Thursday, June 30, 2016

Restauracja Morela, Kraków

Boyfriend was so excited to try the sauce he got his fork in my photo!
Special event or cozy dinner for 2, Morela is warm and welcoming

On our second night in Kraków following a harrowing visit to Auschwitz, a bottle of wine for myself wouldn't have been enough. Ghosts still filled my mind but, alas, we had to eat so boyfriend and I decided to find some traditional Polish food. After all, you can only eat so many fast food pierogi's (even if they are ah-mazing). We found Morela online after reading a few reviews and it by far lived up to the expectation. We immediately ordered Polish wine and ordered a few traditional dishes.

Potato pancakes with beef and pork goulash
Roasted Buckwheat
Traditional pork loin with bone
Stewed cabbage and roasted potatoes
All fantastic.

It seems like some 'meat and veggie' style dishes rely heavily on natural flavors, but at Morela that was not the case. The chefs fully develop the flavor profile for each dish with mustard seed and horseradish, pepper and herbs. The dishes were plain, no bursts of modern color or sculpted garnish. Instead, I thought they did a great job playing up the artisan style with a board for a plate and a rustic little skillet. Since we made a reservation, they saved us a charming window table where we got to watch the nightlife of Kraków drift by, sitting all cozy in a booth with candle light. The staff was exceptional. They spoke great English and seemed to enjoy helping us understand buckwheat and how it's prepared in Poland. I can't wait to stop in again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

One word: gorgeous.
Paul Cézanne - The Big Trees
About 1902-1904
Recently we had an American friend visiting so we decided to take a quick flight up to Edinburgh for the weekend. The city is so perfect for a weekend. The weather was decidedly dreary but that's to be expected. Even so, we had some sun everyday...even if just a little. It's a nice city to walk around  in without an agenda. Still, as always, I knew I wanted to at least pop into the National Gallery. How can you not when you can see Cézanne for free?
I was blown away. Their painting galleries are just perfect. El Greco, Bernini, John Constable, Degas, Velázquez, Vermeer, and even two perfect Cézannes. Also, they boast a Monet haystack and even an American! Frederic Edwin Church from the Hudson River School. Not only do they have some impressive names, but the curators have done a remarkable job making the rooms linger-able and interesting. It's not your standard paintings by date or country. Instead, they mix works from different eras in a looser fashion but still hold to a general timeline. You could see it in 30 minutes for a quick walk through (but, if so, make sure you don't miss a trip up the round staircases to the second floor - those are the hidden gems) or stay for a good hour and half really taking it in.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Open air but nowhere to breathe: Auschwitz and Birkenau

Over the course of just 5 years, over 1 million people were murdered at this site. 5 years. 5 harsh winters, 60 months of intense labor, an estimated 1.1 million people lost to this world due to nothing more than hate. Over 7.5 tons of hair. The hair. They kept it to weave into cloth. Human hair. It is so hard to take in, to understand. The enormity of it, that's what continues to shock you when you see it. You think you know. I thought I did. When I was in school we studied the holocaust. In elementary, we collected pennies. Carried them from home and presented each one as a boy, girl, man, grandma. In middle school, it was paperclips. Bring in your box of clips to fill up the class jar and school tub, then that's only 1/60 of the people who died.

The trench they dug behind
the wires that kept them
They were always trying to teach us how many. A clip per person fills the train car.
I still didn't know then but now I do. And this is just one of the camps.

I left Auschwitz with pain and fear in my heart. They make it a place of learning now and the exhibits at the site even try to help you leave with hope - photographs of people who were inspired by the remaining evidence of the holocaust and people that have come together since to STAND against hate, from simple ignorance to genocide. That stuff didn't work for me. I wish it had but I left with fear. I can't even think back now without my eyes widening, tearing up, and my family's faces swimming across my mind. I had nightmares of my mom's curly hair in that hair pile or my dad's Benjamin Franklin glasses, my brother's t-shirt, my baby niece's frilly dress piled in with the torn gray clothes left behind. This could happen to anyone, any day. You are never safe from hateful people. The most we can hope for is to not give them power. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flashback: Brussels for New Years

Brussels Grand Place Plaza - Look at all that gold!
The Atomium
Boyfriend has a very busy work schedule recently. He's been pushing it and learning a lot, trying to be a big contribution. So even though we normally try to get out of town for the holidays, he just couldn't get those gap days (in between the Christmas and New Years holiday) last season. It was way okay, however, because I'd just been travelling in Italy for a month and was ready to have a lovely Christmas in our new London home. We absolutely did. London is very nice at Christmas. Don't get me wrong - it's no New York. But, it's nice. The only unfortunate thing is the fact that public transportation is shut down. I feel bad for all those workers working on holidays in New York, but when you don't have your own vehicle in London - Christmas can be very boring. We had a party to go to but it would have cost about $75 to get there by Uber. Yeah, seriously. Instead we snuggled and binged Netflix. 
After our nice Christmas, we were itching to get out of town for New Years and decided on Brussels. I really didn't know much about this old city until we got off the overnight bus. The main pull for me was it's been on my life list for years to see one of my all time favorite paintings in person - The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David. Have you ever seen someone so excited to see a dead guy?
<---- Lookie!

Just about the biggest surprise when you arrive in Brussels is that everything is printed in French and Dutch! They fully use two languages - look, America, it can be done. Brussels has had a hard time with terrorism recently. I have to say I felt a bit of that in the air somehow. It's likely in my mind, but people were very different on the street and trains than they were in bars and restaurants. And there was a coldness (beyond the weather) to certain areas we walked through. It's a shame though because other areas were flush with flowers and color and chocolates and warm cider. Why all this hate...I'll never know. I think the best we can do is just build a screen of love and let the hate filter through. Click to continue...