seriously, though, good post. I wish people cared a bit more ’bout stuff like this but I guess you can’t erase the effects of communism overnight or even over 20 years.

  2. kika says:

    Maybe yes, is some places you do come across monstrosities of all kind,
    but at least it’s not all the same red brick as in England. Your countryside is nice and looks tidy, but if you don’t know where you are you could be anywhere. It all looks the same, same brick , same way of biulding, same style. Even if it’s different eras , still all the same.
    In Poland the variety of houses and styles is enormous, I’m never bored , sometimes just makes me laugh , but most of the time it is just interesting to look. I admire the freedom – in Poland it’s normal to build the big house – in England it’s called “Grand Design”.

  3. guest says:

    In Polish cities you can cycle out of in half an hour because there are usually many huge 10+ storey commie blocks and not so many 2 storey brick buildings like in England or Ireland. And so Polish cities are more compact than the British ones…

  4. Ania says:

    sadly, I have to agree with the opinion on ugly boxes. they are downright ugly. there used to be wooden houses, but people wanted to be modern and started with the boxes. one can easily see that there were only two projects available to chose from.
    planning permission? it’s not like that. one needs permission for so much as a tool shed.

  5. kuba says:

    Ania is correct I had to get permission to buy the land, build the house, survey the property several times. Have it inspected. Was not easy and if it is good farm land it is even harder.

  6. Bob says:

    My favorite is that even when the houses are ‘finished’ they never seem to get to a railing on the balconies that all of the houses down south have.

    Good observations as always Jamie

  7. ansien says:

    What do you mean – some chick??

  8. Scatts says:

    I agree with others that it’s not so much the absence of planning permissions than the poor execution of such decisions and subsequent follow up. There is nowhere near as much attention to architectural details with planning permissions here as there is in the UK, for example. It tends to concentrate on what, how big & where – very little attention paid to what colour, how many faux columns, will it match the neighbouring style, is it historically correct, etc. (Listed buildings aside)

    I think the photo is less Communist and more…Borat!

  9. kika says:

    Maybe you should cycle out of Krakow a little further… I come from Gdansk and the amount of new BEAUTIFUL houses being built there is spectacular. They are huge , beautifully designed, very well insulated , warm, dry and modern. And everyone is different! Not boring and not replicas…
    As I mentioned before – in England if someone finally gets the permission to build something similar , it’s called Grand Design and they make a programm on television about it, here it’s just a normal modern house…
    Have a trip around Gdansk area, you will see what I mean…

  10. Pioro-Boncza says:

    Sorry but I fully agree with Island/Jamie (what to call him?) that not only are they ugly concrete husks often (not always) but there is no planned flow to the ‘wies’. You never know when one finishes and the next begins. Everyone has his own hectare of land and house with one crap shoppe next to the local parish. It reminds me of some horrible European version of American sprawl. I am definitely a fan of the German/Dutch/English model where you have defined borders of the village and you may not build 1m further. This allows for a surrounding countryside to be enjoyed by all and the density of the village can often result in lovely results of market square little alleys etc. You can see this in the huge potential various villages have in Dolny Slask and Mazury due to their German heritage. Aside from Kazimierz Dolny, I have yet to see a beautiful historic Polish village.

  11. Terry says:

    You could have been writting about Bosnia. Right from the armpits to the half finished homes. The only difference is that you don’t need to leave the city to see the half-ass attempts at homes.

  12. Pioro-Boncza says:

    In Poland the half-finished homes for me is not a sign of poverty but a sign of arrogance. The size of their half-finished homes is ridiculous. I have rarely seen such big one family homes anywhere in western Europe (USA plenty but at least finished). So many Polish countryfolk feel like they deserve such a large house, take a loan from the bank they cannot afford, and then realize they cannot finish their mega-home on their meager income and loan. Result is aforementioned…

  13. gls says:

    It’s not arrogance, though. It’s family: multiple generations often live in a single house. It’s not uncommon for one or more of the children to remain in the house with the parents, taking one or two floors for themselves as a sort of apartment. Their children, in turn, might end up living there as well. I know of situations where four generations live in one house. So your condescension, Pioro-Boncza, is misplaced.

  14. gls says:

    Addendum: Generally, they don’t take loans. Mortgages are a fairly recent addition to the Polish economy. They pay for the houses as they go. Try building a house that way — see if you can do better.

  15. Ania says:

    now you are wrong, Pioro-Boncza. Those houses are not built on credit, because credit was not practiced back then. Nowadays it is, and people finish the new houses.

    What exactly is the remark about ‘feeling they deserve a big house’ next to ‘bigger houses than Western Europe’ supposed to mean? If you can, build yourself a bigger house, no problem. If you feel that Westerners ‘deserve bigger houses’, then stop feeling and start thinking.

    Your observation that the houses are big is correct nevertheless – in so-called ‘rich’ countries people live in hen cages, with rooms so small that a bedroom is really a wardrobe. But at least they make them pretty. On the outside.

  16. island1 says:

    Brad: Admittedly the re-enactment may have been more in my mind than actually announced.

    Kika: Nonsense. There are many varieties of vernacular rural architecture in the UK and most of them are very specific to particular areas and eras. Freedom is all very well, but the kind of unregulated freedom I’ve seen is blighting the Polish countryside. Once it’s gone, you’ll never get it back.

    guest: 1. Also nonsense. The population densities of Warsaw (4300/sqKm) and Katowice (4050/sqKm) are significantly lower than London (5100/sqKm) and the same as Leeds (4050/sqKm).
    2. Only a Pole would try and leap to the defense of the size of Polish cities :)

    Ania: The concrete boxes from the 70s and 80s don’t bother me so much. People needed and wanted new houses and there was little choice in what they could build. What bothers me are the obviously fairly wealthy people building hideous ranch-style confections with absolutely no regard for the impact they are having on the countryside.

    Bob: Ah yes, the national railing shortage. One of those mysteries for the ages.

    Scatts: Yes, I think I’ve conflated two things here – planning permission, in the sense of having permission to build something, and planning, in the sense of taking a broader perspective on aesthetic impact and infrastructure.

    Pioro-Boncza: I agree absolutely. The villages around Krakow are sprawling like crazy. Formerly open vistas are now littered with random houses and there seems to be nothing to stop it. It’s just becoming a vast, unorganized low-density suburb which has neither the charm of a traditional village or the beauty of open country.

    Terry: I was in Yugoslavia (as it was then) in 1986 and had never seen so many half-completed houses before. It was a phenomenon I never saw again until Poland.

  17. Bartek says:

    half-finished houses on the countryside are the order of the day cause (in my opinion)
    1. people are wary of taking out loans or simply are not creditworthy and have to fall back on their own, often very limited savings
    2. houses are frequently put up in so-called system gospodarski scheme – in better cases the owner hires a team of construction workers once in few months (after raising some money) and they do not thing (lay plaster or floor / wall tiles), in the horrible variant the owner builds his house totally on his own what takes ages – for instance my friend’s father started building house (Warsaw’s suburbs) in 1983 and it hasn’t been finished until now, but every weekend and every day he takes off he does something new inside so the construction drags on and on… and I doubt if it will every be completed.
    3. the desire to have bigger houses stems from megalomania and striving to outdo the neighbours – combine it with lack of sound financial calculation before setting out to building and the construction is called to a halt in the middle…

  18. guest says:

    The “phenomenon” in Poland are people who work their asses off and build houses with their own money/hands and do not create credit crunches and huge budget deficits in order to show off how “fantastic” they are.

    Poles are more down to earth and more freedom loving than the West europeans, and you have to accept it or leave Poland and live in a typical boring and depressive anglo saxon uniform/chessboard/brick village….which was one of the reasons for the IRA violence in Belfast, Dublin and co.

  19. Ania says:

    Island: ‘hideous ranch-style’ is a matter of taste. De gustibus non est disputandum. You are free to a lot of red brick if you chose.
    But I would love for the people to finish their houses off and plaster them, and possibly paint dark green. My personal taste.

  20. Ania says:

    I just want to check something – you don’t mean this:

    http://www.interdom.pl/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/dom-parterowy-z-garazem-projekt-firmy-lk-projekt.jpg

    to be the ‘ranchy’ style by any chance? Because that is a modern take at a dworek

    http://www.kolosy.pl/dworek.jpg

    without the portico and with a modern layout, as well as old style roof

  21. island1 says:

    guest: The point was never really about half-finished houses, this comment thread seems to have gone down a sidetrack.

    Everybody has to work their arse off to afford a home, western or eastern. If credit was available to Poles they would take it just as eagerly as everybody else in the world, as they are now starting to do. The suggestion that Poles are somehow a superior class of human beings who have saved their country from the world’s financial woes because they are more hard working or modest is just laughable.

    As to claims that Poles are more down to earth and freedom loving than westerners I really don’t know where to start with nonsense like that.

  22. kika says:

    Then don’t! Because it’s true! I’ve been living in England for 5 years now, and can tell you that you don’t even have enough freedom to build the proper bloody stairs in your home! EVERYTHING is bloody regulated and
    in effect adults must walk over the strais with their feet “90” deg to the right if they don’t want to fall down …happened to me once, forgot that the bloody stairs don’t even accomodate the normal woman’s foot put straight as it should be!
    Dangeroud and sad.
    But it According to the building regulations, not common sense.

    A bit of freedom won’t harm you – unless you want to live in Big Brother , as practically you already do.
    I will never get used to it, but I play with the rules in your country,
    learned to accept idiotic regulations, and appreciate the good ones – maybe you could try too.

  23. PMK says:

    I’ll bite and toss in my two cents here.

    The countryside I’ve seen around Krakow was rather darling (in my opinion.) True, there are some husks of homes lining the roads, but then nothing is ever built quickly in this land. Just think of how long it took them to complete the Warsaw Metro (it is only just completed fourteen years after it first opened.) Fourteen years to complete the half-finished subway system. It took something like ten years to do the first London Underground tube back over 100 years ago.

  24. guest says:

    Island, Poles are not superior but different. That’s all.

  25. Pioro-Boncza says:

    Ania: I was less referring as well to the recent half-finished homes not the 80s 70s boxes just like Island. And regarding size it is exactly due to the megalomania and the incessant need to show off once someone in rural Poland attains modest wealth. It is not to show the ‘West’.. it is show Slawek his neighbor how much wealthier you are than him even though your giant house is just concrete bricks with no plaster. Just watch Wesele with Maciej Stuhr.

    What I am saying is to have just a bit more regulation than is now for future generations sake. It would also show solidarity with ones neighbors and not just a ‘big d*ck’ competition. In the ‘West’ which you seem to love to deride I just find people generally more modest in the countryside or dont put value on such thing. I am sure there are exceptions.

    Guest: What I find depressive is a beautiful countryside scarred by aforementioned concrete husks and not neatly laid out villages that I am fond of in BeNeLux, Germany, France (not so familiar with the UK).

    AND no one yet has been able to name ONE well planned out Polish village other than Kaz Dolny that isnt a total eyesore.

  26. Scatts says:

    Pioro, we’ve driven through a few. Admittedly they only had 5 houses but whatever, they were well planned in a carrot crunching kind of way. The storks are normally better organised than the inhabitants!

  27. guest says:

    I can show you 10000000 beautyful polish villages/small towns in the Kaszuby, Masurian, Beskidy, Carpathian, Bieszczady, High Tatra regions. All you need to do is move your *** and visit them.

    Scatts is a different story, he knows many parts of Poland quite well, but often Expats come to Poland see 5 towns/villages and then act as if they “knew Poland”.

  28. adthelad says:

    Last time I visited Zakopane (from Kraków) was in the year 2001 and I could not believe my eyes. This was my second visit, my first having taken place in 1989 and the ABOMINATION that my eyes beheld has stayes with me to this day. In an area of outstanding beauty people had managed to build homes which were completely out of keeping with the area, modern town houses, rendered in psychadelic colours and with equally garish roofs. It was so painfull I have not been back.

    All power to the Polish ‘get up and build’ attitue but ‘nil points’ for taste and finnesse. Eyesore is too little to describe it. I kept thinking ‘How on earth do these people expect tourism to grow in this area when a first visit will put anyone with taste off for life?’

    Then I remembered the home market and realised that the majority of Poles will not even notice the rape on the landscape, and many will even admire these new, tidy and freshly completed ‘homes’. Oh the pain! :(

  29. Pioro-Boncza says:

    Guest: Kashubian and Mazury regions have lovely villages because they are either former German villages or heavily influenced by. High Tatras do you mean Zakopane? I would refer to and second Adthelad’s comment above. Bieszczady I have never been to so I can’t really comment but from what I heard it is the wilderness and absence of people that is particularly striking. Beskidy/Sudety again traditional German regions. There is no “Carpathian region” – Sudety, Beskidy, Tatras, Biesczady are all subdivisions of the Carpathians.

    And I am not an expat, I am Polish albeit have spent the majority of my life abroad and have been to more than 5 villages but not 10000000 like you ;^)

  30. Baduin says:

    As for freedom in Poland, it means doing what you like to do, eg builiding a big, half-finished house with columns. It must mean something entirely different in the West. Perhaps something like Marxist “understood necessity”. Good organization and planning have many benefits, but why call it freedom, when it is something rather different?

    And, if you think houses in Poland are psychodelic, visit Romania or find a palace of a Gypsy king in Poland. You have seen nothing if you haven’t seen a Gypsy Versaille in plaster, painted pink. They do not trouble themselves with permits and planning, either – generally, those houses simply do not exist from the legal point of view, and, anyway, the land belongs to somebody entirely different.

    But even in Romania you can distinguish between a village and open field. Hungary is entirely Western in that respect – and both Romanians (not Gypsies, of course) and especially Hungarians have a very distinctive building style.

    The Polish style of building houses along major roads, city or no city, is really something special. On the other hand, this way you can easily go for a walk in a forest.

    And I prefer big houses in Polish highlands, half with some business being done, to small houses and no small business in Slovakia.

  31. Baduin says:

    Pioro-Boncza – Germany or USA? Both kinds of emigrants can be irritating, but I think those in Germany are worse, with their going on about “Polnische Wirtschaft”. I think too much order can be overwhelming for an unexperienced organism, rather like vodka.

  32. guest says:

    Pioro Boncza

    -Zakopane is not the only town in the High Tatras. Just like Brighton is not the only spa town in England.

    -Kashubians have nothing to do with Germans. Kashubians were killed by the Germans in Stutthof and fought together with Poland against them.

    -I do not mean former German buildings in the Mazury and mountain regions. I mean the new buildings.

    And here read this…

    h ttp://www.dziennik.pl/wydarzenia/article406560/Powodziom_winni_sa_niemieccy_osadnicy.html#reqRss

  33. Ania says:

    Pioro-Boncza,
    I wanted to tell you that I love to deride the West each time the West tells me about ‘feeling like I deserve something like the West has’. But since you are a Polan, I am simply sorry to have made such an acquaintance. Surrender the Polish crest, and beg for a German one.

    Baduin – I bet it’s Germany. Germans have civilised the dirty Slavs with unwashed armpits, haven’t they. It’s smart of him to have signed up.

    Other well planned places can be found in Lubelskie and further: Zamosc, Kamieniec, Stanislawow. Beautiful and not tainted by Goth brick.

    The land that has been German and is now Polish AGAIN, was Polish before. Wrocław and Nysa are in Silesia and are important Piast seats. We have lost them, that’s true. But if someone would be tempted to say that it’s German because they’ve been there before, then kindly release the England to the Saxons and Celts, by expunging the Norman French and Danish Angles (the Welsh can stay). Then please return Spain to the Basques, and Frankish France to the Gauls. They’ve been there first.

  34. When it comes to quaintness of villages, the UK wins hands down over Poland. Design is a main reason – Polish villages tend to be strung out along a straight road, no central focal point (Kazimierz Dolny
    the exception to the rule), usually there’s no square, no village green, no centre for social interaction (the village inn). Inns were for travellers anyway, not for locals (who’d squabble too much to make it worth while for innkeepers to run the business).

    And Poland, having been bulldozed by foreign invaders for millennia, has some excuse for lacking continuity in rural architectural heritage.

    Zakopane
    – dreadful place. High Tatras? 150 sq. km out of over 300,000 sq. km of Poland? Poland is not a mountainous country (97% of its area is under 500m ASL).

    10,000,000 (PLEASE use separators when writing big numbers in English) beautiful villages? Yes, there are many villages around Poland that have moved me in one way or another; here’s one, but there’s a lot of dreary rubbish infested by men who vomit over themselves.

    My rule of thumb: Britain beats Poland when it comes to villages, Poland beats Britain when it comes to cities and suburbs.

    There.

  35. Damn, those carefully-inserted links in my comment above do not show. Click on the words “UK wins hands down”, “Kazimierz Dolny”, “Zakopane” , and “here’s one” in the above comment for illustrated examples of what I mean.

  36. guest says:

    Michael, the British villages are just “dull” for my taste. I would kill my self in such a depressing brick/stone (more or less covered by rhododendrons and roses) surrounding. What i like in the UK is the wooden Victorian style, old castles and the modern architecture.

    But i will take the Polish countryside and its villages/towns anytime over the British one

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?z=e&w=all&q=zatoka+pucka&m=text

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?z=e&w=all&q=pieniny&m=text

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?z=e&w=all&q=bieszczady&m=text

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?z=e&w=all&q=mazury&m=text

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?z=e&w=all&q=bay+gdansk&m=text

  37. Ewa says:

    Jamie – great post and spot on!

  38. PMK says:

    Guest—
    I think what Pioro-B meant is that Kashubians lived under German control for hundreds of years. Much of the Polish Baltic coast was historically under Prussian control (even when it was controlled by the Polish-Lit Commonwealth, the Prussians were still running a fiefdom.) All the towns that were built up were German and did not become Polish until after WWII (such as Gdansk which was something like 97% German (ethnically) until after WWII.)

  39. Ania says:

    Ok –
    Zamość:

    Wąchock:

    Spała:
    http://www.spala.pl/

    Nałęczów:

    Wąwolnica: I’m sure you will say that’s dodgy:
    http://polska.romantycznie.com/lubelszczyzna.html

    To sum it up: get out of Galicja more often, Galicja was under Austrian influence and rule. You can see the effects around you.

  40. island1 says:

    Kika: If you want to trade stair stories I could show you a set in my place that are a death trap – freely designed by the owner in proud and independent ignorance of building regulations I’m sure. My point, if I can be said to have such a thing, was rather more general and about the impact of unrestricted development on the rural landscape.

    adthelad: This is exactly why I’ve never visited the place. That and the seemingly endless traffic jam that exists between here and there. Zakopane seems to me a special case anyway. Maybe it once was a village but it’s clearly a town now, and a growing one at that.

    Pioro: I too have been to or through considerably more than 5 villages, and not just in Malapolska. As a foreigner though it seems I am not allowed to comment on a glaringly obvious problem with rural development (one that is just as obvious to every other visitor) without Poles jumping up and down and launching spurious arguments about stairs or the IRA. It really is an incredibly tiresome tendency.

    Okay. Let’s assume the British countryside is a suicide-inducing nightmare of identical brick houses with deadly over-regulated stairs that often causes its inhabitants to launch bombing campaigns against the government. Now will someone please tell me what this has to do with poor planing blighting the Polish countryside?

    Baduin: And this is a good thing right? You’d be quite happy to live next to a pink palace that doesn’t legally exist. Is this not a slightly naive interpretation of freedom?

    Michael: The links are fine. You can’t see them because we have visited links set to the same style as regular text. That may have been a mistake in hindsight.

    I can’t argue with any of that. I would agree that the Polish cities I have experience of living in are, generally, much more sensible and enjoyable than most British cities.

    guest and Ania: Trying to turn this into a best-village competition with random photos of pretty houses clearly isn’t going to work.

  41. PMK says:

    Island- Amen.

  42. guest says:

    Island,

    You are allowed to comment on a glaringly obvious problem (AND I AGREE WITH YOU ! ) with rural development. But you should NOT act as if whole Polish countryside looked like an Mexican slum or something like that.

    Polandian is a blog made for foreigners who do not know Poland if i remember right. And if you start with such a generalization “I’m not a big fan of the Polish countryside” …”because it is so chaotic”, then you should not be surprised if i hold a mirror up to you and write that “all” British villages are “suicidal” (which is complete nonsense of course, and it is good that you are angry/tired about it…just like the Poles are angry/tired about your tendency to generalization).

    ps:sorry for my bad English.

  43. Ania says:

    So, then, Island. Your first woe was about villages not being finished. But actually you don’t have a problem with houses not being finished. Then your woe was about houses not being pretty, but actually you don’t want a pretty village competition.
    I really meant my comment as an answer to you – you wanted to see a nice village. But now it’s ‘trying’. Hmm.
    I think I know what you’ve doing. It’s like when sitting in a pub, saying something non-flattering about England. And guys, instead of answering straight, would say something like: ‘so how cheap is beer in Poland’.
    And you now know well that it isn’t that cheap.

  44. Bob says:

    Some funny repartee on the subject(s)

    Here is a nice village: http://www.blockimages.com/Eastern%20and%20Central%20Europe/Chocholow15.jpg

    But to bump back to the beginning of this thread – you are 100% correct in that there is literally no zoning planning or intelligent foresight into town/urban planning going on in Poland. It is haphazard at best and where I have seen it it is pretty feckless in strategy and execution.

    Give me an English village anytime – no questions asked

  45. Pistefka says:

    Hmmm. I am English and I don’t really care if someone says something un-flattering about England. If I was down the pub in England and someone said, say, that British health and safety regulations are the most annoying in the world I’d agree, and not care if it was a foreigner “having a go.” It would annoy me if a comment was blatantly untrue, as would an inaccurate remark about Poland, Romania, Hungary or anywhere else I feel slightly qualified to talk about.

    Which reminds me – one of the posters was saying something about gypsy palaces in Romania. From my experience in Transylvania I can say that they do exist, none of the are complete, but they are definitely in the minority. There are some nice villages in Transylvania, where the local mayor or other influential people won’t stand for people building houses that are too huge or out of keeping. There are other places where such sensibilities are lacking, and giant houses unfinished are the rule – and all the inhabitants live in Spain!
    From several years spent living in Poland I can agree that there are lots of nasty new houses being built – but perhaps in a few years time, when their gardens are mature and the dayglo paint has faded a bit some of them will look alright.
    As for English villages all being made of brick, have a word! Go to North Yorkshire and have alook at all the old houses made of local stone. They look pretty to me anyway.
    I think us Brits generally don’t like plastered facades, at least not unadorned modern ones, perhaps because we think that it is here to hide shoddy brickwork… (which may or may not be true)

  46. Guest – I see that your ‘best of rural Poland’ consists of seaside, lake district and mountains. Anywhere in Lubuskie, Wielkopolskie, Mazowieckie, Łodzkie, for example, worthy of a mention?

    Villages in the Cotswolds, the English Lake District, the Breacon Beacons, the Quantocks, the Peak Districk, the Dales, the Yorkshire Moors, the Wye Valley (to name but a few), knock Polish villages into a cocked hat. I’m afraid, being more of a Polish patriot than a British one.

    British cities, on the other hand, with the exception of some dark corners of Victorian London and bits of provincial cities unspoilt by development, are dire – drab high streets, endless suburban sprawl, same shops everywhere – and violent crime (20 times higher than in Polish cities?)

    English villages are where the English want to retire to, Polish villages are where Poles want to escape from.

  47. Ah yes – and I’ve spent my last three holidays in a Polish village – Dobra, in Małopolska.

  48. Wood for the Trees says:

    The post is spot on but there is one small omission. As well as the hideous sprawl of Polish villages and their Macmansions, there is the completely uncontrolled spread of billboards and advertising tat on the approach roads to Polish towns. You need permission to cut down your own tree in your own garden here but if you want to block the view of some trees with an ad it seems you can go right ahead. Go nuts.

    Also, have you ever noticed that house numbers are random, non-sequential in parts of rural Poland (around Mszana Dolna, if I remember correctly)?

    And lastly, the suspicion that there is no proper planning permission organisation in this country is supported by the recent flooding of houses built on floodplains

  49. Scatts says:

    Jamie, a lot of Polish villages DO have a central focal point, it is just not as obvious as a square or village pond. Many use the delightful 24Hr beer sklep, not as pretty as some of the cuter pubs but does essentially the same thing. Others, for example Sasek Mały comes to mind, use a bend in the road, a large tree and a bus stop.

    The British countryside, being so green, diverse and not flat is able to provide much better backdrops to villages than is most of the Polish countryside. Even Kazimierz Dolny wouldn’t be half as pretty if it was on level ground and not near the river. Flat boring countryside does make a good canvas and Poland is over-blessed with it.

  50. kika says:

    Island, I got your point, I was being a bit ironic…
    Yes, it’s true that there is some montrosities being build around, but it is not due the lack of building regulations in Poland, to the contrary, there is very strick ones, and one must follow them closely.
    The thing is that as long as the building is technically OK and complies with building regulations and architect’s plans, you can design and build your DREAM. It doesn’t need to be the same dream as your neigbourgh’s,
    but you don’t have to build the same identical box as in the whole street.
    I also find it very tiring when I’m driving through English villages, and they all look the same to me, although houses vary. They differ in sizes, shapes, but generally it’s the same pattern repeated over and over again.
    And this red brick just kills me!
    Then you go to Wales and again, different houses but all the same, just made of grey stone…

    I don’t know, but after a few years I miss the variety , I miss teh colour, I miss different styles and I do mean different!!

    You are used to a regular path you’re walking but we are not!
    Our path is very irregular and sometimes messy, but I love it!

    As someone mentioned before – I do love English castles, historic houses and loads of antiques you’ve got, but not the red brick !

  51. Baduin says:

    In Poland this is a tradition, in England – a problem

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_development
    “Ribbon development means building houses along the roads radiating from a town. Ribbon development generated great concern in the UK during the 1920s and 30s, as well as in numerous other countries.”

    A historical background:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reihendorf
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reihendorf
    “The Reihendorf (“row village”) is a particular form of German settlement characterized by rows of houses situated along a street, riverbank, valley, or creek. The Reihendorf generally does not feature common lands, and can be one-rowed or two-rowed.”

    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulic%C3%B3wka
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szereg%C3%B3wka
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldhufendorf
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%81a%C5%84cuch%C3%B3wka

    This village form seems to have migrated to Poland during the settler/establishing/colonization movement of XIV-XV century.
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prawo_magdeburskie
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zasad%C5%BAca
    http://encyklopedia.wp.pl/encid,1640572,name,kolonizacja-na-prawie-niemieckim,haslo.html

    The two high points of a village would be the manor and the church. (The manor-house has been confiscated and devastated in the mean-time). The market place was established generally before the church. There was no need for any other focal point – there was no-self government in Polish villages; they belonged to some nobleman who troubled himself about such things.

    And, since the traditional architecture was wooden, you won’t see many historic buildings in a village – not that the peasant houses were all that elaborate.

  52. guest says:

    Too bad i am not in Poland right now.

    I would force Island, Michael, PMK into Scatts’ nice VW and make a trip through Poland with them. They live in this country and have absolutely no clue about it.

    Kazimierz Dolny, Zakopane, Krakow, Warszawa and a couple of villages in the neighbourhood….That seems to be “Poland” for them…sad, sad

    ….Of course still better than the expats in the 80/90’s. For them “Poland” was the the sight from the Marriott hotel in Warsaw.

  53. Guest – I AM in Poland right now mate, and out of choice.

    Take a good, long look at my blog and see the places in Poland I’ve visited over the past two and bit years of blogging and you will see Lublin, Wroclaw, Poznan, Torun, Zielona Góra, Łódź and Białystok as well as Warsaw, Kraks, Zakopane and Kazimierz Dolny. And Wałbrzych. And Łuków. Beskid Wyspowy, and Beskid Śląski. (Then contemplate the fact that I’ve lived in Poland for nearly ten years, travelling around extensively from Szczecin to Przemyśl, from Nysa to Suwałki, without having blogged those trips.)

    I want you to read these posts then write back saying “Zwracam honor – serdecznie przepraszam”.

  54. PMK says:

    Guest- The IRA never bombed in Dublin (nor did it bomb in Scotland or Wales, since they were Celtic countries and they were to be excluded.) The architecture of the British was not why the IRA blew up bombs; it was because of British rule over Northern Ireland, which they wanted to become part of the the Republic of Ireland.
    I’ve never heard such a ridiculous opinion to why acts of violence were performed.
    —But that’s getting off topic here.

    Plus, did you not read my comment where I wrote that I thought the Polish countryside was darling? (of what I’ve seen of it.)
    I have to hand it over to the Germans though; Germany has the quaintest villages and towns.

    I’m sorry you feel offended by someone’s (ISLAND’s) opinion towards Poland’s countryside, but it is just an opinion. There’s no need to get up in arms about it.

    I’d like to finish off with: if you’re so intent on defending Poland from barbaric expats, who obviously have no regard for it at all, why aren’t you here? Doesn’t Poland have enough to offer you?

  55. guest says:

    PMK,

    1.It is not only about blowing up bombs by the IRA but about the violence on daily basis in British towns/villages. And one of the reasions for this violence IS the urban “red brick” “monotonous” planning. It is like in a “modern” chicken farm. Looks great from outside for people like Island, but in the long term it is a nightmare for freedom loving individuals. Chickens die and (some !) Brits go to the local pub, stab each other or buy a house in the chaotic Spain…

    2.I am not offended. Island can write what he wants. But if he creates a blog FOR people who do NOT know Poland, then he should choose his words more carefully. Or change the title to “People who know a little bit about Poland, so do not take us too serious.”

    3.Do not worry, i will come back to Poland in exactly 8 days. I live and work in Poland.

  56. guest says:

    Michael, I have read your blog and sorry but there is so much nonsense, that now i know why you agree with Island on this topic.

    For exapmpe i can read on your blog:

    “I have been less than charitable about the Polish Tourist Organisation’s depiction of Poland as ‘land of mountains and sea’. The latter is too cold for my tastes. The former – well, if one uses the most demanding definition of the word ‘mountain’ in English – height above base of at least 2,500m, then Poland has no mountains at all!”

    Which is just complete BS.

    1.the Polish sea is NOT cold if you visit it at the RIGHT time (late summer), which should not be too difficult. Of course you can visit it in the cold periods and then rant about the “cold sea”.

    2.”mountains” does not mean “peaks” it means the whole landscape/area which is influenced by the mountains. Valleys+rivers, mountains and so on. And this area is not small in Poland. This area stretches from the German border to the Ukrainian border. This is about ~600kmX~20km mountain landscape.

    3.The definition of mountain in England is “2,000 feet high”. (Poland has more than 260 peeks higher than 2,000ft)

    I could go on, but i fear it makes no sense.

  57. guest says:

    And for all polandian readers,….

    watch this

    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=alanheath&view=videos

    there you will learn something about Poland. This is a Brit who indeed knows Poland.

  58. lurker says:

    As a frequent visitor to Poland and its countryside, I think I know what island1 is getting at. A few summers ago I was absolutely shocked to see how many new houses had popped up along the countryside since my previous visit. One house after another, some modest, others obviously less so. What I remembered as the idyllic wieś had turned into a never-ending string of houses. (I can only imagine what it looks like now)

    A few zoning restrictions to preserve what is left of the scenery wouldn’t hurt.

    Oddly enough, I have never seen a “for sale” sign in the countryside. Are home sales done under the table in Poland, or does anyone in need of a home just build a new one? Based on what I’ve seen I’m inclined to believe the latter, but I hope I’m wrong :-D

    [Disclaimer: Poland’s countryside is very dear to my heart, tin-roofed sklepy spożywcze and all.]

  59. Bob says:

    Lively subject! Probably time to get all willing souls together for a beer and to discuss this. (Jamie – you can stay at our place, my wife tolerates Brits well and if you drive her nuts we can shuttle you to Michael who is only a few short km away!)

    By the way – who ever made the disparaging statement about Michael – you really picked the wrong person – there are few people who know Poland and the UK as well as he does – right from the bright lights and big cities down to the smallest villages – suggest you read his blog (again)

  60. Ania says:

    There are no ‘for sale’ signs because the neighbours buy the house for their children as soon as a prospective sale is mentioned.
    If no neighbour wants to buy, advertise in a newspaper like Dziennik Łódzki.

    I can’t imagine how exactly you want to limit building. People buy a piece of land, and build the house ON IT, close to the road. To limit the building to a village centre would mean to expunge owners in an arbitrarily chosen ‘centre’, and force other people to buy tiny pieces of it to build on. That is NOT better than my house on my land. Limiting area is only possible if there are businesses in a group, and neighbours sell smaller and smaller plots when the prices go up. That’s simple economy.

    In this country we can buy land and we can build on it. What the law preserves are forests and nature seats. Britain has no forests to speak of, and they restrict what you can build IN THE SOUTH. The North is not densely populated at all. Same situation as in China. With that and the area on the country being 30% smaller than Poland, they can’t build spread out neighbourhoods.

    But what we have in Poland are bloki and kamienice, which means that cities are denser than the British ones.

    So if you don’t mind that houses aren’t finished and don’t care if villages are pretty, then it’s purely a problem of homesickness. You don’t really expect Poland to be like Britain? I, too, prefer my own stuff, and a German or Spanish countryside is prettier to me that English. More continental and with modern houses. In Spanish Cantabria houses are three-storey and with balconies, so don’t put a mood up like only Poland builds large houses because they are Borats like that.

  61. Pioro-Boncza says:

    Really sorry I had to travel yesterday and didnt have a chance to keep up with this conversation, but I have to respond to Baduins comments and Ania’s absolutely ridiculous and borderline stupid comment.

    Baduin: With freedom comes responsibility. This means not just building where you wish without any consideration for your neighbours, countrymen, or future generations. This is what freedom under a representative democracy mean. Poland is still learning this as it has only been truly free for 20 years. It is simply growing pains.

    Ania: Your comments are just absurd. I suspect that you were somehow traumatized for being Polish while working in the UK as a waitress or nurse and I am sorry for you that now you have such a jaded view of your so called “West”. Perhaps you should swallow your pride, come back to Poland and work to improve it instead of just blindly defending its honor at every corner. This is exactly what I am doing. I criticize it not because i deride it but because i love Poland and want to do my small part to improve it and modernize. And the dirty Slav comment is just derogatory and stupid.

    Now that there is democracy what bugs me is the street lined village design or random house on plot. The center square is one of the best examples of democracy as it gives a focal point for the villagers to meet and discuss common problems. Because Polish villagers weren’t emancipated until really nearly the 20th century village democracy did not develop. But that doesnt mean it could not now but unfortunately most Poles don’t want to be engaged just want to be left alone – the perennial ostrich with his head in the sand.

  62. Ewa says:

    Um, you limit building by zoning land and only granting building permits to buildings that are aesthetically consistent with the vernacular or a defined style. Yes, it means you have to make a subjective judgement but paradoxically, it frees everyone up to be more creative within those constraints. Ask any good architect.

    And why has this discussion been reduced into an ad hominem argument? (British definitions of mountains? Red brick cities responsible for IRA violence? For chrissakes!). It makes Poles look like they really do have a very fragile sense of self worth. As a previous poster said, if someone criticises something in my country of origin I use it as a way of seeing whether there isn’t a better way of doing something. And before you ask, I’m Polish, living in Poland by choice and have no intention of leaving.

    No matter what you say, the typical Polish village is not an exemplar of modern architecture, nor is it particularly energy efficient or socially useable or supportive of enterprise. These are all major issues for Poland and could be addressed with progressive planning laws. Believe it or not, a lot of work has been done outside of Poland (more than inside!) to think about how to solve these issues and if it were willing Poland could draw from this experience. IMO I don’t think that will happen for quite a while because in this country freedom seems to mean doing whatever you want however you want and there is (sadly but understandably) little tolerance for concepts like the ‘common good’.

    Guest – if you check the description of this blog you will find exactly the kind of disclaimer you are calling for. This isn’t a publication sponsored the Polish tourist board. And I’d have thought that posts like Jamie’s are exactly the kind of ‘freedom’ you are in favour of. Or should only praise of Poland be taken seriously? And any crititcism, especially by ‘foreigners’ dismissed as uninformed? Way to go…

    Bob – The only “for sale” signs I’ve seen anywhere in Poland are either by developers advertising their rabbit hutches, or reposessions. If you check out a nationwide portal like krn.pl you’ll find plenty of houses for sale in cities and in the country.

  63. Pioro-Boncza says:

    I guess to boil it down is when I ride my bike or car into a german/dutch/english village the feeling is “ooh neat let’s check it out..maybe have a beer” while when i do the same into a polish village its “what am i doing here? can’t i even sit down somewhere to have a water? why is everyone staring at me?”

  64. Bob says:

    “Bob – The only “for sale” signs I’ve seen anywhere in Poland are either by developers advertising their rabbit hutches, or reposessions. If you check out a nationwide portal like krn.pl you’ll find plenty of houses for sale in cities and in the country.”

    Huh?

  65. Ewa says:

    sorry Bob – I was addressing Lurker’s point! That’ll teach me to read what’s written…

  66. news says:

    Don’t the Poles say ¨A man must build a house, plant trees and raise sons.¨ What this means is that every husband in Poland feels an instinctive urge to build a house (not buy a house, but build it). This reaffirms his masculinity, pleases his wife, mother, mother-in-law and children and puts one over the neighbours (who are trying to do the same thing.) He is also building a house for his children and grandchildren to live in during various parts of their lives.

    Secondly, the British view the countryside as a place to be protected from urban life, and as a place they would like to retire to, or at least visit. They want it to be twee and quaint. Hardly anyone in the countryside in Britain actually works the land, so they only want it to look nice.

    For Poles, the countryside is a place to live and work in, not a beautiful place to be preserved and admired. Most urban Poles have parents or grandparents who worked the land for a living, so they still take a utilitarian, unromantic, view of the countryside.

  67. Ania says:

    Pioro-‘Boncza’?

    you don’t really care about the stabbings? Anything to sign up to the ‘Betterland’? Leave the undeservedly big houses behind?

    And yes, I am traumatized. I was a Finance Analyst, and comments I had to listen to at work were so evil that I quit. Anti-Polonic and Anti-Semitic. But they gave me understanding of what do the ‘white people’ think. Come over and get petrified yourself.

    But – it’s not about Jamie. I am pissed off by you, a Pole, so don’t make it look like I’m attacking a Westerner.

    I help Poland by trading with her. What do you do for Poland?

  68. guest says:

    @Ewa

    “It makes Poles look like they really do have a very fragile sense of self worth.”

    ———-

    Ewa, i have no fragile sense of self worth.

    Island can rant about the Polish 3rd world roads and stupid drivers, Island can rant about the advertising in Polish cities, about the lack of customer service, about the plastic balloon in Krakow, about the (more and more) banks in Krakow. I will agree with him 1000%.

    But if he writes “i am not a fan of the polish countryside”…”because it is…” then he should not wonder if someone does not agree with this generalization.

  69. Ewa says:

    news – I agree that the urge to build your own home seems stronger in Poland than in the UK, but thanks to lax planning laws and less overcrowing, it’s also easier. I don’t see why that conflicts with the need for some overall planning control.

    Also, you’re not quite right about how land is used. Yes Poland has many more farmers than somewhere like the UK (1.4 million vs 55,000) but less of its total land area is used for agriculture (52% vs 76%) so Polish farmers are more visible.

  70. deterus says:

    @island1, MIchael: You think you know Poland, polish cities, coutrysides, mountains, landscapes? Then take a look here:

    http://www.skyscrapercity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=639

    and here

    http://www.skyscrapercity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=153

    and here

    http://www.poczta-polska.pl/mw/

    You may be surprised…

  71. island1 says:

    One of the fascinating things we have all discovered writing this website is that you never know what will spark off passionate debates like this one. For me it’s one of the reasons Polandian has been and continues to be such a powerful learning experience. It genuinely is an engagement both with a foreign culture and with a diverse group of people who are also learning about that culture. I’m not just sucking up here, it really is fascinating and mind-expanding. Although I think some of the comments in this thread have been needlessly aggressive they are points of view that have given me food for thought.

    Of course, one of the problems with this phenomenon is that the original posts starts to look rather silly and ill-thought out under the weight of the comments. It was, after all, just a jokey post about me not liking the countryside with a bit of observation thrown in. Who knew.

    In hindsight I would have concentrated my concern more on the sprawl of villages and less on the appearance of individual houses, though the latter still bothers me. I understand that ribbon development is traditional but the point is that it is accelerating out of control – it’s not a couple of houses a decade with the natural growth of a village, it’s dozens of houses a year in a seemingly uncontrolled burst.

    I don’t buy this ‘freedom’ argument either. ‘Do what you like where you like’ is a naive interpretation of freedom and democracy. As somebody else mentioned, ignoring the impact on others and the future is folly.

    And guest: I’m really not trying to be rude, but that has to be the most hilarious example of Polish sensitivity I’ve ever heard: Baltic Sea NOT COLD! In other news, Polish fire found to be NOT TOO HOT and Polish flooding ACTUALLY QUITE ENJOYABLE.

    Oh, and can we stop slagging each other off about who lives in Poland and who doesn’t – it’s silly.

  72. Ewa says:

    guest – I doubt that Island has any problem with disagreement at all, but rudeness, personal attacks and ill-informed and spurious arguments are less easy to accept.

  73. guest says:

    I am sorry for the personal attacks. (if there are any) !

  74. Bob says:

    Ewa – no problem at all!

    Jamie – this has morphed into a variety of interesting directions – amazing how that happens!

  75. guest says:

    ps: Island it is not the “most hilarious example of Polish sensitivity I’ve ever heard”… the “cold sea” example is just so typical for expats who visit some places in Poland at the wrong time and then rant that the “sea is too cold”, Warsaw is “too grey” “with no trees” and so on.

  76. Scatts says:

    guest – the sea around Britain is also too cold. The phrase “too cold” being used in relation to its comfort level for bathing between, let’s say, May-Oct. The Mediterranean or other seas in warmer climes, on the other hand, might be considered to be “warm”.

    It’s got absolutely nothing to do with not understanding or liking Poland, it’s just a plain fact of life. The Baltic is “too cold” most of the time to just get naked and dive in unless you’re;

    1/ Pished as a newt
    2/ Scandinavian
    3/ Masochistic
    4/ On some strange health treatment that requires exposing your body to extremes of temperature
    5/ Practicing to swim across the English Channel
    6/ called “guest”

    Warsaw, of course, is not grey and it does have trees but when writing these things people may be comparing it to other cities that it would be fair to say are more colourful and have more trees like, I don’t know….Barcelona?

  77. guest says:

    Agreed, on “May-Oct”. (indeed too cold in May, June and October !)

    But it makes no sense to visit Warsaw in November, the sea in May or October, the Masurian lakes in April and then rant on some blogs that Warsaw “is grey”, masurian lakes are “rainy” and the sea is “too cold”. It is like going to London in January and then complaining about bad weather. You can go to London during the summer and enjoy a beautyful city with beautyful parks. All you need to do is just choose the right time.

  78. PMK says:

    I’m starting to become convinced that some people here are trolling this thread (intentionally trying to create conflict.)

    Guest— I’m glad you’re coming back; I’d love to take you up on your offer and have you chauffeur me about (weekends are best. You can take me Kampinoski. We have to be there pre-dawn, so don’t forget to pick up some coffee.)

    Mentioning the IRA and British architecture as being linked in any sort of way is a doozy fallacy. The architecture doesn’t drive people to kill each other. I mean, they’re not even connected in the slightest bit. What the hell is wrong with you? (The architecture and layout of British suburbs cause just as much violence as a bean burrito.)
    The sprawl of which you’re talking is part of the result of developers buying up chunks of land and building the same type of house over and over (being cheap and efficient.)

    Warsaw is pretty gray. It has plenty of trees and parks, but the buildings are overwhelmingly gray.

    Planning and zoning laws are set up for a reason, mostly for property values/tax purposes. Building a hideous eyesore decreases the value of your neighbors’ property, which they’ll probably not be too pleased about.
    The argument of “freedom” isn’t valid. With that logic, I can use my front lawn as a shitpit or walk around town with my sausage swinging about and say it’s a fundamental right.

    I’ve always found the Baltic to be warm (except when part of it froze over; and then again, I come from a place where the ocean water rarely gets higher than 55ºF in the summer.) Getting offended that someone might remark that the Baltic is cold is pretty comical. Comical indeed.
    As is arguing about the definition of a mountain. (By the way, 1000ft makes a mountain.)

    Deterus— What does that have to do with anything?

  79. guest says:

    PMK, nothing is wrong with me. And i am not offended by the “cold sea” remarks. Such a generalization is just nonsense, thats all i wanted to express.
    ——————

    I am German BTW. I studied (art, architecture, history of arts) and went to school in Germany. Now i live and work in Poland (i visited this country since the 80s).

    And in Germany we used to say “typical Belfast” “Reihenhaus” if we ment a depressing surrounding which leads (and led) to violence. And if you read some wise books about this topic, then you will hopefully understand a little bit better what i mean.

    This is my last comment here.

  80. Scatts says:

    Damn! And I thought we could reach 80 comments! Ooops, we just did. :-)

  81. Ania says:

    guest, thank you for saying good things about Poland

  82. Pioro-Boncza says:

    PMK: “The argument of “freedom” isn’t valid. With that logic, I can use my front lawn as a shitpit or walk around town with my sausage swinging about and say it’s a fundamental right.” — Brilliant!!!

    Ania: I am sorry to have pissed you off but once you start putting words in my mouth I have no choice but to defend myself. What I have been trying to say is what Ewa was able to say is that there is simply no harm and only benefit in having a bit of rural planning. Living in the 21st century an age that will be dominated by climate change, environmental living, higher raw material costs and a ‘kanban’ lifestyle (reduce, reuse, recycle) the Polish village makes no sense. Think of all the extra km of electrical lines, canalization, longer bus routes, more asphalt etc. that will be needed to accommodate such infrastructure resulting in higher costs which means higher taxes or more public debt. Plus Poland has been moving to non-agrarian society already since the 1920s and accelerated under the communists and now our return to democracy so for each home to have its large plot of land is also unnecessary as such infrastructure doesnt really allow for higher-value jobs to be created.

    I am not sure what you are referring to by stabbings and Betterland.

    And if you must know, I am the EMEA (Europe, Mid East, Africa) Director for two companies one manufacturing LED solid state lighting and the other network cabling. In cabling we are top-10 in the world. Our annual revenue exceeds $500million per year. I convinced them to create their European headquarters in Poland and not Germany or Belgium (as they wished) and now I run an office and warehouse in Warszaw so through my convincing I have actually created Polish jobs. On top of this I do sourcing for a set of Eco-lifestyle stores based in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore and have pushed and promoted every young Polish eco designer I could find to put them on the world stage. Unfortunately Green and sustainable living is still in its infancy in Poland, but I also work with an NGO called http://www.reeep.org to help build awareness. Plus as a hobby my girlfriend, myself, and a friend are trying to introduce a new fashion clothing label in Poland.

    I am a Pole but I was born in West Germany thanks to the communists because my family was a public enemy. My mother worked as a fundraiser for Solidarnosc. My father worked with the US govt to get the money into Poland. My uncle was a producer for Radio Wolna Europa. My grandfather was in Armia Andersa and earlier AK. My great-uncle was shot in the back of the head in Katyn. My direct ancestor lost his entire possessions and life due to his taking part in the November Uprising being shot in the back of the head by a drunken Russian soldier. So PLEASE never question again what I or my family has done for Poland or my Patriotism including my right to question, identify, or voice what I believe is wrong or needs to be improved in my and my ancestors’ homeland since the 13th century.

  83. guest says:

    Ania, do not worry,

    Germans adore the Polish countryside. I am not the only one.

    Here is something for our British friends…. “plain Polish land”.
    http://www.dieguten.org/sport/2007weichsel/index.html

  84. kuba says:

    I love Poland it is a great place to visit and see. Many castles, old villages, beautiful country side, rolling hills, the plaza on the Baltic, very friendly people.
    Food is wonderful through out the whole country, largest salt mine, lots of shrines. Can’t say enough about it.

  85. Guest – my gripe is not against Poland but the lazy thinking of the Polish Tourist Organisation, POT.

    Like Scatts, I can think of many better places for seaside bathing than the Baltic. Croatia, the Aegean, the Algarve, the Costa Brava spring readily to mind. Now the mountains. Whether you chose 2,500m, 2,000ft or 1,000ft as the height of a mountain, Poland, a country of 312,000 square kilometres, has precious few of them. Some 3% of the territory of Poland is over 500m above sea level. And the high Tatras occupy a mere 175 square km of Poland – (Warsaw takes up 517 sq km).

    POT should be selling Poland abroad as a land of lakes and forests and hills, a land for ornithologists, historians, steam-train enthusiasts, cyclists, wind-surfers, cavers, hill-walkers, equestrians, bibliophiles – passionate hobbyists who can find plenty to do and see in Poland that would fascinate and enthrall.

    Enthusiasts spend far more money on holiday than those who just wish to blob out on a beach by an anonymous ‘all-inclusive’ hotel. The Polish tourist strategy should target these people with tempting information about the real gems of Poland – and not that wretched, over-crowded and over-priced Zakopane and sea that’s too cold for 90% of the year.

  86. Ania says:

    ok. I’m fortunate to be really drunk at the moment.

    Pioro-Boncza,
    I appreciate your origins, your family history, your personal deeds. I am grateful and proud to share some of them with you. My Grandfather fought under Kleeberg, run out of Majdanek, my Grandmother was in women’s service, she is mentioned in ‘W poszumie lasów Koneckich’. The family has been destroyed by the Communists. My Great-Grandfather was in Oflag, a Colonel. My Father is an entrepreneur, and his Brother a lobbyist. We try. I may one day match them. I am a Ślepowron.

    I appreciate your service to the country while working for a foreign country, you are bringing in the much needed investment money. I wish that with such a talent you will in due time create the capital within the country.

    That said, it would be so much better to have left the derogatory remarks out. Your clan is very important, but have the good grace not to forget that we are to serve, and not to elevate ourselves above the ‘countryside’. We have more in common with ‘wieś’ than with the leftists in the cities. Big houses and smelly armpits included. And I don’t say it just for show – see how much appreciation you can get in a city, and how much following is there for you in a village.

    guest: it looks like a lovely holiday. Thank you again. The photo of guys in a row is just great.

  87. Ania says:

    good point, Michael.
    Lakes, forests, untouched nature, wooden architecture. ‘Wakacje pod gruszą’.
    I really miss that right now.
    It’s just that for us, the holiday places are the seaside and that bit of mountains we have. We see the forests as everyday business.
    Up until we live abroad. I realised fullu and to the core that I am abroad when I walked out of the town, and found no trees there. Just farms and fences.

  88. Ania says:

    PMK: “The argument of “freedom” isn’t valid. With that logic, I can use my front lawn as a shitpit or walk around town with my sausage swinging about and say it’s a fundamental right.”

    sorry, but that’s what we do. after saying the ‘paciorek’, and locking the door. not prepared? don’t go to countryside parties.

    Let me get this straight: WASP freedom is ‘saying whatever the fuck I want’, right after doing ‘whatever the fuck I’m told to do’.
    Here: not so. You have never had freedom, with your kind of society. You can teach lessons about eight pints, but not about freedom. we’ve paid for it with everything.

  89. guest says:

    Michael, it is not Poland’s fault that it is bigger than Slovenia or Irealnd. Is the Baikal lake in Russia less important than a lake in Schottland ?

    I am sure the Baikal lake occupies % much less territory than the Loch Ness and co.

  90. island1 says:

    I wish I could bottle this thread and sell it as “Pure Polish”

  91. Guest – I’ve been a registered user of Skyscraper City for some while now. Here’s a little secret for bloggers. Post a link to your blog in a relevant SkyscraperCity thread (in Polish of course), and watch your traffic soar! The home page – where you see that Poles are the Number One nation when it comes to using this services does my heart proud. Bit like seeing Polish with the fourth-largest number of articles on Wikipedia. Only English, German and French beat Polish. Polish beats Japanese, Italian and Spanish.

  92. wu says:

    I agree with Ewa, Pioro-Boncza and news;

    “But if he writes “i am not a fan of the polish countryside”…”because it is…” then he should not wonder if someone does not agree with this generalization.”

    Well, he said that HE isn’t a fan of it, which means that this is simply HIS opinion. It’s hardly a generalization. Besides, Island1 is well known for writing posts with a decent dose of humorous contrariness :), which I enjoy reading and do not consider it a blow right in the middle of my national pride. Have a little distance to yourself, folks.

    And yes, Warsaw is gray. And sad. And awfully planned. I also hate most of new buildings built there – most of it is too kitschy and flashy, which makes older parts of Warsaw even more gray and sad.

    Ah, btw. I’m Pole all the way through.
    And I’ve always said to anyone who wanted to discuss a matter, that Polish villages (I live in one) are looking like some sort of terrible hotchpotch I can barely look at.
    I’m getting nystagmus just by looking at fences – most of them are completely different from neighboring ones and in colors varying from black, though blue/yellow to hot pink. This is crazy!!! It has nothing to do with freedom of choice. But it has a lot to do with bad taste. I’m not implying that my taste is unique or special, but Polish state of planning regulations and people’s wild and uncontrolled ideas on how houses should look like, have been irking artists, designers and architects for a while now and most of their opinions closely correspond with mine.

    I especially resent modern quasi-‘dworek’ houses. Columns, miniature lions guarding the fence and all that jazz. They are worse than most of older, eternally-unifinished houses, because those can still be turned into something sensible. And ‘dworek-potworek’ houses are too new and fresh for their owners to realize in what kind of nouveau-riche parodies of manors they are living in, and turn it into something less eyesoring. Less is more, most of the times. I’m harsh, I know – but my sense of aesthetics is suffering greatly when I’m looking at most Polish villages AND towns/cities.

    There’s also an issue of us not grown enough as a nation, to realize, that the world doesn’t end at the border of our parcel and that for our neighborhood to be aesthetically pleasing we will have to compromise, at least slightly.
    This is gradually changing, as I don’t see e.g. a neat house with a perfectly mowed lawn and a pile of trash just outside its fence. But I’m still stumbling upon a stinking sea of trash in forests, ditches and along the local tracks I’m using when I want to take a walk. If this isn’t a display of utter disrespect of many Poles for the idea of taking care of general appearance of our country, then I don’t know what it is. Apart from willing to save some money. Until, of course, we will stumble on some sort of ecologic disaster or some people will get ill.

    “POT should be selling Poland abroad as a land of lakes and forests and hills, a land for ornithologists, historians, steam-train enthusiasts, cyclists, wind-surfers, cavers, hill-walkers, equestrians, bibliophiles – passionate hobbyists who can find plenty to do and see in Poland that would fascinate and enthrall.”

    AFAIK, many foreign people are fascinated with Bieszczady mountains (still mountains :P), because they are one of the very last wild areas in Europe (yet, civilized enough for a tourist not to be eaten by a bear of pack of wolves). And our mountains do have quite spectacular views (mountain’s height is not necessary for that), not to mention a specific, local ‘flavors’ in both culture, cuisine and architecture. One of the views in our mountains I like the most is found near Czorsztyński reservoir – massive, rocky mountains crowning a peaceful and relaxing view below (example: http://galeria-zdjec.pl/galeria/albums/pieniny/IMG_14370_1.jpg ).

    Since I’m very fond of taking short car-trips deep into countryside, I also recommend driving through Wiśnicz-Lipnica Landscape Park. It provides some nice eye candies :)

  93. Bartek says:

    And it all ended up with a quarrel in a typical Polish manner…

    I don’t consider myself a very well-travelled person, but I spent some time in the countryside in Poland, Czech Republic and in Germany. The last (it was in former West Germany – Nordrhein Westfalen) struck me with its order, tidiness, well-maintained buildings and infrastructure. It was firstly unbelievable for me that ninety nine per cent of houses and farmhouses were not falling apart, in the majority of the gardens there were beautiful flowerbeds and lawns instead of a garden overgrown with weeds. Yards could be somehow paved and farmers didn’t have to paddle ankle-deep in mud after every rain, unlike many Polish farm owners and house owners who don’t get out without putting on their wellingtons. It all deeply contrasted with the Polish ubiquitous squalor noticeable in the countryside (with some exceptions of course).

    Polandian was created mostly for foreigners…? Possibly but half of us, commentators here are Poles (I deduced it by the language used). I’m sure there are droves of Poles who, like me and the ones whom I recommend this site, drop in on here to see our homeland from the different perspective. Some things are just hard to discern for Poles, as we are accustomed to them… This post with the longish string of comments might serve as an example…

    guest – as Bob said don’t mess with the most famous blogger from the southern suburb of Warsaw ;)

  94. Baduin says:

    I see I guessed right about Boncza. This is a quite usual symptome, because, surprisingly enough, Germany is really better organized, and it is quite comfortable to live in an organized country.

    Unrestrained freedom is hardly an umixed good; I certainly do not advocate anything of the kind. I do not understand, however, why people want to call such things are obedience, authority or regulations “responsible freedom”. That is, I actually understand, but do not approve.

    Moreover, Polish tradition was exactly one of unrestrained freedom. It is a beautiful ideal, but rather unworkable. I like it, but I do understand its drawbacks.

    The state of city – and village – planning in Poland is dismal. As has been mentioned above, the number of formal requirements is legion. This, together with other bits of bad organization and problems with funding, is the reason Poland has no housing crisis – there isn’t enough housing yet.

    But although builders must get numerous and difficult to obtain permits, in most communes and cities there are actually no plans, or they cover only a part of the city. In addition, there are regulations to stop people from building on the arable land – which should theoretically serve as an equivalent to the British green belts. Since, however, the communes decide in that matter, it serves generally only as an additional income source.

    This situation doesn’t change, because with no plans and “odrolnianie” depending on the local authorities, there is a lot of “flexibility” which can be quite beneficial for those administering things.

  95. PMK says:

    Ania- Shitting in the front lawn and getting naked during a party is one thing; turning the front lawn into an open cesspool and walking about town with your junk flapping about in the breeze is something else. (I’m mean, who hasn’t ruined someone else’s stuff/property with his/her bodily fluids at one time? And who hasn’t gone streaking?)
    I was using this as an extreme example of why there are things called “laws” and “zoning regulations.” I think Chris Rock said it best, “See, laws were made for a reason. Have heard someone say, ‘Now, I wouldn’t do that shit if I were you.’?”

    Don’t ever compare me to WASPs.

    My genealogy is also long and my ancestors shouldered their share of burdens too.

    Guest- Poland is relatively flat; it’s a little bit smaller than New Mexico; its lack of natural borders has made it relatively easy to invade. (Note: when I mean invade, I don’t mean conquered.) Why are you debating Michael’s statements? These are facts (that Poland’s mountains are not exactly its most defining topographical features.)

    Wu- Warsaw is very gray, but that’s not to say it’s bad (Lodz is grayer, and I like Lodz.) Personally, I like the new buildings going up; I find them a little more tasteful.
    Actually, my favorite building in Warsaw is (drum roll please): Warszawa Centralna!
    (I’m sure that drew a few gasps of horror.)

    And finally, Bloggers aren’t we all?

  96. Baduin says:

    An, in connection with his January Uprising traditions, a motto for Pióro-Bończa:

    “Dla Polaków można zrobić wszystko, z Polakami – nic!”

    Aleksander hrabia Wielopolski margrabia Gonzaga-Myszkowski herbu Starykoń, XIII ordynat pińczowski

    My family coat of arms is apparently Ostoja, although my family was certainly not as illustrious as that of earlier posters; anyway all documentation was lost in the East. My father and grandfather did some services to the country, but this hardly matters in an Internet discussion.

  97. Ania says:

    Apologies, PMK, too much of an assumption.
    I think that Baduin’s comment answers your doubts well.

    But I don’t agree with it fully. Polish tradition became that of unrestrained freedom after a century of great success. During the Kingdom and beginnings of Res Publica Regni Poloniae, it was a tradition of responsibility.
    But, naturally, we are no longer living in this world and don’t even know how free it was. No planning permits, diet guidelines, traffic regulations. It such a world it was easy to be responsible, patriotic, sacrifice things for the good of the Kingdom.
    Now we are caged cattle, and what is left of the freedom here, in Poland, must not be limited to the regulated life elsewhere.

  98. guest says:

    OK, lets make 100 comments with two fresh news from the British countryside with the gorgeously cute, tiny brick houses…

    ————

    Published Date:
    08 July 2009
    By Philip Bradfield

    Police said the 40-year-old’s body was found shortly before 12.55am yesterday in a laneway at Upper Edward Street.

    They were last night contacting his family.

    Two men were arrested and were last night being questioned at the serious crime suite in Antrim.

    A police spokesman said that an investigation into what had happened was “active and ongoing”, and that detectives were following a “clear and definite” line of inquiry.

    It is understood that the men arrested are not foreign nationals.

    Honorary Polish consul for Northern Ireland, Jerome Mullan from Newry, told the News Letter last night that the victim was beaten up and possibly stabbed.

    “It looked like a fairly brutal killing, and then he was thrown in an alleyway,” said Mr Mullan.

    “I have spoken to a friend of his who went to identify the body. He had no family here and now his family at home have to be informed of his death. This is a terrible tragedy for them.”

    Mr Mullan said that he had been in touch with the police and that they had no leads and were open minded about what might have happened.

    He said there were no indications at this stage as to whether the attack was carried out by locals or foreign nationals.

    Mr Mullan said that the body of the young man remained at the scene for much of yesterday while police continued a close examination.

    He was unable to release the name of the victim until relatives in Poland had been informed.

    As Hon Polish Consul for Northern Ireland, he now has to complete a report on the murder for the Polish Consul General in Edinburgh.

    Newry and Mourne Mayor John Feehan said the murdered man was “somebody’s brother and somebody’s son”.

    “He suffered a very severe beating but we don’t yet know the cause of death,” he said.

    “I am not really aware of any tensions relating to the Polish community. But this young man’s family are going to get very sad news indeed.”

    Detectives want to speak to anyone who was in the area of Upper Edward Street, Monaghan Street or Railway Avenue on Monday night.

    They want to talk to anyone who saw an altercation or disturbance in those areas.

    The full article contains 399 words and appears in News Letter newspaper.
    Page 1 of 1

    * Last Updated: 08 July 2009 11:21 AM
    * Source: News Letter
    * Location: Belfast

  99. guest says:

    Protestancka młodzieżówka grozi:

    czwartek 9 lipca 2009 23:32
    “Polacy won z kraju Królowej! Do niedzieli”

    “Żadnych względów dla obcokrajowców; wynoście się z kraju Królowej” – list z takimi groźbami trafił m.in. do Polaków mieszkających w Irlandii Północnej. Młodzieżowa przybudówka paramilitarnego Związku Obrony Ulsteru żąda, by opuścili oni kraj do niedzieli. Takie samo ultimatum dostali mieszkający tam muzułmanie i hindusi.

    Grupa, która wysłała listy z groźbami, to młodzieżowa przybudówka protestanckiego, lojalistycznego paramilitarnego UDA (Ulster Defence Association – Związek Obrony Ulsteru). To ona postawiła Polakom ultimatum: macie do niedzieli wyjechać z kraju.

    “Żadnych względów dla obcokrajowców; wynoście się z kraju Królowej, tak by was nie było do (…) 12 lipca” – napisano w liście. Tego dnia protestanci zwani oranżystami organizują parady, świętując zwycięstwo nad katolikami z 1690 r. Irlandia Płn. “jest tylko dla białych Brytyjczyków” i ma taka pozostać – dodano.

    List dotarł do Ośrodka Islamskiego w Belfaście, Stowarzyszenia Polaków w Irlandii Płn. oraz Ośrodka Społeczności Hinduskiej. Było na nim logo skrajnie prawicowej organizacji neofaszystowskiej Combat 18. Tej samej, która była zamieszana w głośne czerwcowe napady na trzy domy zamieszkane przez cygańskich imigrantów na południu Belfastu. Z ich powodu około stu Romów zdecydowało się wrócić do Rumunii.

    W przeszłości lojalistyczne bojówki terrorystyczne, a w rzeczywistości gangi paramilitarne, takie jak UDA, walczyły z republikańską IRA i ogólnie z katolikami. Przypisuje się im odpowiedzialność za śmierć około tysiąca ludzi w okresie 40 lat konfliktu w Irlandii Płn.

    UDA oficjalnie zaprzestała działalności w listopadzie 2007 r., rozwiązując skrzydło wojskowe. Jest organizacją nielegalną i przynależność do niej jest ścigana z mocy prawa.

    magbir

    PAP

  100. Ewa says:

    guest: OK OK you’ve convinced me! How could I have been so blind? Poland is WAAAY ahead of the curve; our zero crime rate, our sensitively managed and universally acclaimed rural developments that draw in masses of tourists to admire them, those armies of efficient civil servants helping all those country folk find profitable employment and our courteous, sober drivers are clear signs of that. Thanks to you I now see that everywhere outside our borders is, at best, cramped and intolerant of my human right to be free and at worst, agressive and hostile (if not potentially lethal). So I’ve cancelled my trips abroad and plan to never leave my powiat. Now, let me just find that ruler and value-for-money architectural features catalogue and I’m off to erect my very own dworek with my own hands.

  101. PMK says:

    Heh heh, Ewa.

    Don’t play in the Poconos.

  102. Ania says:

    In fact you are not modernly Western and fashonable in this statement, Ewa. You don’t see the foreigners on this forum bitching on their own countries?
    If Poland is too poor, cold, and dirty for you, then pick the old lady up, dust her off, feed and warm her.
    You won’t find a perfect country anywhere. Saying that your own is not meeting your standards is like divorcing a spouse who got fat.

  103. PMK says:

    Hehheh, I’m looking for a cat fight.

    Guest- That’s kind of irrelevant.

    Ania- If you look back through history, people now have more freedom than they ever did. Restrictions on and regulations on construction are not necessarily “freedom” restricting.
    Are you saying that those in the Lit-Commonwealth and beyond were free? They were SERFS. Patriotic responsibility? Shut up. They squabbled because they all wanted their slice of pie to be larger than the others. This whole idea of “historical freedom” was regulated to the minority nobility that lorded over the masses, whom they held in bondage. Freedom? Ha!

    And finally, this post (and blog in general) is about Poland. Other nations/cultures are mentioned for purposes for comparing and contrasting. Why would anyone start complaining about their home countries?
    Well, I’ll start:
    So, American Suburbia: (here’s my link to my own rant on it: http://polishmeknob.blogspot.com/2009/02/suburbia.html))
    There is no place I’d rather not live than a suburb in the US. I’d rather live in Pripyat (in the Sarcophagus of Chernobyl even.) A place devoid of warmth, feeling, community, culture. A place that is bleeding America dry by the day; sucking like some vampire on the neck of our country, driving it into debt, pollution, and despair. I hope to see the day when suburbia is bulldozed and razed to the ground.

  104. Ewa says:

    Ania, you’re right. I wasn’t even remotely modernly Western and fashionable in my statement. I was just being sarcastic. And I don’t feel the slightest need to justify to you what I do to make a difference here in Poland or describe my long and distinguished Polish heritage.

    I am passionate about the issue highlighted by the original post precisely BECAUSE I believe that there is another way of picking up the (very) old lady, dusting her off, feeding and warming her (nice metaphor, BTW) than hosing her down so that the dirt runs off into our neighbours land, stuffing her with zapiekanki and dressing her in białe kozaczki and a low cut blouse and pretending she’s still in with a chance. That’s so 80s.

    And as for my country of origin ( UK), go read the links on guest’s last post… it’s all true and shameful. But it’s not the whole story.

  105. guest says:

    “it’s all true and shameful. But it’s not the whole story.”
    ————————————————————–
    NOW FINALLY you got it !

    The violence is not the whole story about the “British society” and some ugly villages are not the whole story about the “Polish countryside”.

  106. Ania says:

    PMK: ‘Hehheh, I’m looking for a cat fight.’ ‘Shut up.’

    How exquisitely stylish. Are you on a gap year?

    On your blog you seem quite interested in this country. But I think you have in your head the assumption the all peasants are similar to slaves, and there was not freedom before American freedom. Look up ‘kmieć’, ‘podatek od Żydów’, ‘wolne miasto’.

    Ewa: I read guest’s last posts, I agree with them, I mentioned the stabbings myself.

    So you are British. I congratulate you on fooling me. You made yourself sound like the modern Max/Magda, who are great enemies of the un-modern Marian/Mariolka, babcias with berets and bigos. Which is a sickness of cutting one’s roots off, the roots that you don’t share anyway. What did you want to achieve?

  107. Ania says:

    Ewa
    ‘And I don’t feel the slightest need to justify to you what I do to make a difference here in Poland or describe my long and distinguished Polish heritage.’

    I don’t see what would stop you. To acknowledge one’s virtues, achievements and origins is to acknowledge good.
    Or would you rather describe how many pints you can do in one sitting, or money spend in one shopping spree?

    I would also expect you to strive to make a difference in the UK. If you care for Poland as well, thank you.

  108. PMK says:

    Guest—What do those stories have to do with anything? Stabbings? England? What are you trying to get at? (That the architecture is to blame?)

    Ania— I’m not daft enough to think that freedom came around with the birth of the USA, but it’s nice that you assigned me that opinion. I’m well aware of my country’s history of repression (which arguably continues to this day; but this is not the place to argue about that.)
    If you think that Poland was a shining beacon of freedom, then you ought to help yourself to a nice, thick history book. You can sit down and read all about the wonderful life of a serf in Poland, from Kingdom to Commonwealth and beyond to the Partitions. Read about when they were “freed” and the new masters of the populace became the factory owners, who graciously granted them squalid conditions in which wonderful diseases bred easily and voraciously. Oh, those wonderful times when the freedom of speech was nonexistent, when the masses of unwashed, illiterates had no rights and no voice.

    I assume when you urge me to look up “wolne miasto” you’re talking about Gdansk? (Am I right?) I made an argument that it was German (which it was, something like 97% ethnically German.) If that is the case, this isn’t the place to discuss my own blog.

    Your arguments are inherently weak and unsupported.
    An example on “freedoms”: What would you think if a developer bought up large sections of the Stare Miasto (pick a city, any city) and bulldozed all those wonderful old buildings and constructed offices. It would be his ‘right’, it would be his ‘freedom.’ It’s his land, he bought it, paid for it in full; why shouldn’t he be able to turn history into rubble and build something that’s to his benefit?

    The essential part of this whole discussion is the lack of oversight on construction of homes in the Polish countryside (plus a few other things.) Oversight is created out of necessity for various of reasons, from things like safety codes, to preservation of land, to preservation of culture, to tax purposes. Arguing that these regulations restrict freedom is a bit misplaced. Many of these laws were set up for the well-being of the community, as well as the owners of the actual houses. Example upon example can be made why these regulations are needed (would you care if I dumped my waste into the nearby river? Would you care if I turned my farm into an all-nude fuck resort exclusively for fat people? Would you care if built a house improperly and its construction led to massive erosion of YOUR property? Chances are, you would care.)

    As for my vulgarity… well, I guess it’s just there to serve as sophomoric flavoring.

    Lastly, what does anyone’s ancestry have to do with anything? No one cares who your grandfather was and what he did/suffered through. It certainly doesn’t make your arguments more coherent.

  109. guest says:

    PMK “The essential part of this whole discussion is the lack of oversight on construction of homes in the Polish countryside”
    —————————————-
    Just stop this generalization “of homes in the Polish countryside” and i will agree with you 100%. This is all i try to say ;)

    I have the feeling that some British/US expats (hopefully just on this blog) tend to become very hysteric and oversensitive in Poland and of course they “know it better” (how to protect the countryside). They think that if Poles build 1000 kitchy houses in some meaningless villages, the whole Polish countryside will be in danger for the next 1000 yrs. It reminds me of the colonialists who came to Africa or the USA and then wanted to show the Africans and Indians how to create a proper village.

    ——————-

    Here you can read how the “Polish countryside” looks like.

    h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poland

    Forests cover 28% of Poland’s land area. More than half of the land is devoted to agriculture. While the total area under cultivation is declining, the remaining farmland is more intensively cultivated.

    3,145 square kilometres (1,214 sq mi), is protected within 23 national parks. In this respect, Poland ranks first in Europe. Three more national parks are projected for Masuria, the Cracow-Częstochowa Upland, and the eastern Beskids. Most Polish national parks are located in the southern part of the country. In addition, wetlands along lakes and rivers in central Poland are legally protected, as are coastal areas in the north. There are also over 120 areas designated as landscape parks, and numerous nature reserves and other protected areas.

    Many animals that have since died out in other parts of Europe still survive in Poland, such as the wisent in the ancient woodland of the Białowieża Forest and in Podlachia. Other such species include the Brown Bear in Białowieża, in the Tatras, and in the Beskids, the Gray Wolf and the Eurasian Lynx in various forests, the Moose in northern Poland, and the Beaver in Masuria, Pomerania, and Podlachia. In the forests, one also encounters game animals, such as Red Deer, Roe Deer and Wild Boars. In eastern Poland there are a number of ancient woodlands, like Białowieża, that have never been cleared by people. There are also large forested areas in the mountains, Masuria, Pomerania, Lubusz Land and Lower Silesia.

    Poland is the most important breeding ground for European migratory birds. Out of all of the migratory birds who come to Europe for the summer, one quarter breed in Poland, particularly in the lake districts and the wetlands along the Biebrza, the Narew, and the Warta, which are part of nature reserves or national parks. In Masuria, there are villages in which storks outnumber people.

    Amen.

  110. Ania says:

    The general point of this lengthy ‘conscriptation’ with you is that we wish to convey something to you, even though you are not the author of this post. Which this is: Poland has some good things about it, so don’t patronize her.

    I realize now that you are an American student, as a normal American you love your country, which is good. Now get it through your head that I love my country, and that is also good.

    Also, as a young person, you are very boastful and quick to judge, which is also and American custom. It will help you if you realize that this gadarene fashion of thought impairs you understanding of things.

    I now regret greatly apologizing to you, because apparently it made you hot and rowdy. I will remember never to apologize to Americans.

    The issue of planning has been mentioned and agreed by everyone, including me. You either with to break an open door, of you just want to call us ‘unfree’. What, however, you have mentioned as well is the idea of freedom. And that for you is mixed, as Baduin noticed.

    Old buildings in the city centres are and have been torn down in your country. And possibly will be.

    Wolne miasto Gdańsk- yes it was mostly populated by Germans, good Polish citizens, who fought against German princes on the side of Polish Kings. It was self-governed, which makes it deep in unwashed serfdom. Now use your own advice and READ A BOOK, stop trying to get people to explain you things in simple English.

    We have developed our own freedom over the ages, and if for you one European country is like the other, then you’ve just ignored the traditions of Sejmik, Sejm, gromada, rada, dziad, kanclerz, poseł, rycerz etc. Suit yourself, but it gives me more ideas about you and your country. I can’t help for the poverty in France and Ireland, but HERE we’ve never had famines, and the plagues that come after it. Precisely because the masses had some food, manor houses were wooden, and there are not many Versailles to show off.

    As to the ‘unwashed illiterate peasants’ as you have kindly called them. Kindly turn your offences to your own illiterate masses. You have no idea what is a chłop. But you are full of contempt, because it has been such a liberation legend – poor founding Fathers in their rags, pestered by damn nobles. Horrible Polish peasants. We are not Westerners, our szlachta were farmers and in majority not much different from chłopi. Every szlachcic has a chłop ancestor who got accepted to a clan.

    What you don’t know and will never find the good grace to care about, is that chłopi are very intelligent people. They value education above all. They pay enormous attention to their clothes. Those un-plastered houses look like love-nests inside.
    The girls are more beautiful than you can imagine – that is, if you meet an extremely gorgeous girl in her pretty clothes, she just might be an unwashed peasant.

    Some of the unwashed illiterates included poets, generals, politicians: here, check this list out yourself, I won’t make it easy for you.

    Wincenty Witos
    Michał Pyrz
    Michał Drzymała
    Klemens Janicki
    Jan Kanty
    Jan Kasprowicz
    Władysław Gomułka
    Edward Gierek
    Maciej Rataj
    Rydz-Śmigły
    Bolesław Pylak
    Jan Kiliński
    Wojciech Bartos
    Jan Berens
    Bartłomiej Nowak

    – none of them are ‘barefoot chicken feeding country asses’, I hope you recognize the quote.

    Lastly – I care, two others care. That’s hardly no one. Unless minority is nothing, unit is nothing. So what happened to your ancestors who’ve ‘shouldered’? Lost in translation?

    guest, I am very grateful for all those kind words and examples.

  111. PMK says:

    Guest— If that’s all you want, sure, I’ll admit that the Polish countryside is not completely covered in empty concrete structures. (But there are a lot of them.)

    By the way, the term “countryside” refers to small towns, villages, and farms. I think what you might be thinking of is called “wilderness” or even forests. This whole discourse about the countryside, not really the natural beauty of Poland.

    Ania— You seem to confuse nobility and the higher classes with the overall population of Poland, which is simply not the case. The vast majority of the population lived in serfdom, and then lived as lower classes (as they did throughout Europe and even throughout the world.) The vaaaast majority of Poles were indeed unwashed illiterates. This whole idea of public education is a rather new idea and didn’t originate until well into the 1800s and early 1900s.

    You’re off your rocker. You’ve obviously not read a whit of what I’ve written and your sense of history rivals that of a small child. Your sad portrayal of me has contradicted almost everything I’ve written and tried to explain, which you’ve conveniently ignored in trying to depict me a some sad type of a stereotype. You’ve misunderstood all of my arguments and have neither strengthened your own nor come up with a serious rebuttal.
    You’ve apparently are unable no grasp incredibly simple concepts, and indeed have become the caricature which you had hope to portray me.

    I mean, did you actually read what I previously wrote? Have you? Have you, my dear? Did you understand them? Are you sure you didn’t just glance over them and draw wildly inaccurate conclusions based upon your own prejudices and national pride? I think that, that’s the correct answer.

    As for everything else, I refer you back to my previous posts and to a text book on history.
    (By the way, Poland did have a famine (in 1919. “Five million people east of the River Bug in the new Poland are at the point of starvation.” Or so says the NYT. The famine in Ireland was caused when the British rule (serfdom) and all the Irish had to eat were potatoes (the rest of their land was used for grazing cows for the British market.) A blight came and millions died or left. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is a sharp satire of British rule over Ireland. (Basically, he’s saying, “We’ve taken everything else from them, why not start eating their children?”))

    By the way, the Sejm was a bunch of squabbling nobles who couldn’t decide on anything and let their country be divided up. (Ever heard of the term “Polish Parliament.”)

    So you care and two other people care about ancestry (pretty sad.) That doesn’t make you more “right” or your point of view more valid than anyone else’s.

  112. Baduin says:

    And now a bit of explanation for our foreign readers (if any):

    Poland in the era of the Second Serfdom (XVI-XVIII century) was very different from a typical Western European country west of Elbe. This system was not universal – there were some cities and regional exception – eg Royal Prussia, also special castes, as Jews or Armenians or clergy or Tartars. (Jews fulfilled the role of damn Yankees.)

    But in general the society before 1864 resembled most the American South. (Funnily enough, the serfdom in Poland and slavery in America ended nearly at the same time). The chief difference was that “masters” and “niggers” were exactly the same.

    This does not mean that serfs were very badly off – they were not. Although they were mostly money-poor, they were generally well-fed. According to some calculations I read, a typical farmworker (czeladź) on a manor consumed about 3500 cal daily; a typical inhabitant of Paris in XVIII century about 2000 cal. It is not surprising that French took to eating frogs and snails, and that there was never a revolution in Poland, despite very weak state.

    But this explains why the unconscious ambition of most Poles is to be a local landlord, with a manor house and everything. There are many variations on the theme; for example an university education was traditionally held to be equal to nobility (see Boziewicz Kodeks Honorowy). That is the original reason why Poles so insist on their mgr, it is an equivalent to the German “von”.

    Some especially insecure Poles put their coat of arms into their internet handles. Others make various grandiloquent but imprecise allusions about their ancestors and documentation lost in past wars.

    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo%C5%84cza_(herb_szlachecki)

    The disease both hereditary and infectious: Nietzsche used to claim that he was not German. He was a Polish nobleman, of course.

    There is also a second factor: Poland, together with Germany and Russia, form an Axis of European Complexes (with Italy as an associated member). The complexes look different in each case – the Russian superiority/inferiority attitude towards the rotten West is quite different from the Polish desire for approbation.

    It is one reason why sites such as Polandian are popular in Poland. Polishmen simply MUST know what the West thinks about them; in fact it doesn’t matter WHAT the West thinks, as long as it thinks at all. Obviously the problem here that the Polish Cause is not a household topic in the Western conversation.

    It is well know that in artistic and political promotion the most efficient trick is to have a Western newspaper support you, and then republish this in Poland. The most difficult part is getting them to write about Poland at all; since the Western journalist usually do not know and do not want to know about Poland, after they decide to write about it, it is easy to get them to write what you want.

    In case nobody important wants to write at all, you can organize an exhibition in some cellar in Paris, have a neighbourhood photocopied newsletter write two words about it, and then trumpet up “the success of Parisian exibition” in Polish newspapers. Your paintings will sell like hot cakes!

  113. Ania says:

    PMK,

    the only answer you need is that I’ve written about peasants, and you still think about nobles. So eat your own medicine and start reading.

  114. steven says:

    By the way Island, I know that one eyed guy, he approaches me often just outside Wroctaw. I enjoy buying and drinking large quanities of ockocim with him. And the kids love feeding the goat. It took a few years, but once you speak Polish really really well, you even begin to understand the one eyed guy, though his name still escapes me at the moment.

  115. Ania says:

    Baduin,
    ‘sucking up to the west’ is why I keep chasing after those who worship Betterland and scorn dirty peasant Poland. And visiting here – I do it because of the stabbings. It seems that we are being killed as ‘niggers’.

    University degrees are held in great esteem, a Professor is run around like a king. All true. What do you see wrong in this? Hereditary disease is a part of our history and society. Scorn it all you like. Some time ago people scorned wooden huts, and built blocks with central heating and running water. Now the blocks are scorned and huts praised. Wherever you’ve from, in 50 years you will change your fashions. I will again hold on to my fashions.

    Now I need to go away before the aggressive American teenager starts screaming ‘fuck nobles, fuck peasants, I know everything’.

    He also should consider that the famine and flu of 1919 happened after the second Republic has been proclaimed in 1918, priviledges abandoned and President chosen instead of a King. Socialism is a straight road to hunger, as America under President Obama will find out. Even though America is still ruled by the old Houses, and electing an African will not change a thing. Kennedys, Obama, Bushes – they are all European Aristos. Sorry, kid.

  116. kuba says:

    Those American teenagers, the future generation. We are in trouble now. The teenagers are not much help unless you need to learn to text day and night and sit on your dupa.

    Electing an African American will change things. We will a socialist country in very fast time. We will have lives for everything sound familiar.

  117. Baduin says:

    Ania – Perhaps there are worse things to aspire for than nobility.

    As for 1919 – I would remind you of the First World War. As it was, we had the pleasure of being one of the principal battlefields, and of being visited by various armies.

    As for America, it has fallen far from its former heights. The hunger of 1918 and following years is remembered for Herbert Hoover. Now Americans seem to be both perpetually angry and clueless, like our dear PMK.

    PMK- would you dare to write something like this about eg Nigeria? “Your ancestors were dirty niggers sitting in straw huts, before the white men came to show you how to walk on two legs?” Not, because you think you are not a racist – and so you won’t say anything bad about anyone with black skin.

    But – do you not know that RACE is a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. And Polish nobility considered itself to be Sarmatians, a separate race from the sons of Ham tilling the earth. But you think that you cannot offend blacks, but you can offend Polish peasants.

    Why: because you are really a racial essentialist. You imagine that races are inherently different, that blacks are somehow different because of the color of their skin. You managed to get into your thick skull that you are not to offend blacks – but you understood nothing more.

    You are simply a dirty racist, full of superiority and hot air. You vomit insults from your hate-filled cesspool of a mind. You build yourself a dungheap and crow from the top of it how perfect you are. I suggest you post from now on on Stormfrom forums; I do not think there is any place for you here.

    Kuba – do not offend President Obama. He is a great man, and will teach Americans a lot. And they have a lot to learn, as we have seen recently.

  118. kuba says:

    Ania,

    I don’t offend him pragmatically he is a socialist and it already is evident. Getting a Dr is not as easy as it once was. Taxes are going up, significantly. Unemployment is rising beyond predictions of the administration.
    I can only offend him for his stance on abortion. He is pro death to an individual class of people, the unborn and that is genocide.

  119. Ania says:

    Naturally, the War goes without saying. Or maybe I should have mentioned it. One never knows what exactly they don’t know over the water…

    I wonder if PMK realises how much of a commie he is – the disregard for tradition, unit, liberties, Parliaments as squabling folks. Ten years ago I would say, ‘if you want to feel the Russian fist, you can go and live there’. But it appears that indeed the Americans will have to learn a lot under new management. I would be really sorry for them, if they haven’t had it coming.

  120. island1 says:

    Okay guys and gals, can we keep the personal insults to a minimum please.

    I don’t care who started it, you’re all being very naughty.

  121. guest says:

    And now read this carefully

    h ttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/crash-and-recovery/lessons-learned-poland-weathers-slump/article1208379/

  122. steven says:

    Kuba Obama is a great politician * therefore great baby kissing tall tail teller* but a great man…. please tell me one great thing he has ever done , really he is the first black president so far that is all he has done, other than print a trillion dollars for my kids to pay down later.

  123. kuba says:

    Steven,
    He is a great orator like you say, a great community organizer. He did win the presidency with those qualities.
    He has never run a company, as a senator he ran for the presidency. He is printing money and he is trying to spent it faster then they print it. You can NOT spend your way out of debt.
    He has not done one great thing. He will bankrupt this nation if it continues as is.
    The list of ridiculous spending is long and stimulates nothing. He is lining the pockets of those who supported him in his run for office.
    He is the first black but what will his legacy be after he is gone.

  124. Ania says:

    guest – good for now, but I suppose Tusk will ruin that before October passes.

  125. guest says:

    Ania,

    My link is not about Tusk, it is about the “down to earth” Polish mentality.

    Island wrote that:

    “If credit was available to Poles they would take it (and finish their houses) just as eagerly as everybody else in the world,”

    But this is just not true.

    quote:

    “What has Poland done to avoid the precipitous bust that has crippled Ireland and Spain, hobbled Britain and Germany, and turned its neighbours Hungary and the Baltic states into basket cases requiring emergency IMF bailouts?

    In short, economists say, Poland avoided the boom-and-bust economy. While other countries were allowing their banks and corporations to leverage themselves into illusory prosperity – and amassed high levels of public debt in expectation of future revenues – Poland reined in its banks and firms, and experienced modest but stable growth for most of the past decade.

    “Poland didn’t go through quite the same degree of boom that some of its neighbours have, so we haven’t seen the same sort of blowout in current account imbalances and financing leading to real estate booms and massive increases in credit in Poland as we saw in some of the other countries,” Mark Allen, the IMF’s Poland representative, said in an interview. “Also, fiscal policy here in Poland has stayed under control, and debt levels have remained low. That is not as true in some of the other countries which have experienced crisis.”

    Poland’s relatively prudent approach to fiscal and banking matters, and to private sector debt financing, probably dates back to the final decade of Communist rule, which ended 20 years ago. The Communist leadership relied heavily on bank debt and foreign loans, and fell into a severe fiscal and monetary crisis in the final years of the 1980s – an Eastern Bloc credit crunch that was far worse than the global one today, and affected several neighbouring countries, bankrupting dozens of huge state-owned industries and plunging millions into joblessness.

    The result is a deep aversion to large-scale debt that remains today, 20 years after Poland made a comparatively quick transition to a market economy.

    nuff said.

  126. Gosh we’ve gone off topic haven’t we. I spent time in the Polish countryside today south of Warsaw, and found it deeply satisfying spiritual being at one with nature; meadows and forests. My one gripe – far too much rubbish being dumped into the woods.

  127. Ania says:

    We have, Michael. I think this website needs a forum attached. Each post could still be commented, but all the digressions could be fought over on the forum.

  128. guest says:

    Yes, we need a therapy forum for hypersensitive Poles and ignorant Expats. This is an explosive mixture and it needs some serious treatment…:D

  129. PMK says:

    Baduin— People in the country have always eaten (much) better than those in the cities (ever since the dawn of civilization when hunter-gathers started to go into settlements.) It’s a matter of trying to support too many people in one spot. (I got this from the book, Mismatch: Why our world no longer fits our bodies.) Picking an average person from the French countryside, and comparing that to a worker from the Polish countryside is more apt, since it is assumed that there will be a great difference between those in the cities and those on the farms (where the food is grown.)
    I’m not saying that people of Poland were poorer, I’m saying that the serfs of Poland were poorer and had less rights than the nobility.

    Ania— I think your problem is that you don’t actually understand what is being written. Perhaps you should go through and make sure you comprehend what people are saying instead of just:
    A. Jumping to conclusions.
    B. Putting words and opinions into peoples’ mouths.
    Most the shit you’ve attributed to me, isn’t what I’ve said at all. (By the way, I’ve been talking about the overall population the entire time.)

    Besides that, I’d say you have the critical thinking of child.

    Oh, and I’m not a teenager.

  130. steven says:

    Guest, it is people like you that help me develop patience,love, and understanding of those that where not breast fed as little babies. Thank you, your comment though as welcome as a fart in church, is developing me into a good man in a wierd way.

  131. guest says:

    Steven, what do you expect ?

    If you open a blog as an expat and (rant) analyze (about) the Poles/Poland then do not be surprised if the Poles do not stay passive and behave like a herd of dumb orang-utans in a zoo.

  132. PMK says:

    I realize how nasty this thread has become; this is no way to conduct discourse.

    Ania, I’m sorry for my insults. Just calm down the jingoism.

    Guest, I think we just misunderstood each other.

    Island, I still think your funny.

  133. Ania says:

    oh, PMK, so they HAVE been insults instead of arguments?
    30 Hail Marys

  134. steven says:

    Touche Guest Touche

  135. Paweł says:

    oh dear what happened here? :)

    I think it might be concluded that many Polish people don’t see the benefits of planning. This is obviously reflected in how Polish villages and towns look.

  136. Paweł – the adjective to denote ‘of Poland’ is Polish – not polish – which is what one puts on shoes, floors, knives etc.

  137. Pawel says:

    Sorry for my lazy spelling:) Corrected.

  138. pinolona says:

    This is totally crazy! It started off as a simple post about the countryside… what happened here?!

  139. island1 says:

    Pinolona: It’s a mystery to me :)

  140. The last word belongs to me.

    The Polish countryside can offer much pleasure and satisfaction to the hip urban visitor, but you need to be in tune with its history and traditions, read up about where you are going before setting off and have some aesthetic agenda. It’s not chocolate-box Cotswolds or Bavaria or Tuscany, but there’s plenty of attractions for the sensitive, aware and forgiving soul.

  141. Moka Boo says:

    very very true:

    The Polish countryside is very pretty, at least the hilly parts down here in the south are, but there seem to be no restriction whatsoever on what you can build or where. There are hideous eyesores, many of them permanently half-finished, scattered on every hillside. I understand that people don’t necessarily have the funds to complete their houses in one go, and that you can’t deny people the right to improve their living conditions but seriously Poland, you’re screwing up some lovely places in an irreparable way.

  142. “Planning officer: Are you planning to build a concrete shell and then abandon it for years with piles of half-consumed building materials all around it?”

    Could possibly be the funniest thing ever written!!! :D

  143. island1 says:

    Could be. On the other hand maybe you just haven’t read enough Polandian yet :)

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