Friday, 7 August 2009

Signs and Portents: Poland 1

Looking through my photos, I've noticed that I love taking shots of strange and quirky signs. They're often quite irrelevant to a story I'm pursuing, and therefore won't get published, but they are a lot of fun and tell you much about the local culture. And make you scratch your head in puzzlememnt. Or at least give you a good chuckle.

So without further ado, here's the first in an irregular series of quirky signs I've encountered along the way. First up, that champion of bizarre posters and curious signs, Poland! This set of images was taken in February 2006, during my first Lonely Planet assignment in Polska.


Pedro was so going to sue his travel agent when he'd saved enough to return to Acapulco.

This pic was taken in the middle of a very cold winter in Kraków. This poor guy was charged with advertising the charms of a Mexican restaurant by standing outside in minus-5 degree weather. Yes, that is a pile of snow behind the bin. And no, I don't know why there were swings in the garden or who would use them in winter. Or why you would use them in summer, for that matter.


The management couldn't understand the drop-off in trade since they'd erected the new sign - had they chosen the wrong type of cola?

A somewhat unfortunate sign outside a cafe within Kraków's main train station. You might expect the food provided by Gastro Wars to set off an unpleasant sequence of intestinal events once eaten, but it's all just a horrible misunderstanding. The company that runs the place has simply added the "gastro" from gastronomy to its own company name, Wars (pronounced "vars"). Seemed like a good idea at the time.


Tomasz couldn't help thinking he'd created a better-shaped heart than Pawel.

It may not have been celebrated in Poland until after the fall of communism, but Valentine's Day now seems as popular there as anywhere else. Before its arrival, male Poles marked International Women's Day on 8 March by giving romantic gifts to the ladies, making it both an officially serious and unofficially whimsical occasion. This was taken on the main street of Łódź on 14 February.


For some reason, Władysław was dying for some fries.

You can't escape the big M! This gigantic drink cup was placed next to one of the statues commemorating famous locals along Łódź's main drag, ulica Piotrkowska. The gentleman depicted here is Władysław Reymont (1867-1925), writer and Nobel prize winner. Look carefully at the straw on the cup - it's shaped like an ice hockey stick in reference to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.


Roman wondered if it was finally time to launch his celebrity dumpling chain restaurant concept.

And finally, one of the stars on the Walk of Fame along ulica Piotrkowska in Łódź. Poland's second-largest city is also its film-making hub, as the National Film School was established here after WWII when Warsaw lay in ruins. These stars commemorate numerous stars and production people, though the only three likely to be known to people outside Poland are Roman Polański (Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), Krzysztof Kieślowski (Three Colours trilogy), and Andrzej Wajda (whose 1981 Man of Iron won the Palme d’Or at Cannes).

Stay tuned for more curious pics! And if you have any odd or amusing signs you've encountered on your travel, feel free to email them to me at tim@iwriter.com.au, to be featured in a future posting.