Warsaw

Most of us (at least I hope so) know that Warsaw was decimated less than a year before WW2 ended.  We watched a 3D short at the Warsaw Uprising Museum that showed the ground from above after the dust settled.  A city that was once full of life and called Paris of the east.  We can point to a few other cities that have recently been destroyed as well and will never be able to recreate the relics of the past. Sad on so many levels because cities are not built like they used to be. It is too expensive. That is one of the many things I do love about Paris is that old buildings remain which gives it incredible charm and historical references.

Much of the city feels like a concrete jungle rebuilt by Russia after the war.  Bland buildings that all look the same.  A bit like Trumps awful hotels.  Zero charm.  Although there is still the old town.  The longer you stay the more you find those gems.

The amount of new construction happening here is a bit mind boggling.  Again very similar to Berlin 15 years ago  

The two museums we saw were the Polin Museum and the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Both about Poland’s history.  The Polin guides you through the Polish Jews from thousands of years ago to today.  This statue in front of the museum is an ode to the Ghetto uprising.

 We had a few good meals.  The best was a lunch at Ale Wino.  Everything was fresh, creative and just delish.  This roasted pumpkin with a teriyaki glaze coated with bread crumbs, cheese and pumpkin seeds was excellent.  Pumpkin has always been a bigger part of the menu outside of the US and it is just starting to crop up more.

What was really done right when the city was rebuilt is the vast amount of parks that are part of the landscape. Lazienki park is their Central Park.  It is gorgeous.  The trees are turning and the leaves crunched under our feet.  I could have spent all day here

We are off to Budapest next.  Politically there is a lot of push pull here in Poland on the extreme far right but it appears they have been pushed back in this last election. Yet the importance of remembering history is everywhere and that is a very good thing.  Based on my observations the next decade will be interesting to watch as Poland has been out from under the heavy hand of the Russians since 1989 so it has been 30 years.  Growth and change take time. It seems like that is what the next ten years will be about. 

Krakow, Day 2

We drove through the countryside for an hour to see Auschwitz. I wrote an entire blog post on that yesterday. It was an overwhelming experience.

Daniel Libeskind collaborated with photographer Caryl Englander and curator Henri Lustiger Thaler from the Amud Aish Memorial Museum to present a temporary exhibition at Auschwitz called “Through the Lens of Faith”. It is fantastic and I hope it travels around the globe.

Each of these rectangular poles have a short memory from a Holocaust survivor on the front who is still alive. Many of these people are in their 90’s and have gone on to have children and grandchildren.

When you open the door you see the person behind the story. It is extremely powerful. We opened every single door. We saw this at the end of our tour which made it even more powerful. How these people survived is astonishing.

We came back into town and our first stop was for lunch at Pierogi Vincent. The backdrop was a few paintings from Vincent Van Gogh, a starry yellow night on the ceiling and a few tables in two rooms. They have so many choices. We went for chanterelles (mushrooms are big in this town) and beef/pork and had to have a side of Borscht. Wasn’t great but when in Poland….

This neighborhood we were in is the Jewish Quarter where all the Jews lived prior to all of them being moved across the river into the Jewish Ghetto during the war. The neighborhood feels good like it is on the way back. There are a few synagogues that are being renovated. This one is the more reformed temple that survived the war.

The ceiling is beautiful.

This map highlights the survival of the temples and the old cemetery in the area.

This is the back of the other temple. It is amazing that this survived the war.

Stopped by the bagel shop to check out the wares. A bit chewy.

There had to be an area of food trucks. Just like every city, they are somewhere including Uber and even Uber Eats!

The Galacia Jewish Museum located in the area has a permanent exhibition called Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland. It is fantastic. Professor Jonathan Webber searched for the Jewish past in Southern Poland going town to town. He then collaborated with English photographer Chris Schwarz creating over 1000 photographs with historical data. Powerful. The war still looms heavily over Krakow.

We strolled across the bridge. One side is for walking and the other for biking.

On the way back we walked into this beautiful store and although the aroma of sausages was enticing we went for a few sweets. The two women that ran the shopped seemed almost shocked that we walked in.

Sweets is not their thing. The best one was the bar with jam. It tasted like a really good blueberry pop tart.

Finally did have another bagel from the bagel purveyors on the street. This was pretty good. A mixture of a bagel/pretzel.

We had dinner at Farina’s, the fancier part of town. Good oysters from France.

Krakow is a city worth visiting. The architecture has survived, you can feel new life being fed into the streets although there is still a layer of the Soviet past that still drapes over the city. Really glad we went.

Auschwitz

In the first semester of my junior year of college, I went to school in London. It was an epic experience on multiple levels. After the semester ended, I went with a friend for about 3 weeks around Europe with a Europass.

We stopped in Munich. One of the days we went to Dachau. I still remember the entire day like it was yesterday. We took a train out to the closest town. We got there early and went into a small restaurant where nobody spoke a word of English. Those days very few people in Europe spoke anything but their own language. We wanted breakfast and the only way we could communicate with the woman behind the counter was thru pantomime. She quickly figured out we wanted eggs and toast. The place felt like something out of the 1940’s.

After breakfast we took a bus from the town to Dachau. It was cold, overcast and snowing. We arrived and went through the small museum that was there and then we walked the camp grounds where we saw the showers and ovens used to eliminate Jews. There was only one other tourist there besides the two of us. That made is even eerier. It was overwhelming, upsetting, intense and uncomfortable. The weather made it even worse. I still remember the black dark dreary sky.

When we had enough, we wanted to leave immediately. We realized that the bus didn’t come for two hours but we couldn’t stay another minute so we walked back to the town where the train was. It took us easily an hour and a half but we couldn’t swallow staying there another moment.

Fast forward, Fred and I went to Auschwitz today. We have been to the Jewish museums in DC, Berlin and Israel. Many of the items that are in the museums are also at Auschwitz from the piles of shoes, hair and glasses that shake you down to your bones but the suitcases is what really rattles me.

The history that is being kept alive here is powerful and so important. The Holocaust shows us where human hatred can lead us. We can never be bystanders again. Hatred riles up an ideology that creates such anger and blame.

We are witnessing that today in American politics. I certainly don’t want to connect Hitler to Trump because we already witnessed what Hitler did but there is something about the tight lipped bystanders such as McConnell and his posse who ignore what is going on right underneath their noses from Syria to Ukraine. Between satellite and our phones, there are no secrets. How can anyone be numb and speechless? The only answer is money and power.

Many countries and many people did not speak up during WW2. It is a responsibility to all of us to not be bystanders because hatred is boiling up in bad places and it is time to say enough is enough. I hope what is happening and unraveling in the impeachment hearings that are currently taking place now will put an end to the hate coming out of this administration. After walking those paths where hatred prevailed for so long, you are reminded that we have to make sure that this never happens again. Hatred is evil and it is currently destroying and killing communities around the globe. I believe it is all of our responsibilities as Americans to stop it. Everyone should take a trip to Auschwitz. It is a powerful reminder of right vs wrong.

Geneva to Krakow

We stopped in Geneva for Fred to attend the inaugural meeting of Libra. Fitting country and month to have the all hands on deck event. I have spent time in Zurich and Luzern but this was my first time in Geneva. I am not sure I’d recommend it although a beautiful clean city it is a bit of a sleepy town. One day and one night was plenty. Photo of the city above.

Now we are off on our planned trip. First stop is Krakow. In London, it was rainy and the leaves were still green but here in Krakow is it an Indian summer and the leaves are changing.

There is a grit to this city. It still feels old almost like Berlin felt 15 years ago. I can not help but think about WW2. The history is everywhere and the city still feels as if it is living in a post-war era. Seeing this tree I thought about the book I just read, the Overstory, that this tree has seen a lot and certainly the older people sitting in the park have too.

The square is large and has been around for thousands of years. This whole area was made a UNESCO site in the 70’s. There are 16 World Heritage Unesco site’s in Poland.

The market place has become what market places have become in most cities, stores of shlock for tourism. It is unfortunate but it is what it is.

Lunch was at a small cafe in the student area called Massolit Bakery and Cafe. Super cute and definitely local. Curry, soup, quiche and salad all for a whopping $12.

We went exploring art galleries and ended up finding one down a long tunnel between two streets. In the back was a bar and the gallery was locked. I asked the bartender if she knew if the gallery was open or not and said she had the key. She let us in. Super casual and very reminiscent of the East Village in the early 80’s.

These pics give some insight into the feel of the place.

We went over to MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art of Krakow). They are certainly not shying away from their history. An entire show of before imprisonment and post imprisonment. Hard to see but history is important.

Another install on symbolic design. Many of these artists I have never heard of which is good to see.

This is a piece from Stanislaw Drozdz who is a part of the Polish concept art and one of the most renowned Polish poet celebrating his 80th birthday and the 10th year of his death.

Back to the hotel to rest. More tomorrow.

Returning to London

I spent the first semester of my junior year in London. It was a very different place back then. Just like every urban city has grown particularly in areas that were once not that safe are now happening. The two biggest changes are the toilet paper and the food. I am quite sure I survived on pub lunches, shrimp chips, and for the toilet paper it was small squares with a slight waxy cover.

Late post this today. I got the new IPhone 11 and had to figure out how to convert HEIC to Jpeg to upload the photos to the blog. Irritating to say the least.

We are only here for a few days before heading off to Poland, Budapest and Prague with one day in Geneva. We started the day at the Tate Modern. Hyundai commissioned Kara Walker to create Fons Americanus, a 43 foot working water fountain. It is made out of environmentally conscious materials. The piece explores the interconnections between America, Europe and Africa zeroing in on the slave trade. It is an incredible.

There is also an Olafur Eliasson show up. This was my favorite piece. A huge case containing 450 pieces of various sizes that record his work with his studio team from 1996 -2014 where he collaborated with Einar Thornsteinn, a mathematician, architect and artist.

We walked over to Borough Hall which has become overwhelming with food stalls inside and restaurant surrounding the area. When we first went there it was quite civilized now you can’t barely stand particularly on the weekends.

Instead we went over to the Barbary for lunch. All the seats surround the kitchen. Everything is being made on this small grill. Delicious spot. The explosion of Mediterranean food is incredible. My favorite. Simple and full of flavor.

The Jerusalem bagel with a little bit of zatar on the side is always a hit.

For dinner we went to Scully. The chef comes from so many places and his parents were also from different parts of the globe. His food and spices reign from Australia, Ireland and India. The space is serene painted in dark grey with low light against a bright open kitchen. Our favorite was the Arepa with eggplant and a Bergamont labneh. I truly applaud his unique combination of dishes but a tad heavy handed. Although all beautifully plated, there needs to be a lighter touch which would give the plates more of an air of sophistication.

Day two we missed the breakfast by 5 minutes at Dishoom so ended up with lunch. I love love love this place. There are a few of them in the city paying homage to the Iranian cafes that were of a different era. We had Black Daal, a dark rich lentil dish, Chicken Ruby, a sweet spicy curry, a bowl of greens and Lamb Biryani. Everything was so delicious that I bought the cookbook. So so good!

I had purchased some ceramics from Thrown, a gallery that represents many ceramic artists in England so I was curious. We went there to have a look and then began to walk back. Quite a walk but it was fun to walk through so many neighborhoods and parks.

We walked through Waterlow Park. There is a cemetery next to it where Karl Marx is buried. Definitely an old feeling to the place.

Then continued through Hampstead Heath.

And through Primrose Hill where you can see London on the horizon.

Had dinner with friends and off we go to our next journey. What’s so nice about being back in London is we always come back so we can enjoy the city without feeling rushed.

Healthy Banana Muffins

Emily brought me some of these muffins she made the other day. So good. I got the recipe and made them too. Always need something to do with the dark brown bananas that nobody bothered to eat.

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 3 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 super ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla (and you could toss in 1/4 tsp cinnamon)

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mini-muffin tray grease with the 2 tsp coconut oil. You could make 6-8 big muffins too

Mix together the almond flour, salt and baking soda (you could add cinnamon at this stage)

In another bowl add the bananas and microwave for about 30 seconds so they get really soft. Then add the eggs and the 1/4 cup coconut oil and vanilla.

Mix the banana mixtures into the flour mixture until thoroughly incorporated.

Drop a whopping tbsp into the muffin pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until done.

That’s it. Simple and pretty healthy.

Shaking up non-profits

I have written about this before. Non-profits such as museums and parks have to start to think about how they can be an organizations that at least can break even. The slog of raising huge sums of money every year to stay afloat is just not sustainable.

As pressure grows from the crowd organizations are losing top dollars by stepping away from what is perceived as “blood” money. The Sackler family is top of the list. This is not changing.

There was a huge piece in the NYTimes about this issue. Organizations need to rethink how they operate. They have to stop operating in a vacuum believing that there will always be another pot of cash to tap into. Stop thinking short term cash to make it through the year and start thinking long term ways to be more efficient and create a revenue stream. This is for museums and parks not necessarily small impact oriented non-profits although being efficient should be high on their list.

Darren Walker said it best.  “We need to define trusteeship beyond people of financial wealth. Expand the number of board members and bring in people with other assets besides money that the museum needs. What’s interesting to me is the lack of energy, focus and creativity to figure this out.”

I have been talking about this for years. I am not sure what more needs to happen for museums to start realizing that times are not only changing the time is now. I agree wit Darren…the lack of creativity around this is mind boggling. How low does an organization have to go to realize that the golden handcuffs way of life is over?

$1b to Empower Women…and a study

This past week Melinda Gates committed $1b to expand women’s power and influence in the United States…to empower more women. The times have changed and there seems to be a window of opportunity to keep the momentum going when it comes to more women in the workplace, more women being treated equal to their male counterparts, more women starting companies, more women speaking out for what they deserve and how they should be treated.

I’d like to do a study of the last two decades in the tech space. I always believed that technology would level the playing field in the workspace. Let’s find out.

Of all the companies over the past twenty years who have gone on to be huge such as Google, Salesforce, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat, Uber, Netflix, Microsoft and others, let’s find out how much stock was given to the first thirty employees. What was the balance between men and women in that first thirty? Did the women get as much stock as the men for the equal roles entering the company at the same time? Did they execute on their shares when they left that were vested and if so how were they able to pay those taxes?

At Snap for instance, men were given more shares than women who entered the same time with the same impact and nobody knew it until it went public. This was told to me by a woman who was there. Are companies doing the right thing when they distribute stocks?

Every early employee at these companies have made millions. How many were women and how many were men? What did they do with that cash? Did women go home? Did they invest, start a business? What did the men do?

Empowering women is key. It would be interesting to look at the actual data of the past twenty years to see how many women were rewarded or not. There is a long tail to the financial success of all these people from what they did with the money, if they started their own companies, how their children see them if they have children particularly young girls looking up to their mothers.

Has anyone ever pulled all the data together? $1b is an incredible gift with the possibility of major impact but we need to study the past data to understand how impact and change will be made.