Category Archives: Lodz, Poland

Our weekend in Krakow

With lots of help from the local team, we decided to go to Krakow for the weekend of Nov 9/10.

Krakow is about 3.5 hours by train from Łódź. Luckily there are express trains and the schedule worked out well for us. We left early Saturday morning and returned late Sunday afternoon.

Thanks to Magda helping me with the arrangements, we had a first class compartment to ourselves. That meant we could talk shop and not worry about being overheard. We did a fair bit of that but admittedly, a snooze seemed like a good idea given how busy the week had been.

Krakow is a very old town. It escaped the ravages of the war and is now a nice tourist town with three distinct areas: the central old town, the Jewish section, and Wawel Castle.

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We had a nice walk from the hotel to Wawel Castle. We didn’t go in. But we did walk along the riverside and came across one of the symbols of the town. He’s known as the Wawel Dragon and even shoots fire periodically.

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Just as we reached the edge of the old town it started to rain. Coincidentally, we also noticed a tour guide company that uses large, covered golf carts. The young man offered to take us around for a pretty good price. But it made taking photographs very difficult. We did get out in a few places such as the Church on the Rock.

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The monument is on the church grounds and represents important people in the areas religious past. If I read the signs correctly, I think it’s called The Alter of the Three Millenia. The photo also shows our tour guide. He did a really nice job. He alternated between the recording the company provided along with his own commentary. It made it more personal.

There is also a pool/bath of mineral water that the more adventurous of the team decided to try. Nasty but it’s supposed to be healing. IMG_3273

Our last stop on the tour was the Hummus and Happiness restaurant. It’s where the opening scene of Schindler’s List was filmed. It was also the right place to stop for a snack and to warm up and dry off.

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The evening was spent in the centre of the old town. It’s one of the largest town squares in Europe with a huge market building in the centre that used to be used by fabric and textile merchants. But it was raining !!! All the time….. At least it was an opportunity for some interesting photos.

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On Sunday, we went to Auschwitz. Very powerful. I think it moved / effected all of us.

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I think I’ll just leave it at that.

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First post from Lodz – one week in.

So the Lodz team is a week into our challenge and I finally got around the pulling together some photos and writing about our experiences.

I’m capturing this in travel-log form as opposed to any other form. So please excuse the informal style.

Day 1 – November 2rd – Warsaw

The team arrived in Warsaw from Canada, USA, and Australia on Saturday and spent the day getting acclimatized to the time zone. The organizers were kind enough to plan a welcoming dinner for us to meet each other and the team supporting the program.

Day 2 – November 3rd – Warsaw

Poland is a country of contrasts. It first strikes you in the construction of infrastructure and buildings. It was especially evident in the cities of Warsaw and Lodz. New buildings are built beside the crumbling ruins of the past. New streets are paved on top of the old.  Communist architecture of strength is alongside the rich opulence of the past and the promise of new construction. Many of the photos here will try to show that contrast.

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Two very different buildings photographed from the Hilton Hotel in Warsaw.

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A bunch of buildings – all very much the same.

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Some kinda cool architecture is there too.

There is a particular respect that Warsaw has for its past and it’s captured in the museums and public displays. The new Museum of the Uprisings is quite close to the Hilton hotel and so it was visited by a couple of us. Many interactive displays focus on individuals and their contributions. It’s well worth a visit to begin to understand what happened in Warsaw during WWII. The following photo is of one of the displays in the museum. The foreground concrete is from the ruins of the building in the photo.

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Museum of the Uprisings. Pretty powerful place to visit.

We were given a walking tour of Warsaw to call out some of the contrasts and the pride they have in the past and the future.

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Our guide – she spent a few hours showing us around.

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Presidential Palace – military parades are held here. We just missed one.

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Main St

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Monument to the war

Gate on the property of the German Embassy. At the fall of The Wall, this gate in the old fence was where people could enter to apply for residency in the west. It's hard to see but the wire frame light is red on one side (before you enter) and blue on the other (after you enter)

Gate on the property of the German Embassy. At the fall of The Wall, this gate in the old fence was where people could enter to apply for residency in the west. It’s hard to see but the wire frame light is red on one side (before you enter) and blue on the other (after you enter)

It was the All Saints Day holiday weekend when we arrived. And so we were taken to the large Jewish cemetery to understand more about how people visit to pay their respects to family, friends, the famous or their heroes. The place is immense.

One of the largest cemeteries I've ever seen. Families everywhere.

One of the largest cemeteries I’ve ever seen. Families everywhere.

Day 3 – November 4th – Warsaw to Lodz (pronounced Woodj)

This is the first day of the engagement. After a meeting with the local IBM Leadership team, we arrived in Lodz in the afternoon just in time for a meeting with the Mayor (known as President) to officially open the program with us and her staff. At this meeting we presented our objective and approach.

Mayor and the SCC team

Mayor and the SCC team

From left to right

–          Jolanta Jaworska (IBM Poland – Government programs)

–          Richard McDonald (ESC Team – Canada) – me !

–          Tomasz Rozmus (ESC Team – Poland)

–          Susan Spector (ESC Team – USA)

–          Hanna Zdanowska (Mayor of Lodz)

–          Marion McDougall (ESC Team – Canada)

–          Murali Jayaraman (ESC Team – Australia)

–          David Castle (ESC Team – USA)

–          Celia Moore (IBM Corporate Citizenship)

The city later took us for dinner at a local fine restaurant. Much of the conversation with the mayor was about the city and its potential.

Dinner with the Mayor and her team.

Dinner with the Mayor and her team.

Day 4 – Nov 5th – Lodz

We’re now getting in the engagement. The primary objective is to help the city make the delivery of social programs more effective and efficient.

Our primary liaison group is the Municipal Organization for Public Welfare (in Polish known as MOPS). The MOPS leadership team organized many of the sessions in the first week with the different groups in the city.

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First real working session with the City

The photo shows us in a very formal meeting room in City Hall with microphones at each desk and a translator. All our meetings were in Polish with translation to English for us. By its very nature, it takes longer to get ideas across and ask questions.

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MOPS and SCC working team

As well as ESC Team Lodz in this photo are: Anna Jawor (IBM Poland government programs) and Igor Mertyn (MOPS).

The afternoon was a walking tour of Lodz to show us the redevelopment that has been happening thanks – in many cases – to EU funding. There is a new railway station being built including a portion underground to connect the station in the north east with the station in the south west. The main shopping street is also being rebuilt and many buildings have been redone but many are still in need of renovation.

Outside City Hall

Outside City Hall

Construction Everywhere

Construction everywhere

New railway station being built

New railway station being built

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City hall and famous resident

A local hero is poet Julian Tuwim. He’s that statue sitting on the bench in front of city hall. Rubbing his nose on his bronze statue is said to bring good luck. This is our tour guide getting his dose of good luck.

Getting good luck

Getting good luck

Culture and creativity are the new tag lines for Lodz. And we saw a lot of examples of building murals and statues of poets and musicians.

Mural just off Piotrkowska St

Mural just off Piotrkowska St

Lodz became wealthy in the 1800’s with the construction of huge textile factories. They were all made of brick and many are still standing today. Their owners built large houses very close to – or even attached to – their factories. These are called “palaces” and there are quite a few of them. And, of course, the workers had their housing. A number of the large factories have been converted to other uses. For example: shopping and apartments.

There are factories in town……….

Off Piotrkowska St

Off Piotrkowska St

Just outside of downtown …….

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Old textile factory converted to lofts

Residential street for factory workers

Residential street for factory workers

The huge Manufaktura complex is built on the site of one factory. Many of its brick buildings have been converted for other uses: shops, restaurants, clubs and a hotel.

Palace at Manufaktura - now the city history museum.

Palace at Manufaktura – now the city history museum.

Manufaktura shopping complex

Manufaktura shopping complex

Day 5 – Nov 6th – Lodz

Today was spent with the MOPS team going through the city organization and the major services delivered. The lady in the centre is the director of MOPS. She’s gone everywhere with us.

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We also visited a couple of delivery centres. They illustrated the contrasts in the condition of government buildings.

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Lastly, we settled into our “war room” at the hotel. We’re staying in a new DoubleTree. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the town centre. It’s quite nice with great facilities. The staff is “settling in” to their roles.

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Day 6 – Nov 7th – Lodz

We spent the morning with the Employment Bureau to understand their processes and particularly how their systems interact with other government systems.

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For the afternoon, we split up to allow part of the team to work and another part to talk to a couple of groups. We had a great talk with the team that’s responsible for promoting the town. We also had a very productive talk with the privacy officials. These both happened in the main conference room in city hall.

Working at City Hall

Working at City Hall

Day 7 – Nov 8th – Lodz

Today we visited a senior citizen’s home. It was very nice. Of course, they introduced us to a 90 year old resident who was very sharp and quick. Although the exterior needed a little work, the interior was quite nice. The lady in the photo runs the admin office and was kind enough to walk us through their systems.

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Our last meeting of the day was with the City Hall IT team at City Hall. Again, we had a very nice room, our translator, tea service and cookies. For every single meeting they’ve had with us, they’ve provided tea and cookies. It’s been fabulous – at least for those of us who like cookies.

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Dinners in the early part of the week have been in the hotel as we’ve been compiling notes and planning the days. On Thursday we did manage a late dinner in the Mexican place at Manufaktura. Dinner Friday was a nice Italian restaurant called Angelo’s just off the main street.

Day 8 – Nov 9th – Krakow

It’s the weekend and the team has decided to take the train to Krakow. Many thanks to our “fixer” Magda for helping us buy train tickets and make plans.

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#smartercities Challenge

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