Friday, February 10, 2012

Poland -- Travel story on Lodz

Artur Rubinstein street sculpture monument. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The New York Jewish Week runs a lively travel story by Hilary Larson on Lodz, Poland, highlighting the city's Jewish heritage as well as its new spaces and places -- which include Manufaktura, a big shopping center in the transformed red-brick factory that was once run by Lodz's wealthiest Jewish industrialist, I.K. Poznanski...

This onetime outpost of the Russian and German Empires was among the world’s most Jewish cities before the Holocaust, with a quarter-million Jews, a good third of the city’s total. Every year, thousands of heritage travelers come to bear witness to Lodz’s wartime ghetto and the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
So fixed is that mournful image that it takes a mental leap to consider what Europeans already know: Lodz is suddenly the coolest place in Poland. 
“It’s where all the hipsters and artists are going,” said my Polish friend Piotr. “They are in Warsaw for the jobs, in Krakow for the universities. But they come to Lodz for the scene.” [...]
This so-called “City of Four Cultures” (Polish, Jewish, German and Russian) is polyglot and full of surprises. There are 19th-century Orthodox churches, baroque Teutonic mansions, Soviet housing blocks with underground cafes. Though Jews are few today, Jewishness continues to pervade the city — a subtle but persistent overlay of nostalgia, and a belatedly appreciated cultural influence.
I'm glad to see Lodz get such coverage. I have always greatly enjoyed my visits to the city and walks down ruler-straight Piotrkowski street, looking at the old mansions and the street sculpture of Rubinstein, Tuwim and others.

Piortrkowski st. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber)

Larson doesn't mention however, two of the key Jewish and "Jewish" sights..... the large and fascinating Jewish cemetery, with Poznanski's immense domed tomb, and the "Jewish" restaurant Anatewka, which, since I first saw it, has been one of the Platonic ideals for me of the "virtually Jewish world"..... where, the first time I visited, in 2005, the waiters were dressed as Hasids, and where guests are (or were) all given little figurines of Jews clutching coins as sort of favors.

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