Monday, March 31, 2014

Riding the Boleslawiec Beltway

Despite my heritage, I am not a collector of Polish Pottery.  After this last weekend, however, I am a buyer of Polish Pottery.  Really, how can one resist?  If you travel to Boleslawiec, Poland you are in the belly of the beast when it comes to high quality pottery.  Apparently, it is a fraction of the cost compared to the United States.  This means Polish Pottery collectors, also known as packs of loud women, from across Central Europe will caravan to Boleslaweic to spend the weekend going from factory shop to factory shop in search of the perfect pattern or piece(s) of pottery.

Traffic Circles Decorated with Pottery

A friend and I decided to take our first girl's road trip to this "Las Vegas" of girl's road trip destinations.  From Vienna through the Czech Republic and into Poland we drove.  From super highways, to four lane roads to curving, pot hole filled country lanes we passed through towns and hamlets to small to reference on a map, but still wearing noticeable scars from their Warsaw Pact history.

Internet Map

A few words about our accommodation, The Blue Beetroot, located off the beaten path in a small neighborhood outside of Boleslawiec.  This small, lovely inn has a kind staff willing to go the extra mile for customers, in addition to providing "the secret map" to all of the best pottery shopping locations.  Breakfast and dinner were superb and the rooms were cozy and comfortable.  Some of our fellow guests decided to loudly reenact their party days, which did put a damper on the quaint surroundings.

The Blue Beetroot

Now, a brief primer for Polish Pottery in Poland shopping virgins.

1.  Arrive early enough on the first day to do some reconnaissance.  We used our first afternoon in town as a dry run for the big day.  Luckily, my friend is a most excellent planner and translated the "secret map" into a very helpful navigation and planning tool.  Without her attention to detail, we would have missed out on prime shopping opportunities.

Copying the "Secret Map"

2.  Expect to have a physical reaction to looking at the pottery.  Really.  The stores are filled with so many different patterns, colors, and styles, just looking at everything can make you feel light headed.  We took a break and headed to the Farmers Market to check out the local color.  

Decisions Decisions

Now I'm Dizzy

Potatoes for Pierogies

These Might Look Familiar to My Family

3.  Don't feel like everything needs to match.  This is difficult to do.  If you feel comfortable making a commitment to one pattern, go for it.  Those artfully mismatched Polish Pottery Pinterest boards look so pretty, but I just decided to buy what I like and call it a Pinterest fail.


My Attempt at Pinterest

4.  Buy it when you see it.  This is especially true in the 50% off room where we were followed and elbowed by a scruffy looking, lung hacking man who picked up what we put down to add to his pile.  We guessed that he is a reseller who works the craft fair circuit by buying low and selling high.  Also, I still regret not purchasing a piece I liked and there was no way to back track.  This obviously means a return visit is in my future.

Do Not Walk Away From Eggs (or Pumpkins)

5.  Polish men want to wash the windshield of your car.  Yep, while the women make the pottery the men folk wash car windows. They approach you in parking lots or wash without permission while you're shopping and expect payment as you hop into the car.  It is disconcerting, but thanks to my friend, we did not have to find out what happens if one does not pay.

At the end of the day, this is one adventure that must be repeated, especially now that we have the "secret map".  I doubt I will ever be a Polish Pottery collector, but the enjoyment of the artisans' designs and the opportunity to eat pierogies, polish goulash and piggies (golumpki) is too good to pass up.  See you next year Boleslawiec!

Sunset at The Blue Beetroot

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

There's No Place Like a Home Show

I attended Vienna's "Wohnen & Interieur" show yesterday.  A woman in front of the Messe Wien convention center was scalping a discount ticket and I apparently looked like an easy mark for 8 euros.  How did she know I don't live in a house, I don't have a garden and I love a good bargain?

Four convention halls were filled with the latest and greatest in all things home.  There were lots of sales reps standing, well, mostly sitting, looking at their own displays.  Many of them were drinking wine.  I am not kidding.  The beauty of this for the casual observer was that the "hard sell" had either taken a holiday or morphed into the buzzed sell.  In addition, each hall had its own restaurant/cafe/bar for show attendees.  My favorite was the disco lounge.  Where's my spandex and my Cosmo?

It's Raining Men......

Let's talk trends.  In kitchens, the white kitchen was king.  Sleek and shiny cabinet design, open shelving, stainless or white integrated appliances and built in-eat in areas were everywhere,  Nary a tuscan pizza oven, rustic glazed cabinet or corbel to be found.

And I thought my white kitchen was "dated"

For those kitchens, as well as bathrooms, the big slab of stone, marble or interesting ceramic was a fun contrast to the sleek, minimalistic cabinetry.  Granite had big and diverse movement, keep that in mind when picking out your "slab".  However, yours truly fell head over heels for a ceramic "cow hide" looking tile carried by Bernit.  Guess I really do miss the Southwest.

Go Big

Go Bigger


I also fell in love with the glass and crystal curtain rods and finials by Mille.  These can go retro, traditional or contemporary and I'd use them in a heartbeat.



Furniture was meh, in my opinion.  There was leather, leather everywhere--large and low sectionals with wide arms, tilt back head rests, integrated recliners, and ottomans.  As the proud owner of a 10 foot, 1961 Kroehler aqua sofa, I'll politely take a pass.  

You'll Never Leave the Couch

Give to Me Your Leather......

Dig the Saddlebags

Although, I did find some chairs that touched my retro heart. The Polygon by Prostoria was a Interior Innovation Award 2014 Winner.  I'll take 2 please.

And then there was this.  Holy 1970s Mediterranean Villa, Batman.

 On the other hand, this modern Asian inspired vignette was very popular.  Simple.  Organic.

Finally, some vintage inspired yet innovative pieces by Edra.

Of course, I am always on the look out for antiques, and this Art Deco-Jugendstil display had me hooked.  Then I discovered these pieces were updated reproductions with motorized lifts for a computer or television (left side) and even a "pop up" bar (right side).  I am all for mixing business and pleasure!   A Votre Sante friends!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lazy Day in Laxenburg

We've slipped into a routine of "day tripping" after Sunday Mass.  Today we went to Laxenburg Schlosspark.  The town is about 25 minutes south of Vienna and a perfect place to wander around on a sunny day.  Established in the 13th century, the castles and surrounding park area ultimately became a favorite Spring and Summer refuge for the Imperial Hapsburgs.  We wandered out to Franzensburg, a replica of a medieval castle built by Franz II (the last Holy Roman Emperor) and finished in the year of his death, 1835.  After their 1854 wedding, Emperor Franz Joseph and Elizabeth (Sisi) spent their honeymoon in Laxenburg and their son crown prince Rudolf was born here.  Today, it is well worth the 2 Euro entrance fee (kids under 14 free) to wander the grounds and take in the scenery.   Although the museums were closed, there was steady line of traffic on the streets of the small village.  We walked the park, checked out the baroque cathedral and ended up at Gallo Rosso for some decent pizza and vino.  
A lazy day for all.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beauty and The Beast

On Sunday we spent the afternoon in appreciation of Otto Wagner's (1841-1918) architectural design at St. Leopold Am Steinhof (est. 1903-1907).  The Church is on the grounds of Vienna's (still open) neuropsychiatric hospital "Otto Wagner Hospital".  The Wagner designed complex is on a hill overlooking the City in the 14th District and consists of more than 30 buildings and pavilions that make up the hospital, a theatre and the Church along with an adjacent park area.  This blog addresses the atrocities that took place at this facility in the text following my photos of the Church.

Wikimedia Internet Photo

To say that the Church is beautiful is an understatement, my photos can not do its beauty justice.  It must be seen to appreciate Wagner's Jugendstil (modern/Art Nouveau) vision.  The stain glass windows were designed by fellow Secessionist artist Koloman Moser.  Apparently, the glass was moved to the Czech Republic during WWII and restored in place during the 1950s.  Wagner designed the Church with patients in mind:  rounded edges, drip fonts to reduce spread of infection, gentle slope floors and easy access entrance/exit points.

Now, the Beast.  During WWI, more than 2,000 Am Steinhof patients were left to starve and die of rampant infection.  The seeds of more horror were planted in 1920 when the writings of lawyer Karl Binding and psychiatrist Alfred Hoche discussed the concept of "lebensunwert"  or "unworthy to live" and the right to kill the incurable sick.  The idea (and a Foundation) of "racial hygiene" was established in Vienna in the mid-1920s, well before the Anschluss in 1938.  During WWII the Nazis experimented on and killed more than 7,000 patients from Am Steinhof, including children (Am Spiegelgrund).  It is incomprehensible, but the experiments on Am Spiegelgrund remains continued into the 1980s.  The last of these victims were laid to rest in Vienna in a ceremony in 2012.  2012!  The depravity of what happened and the fact that the remains of these souls languished so long in specimen jars brings me to tears.  I used factual material contained on these two websites, "The War Against the Inferior" and BBC News

I plan a return visit to view the exhibition at the hospital.  It did not appear to be well marked when we were walking the grounds yesterday.  This "avoidance" seems quite typical at Vienna landmarks dealing with its dreadful history.