Category Archives: poland

Lubiąż Abbey – a little walk round

On my last trip to Poland, I happened to visit Lubiąż Abbey, one of the largest Christian Complexes in the world and while today its Holy functions no longer exist, it is still a significant tourist draw in this part of Silesia. Of course, the day I went Siberia had decided to camp out in Poland (although it was still October) meaning that it was…well…cold when I visited the former monastery on the banks of the Odra.

A little history (my usual Wiki-Quote). The first Christian functions on this site were established around 1150. Like many parts of Silesia, its history is intertwined with the political wrangling that this part of Europe has found itself in. Lubiaz Abbey has come under the control of the Prussian States, the Polish, the Bohemians and even the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary.

But it is during WWII that Lubiaz’s history come closer to the history in the UK. While occupied by Nazi Germany, Lubiaz’s vast underground complex was home to the engine factories for the V1 and V2 rocket bombs. This vast slave labour camp existed until the Red Army invaded. The Abbey itself fell into decay until 1989 and the fall of Communism. Restoration started and it is a process that continues today.

One little titbit about the Abbey was that in 1997 Michael Jackson visited Lubiaz. Rumour has it that his helicopter tour and stop-off was to see if he could buy the Abbey. Well, his offer was rejected. However, according to the guide who took us round, the visit was meant to be kept a secret, but the whole village (and most of the surrounding area) turned out to greet the King of Pop! Given the traditional Polish welcome of bread and salt, Michale Jackson was in Lubiaz Monastery for only 20 minutes. It is reported that he was astounded by the lavish interiors. Yes, I did go inside, but we were not allowed to take photos inside of the Abbey 😦

Yeah, I think you noticed it was snowing like crazy that day. Of all the days to see a top tourist attraction, I had to pick the one day in October where Siberia decided to decamp. Snow was everywhere, but luckily, having been bitten by the famed Polish cold earlier this year, I came fully wrapped up.

One little extra you will see at the abbey is an exhibition on old German trains. I do not exactly understand the reasoning behind it (other than the fact that Lubiaz was a hot tourist spot when it was called ‘Lubies’ and a part of Germany). Although I could not get exactly what everything was about, it was fascinating to see the old cultural links that used to exist between Silesia and its big neighbour to the west (something that is more evident in Wroclaw).

Getting there and away:

One word – car. It maybe only 40 miles or so from Wroclaw, but Lubiaz is a small village and it is difficult to get to. There are local (and infrequent) buses from the two nearest railheads in Glogow and Wroclaw throughout the day, but really, unless you have your own transport (or speak brilliant Polish), it is a pain to get here.

Accommodation here is non existent too, and the restaurant in the Abbey keeps limited opening hours, so plan your trip accordingly…

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Flirting with the Polish Border at Frankfurt am Oder

Last month I was in Poland for the 8th edition of the Quest Europe film festival. Due to its location in Western Poland, Zielona Gora can be a bit of a pain to get to from its nearest Polish cities, but is surprisingly easy to get to from from Berlin across the border in Germany.

This is normally the way I go. Land in Berlin, take the train to the Polish/Germany border, walk across the border then head on a coach to Zielona Gora from the Poland side.

And of course, this being me, I have an illicit fascination with borders. And this point of the German/Polish border is one of the more fascinating parts of Central Europe, as well as one of the prettiest. Well, at least on the German side.

Germany has two Frankfurts. The first one is in Hesse in the west of Germany. Seat of the Euro, centre of the financial power of Europe’s largest economy. Big, brash and flash. The second Frankfurt is right on Germany’s eastern border in the impoverished state of Brandenburg. Frankfurt am Oder is small, shrinking and while rather pretty does not really have much to it. However, it serves as a very useful gateway to Poland, particularly if coming via road or rail. The Autobhan links with the Polish Highway network just outside the city. There are direct trains between Berlin and Warsaw that stop in the town. And, being across the border from the Polish town of SLubice, it is very easy just to take a walk over the Odra river, which also acts as the border in this case.


(Frankfurt Oder from the Polish (Slubice) side of the border)

Before the second world war, Frankfurt Oder covered both sides of the river. But after the border changes of 1945, the eastern portion of Frankfurt Oder became the Polish town of Slubice.

Slubice is, well, interesting. It is an ugly town, but it is very vibrant. People are utilising the border everyday, Germans are coming over all the time for cheaper goods, the Polish (and even some Germans) are crossing the border to work and study. And Slubice is definitely on the up. As soon as you arrive in Poland there are money changing shops, neon lights, bars and restaurants telling you to come over here. It may be the smaller of the two towns, but Slubice definitely has a sense of excitement about its border status, even if there are no longer checkpoints between the two countries.

However, on entering Frankfurt, you do not feel like you are on some border with another country. In fact, it seems like Frankfurt Oder itself decides to purposely ignore Poland as some rather embarrassing friend. If you did not know any better, this would just seem like any other impoverished Eastern German town with a shrinking population and not much else to do in town. It is quiet. And with 60,000 residents, Frankfurt Oder is small. But Frankfurt Oder is surprisingly pretty. Many parts of the town, particularly the area towards the river has been beautifully restored and like everything in Germany, Frankfurt Oder is shockingly clean.

Now while I would not make a beeline for Frankfurt Oder, it is worth spending a few hours here while waiting for a train or vice versa. It is a rather nice place to stop for a cup of coffee and because the town has been so beautifully restored, there are a lot of very nice places to wander through. And if you are in the town centre, there are a few hawker booths that serve cheap fare such as kebabs, pizza or…frankfurters…hehe…

As I said previously, there really is not much to warrant a special trip here. But for those looking for a cheap (and relatively easy) way to and from western Poland, going via Frankfurt Oder and crossing over to Slubice is a pretty good way to do so. If you have the time, the walk is not far. In about one hour you could probably walk through Frankfurt and Slubice and see everything that needs to be seen, or if you take it leisurely, it can be done in three or so hours, including a stop off for a coffee. Really, the two towns are quite small. I have regularly crossed between Germany and Poland this way and will be doing so later this year when I go back to film Great Brytania. And while I have seen all there is to see, I always like venturing back and forth to check out any details I might have missed.

Frankfurt Oder, getting there and away: Trains leave twice an hour from Berlin and take around an hour, costing €9.40. You can also hop on the Berlin/Warsaw express which call at the station. The rail station is around 15 minutes walk from the riverside/centre of town.

Poland/Germany Border: The Friendship Bridge links Frankfurt Oder with Slubice on the Polish side. It basically goes from town centre to town centre, and as there are no border controls, you can walk over it as many times as you like!

Slubice, getting there and away: The rail links to Slubice are terrible, and the only way is by coach. All the major places in Lubuskie are linked by coach including Zielona Gora and Gorzow. If you need to take the train, the town of Rzepin is a few miles away, reachable by taxi, and there are regular rail links all over Poland from here.

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Quest Europe 2012 – A Jury Member’s view back

Well, I have just arrived back from the Quest Europe Film Festival, where I was invited to be a jury member for a second year. It was a lot of fun, and a lot harder than last year. There was no clear winner, and I was split. Charles, the jury member thought one thing. But Charlie, the guy sitting in the audience thought another thing. And so here were my three favourite films (in no particular order) from Quest Europe 2012. And, yes, my favourite films were a little bit different from what I thought as a jury member…

Strona A – Brilliant. I really enjoyed watching this film and I wanted to learn more of what happened after the credits began to roll.

Ditto for Ingenuity (which you can view fully online), I just wanted to know more.

But my favourite, the laugh out loud film, that tickled me silly had to be The Man with a Plastic Bag. Documentary my ass, but who cares, it was fantastic, and had me in creases the whole way through!

So there you have it, my three favourite films from this year’s Quest Europe. Special kudos has to go to Green Olives. A hard film to watch, but brilliantly done. Also, another film that made me laugh was Night Visitor. The two main actors were one hell of a comedy pair – more of them please!

An absolutely wonderful festival, it always astounds me how a small town in Western Poland manages to pull off such a spectacle. Quest Europe has many more editions ahead of it, long may it reign, in its quest to bring quality films to the masses!

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Little Teaser for Great Brytania

The last few months have, to be polite, busy. Busy for every other reason apart from filming, although I have done a lot of filming myself recently, and film related activities. However, enough doom and gloom. And enough of the shocking (really, it has been a dearth) lack of blog posts. Inertia, and the fact that I have got quite comfortable with not blogging recently has seen my writing output dramatically fall. From almost daily a year ago to once a week, if I am lucky.

Life, has been busy.

Anyway, take a look at the video. This is a ‘little teaser’ for want of a better title. Next month I will complete the first (of what will be many) teasers for Great Brytania. I have to re-record a voice over, to actually make it sound, well, good. When I shot the first footage in May, the voice overs were done quickly.

Wow, May. That was a long time ago, and a lot of things have happened since then.

Sometimes, when I write this blog, I have to balance my innate need to scream from the roftops with my (essential need) to be quiet and evasive about many, personal things.

So, onto the film world. That I will shout about 😉

In addition to the ‘Little Teaser’, I have finally done a little update to the babarouge website which was a long time coming. Another thing on my great list of things to do, but it was time to add a little bit of the work done on Great Brytania to the ‘official/corporate’ part of my world.

It has been a tough, past three months. Filming wise, it has been great. I have done an incredible amount of research, and I am so much better prepared then I was at the start of this project. While I still have a long way to go, I believe that eventually I will get there. But what has been happening around me has been nothing short of a sewer storm.

Enough mystery, here is some concrete. I am off to the wonderful Quest Europe Film Festival this weekend, and I am honoured to have been asked to be a jury member for a second year in a row. I cannot think why, but maybe I am doing something right? There are a lot of great films on show, and I have been told to look out for one film in particular. For some reason, it is meant to remind me of the Croydon Tramlink, even though it is set in France. Bizarre, how could any sane person make that connection? Oh well, I will find out in a few days…

Bags packed? Hell no! Money in wallet, just about, but at the expense of running my motorbike on a near empty fuel tank. Research done? Erm…doing it now. Filming all set – never prepared, but like a swan, that calm exterior masks a furiosou amount of paddling under the water.

Enjoy your bank holiday weekend too, whatever you are doing. See after the break!

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The editing pains…

Actually, this week, especially today, has been a good one for piecing together the bits and pieces of Great Brytania that was shot in May. However, it is important to put the footage shot into a bit of context.

Not that much was actually shot. We filmed for just two days, six scenes in total. Three of the scenes are in a block that lasts around two minutes, and record events that took place in the character of Magda’s past. The scenes in that two minute block were shot around Zielona Gora’s bus terminal:

The rest of the scenes shot are splintered, individual pieces. One scene shows the character of Magda returning to her Polish home after a day at work. That particular portion of footage will make no sense until the Internal Polish scenes are shot this Autumn.

The other two scenes are dream sequences, set in the Polish countryside – and we did a little bit of cheating when we shot this, but more of that later 😉

But these two sequences are set while Magda is in London. As the London scenes will not be shot until 2013, I can chop them together, but again, they are out of context.

Anyway, the three scenes at the bus station are what makes up the teaser trailer that I have been editing. Although it is finished, I was not happy with it. As there is no rush to get a trailer ready for this year’s Quest Europe film festival in Poland, I am going back to sort out the rhythm and pace of the film, to give it a less disjointed feel.

I am also going to use this extended opportunity to colour correct the teaser. Normally, I do not colour correct trailers, I think it is a bit of a waste. But as I have time until the next segment of the film will be shot, I think why the hell not. It will make the build up for Great Brytania much more spectacular!

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Stills from Great Brytania’s Teaser

Just a couple of shots from the teaser as I edit away. This pic was taken from one of the block of flats in Zielona Gora, and in the film it represents Magda’s home in Poland.

The second shot is kind of cool, showing Magda smoking at the coach station before she departs for England. In the film, the story is split into two chronological periods. The scenes in the UK takes place in the present day, while the scenes from Poland takes place in the 1990’s. That was hard to do, shooting in today’s Poland, but to portray a world 15-20 years ago. That meant no new cars or buses, no new logos, and clothes that would match the time period. Yeah, tricky stuff, so a close up of our leading actress smoking a cigarette was a nice shot to portray.

Oh yes, the joy of editing!

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Film News 19th June and Quest Europe 2012

Wow, last week was so epic, that there was just no time to blog (or look at any other blog post) whatsoever – very disappointing for me. Nonetheless, it has been a busy week, but not in the way I have thought it would or should be. Let me get down to business to describe what I have been up to. First of all, I have been re-reading the script again. Along with some editing of the Polish scenes, this is what the last week has been spent on.

But also, quite importantly, I have been invited to be a jury member (for a second year in a row) at the 2012 Quest Europe film festival! I am very excited, and honoured by this. And to be honest, it is a great job. Turn up and watch movies Easiest job – ever!

There is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, so good luck to all those involved. Yep, this year, in August, I will be in Zielona Gora again for the 2012 Quest Europe film festival. Join me then. And ~I hope to have the teaser ready to be screened for the festival…I better get editing 🙂

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