Big business in Poland, part nine

Thursday morning was cold, rainy, and kind of depressing. It was the perfect day to visit an art gallery. Just around the corner from the Sofitel was the City Gallery promoting the works of Bronislaw Wojciech Linke, an artist who was born April 23, 1906 in the Polish community in Tartu, Estonia. From 1917 to 1919, he witnessed political turbulence; first he saw the February Revolution, then the German army fighting with the Red Army and Estonia’s struggle for independence.

In 1919, Linke, along with his father and brothers, were repatriated in Kalisz, Poland, which had been destroyed in 1914. It was one of the first cities in Poland to be decimated when World War I began. In 1914, there were 68,000 people living there. A year later, only 5,000 remained. By the end of World War I, the city had been mostly rebuilt, and most of the former inhabitants were able to return. Sadly, after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Kalisz suffered another setback. It was annexed by the Germans and by the end of World War II, 30,000 local Jews and 20,000 local Catholics were murdered.

Linke graduated from a Gymnasium (a type of German high school for especially bright students who plan to attend university). Then he left his family and began working on perfecting his art. He studied industrial design in Krakow and painting in Warsaw. He was a graphic artist for the pre-war magazine, “Szpilki” and an illustrator for “Dziennik Ludowy”. Despite all of this, there was only one solo exhibition of his art. That was at the National Museum of Warsaw in 1963, which was the year after Linke’s death in Warsaw, Poland. Since then, with the exception of the April show at the Museum of Independence in Warsaw, there have only been small retrospectives of his work in Poland.

I was really just trying to kill some time when I stumbled on this free exhibit at the City Gallery in Wroclaw, which is running from November 8th until December 7th 2019. I’m glad I stopped in, especially since pictures can say things that words can’t… and since I don’t know Polish, art is a more effective medium anyway. Here are some photos I took of Linke’s art. As you can see, he had a lot to say about war, which he did with his art. And he wasn’t just saying it about Germany, either… Russia and the United States got a mention, too.

I spent about twenty minutes or so in the gallery. It wasn’t a particularly large exhibit, even though there was also a video presentation in Polish. I probably should have spent longer, since the helpful leaflet about Linke’s work includes more information about his history. The artist and his wife, Anna Maria, were forced to flee German occupied Warsaw in 1939 because he had been listed as an enemy of the Third Reich by the Gestapo. Adolf Hitler and his cronies weren’t fans of Linke’s work, which often depicted Hitler in caricatures and were published in the Polish and foreign press.

The Linkes escaped to Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine, then were sent to a camp in the Dubowa Village in the Republic of Chuvashnia, and then to Orsko, where Linke worked in industrial plants and painted propaganda and advertising banners. In 1946, the Linkes were repatriated in Warsaw, where Linke died on October 6, 1962. For more on Linke, click here.

After my visit to the art gallery, I decided to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, an American chain restaurant that specializes in typical American food and memorabilia from rock stars. I really struggled with the decision, since it’s such an American institution. I’ve only been to two other Hard Rock Cafes– the one in Oslo, Norway, and the one in Berlin. We went to the one in Oslo because it was 2009; we didn’t have much money; and the Hard Rock Cafe had one of the most economical menus in Oslo, which is a very expensive city. We went to the one in Berlin because a couple of people in Stuttgart had requested that I pick up a couple of souvenirs for them, since they’re collectors of Hard Rock merchandise. I went to the one in Wroclaw because I felt like eating something American.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed my lunch at Hard Rock Cafe Wroclaw. I ordered “twisted mac and cheese”, which was fusilli pasta with a creamy, slightly spicy cheese sauce and grilled chicken. It was served with garlic bread. I know I shouldn’t eat such carb loaded things, but it was such a nice change of pace, plus it was very comforting on such a dismal, grey day. A bonus was that I got a great view of the square, as workers were putting the finishing touches on the Christmas market being set up to begin on Friday. One thing I didn’t like, though, was that Hard Rock Cafe had kind of a lame beer and wine list… but there were plenty of fun cocktails for those who are into that sort of thing.

I did some more writing and reading during the afternoon as I waited for Bill. When he arrived well after dark at about 6:00pm, we went looking for dinner. Wroclaw is interesting, because there are three Greek restaurants located almost right next to each other. They’re all on the same side of the square. Even weirder, two of the restaurants are called Akropolis. The other is called Greco. We ate at Greco in 2008 and weren’t all that impressed with it, so we decided to visit the first of the two Akropolis restaurants. It turned out to be more like an Italian restaurant with a few Greek accents. Our waiter seemed really tired, too. I was a bit disappointed in it… but at least the inside was cute.

This is also the only restaurant that billed a service charge. I’m not sure what the charge was for, but it was about 22 Zloty. Not sure if that was the tip or what, but it seemed a bit shady. I used to work at a place that had a service charge, but it wasn’t a tip. It was used for linens.

We stopped by the hotel bar one last time to say goodbye the friendly bartender. I spotted this funny label belonging to a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which is usually one of my favorite wines.

Next post, I’ll wrap up our last day…


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