Two Swiss in Mongolia – discovering folktales and legends

A camel with horns? Why? – Have you not read my folktales, asks Jacqui

In the Gobi camp I notice the statue of a camel with horns. I have never seen a camel with horns before.

“Jacqui, why does this camel wear horns?” I ask. Jacqui frowns at me: “Have you not read my folktales?  Have you not seen “camel, deer and horse”? Well, a long long time ago the camel had wonderful horns. At the water hole, the deer asked the camel: “please lend me your horns – I will bring them back later”. The camel was generous, lent out the horns and never got them back. This is why the camel has no horns today. Later the horse asked for the fluffy tail of the camel. The camel lent out his tail and never got it back. Ever since the camel has looked sadly into the water regretting the loss of his horns and his tail. And to remind the deer to bring back the horns, he loses them once per year.”

P1040813

About Jacqui’s folktales

Jacqui is called Batochirun Jagdal. The tourists just call him Jacqui. He loves to share Mongolian wisdom and culture with the visitors. Jacqui also welcomed that I blog about the folktales that he has translated to German with Sara Hellmuller. The booklet is called “Mongolische Märchen” and contains about  25 Mongolian folktales. “Camel, deer and horse” is one of them.

Capture

The title page shows a dreadful monster. Next to that monster is a boy that looks perfectly happy. Why is this boy not afraid of the monster? Well, the boy knows that this monster is protecting him against any evil demons – and being close to the monster the boy feels safe. The monster looks so scary, because he has to fight the demons that might be dangerous. Such monsters also appear on the paintings (thangkas) in the monasteries of Mongolia  and they protect us and our temples.

Here are three more examples from the “Mongolische Märchen”

Gold and silver are metals and wheat is life

A king collects what he thinks is valuable, namely gold and silver. But when famine hits his country and the people and the animals die from hunger, he tries to sell his gold and silver for food – but nobody buys his metals and he dies. Now this is written on the castle gate: “Gold and silver are metals and wheat is life”.

The fox, the hedgehog and the wolf

The fox, the hedgehog and the wolf found butter and debated who should eat it. Eventually they agreed that he who runs fastest, shall eat it. The hedgehog climbed on the tail of the fox, the fox ran as fast as he could – but when he arrived at the target line, the hedgehog asked: “Do you arrive here only now?” And the hedgehog ate the butter… It is interesting that a German folktale is about the race between a hare and a hedgehog. The hedgehog wins, because he and his wife wait at the target lines, and the hare can run as fast as he can – the hedgehog is always first…

The clever hare

Two horses that had been sold to a place far away decided to return home. On their way home one of them felt that he will die soon. To the younger horse he gave the advice not to pick up any bundle that he will come across. The young horse continued alone, found a bundle, opened it – and a wolf left the sack. “I am hungry”, the wolf said, “and now I am, going to eat you, stupid horse.” A hare comes along. He thinks about how to rescue the horse and teases the wolf. “Is it true, you were in this sack?, the hare  asks, “I cannot believe this, can you prove it to me?” The vain wolf returns into the sack – and the hare immediately cords it up again…

Another folktale: The horsehead fiddle or Morin khuur (German: Pferdekopfgeige)

The horsehead fiddle or Morin Khuur is the national instrument of Mongolia (see entry of Wikipedia).

geige

In the Zanabazar museum I found the book of Ч. Баярмаа telling us “the legend of Khokhoo Namjil” (2010). This is the legend about the origin of the horsehead fiddle. Khokhoo Namjil was a handsome man and a famous singer. After having founded his first family, he had to go to the army, where he met a wonderful woman in a green deel. He married her as well and commuted back and forth between her and his first family sitting on a yellow horse with wings that the lady in the green deel had given to him. Before getting to his old home he just had to let the horse breathe.

geige1

Once he was late and did not let the horse breathe. An evil woman cut away the wings and the horse died. Khokhoo Namjil was very sad and did not drink or eat for three months. Then he carved the head of his horse into wood, built a wooden sound box, covered the box with the skin of his horse and used the tail of the horse to make strings and a bow. And ever since the horsehead fiddle has been one of the main music instruments of Mongolia.

Two more sources of Mongolian folktales

The following book by D. Altangerel is on sale in museums and souvenir shops:

folktales

On the Internet I found the TaleTellerin that blogs about Mongolian tales.

TaleTellerin’s blog telling Mongolian tales

A Swiss in Krakow – some language insights with the twinkling of an eye

Polish – the third most difficult language in the world?

When flying to Poland, my neighbor told me that a recent evaluation rated Polish to be the third most difficult language in the world.

I could not find that ranking. I found this quote: “Polish grammar has more exceptions than language rules… Furthermore Polish people rarely hear foreigners speak their language, so… pronunciation must be exact or they will have no idea what you are talking about” (most difficult language to learn).

Is really everything so difficult?

What about pantofle? A German speaking Swiss easily recognizes “Bantoffle” and people of French mother tongue understand “pantoufles”. These are slippers.

image

Or what about “sruby”? Absolutely clear to anyone from The German speaking part of Switzerland: These are Schruube (screws) and in the Bernese Alps they are called exactly like in Polish… Schruubi.

image

And what about “obuwie”? Any Russian understands, what he can buy here… обувь or shoes.

image

But most Polish words look frightening – can this be pronounced at all?

My Kauderwelschführer “Polnisch” (Reise Know How) asks: “Polnisch – unaussprechbar?” (Polish – unpronouncable?).

A friend of mine is of Russian origin. He sighed contending that the Polish language would be much easier to read, if they used cyrillic letters. I agree, cyrillic letters would make the hissing sounds such as “szcz” and the soft consonants such as “ń” easier to read, but what about the nasal sounds (ą or ę) and the “ł” that reminds me of the “uu” in the Swiss Bernese dialect – they do not exist in the cyrillic alphabet.

Polish uses breathtaking combinations of the Roman alphabet to express their many hissings, soft consonants and nasals. When I see such congestions of consonants such as szcz or rz, I have to stop and translate them into something known to me (in this case щ and ж). I have to be careful to recognize the consonant combinations that make up a hissing sound. I try not to miss the little nasal tails added to vowels and I always get stuck, when the “ł” (uu) appears between two vowels.

Here are some examples of words that I find hard to read:

  • I often forget to spell “rz” as ж: warzywa (vegetables), pieprz (pepper), and in Mongolia I came across the Przewalski horses.
  • The “ł” between vowels:  ołówek (pen), południe (midday)
  • Congestion of combined letters such as rz, szcz or ści, in particular when combined with the nasal ą or ę: chrząsczc (beetle), rzeczywiście (really),  wewnątrz (inside), mężcyzna (man) or część (part).

and here is the frightening Polish word for “pull” that sounds soft and perfectly flowing, when Radek pronounces it, while I keep on stumbling over it.

image

In addition Polish causes all the problems of Slawic languages for Western European speakers

What I find most difficult in Russian also holds for Polish. It is the concepts of verbs, with the perfect and imperfect action modes, overlayed by the modes of movement and the slawic  variation of the gerund. When I tell my Polish friends that I struggle with the difference between приходила (she came and left again) and пришла (she came and is now waiting here), they do not understand the problem and the difference is clear to them. In German, we would say: “Sie war da und ist wieder gegangen” (in English “she was here and left again” – an imperfect action) and “sie ist gekommen und wartet hier” (“she has come and is waiting here” – a perfect action). We simply do not have the notion of using different verbs for an imperfect (or canceled) and a perfect action. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that there is no rule to derive the perfect from the imperfect verb or vice versa – often they are two completely different words. An example for Polish is the verb “see“: widzieć (imperfect) and zobaczyć (perfect).

And to complicate things even more, the basic forms of the verbs of movement describe an imperfect action, but differentiate it by the direction (“one direction”: идти versus “back and forth or around”: ходить – and then there are many more details to remember to use the verbs of motion correctly and not be misunderstood).

Another difficulty of slawic languages is that the numbers are declined which can become complicated for composed numbers.

Yes, Polish is not easy to learn for us Western Europeans, but for my ear it is one of the most sonorous languages that I know.

A Swiss in Krakow – discovering Podgórze

No, I do not feel like visiting Podgórze

No, I do not feel like visiting Podgórze. Because this is the place where too much happened seventy years ago. I know that in Podgórze, Schindler composed his famous list and saved the lives of some lucky. I know that the concentration camp was here that became the scene of Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s list”. I saw that film some years ago, and then could not sleep for several nights. I had also visited the Schindler factory with the team a year ago, which made me also suffer. No, I do not feel like visiting Podgórze.

But then I am taught better

But then, Piotr tells me that this area of the town is his favorite. On Sunday, Radek and Agata take me to Podgórze, after an excellent meal and wine in Kazimierz, in the Bottiglieria 1881.

image

After the meal, we cross the Wisla to Podgórze using the footbridge full of locks symbolizing the marriages of hundreds of Krakówians – if only my lock would hang here as well… and I wish that you will mount your locks at some point in time.

image

Next we step up the stairs with all the philosophical thoughts – written in Polish. Agata and Radek translate for me…  I like the thoughts and forget the statements again.

image

Back the next day to visit Krak and the scene of Schindler’s list

My guide book proposes a walk through Podgórze to the tomb of Krak and to the stone quarry with the site of Plaszów (my guidebook: Krakau, Michael Müller Verlag, 2011).

From the Rynek I walk uphill taking a foto of two elegant houses (though one of them would need some renovation – the Willa Mira with its wooden decoration).

image

Next, I find the Benedykt church and another fort built by the Austrians, when Galicia belonged to them (I had also come across an Austrian fort in Zwierzyniec).

image

image

And in front of me is my next target, the tomb of Krak (Kopiec Krakusa). Krak was the first king of Poland. He also made Kraków his capital.

image

A street with heavy traffic separates me from the tomb. I oscillate a bit to find this footbridge.

image

And now I understand, what “silva rerum” stands for… it is a wall with graffiti describing the history of Kraków from Krak and his smok to pope Johannes-Paul II. It can be seen from the footbridge.

image

image

And yes, the pope belongs to the history of Kraków. He was a courageous priest here, before going to Rome.

The path is wet and dirty leading up to the tomb of Krak. Here I have a view of the city center of Kraków.

image

Through the mud I continue my way to the cemetary and the stone quarry Liban with the strange engine that also appears in the film.

image

I enter the space of the former concentration camp…. and almost get lost in an open space. There is not much left of the camp, but being here made me sense that the prisoners could turn up behind the trees and bushes.

image

I return back to Krak’s tomb and then to the Rynek of Podgórze. Now I know, why Podgórze is called “Pod-Górze”. It lies at the foot of a hill and grows along its slopes.

In the sweet little restaurant Makaroniarna, I have some delicious spaghetti and a fresh mint tea to warm me up.

image

On Plac Bohaterow, I find the pharmacy “Pod Orlem”. Today it is not as welcoming as it was for the Jews of the ghetto seventy years ago. To visit the museum, reservation has to be made three days ahead (even, when already here).

I like the monument of the chairs spread over the open square and also along the tram station, inviting people to sit down, while waiting.

image

image

The main entrance to the ghetto was here… and these chairs now invite to sit down, reflect and link up with the past and with this charming area of Kraków.

Slowly I walk back to the city center. I climb up to the Wawel castle and take a picture of the tomb of Tadeusz Kosciuszko that I had visited some days ago in the thickest fog. Hence I would have been able to see the Wawel from there…

image

It needs a lot of phantasy to imagine what the Wawel looked like before it has been destroyed. I keep great memories of having visited the cathedral with Bibi a year ago.

image

Now I walk to the Main Rynek to say good-bye and get ready to flying home. It was a great time in Kraków. I am very happy to have met friends… a great thank you for everything.

A Swiss in Krakow – visiting Bochnia

45 minutes by train to Bochnia

We meet in front of the train station to catch the 9:55 train to Bochnia. On the way to the platform I come across another Lajkonik. This time, it is a book about them. It is waiting for buyers on the shelf of a small book stand.

image

Through the grey November day the train takes us to Bochnia to the east of Krakow.

Family day 

I am invited to a wonderful lunch with the family. I feel welcome and enjoy the salmon with vegetables and a tasty Chardonnay. And I enjoy the conversations trying to catch more and more of the Polish language spoken at the table, next to English that makes me feel comfortable.

Visiting the Bochnia salt mines – it is a great multimedia show

Bochnia is a town of about 30’000 inhabitants with a historical salt mine (wikipedia says that it is the oldest mine in Poland). We have a reservation for a guided tour in English. It is just the three of us that follow the young guide presenting his mine with a lot of enthusiasm. We dive 200m deep underground using a squeeky metallic elevator. A baby cries, but some Swiss German makes it feel less scary.

Fotos are forbidden around this antique elevator.  Interesting… what technology innovation could a foto take away from here? Our guide laughs – he does not understand this either, and he is proud: “This elevator is antique, but it works perfectly fine, no need to replace it.”

This is how travel.poland announces the tour to the mines on their Website: “Numerous historical stagings, presented in holograms, interactive projections or … recordings, is located along 1.5 km route, 180 m under the earth’s surface. Beside historical performances, the exhibition consists of multimedia shows picturing the harsh reality of mining work such as marsh gas explosion or underground flood.”

A small train takes us about 1km into the mine, rattling loudly. We follow the historical presentations of the Polish kings from the foundation under Wladislaw to the first industrialization efforts under Kazimierz. While Kazimierz – with the twinkling of an eye – prefers to be called Kazimierz III instead of “the Great”, two Italian trade men explain the positive impact that dividing tasks in the mine had on the budget of Kazimierz and Poland – they speak with an Italian accent.

image

And last comes King Auguste the Strong from Saxony who switched to the catholic faith to take over the Polish throne in the early 18th century. He had a heavy German accent and further optimized productivity in the mines.

Then there were the multimedia shows on how it all worked underground – cutting off the salty pieces from the rock, transporting the pieces of rock, detecting and eliminating methan, turning the engines that brought oxygene into the mine…. and yes, some of these scenes were frightening and noisy. Nevertheless working here was a privilege and the job was often handed over from father to son. The miners were paid in salt which was very valuable. It could be exchanged against gold. Grey salt is even more valuable than white salt, our guide says.

image

The chapel rounds off the experience.

image

And eventually, we walk down a few levels to see the huge restaurant, the playing grounds, and the dormitories –  some two hundred guests are expected tonight.

image

After about 2 to 3 km we take the elevator again. The reception hall is full of  the guests and their kids that intend to spend the night in the mine. The place seems to be popular, and rightly so!

This salt mine is surely worth visiting. Why could I not find it in the Lonely Planet?

A Swiss in Krakow – on the tracks of Tadeusz Kosciuszko

On foot along the Wisla

Today I find my way to Zwiercyniec by staying north of the Wawel and  then walking along the Wisla. My targets are the small hill built for Tadeusz Kosciuszko and some churches on the way.

image

 On the way I come across more Lajkoniki – adorning a boat

image

image

Mongolia keeps on greeting me here in Krakow.

The posh hotel Niebeleski

The hotel Nibeleski has a great view of the Wisla and the Wawel.

image

image

Well, today the Wawel looks mysterious in the fog.

Steeply uphill through a residential area

After the first steps uphill I look back at the monastery of  Norbertanek.

image

To the left is the charming small wooden chapel built for Malgorzata. My guidebook tells me that it has been rebuilt several times, because it had burnt down repeatedly. It originates from the 16th century and was built for those who died during the plague.

image

To the right is the church of the Savior or Salwator behind a locked gate. Legend says that here was the first Christian church of Poland. The hill, the cemetary and the tram end station are called Salwator as well. Flowers are announcing the cemetary.

image

image

It is late November on the alley leading to the fort of the Austrians and the Kopiec Kosciuszki.

image

 Joggers are overtaking me.

The hill of Kosciuszko is in the middle of a fort built by the Austrians

image

To climb the hill of Tadeusz Kosciuszko I have to pay eleven Zloty. The paved path leads almost flat around the hill – I feel dizzy, when I arrive on top. A panel reminds of Tadeusz. Around 1800 he courageously tried to free Poland that had been erased from the maps. I admire how much Poland fought for freedom, achieved it in 1919 and was the source of the dramatic changes in 1990.

image

On this hill, there is a telescope. I assume, there must be a great view of Krakow, but I just viewed the mist and missed the view…

image

image

Back to town and to the small Cafe Szafe

Back in Piasek I oscillate to find the cosy coffee place Szafe. I share a coffee and a piece of cake with the goat and the black cat above the red sofa.

image

image

image

The university museum

Now I head to the Collegium Maius. Visits to the museum are only allowed in guided groups. I have to wait until shortly before three. A very eloquent young lady then takes us round. Kraków has one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1360. This is 100 years earlier than the university of Basel. We see the hall where the directors of the university meet and

image

the rooms where the professors lived (but, says the lady, they were monks and lived in much simpler conditions. In addition, the rooms had open windows and where damp and moldy).

image

The auditorium is the place where doctors and professors are honoured. On the walls there are portraits of the professors in several centuries and of the only lady allowed in the collegium until the end of the 19th century, queen Jadwiga, the wife of king Yagiello.

image

The university is proud that Kopernikus was here. They show the list of students with his name on it (and, yes, he has paid the fees). Also on display are his tools and the globe from 1521,  which already shows America on it.

image

Rounding off the day with a borschtsch and a concert

I round off the day with a borschtsch and salmon in the Smak Ukrainski and with a concert in the St. Peter and Paul’s Church. This is my second concert… I was already in the St. Adalbert Church. I just wonder, how Kraków will warm up their churches, when the temperature will be far below zero. The concerts are well worth listening to, but after an hour I need a hot drink, even with November temperatures.

A Swiss in Krakow – surprises: both the globe and the Wisla are turning

The pendulum demonstrates, how the globe is turning

In St. Peter and Paul’s church there is an installation that demonstrates, how the globe is rotating. Kraków is proud of Kopernikus, Foucault and Coriolis.

image

Every Thursday, a pendulum is installed above a carpet. The man presenting it shows humor. He hangs the pendulum on to a string, keeps it attached with a rope and asks one of the spectators to burn the rope with a  lighter- the pendulum starts to swing along the carpet.

image

There are lines on the carpet, and I understand that every six minutes the pendulum reaches a new line

Towards the Wisla – now I understand – it turns forming a right angle

Next I walk to the Wisla. My plan is to visit Zwieryniec. But I mess it all up. I cross the Wisla using the Grunwald bridge… and, believing this is enough, I follow the Wisla, taking fotos of the Paulinow Church on the rock

image

and of a Swiss advertisement that made me feel at home.

image

And then, I am confused. I do not recognize the streets here as being part of Zwieryniec. Dlugosza Uliza? Where am I? I have to take a rest and think about this. The small bar Swinka looks inviting. It is lunch time.

image

I take a seat on the cosy sofa and eat placki with a light mushroom sauce. I am happy to have found placki without the heavy Gulasz, just a plain meal like the Kartoffelpuffer that my mum (originating from Berlin) prepared.

image

As I have calmed down my stomach I have another look at the map and now all becomes clear to me. The Wisla forms a right angle under the Wawel Castle, and crossing the Grunwald bridge coming from the Wawel Castle, I have only crossed the river once, but should have done so twice to reach  Zwieryniec. Actually I have ended up in Podgórze instead. Also the Wisla is “turning”.

The Mangha Museum: Japanese theatre and Max Ernst

I decide to walk back and visit the Japanese Mangha Museum. In an astounding architectural setting it shows woodcarvings that illustrate and advertise Japanese theater from the 18th and 19th century.

image

Harmony in the pictures. The plays must be tragedies, because the men always look angry, while the faces of the ladies (also played by men) look mostly gentle.

image

Max Ernst is a surrealist. There is a temporary exhibition of drawings and book illustrations he made.  His drawings are fun, but what astounds me most is the ballad of the soldiers that he illustrated: “Soldaten… verteidigt unsere grosse Kultur, die nur wir allein besitzen. Soldaten.” This sounds frightening to me: “Soldiers… defend our great culture that only we and only we own.” I am not sure, whether this is meant seriously, but this is an utterly dangerous statement. Kazimierz would look different today, if such thoughts had never existed.

Back on the Rynek

There is activity on the Rynek: The Christmas market will soon open.

image

image

image

image

and I find another trumpeter or hejnal  inviting guests to a hostel in Florianska.

image

The hippolite museum – charm of our gran-gran-parents

To top off the day, I visit the hipolit house which shows, how a bourgeois family lived from the 17th to the 19th century, mixing furniture of various styles and being afraid of any empty space or horror vacui. The bourgeois saloons and sleeping rooms were not without charm.

image

image

The hipolit cellar shows fotos of theater plays, and I am surprised to find Dürrenmatt, a Swiss author, here.

image

Drinking a cidre in the hipolit bar, I sum up my day. Well, it was not evolving according to my plan, but the unexpected kept great surprises.

The last surprise of today was an Aztecan soup in the Mexican restaurant. It tasted like ten years ago in Mexico, when I had shared it with Ernst. Joanna had created that surprise for me – thank you.

A Swiss in Krakow – discovering an Art Nouveau church

The bus to Ojców? No one understands me…

I easily find the station, where the mini buses leave for all sorts of destinations around Kraków. But without speaking Polish, I am not able to find the bus that is supposed to take me to Ojców at 10:40. Every driver that I ask sends me to a different place. One driver directs me to the huge bus station behind the train station. Here I cannot find an information desk or an overview panel of the many buses ready to take off. After an hour I give up and turn to plan B.

Plan B – strolling along Ulica Kopernika in Wesola

Wesola lies behind the main train station – eastwards. I follow the street Kopernica – named after the man who claimed that the earth is not the center of the universe. The street is ugly, cars drive by, and the first church promised by my guide book is closed for renovation. It is the St. Niklaus Church from the 12th century.

image

And then… the Bazylika Najsw. Serca Juzusa: A gem of  Art Nouveau

Between 1909 and 1912 Francisek Macynski built the basilika for the Jesuits. I like the brick construction from the outside.

image

Inside, I dive into the atmosphere created by the colorful and modern windows. The room is dominated by the apsis with the hanging figures of Maria and Josef (?) with Christ above them.

image

image

There are also golden mosaics along the walls that give this church almost a byzantine feeling.

image

A nun addresses me as “pani” and says something about light. Then she unlocks a gate and asks me to enter. I find myself in a beautiful modern chapel. The altar is an irregular metal oval with the sun in the middle. People are praying and adding candles on the shelf in front of the altar. I also add a candle. I think of Ernst who travels in my heart. I take no foto. The clicking would disturb the solemnity.

The botanical garden – accidently open

A botanical garden in November?  Well I like November gardens. The plants have retreated, only few flowers are left and nature is recovering to prosper again next spring.

image

I can see, how carefully the plants from different regions are set up and labeled.

image

And I catch a few sad-romantic moments at the pond, where reed and trees are reflecting in the water.

image

But then, the gate is locked, when I want to leave. The gardener murmurs that this garden is closed and I understand the word “pokasac” (or similar, meaning “show”). We walk back to the gate and she shifts a small and hidden handle away to open the gate. Then she closes it. This garden is not open for tourists now.

Again – the Mongolians… a Rondo is named after them

The memory of Mongolia, so far from here, seems to stay alife all over in Kraków, not only with the tune of the trumpeter that ends abruptly (as the Mongolians have killed him at this moment) or with the Lajkoniki that celebrate the victory in the 13th century (Kraków defeated the Mongolians much earlier than Moscow). The Krakówians also name a huge and busy Rondo after them, the Rondo Mogilskie. Trams are crossing in a large round pitch that is overlooked by the ugly silhouette of a building from the 80’s – then praised to be the beginning of a new Manhattan.

image

image

Ulica Topolowa and the garden of Strelecki

I flee the busy Rondo and the busy streets leading to it, and I head to the quiet Ulica Topolowa  and the garden of Strelecki.

image

Here I can say hello to the Pope that came from Poland. He is venered, as the many flowers show. I can understand that.

image

Back to the Rynek, I enjoy a tomato soup in the friendly bar of the Hippolit museum and write my blog. The white and black cat of the house shares the table with me.