Friday 22 January 2010

Signs and Portents: Poland 4

Did Sherlock Holmes ever visit Poland? How many wheels do you really need to sell chocolate? And would you rather stand beneath a tiger or a pear? It's been a few months since I posted my most recent example of curious signs encountered on my Lonely Planet assignment in Poland in winter 2006... so here's another serve.

1. I'm used to encountering Sherlock Holmes all around the world... usually in the names of pubs. This sign, in the southeastern city of Lublin, has Holmes' iconic profile aptly endorsing a school which trains private investigators. I wonder if they've read his classic monograph on types of cigarette ash?

Due to an unfortunate translation, the detective school planted a lemon tree in honour of Holmes' favourite expression. 

2. This political poster was also encountered in Lublin, which is located not far from the border with Belarus. My visit coincided with a presidential election in Belarus, in which the authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko was returned amid the usual voting irregularities. The poster reads something like "Time to be together with Belarus", and Belarus' name is pointedly rendered in the same style as the logo of Poland's Solidarity trade union which fought against communist rule in the 1980s.

President Lukashenko was so popular that even the dead rose from their graves to vote for him - some more than once!

3. It's not really the sign that caught my eye here, but the whole vehicle. This gentleman outside the Lublin bus station is selling both public transport tickets (bilety) for city buses, and chocolate (czekolady).

Józef believed it was only a matter of time before the franchising rights to his chocolate-and-ticket tricar concept took off.

4. As I mentioned in an earlier installment, Polish businesses often include the preposition pod, meaning beneath, to refer to features of their buildings. Here's a picture of the Kraków pharmacy known as Apteka Pod Złotym Tygrysem - The Pharmacy Beneath the Golden Tiger.

Felinophobic customers could at lease console themselves that it wasn't a golden tigger.

5. ... and finally, here's Kraków's Restauracja Pod Gruszką - The Restaurant Beneath the Pear!

 Diners often experienced a strange compulsion to order the fruit salad.


  1. Actually "Pod gruszą" literally means under a pear, but the primary use of this phrase means "in the countryside".

    it is used almost only in reference to spending vacations. It's an idiom, vacations under a pear, mean vacations in the countryside.

    So there's a pun.

  2. Ah thanks Pawel, appreciate your insight - I was translating literally and didn't realise it had a double meaning.