restlessjo has been a blogging friend for more than a year. She lives in England, I in Australia, but we both have Polish connections and here we are meeting in Łódź, a fact that has us hugging frequently in disbelief. What a day of talk and photography, as we stroll along Piotrkowska, delighted with each other, Łódź and the ease of speaking English.
A bit of Łódź background. It was one of the biggest European textile centres in the nineteenth century. Its city icon is a boat, which is what “łódź” (pronounced woodge) means in Polish: it appears on man hole covers, the base of lampposts, garbage tins, and trams, as the mermaid does in Warsaw. I wonder at the boat, when there is no sign of a river in my limited explorations. I discover that once upon a time, according to “Łódź in your pocket”, there were eighteen rivers running though the town , keeping the factories connected to the world beyond Łódź. Chronic pollution led to a campaign to cover the rivers, which are now slowly being restored.
Łódź is also billed as the city of film and cinema, this history memorialised in a Hollywood style pavement of the stars: Polański and Wajda both studied film in Lódź. Textile warehouses have taken on a new life: the director David Lynch has plans to set up a film studio in a former 19th-century power plant.
What are the immediate pleasures of Piotrkowska St, exposed by the observation of a pair of casual strollers, unmediated by too much information? There are a number of dramatic and enigmatic murals, over forty featured as a permanent exhibition, created by the best street artists from all over the world, including an Australian, Shida.
Then there are the bronze street statues of notable citizens, of children, and of characters from children’s books. On Saturday afternoon I watched a bride and groom being photographed near the seated children, the bride’s hand resting in the cupped hands of the smaller child.
The main part of ul Piotrkowska is a promenade, the only motorised traffic being the odd taxi or delivery van. Otherwise it is occupied by bikes: cyclists, including families with young children and only occasional helmets; and rickshaws carrying the lazy up and down, including one astonishingly obese man whose belly almost scrapes the rickshaw’s canopy. This makes ambling from one side of the road to the other relatively safe, and enables the post-tall-building-photography stagger and the deep-in-conversation-as-you-snap meander to be undertaken in relative safety.
Jo and I disagree about one thing: my camera and I enjoy dilapidation, the more dilapidated the better. She however opts for the pretty, although she will admire the grandly shabby. My eye is caught by mouldings and decorative features, intimations of grandeur, but also by peeling paint and grunge, to which I’ll devote a separate post. There is no shortage of architectural pleasure.
And so ends a perfect day with a perfect companion. Thank you so much, Jo, for your warmth and conversation, and for introducing me to Łódź.
Postscript: Shooting for a documentary about Ringelblum, who built up an archive of life and death in the Warsaw ghetto which became a major source of knowledge about the Holocaust, begins in Łódź in May 2016.