We returned home today, as did our Polish friend, Michal, who is living with us for a year, and who went back to his family for Christmas. He brought back a Christmas present for us, a 'coffee-table' style book entitled POLSKA - Zaproszenie do podrozy [the final 'o' and 'z' both have marks over them that I don't know how to insert in Blogger], which translates, POLAND - Invitation for a Journey.
It is full of exquisite photographs of Poland's natural beauty and rich architectural history. I remember reading somewhere once that Poland was (at the time) the most polluted country in Europe. Obviously the scenes chosen were selective, to show the country at its best (although the editors were rightly brave enough to include a shot of the museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau among the human shaping of the landscape); but even so, there is enough here to show Poland is a stunning nation. Nature is both fragile - easily destroyed by pollution - and vigorous - 'bouncing back' time and again in an extravagant perpetual re-creation.
And I love the title - an invitation to a journey. Not so much inviting me to visit Poland as a tourist, as inviting me to see how I relate to any place as a journey of discovery, to find the stunning in the mundane. For me, that place is, first and foremost, Hillsborough and the neighbouring areas of Sheffield. Among the things I love are the rounded building fronts on either side of the road where the tramline to Malin Bridge sweeps away from the line to Middlewood, and the bridge over the River Loxley. In fact, strange though it may seem, to me these give humble Hillsborough something of the feel of great European cities I have visited, in countries like Hungary and Croatia. Journeys are a great adventure, even when you don't leave home!