07 November 2013

Europe Bucket List | Painted Village of Zalipie

There are a ton of things to worry about: grades, the future (shudder), economic instability, global warming, the inevitability of death...and now halfway through my second year in France, the ticking clock of my time in Europe (I've just looked up "sand timer thingy" to find that hourglass is the more precise word I am searching for. Memory loss hits you when you least expect it...). Next year, I might be back in the States for good, so whatever I need to see of Europe, I need to see it now. Stressful, am I right? 

It seems like every day, the list of amazing must-see sights expands a bit more, whether it's some surrealist-designed garden in Italy or intriguing street art in Spain. Today, the EBL welcomes the village of Zalipie, located in Southeast Poland. Honestly, my first thought was, "It looks like Rapunzel got her hands on this place."
But the actual story is way more interesting than the plot of "Tangled" (though I am so so partial to tears of the king and queen awwwwklajfljasfaj). Zalipie women started painting their houses over a century ago, first covering up soot stains from their stoves with whitewash. When that didn't remove the spots completely, they would paint colorful flowers over them in preparation for religious festivals. These days, the paintings are no longer clever cleaning alternatives, but shows of creativity. Over the years, they've spread from the houses to bridges, chicken coops, and wells...practically anything with a blank surface. 
This is even more amazing when you consider the fact that when this tradition started, the villagers didn't have access to professional paint or brushes. They likely made their brushes out of the tail hairs of their cows, and mixed up their own paint with dumpling fat. 

Now every year, the village hosts a competition around the feast of Corpus Christi called Malowana Chata, introduced in 1948 as part of the recovery movement after the Second World War.


06 November 2013

French Oktoberfest in November

Complete with inflatable German buildings.

We ended our trip in Metz with a meal inside these festive white tents, because it was the liveliest place in town and we were so cold hearty German food sounded like the best thing on Earth.
We weren't disappointed...live musicians in lederhosen playing everything from folksy French tunes to Elvis Presley, a dance floor full of elderly couples having a great time, and a cold beer to wash down the warm sausage and fresh frites.
We had to cut our meal short to catch our last-minute ride back home, but at least we had a ride...otherwise we were this close to sleeping in the train station that night.


05 November 2013

Ghosts of American Dreams

While I was in Nancy, I visited the park just off Place Stanislas and found this stretch of carnival rides. Later that day I'd come across the circus in a parking lot like a dormant volcano, waiting for the circus enthusiasts to arrive.

At first, just the site of an empty carnival was enough to perk up my ears. But then I took a closer look at the decor...and realized that every ride had been painted with Disney characters.
But it was this ride that sealed the deal - talk about Americana. At times it can be disorienting to see such enthusiasm for all things American. I go to a French university, but on our "American" campus some aspects of student life remind me of an attempt at university based entirely on movies. The number of aspiring cheerleaders on campus comes to mind...

Because the flora and fauna of Pride Rock is the same as Southern California. But enough of the snark - I'm sure the kids who enjoy this place don't give a second thought to the colorful pictures and their implications of copyright infringement or soft power or global homogenization.


04 November 2013

Nancy et Metz

In the running for craziest adventure yet: this week's 24-hour jaunt to the nearby Lorraine region. (First place has to be San Francisco a couple of years ago - Sanaa and I booked train + bus tickets on Wednesday and were on our way on Thursday night for our first trip on our own.)

For this trip, my friend and I used covoiturage (kind of like the love child of hitchhiking and carpooling). The plan was to spend the night in Nancy, then leave for Metz at noon the next day. We weren't sure where we would stay in Metz, but had our fingers crossed we'd find a ride home before nightfall.

In the car, we met a Slovak girl who was being dropped off en route in Metz. She was super friendly and invited us to meet up with her when we arrived there the next day. As we drove through Metz for the first time that evening, however, we were pleasantly surprised by its liveliness and architecture and congratulated each other on our random destination choice.

One thing that stood out was the drastic change in atmosphere between night and day. By night Nancy and Metz were full of people in the streets. By day, they were deserted husks of cities as most people left town for la Toussaint. Nevertheless, we found ourself in a bar with a bunch of drunken French people in full costume for Halloween where one guy stripped completely nude, at a fake Oktoberfest with a dance floor full of elderly couples who somehow knew the moves to every dance...it was more than I usually accomplish in 24 hours. 

In the coming week I'll be posting more about the trip, so stick around! 
Yes, that is an arrangement of carrots. Nancy's Place Stanislas had quirky vegetable sculptures scattered throughout to promote environmental awareness. 
A surprise spot of color in an otherwise gray day in Nancy. 
I really liked the playful signage in Metz and the way they put color on the street signs. 
Hey Metz - your medieval architecture is showing. And now, obligatory cathedral shots. 
The Temple de Metz is a historic Protestant church. As it was closed that day, I'll remember it better for the eye-catching color combination of the gray stone, purple metal fence accents, and lime green moss on its walls. Not to mention the drunk tree.