Szczecin: Beautiful and Forgotten

Author: Simon Roman
Editor: Hazal Senkoyuncu
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For those who do not know that a city called Szczecin even exists–, We will jump into a little history lesson along with helpful geographical facts to get you up to speed. Szczecin is a city located in Northern Poland with access to the Baltic Sea.* To its West, Berlin stands 138 km away from Szczecin, and to its East, a port city called Gdansk is located 333 km apart. With a population of over half a million citizens, Szczecin is the capital of the West Pomeranian voivodeship (or region). It is ranked to be the third city that occupies the largest land area (in square meters) in Poland.
The city was founded in 1243, thanks to Prince Barnim I. However, there is information about various tribes settling in the once-abandoned area, dating back to the early middle ages, approx. around 700 A.C. From the middle ages to the modern-day, Szczecin belonged to the Pomeranian Princedom. It was the capital that housed the ruling dynasty, an independent army, and the fleet. The Pomeranian Griffith dynasty ruled for 500 years. The ruling families had children, who later became kings of neighboring countries like Denmark and Sweden.
Indeed, Szczecin did not belong to Poland for a long while. It has been a Polish city only for 74 years now. Before the Second World War, the city called Stettin was a part of the Third Reich. After Germany capitulated its Allies, they decided to transfer several German cities inside the new borders of Poland. Thus, Stettin took a Polish name, Szczecin. It only took a few days after this settlement, and the lives of the once-residents were forever changed. Several hundred thousands of Germans were interned by the Russians off of the city. The whole community was replaced by Polish citizens.

 

The Paris of the North
The current shape of the town comes to our day from the XIX century. Most of the housing units are richly encrusted tenement houses built before the First World War. When the city belonged to Germany, it was referred to as the “Paris of the North”. One must admit, there is truth to this statement. The historical frontages are blessed with wide streets, allowing for astonishingly well-organized traffic (Hat tip to the XIX century German urbanists!)**. With every hundred meters, you can find a park, accompanied by great coffee shops in each corner.
Let’s not forget to mention the places you must visit:
White Eagle Square showcasing its baroque fountain, Globus Palace where the Russian Tzar Pawel I’s wife was born; Jasne Blonia Park with its astonishing alleys of old trees. You ought to spend hours in the Central Cemetery or the biggest city necropolis in Europe; in fact, it is bigger than Père-Lachaise in Paris. Then, there is the Breakthrough Museum, a building disguised as a public square that holds a collection of changes in the 20th century Poland. Let’s not forget Szczecin’s infamous port and shipyard… with a bloody history. The dock saw the unarmed workers strike against the communist party until the police shot many, and killed them in the 70s. Lastly, the Karłowicz Philharmonic, a.k.a. my favorite place in this town (Jump to “Szczecin in the Current Day” for detailed information).
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Szczecin at night
Fingerprints of the Communist Party remain
 The city of Szczecin is as beautiful as it is forgotten. During their stay in Szczecin, anyone can notice that the place is underfunded; not because of bad governing, but due to the decade long history of communism. The Communist Party was afraid that Germany would not be staying silent upon its loss in WWII– That sooner or later, Germany would want Szczecin back. The solution was simple! They would spend only a small amount of money for the town. And, they did for the next 60 years. Funds were sent to the shipyard and port maintenance, only some worker housing in the new suburbs and other essential expenses to keep a large city functioning. The era of poverty ended with the collapse of the Iron Curtain as well as the end of Communism in the 90s.
Fingerprints of this era remain on the face of Szczecin– Tenement houses have not been renovated since the war. Some of them were deconstructed to their bricks in 1946. The bricks were then sent to Warsaw for the rebuilding of the town, while the deconstructed houses were left undone. Oddly enough, Szczecin maintained better communication with Berlin than it did with Warsaw to this day. Hence, Berlin is more accessible via transportation; you can find a way to get to Berlin any minute! ***

Continue reading “Szczecin: Beautiful and Forgotten”

August 2019 Book, TV, and Film Roundup

If I didn’t mind everything to appear as orderly as they really aren’t—I would call this roundup, August: The month of half doing everything. I did not particularly go crazy about anything I watched, read, or listened this month. It was deeply saddening because it seemed like I was wasting my time while running away from wasting my time, especially in terms of my book choice, Caramelo. Next, I began watching The Protector(or ‘Hakan Muhafız’, 2018) a superhero series, but with a Turkish twist. The big screen was rather safe with a late catching up with The Lion King (2019) and a re-watch of an all-time favorite, Coco (2017), at home. I cannot recommend Coco enough; I cry every time I watch it. Lastly, The Red Sea Diving Resort(2019) was a painfully lifeless movie to watch; the plot wasn’t tragic but the movie itself was.

The Shelf

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Caramelo, Or, Puro Cuento (2002) by Sandra Cisneros

The Vancouver Public Library has an amazing system that asks about your intermedia favorites and comes up with an extensive list of books just for your taste. I was recommended this sweet book about a Mexican family that lives in Chicago. They take one of their famous trips to the awful grandmother’s house in Mexico, where the literal definition of a whole family meets every summer. The book is written from the views of Lala, the young girl who watches her mother and grandmother’s power struggle, her quiet father, funny uncles and tormentor cousins. She seems lonely and out of solutions in the middle of it all. She becomes our eyes in the family and navigates through what seems to be a map of family history and shows us why things are the way they are.

Now that you have an idea about the plot, let me tell you about all the reviews I read prior to picking up this book. The readers preach the award-winning author’s poetic way of storytelling and especially Mexican readers, state that they have found a piece of home in it. I am writing this review because I could not get past the first 150 pages of Caramelo. Cisneros is, indeed, a master of words, and you can tell that it comes easy to her. She is extremely descriptive, but it becomes overbearing and unnecessary at times; it even spoils the story. The point she is so eager to make so beautifully  becomes lost as she runs on different tangents. The chapters are very short, they can be called short stories which have a hard time to intertwine. With all due respect, I am a stranger to such a different literary approach to storytelling. I tried to love Carameloand really wanted to relate to the enthusiasm of the other readers—It did not work. Hence, I do not recommend it. If you read the book, let me know what you think below.

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Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light (2019)by Stan Lee and Kat Rosenfield

A Trick of Light was the very first audiobook I ever listened; as you might know, I am more of a paper person. Hence, it caught me by surprise to hear Yara Shahidi’s excellent narration. Her voice is very neutral and timeless yet keeps the story exciting. It is also the door to Stan Lee’s world. In A Trick of Light, we follow the origin story of Cameron who accidentally gains super-techno-powers. He, then, meets Nia, a hacker who is overly protected by her father. They take on a journey to find what happened to Cameron’s lost father. On a side note, while the plot builds up toward a love story, we never really get one.

While Stan Lee’s brand is within this book, I have a bit of a hard time believing he has more than a small touch on the details. I believe the story is very timeless because it embodies the long for human connection in an internet-connected world. However, it does not go very far from Ernest Cline’s book that inspired Spielberg’s Ready Player One(2018) in terms of setting up the story and its characters. It is very far from the Marvel plots we are used to in terms of its softer tone and action scenes. Overall, a good little book to listen to when you cannot read a better one. It is a mediocre story though, which makes me refuse to believe that Lee had much of an influence in A Trick of Light.

The Small Screen

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The Protector (2018)

Review based on the episodes 1-3

Before I dive into this review, I want to remind you, the new readers, that I grew up watching Turkish tv series. If you are one of the viewers who watched The Protector  with a dub, now you know that it is produced and filmed in Turkey. I find this bit of information very important because while there is an Oriental feel to The Protector, the Netflix team was able to add a global touch to it. Or, was it Joseph Campbell? (I’ll link an article here about The Hero’s Journey if you haven’t heard about it yet. In essence, it is a global approach to myth-building). Continue reading “August 2019 Book, TV, and Film Roundup”