Bloki (pronounced: BLOH- key)
When you visit Krakow for the first time, perhaps to bring me cases of Dr. Pepper, or simply to stay in my awesome fancy guest suite in my house on the hill, you will marvel at the beauty around you. I promise you will. Poland is beautiful, especially in the spring and summer (the only two seasons I've seen it in, I can't vouch for the other two, but I'm sure they're lovely). The trees are lush and green, the lakes and rivers full to the brim. Flowers are everywhere, on every window sill and in every garden. The air is crisp, rarely too hot in the summer, cold in the winter, but bearable with the right clothing, (or so I'm told...this may be a lie, I'll let you know). There are happy people filling the highly efficient public transportation, coming and going, shopping and working, pleasant folk, quick to comment on the loveliness of your child and offer you a seat when you're 6 months pregnant. The buildings, especially downtown, are amazing. Dating right back to medieval times, original architecture with it's moldings and cornices and columns and all those other fancy architecture words, are on every corner. It really is beautiful.
And then there are bloki. Which are, to be completely honest, hideously ugly. And always sort of remind me of that song from Sesame Street... "one of these things just doesn't belong here..."
(Oh wait, the last picture is the inside of the fancy McDonald's down the street from where we hope to live...how did that get in there? How Embarrassing...
...look how fancy it is!)
See what I mean?
I think the first thing Martin did when I visited Poland back in 1999 was apologize for the bloki. He hates them with a passion. There are a few reasons. Not the least of which is that they are relics of a communist regime (which moved in after the Nazi's destroyed everything) that just refused to build anything beautiful for the people they forced themselves upon, and therefore, built these horribly ugly structures to house them all when they decided to push industrialization on a city that was primarily rural at the time. That's one reason. Another is, well, they're ugly. They are incredibly unimaginative structures, built straight up in a perfect rectangle. Small windows, small balconies, and all the color of dirty socks.And they are hard to miss. If you drive along any street in Krakow (and many other Polish cities) long enough, you are sure to see a few, rising out of the distance, looming in the background, gray and ominous. Reminding everyone that the communists had been there and this what they have left behind. (which in and of itself might be a good thing if we want to keep history from repeating itself...)
Of course, my first question to Martin after he goes off on how ugly and horrible they are, is "why don't they just tear them down." And, his answer, being the more practical of the two of us, was something boring and insignificant like, "there are people living in them." Ok, so not as easy as just tearing them down. Where would the people go while they rebuild? Who would pay to rebuild? What other, more beautiful structure could fit and house the same amount of people in such a small footprint, etc. etc.?
But Hark! Perhaps there is a light at the end of this tacky tunnel!
I received an email yesterday from Martin with this title... "there's hope." ( I was expecting a list of all the things he was going to do so that we could be independently wealthy overnight and he could stay home and help me with the kids...that's not what it said, but it could...some day...) Inside the email was a link to a story (this article is written in Polish but it's where I got the pics. below and wanted to share for any of those who actually speak the language...I have no idea what it says myself) about a man who has taken it upon himself t transform just such structures, in Germany...
Before and After
Now, I have a couple questions:
1. Why does Martin have time at his new and important job to find such articles, read them, and send them to me?
2. Why do these buildings, in all their newness, have to resemble the children's section of IKEA?
Whatever. They do look better. And less like 2x6 giant grey Lego's sticking out of the ground. So, it's a start. And you know the best part? For real? It makes Martin so happy. He loves his city. He hates what the Communists left behind, and I know that just the possibility of little things like this make his heart lighter, and his eagerness to live there and be happy there, a little more sweet.