Saturday, May 30, 2009

Antique stall

When you cross the tram lines in the centre of Krakow, you are in fact crossing the dried out river that in medieval times seperated the town of Krakow from the town of Kazimierz.

And as you walk through Kazimierz,the Jewish quarter, you'll stumble across a square with open air antique stalls.

I'll try to describe one.

Behind the stall sits a middle aged, fairly heavy man in a rather raggy shirt and brown cap. I can't actually tell whether it's leather or not. He is unshaven, and, in the manner of antique dealers everywhere on every level, seemingly disinterested but in fact intensely aware of you as you browse his stall.

On the stall I spy:

1) An enameled Mezuah with embossed Menorah.

2) A miniature bust of Stalin in bronze or brass (it's hard to tell the difference with age).

3) Numerous crucifixes of varying size and age.

4) WWII Eagle badge complete with swastika.

5) Old stained, pewter items from an incomplete Havdalah set.

6) Porcelain statuette of Our Lady.

7) Dusty 78s with Polish labels i can't read. Jazz? Klezmer? Marches?

8) Lots of odd, worn cutlery in many different styles.

9) Enamel and glass badges with hammers and sickles.

8) A Challah knife.

9) German Army Helmet with flaking paint.

10) Miniature portraits of Empror Franz Joseph, Empress Elizabeth, Joszef Pilsudski, and Pope John Paul II.

11) Pewter statuette of Polish Hussar with wings on back.

12) An old box full of assorted yellowing "French postcards".

Seems to a fair summary of a rich history right there.

You can easily imagine a people shaped by the battles between these contrasts. Poland has always been on the cutting egde of history. And coming from a fairly peaceful corner of the world, you might, thinking about it, even feel humbled before this oddly diverse collection of bric-a-brac.

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