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Tuesday, 31 March 2015 00:00

Portrait of a City: Wrocław

Written by
Breslau bridge
Photo: Tobias Melzer

On the Tumski Bridge in Wrocław

As part of a new feature for Sixth Sense, E&M photographer Tobias Melzer will be exploring lesser-known European towns and cities on look out for hidden gems and unexpected wonder. First up is the Polish city of Wrocław, a place of decidedly mixed heritage.

It is hard to imagine a city that sums up the tangled histories of Central Europe better than Wrocław.  Straddling the Oder, itself a river that unites Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, Wrocław has seen the rise and fall of many an empire. Whether as part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Duchy of Silesia, the Habsburg Monarchy or Weimar Germany, Wrocław has always maintained its position as a cultural hub and will in fact be a European Capital of Culture in 2016.

Since the terms of the Potsdam Conference saw Wrocław pass to Poland in 1945, it has grown to become the forth largest Polish city, with a population of over 600,000. The architectural variety of the city gives an insight into its chequered past. The university, in particular, with its exquisite Aula Leopoldina and the stunning views to be had from the Mathematics Tower, harks back to the days when the city went by the name of Breslau and was counted among the most revered seats of learning in the German-speaking lands. Nowadays, Wrocław is also home to a number of dwarf figurines (known as krasnale in Polish), whose presence – besides the obvious tourist appeal – commemorates local opposition to communsim. Graffiti dwarfs were the calling-card of the underground movement Pomarańczowa Alternatywa (Orange Alternative) during the 1980s.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00

A Merry Norwegian TV Christmas

Written by
Norwegian jumper
Photo: Gunnar Bothner-By (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0
 

Traditional Norwegian jumpers for the festive season

 

Continuing our mini-series on festive traditions in Europe, we get the low-down from Katarina Poensgen about how to celebrate Christmas Norwegian style. The key is apparently always watching the same old films on TV, including Czechoslovak fairy tale from the 1970s...

It is a cold and snowy 24 December in Norway, a.k.a. Christmas time. People are gathered inside their cosy homes with their families. The gingerbread, Christmas soda (a brown-hued fizzy drink) and marzipan is laid out on the living room table; everyone is ready and waiting for 11 am.

This is the time when the Norwegians’ beloved Czechoslovak movie Three Wishes for Cinderella from 1973 begins. It is a traditional Cinderella story with a twist: Cinderella has three nuts containing three wishes (or rather outfits, including her pink ballroom gown), instead of a fairy Godmother. The story itself is in fact based on a 19th century fairy tale by Božena Němcová, a great Czech writer. Although technically a joint Czechoslovak and East German production, with actors from both of those countries too, the movie as a whole is viewed as Czechoslovak to us Norwegians. The main reason for this might be because the lead role is played by beautiful Czech actress Libuše Šafránková (who also appeared in many other fairy tale movies such as The Third Prince, The Little Mermaid, and The Prince and the Evening Star in her home country). All the voices are dubbed, however, by Norwegian actor Knut Risan. Risan’s most famous voice impression is that of the royal tutor, who nags the prince and his friends all the time about their studies – but of course his high-pitched girly voices for the women are also a big bonus. This is not only hilarious every single year, but reminds every Norwegian family that it really is Christmas time.

Monday, 11 August 2014 00:00

A team for Europe

Written by
Dutch football fans
Photo: Ana Röell
 
Fans celebrate after the Netherlands' opening victory against Spain

 

Ana Röell looks back on an emotional night of football during the World Cup and reflects on the power of sport to unite people of all backgrounds.

Whenever I start thinking about a more united Europe, I like to look for unifying elements around me. And last month there was one particular aspect that could be neither missed nor ignored: the football.

I'm from the Netherlands and when a huge loss was predicted for our first World Cup match, I felt naïvely positive that this would be the case (we were playing against the former champions Spain, after all). I decided to watch the match in a popular cafe down the street – one that is usually known as an alternative place and attracts a large variety of people. Young and old, well-heeled or practically homeless, businessmen and hooligans, and even several street "gangs"; an unexpected crowd had prepared itself for the game by dressing up in our national colour and drinking loads of beer.

At first, I was surprised to see the supporting crowd bound together in orange and I began wondering how things might turn out. After the opening ceremony and my first beer, some intense squabbles broke out behind me, and the tension between a number of individuals began to grow. Then it was time for the kick-off, and the game began. Eyes glued to the screen, everybody was watching as if they were the ones on the pitch, embodied by our players. For a moment, we were all one and the same; one great happy nation. 

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