Thursday, 26 December 2013


Every hour, a trumpet signal is played from the taller of the two towers of St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow.

The signal ends abruptly, in memory of the trumpeter who in the 13th century sounded the alarm when the Mongols attacked the city, until he was hit by an arrow.

In Krakow, many houses are still heated with coal. When the mist rising from the river mixes with the smoke, the town's towers and spires mysteriously shine through the fog, like out of another time.

On a market, people bought last supplies for Christmas.

At his stand, a blacksmith was forging lucky horseshoes.

While in front of a church, happy children were selling self-made Christmas cards.

In an old Jewish bookshop, I bought a painting.

The painting is by Mariusz Lipinski. Born 1946 in Krakow, Lipinski studied under Jerzy Nowosielski at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. He died under unclear circumstances on March 9th, 2010 (and might have been murdered, according to a trustworthy source).

In the evening, Krakow is especially beautiful. Old lamps fill the streets with warm yellow light, mysterious shadows walk around, and in small caf├ęs people discuss the affairs of the day by candlelight.

Soundtrack: Oj, Dortn, Dortn (Zupfgeigenhansel)  

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Polyushka Polye

On an early Saturday morning last month in Perm, I went for a walk through the small settlements and fields that sourround the city. After many days passed in front of a computer, it was good to breathe some fresh air, and walk again on a small country road.


At around 10 in the morning, the sun was just about to rise, and most houses still seemed to be asleep.

Only this container was already wide awake and smiling:

On a street corner, a man was cutting wood in the morning sun.

The thing I like about going for a walk in Russia is that you always come upon some nice UAZiks:

After crossing a small valley, I came to some hills, from which one could see the city in the distance.

On one of the hills was a cemetery. Walking the road that went alongside, I all of a sudden saw something that distinctively looked like mafia graves (last year in Yekaterinburg, I did some research about the two famous mafia cemeteries in the city, and these graves here looked very similar).

Getting a closer look, I remembered that apart from Yekaterinburg, Perm was another important center of violent crime during the 1990s in Russia (see this book by Frederico Varese on the Russian mafia in Perm).

Back in Moscow, I now just did some background research on the names of the people buried there, but couldn't find anything on the internet. However, the gravestones very much correspond to the typical type of Russian mafia grave, as described for example in the work of Olga Matich on mafia burials in Russia (full-length portraits, as well as the depiction of cars, alcohol and other objects of wealth). So next time I am in Perm, I'll make some more in-depth inquieries.



Soundtrack: Polyushka Polye (Red Army Choir)

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Last week, I was for a conference in Novosibirsk. Having arrived a day early, I went for a walk along the river Ob:

Novosibirsk was founded only 120 years ago, as a small settlement around the bridge where the Transsiberian Railway passes over the river. The original bridge has recently been replaced by a new one, which you can see in this video:

In anticipation of the winter, a big poster was advertising tires with spikes:

Lenin and his friends had also put on defiant faces, braving the cold wind that was already blowing along the square:

The conference was a bit different from the more western-style conferences I usually go to. People had rather encompassing ideas, and tried to solve many big problems at once. Especially this lady talked for a long time:

Some officials from the regional government also gave talks. This guy had found out an efficient way of communicating a lot of information to the public, all at once:

In the evening, there was a nice social dinner, with many a toast being pronounced.

The next day, Galina Pavlovna, the very kind lady who had organized the conference, invited us to her office for tea.

Behind her desk, she had a wall full of pictures with famous economists:

Finally, there was an excursion by bus through Novosibirsk, with a proud guide explaining in detail the many landmarks of the city.

(what you see here in the background is the famous Novosibirsk Opera House)