Gdynia - Partners Meeting, March 2009

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Impressions by English partners

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Gdynia - Partners Meeting, March 2009

  1. 1. GDYNIA, POLAND March 17th – 21st 2009 Bridget Tomlinson, Miss Walisiak, Elizabeth Kemp, Eleanor Snowdon, Michael Keogh, Mrs Russell and Angus Villiers-Stuart outside Marlbork Castle. DAY 1 As with our trip to Slovenia, we had an early start – not quite as early, but 4.15 a.m. is early enough. The journey was a little easier for us this time, as we were able to fly direct from Birmingham to Gdansk, courtesy of Ryanair. For me, this meant a much smaller, and lighter, suitcase because of the baggage restrictions. Having struggled for what seemed like miles through Gatwick Airport with a heavy case and lap top this made a pleasant change. The flight left on time and arrived a few minutes early in Gdansk. In England the weather was mild and sunny; in Gdansk it was wet and windy when we arrived. We later learnt that this part of Poland is known for being windy,
  2. 2. even in the summer when temperatures are high. We had a wait at the airport as our coach was going to collect the party from Slovenia as well. When they arrived we set off for Gdynia, a short distance along the coast. We stayed at the Hotel Antares, which was within walking distance of our host school. It was wonderful to meet and catch up with our friends from all over Europe. We had time for a walk around Gdynia city centre in the afternoon. It was a short bus journey into town, the return trip cost 2 zloty, around 40p. As it was still very cold, we headed for a shopping centre and found a café where we could have a hot drink and sample some delicious Polish cakes. Gdynia is a young city, which was founded around 80 years ago as a port when the harbour was created. After a long day it was good to relax with friends over a delicious evening meal in the hotel. We had some snow showers overnight and had to wrap up warmly for our walk to school in the morning. DAY2 ARRIVING AT GIMNAZJUM 4
  3. 3. This was a very busy day, with lessons and activities in school in the morning, followed by a visit to Gdynia City Hall in the afternoon before going on to the concert venue for rehearsals followed by the concert itself at 5.00 p.m. When we arrived at school we were met by the Headmistress. The weather may have been very cold, but the warmth of her welcome, and that of everybody we met at school, certainly made up for it. We were all made to feel at home. To me, this is the most important and wonderful thing about our project. It is a great opportunity so visit different countries and see many things, but it is the people that matter – the work we do together, the things we learn from each other and the friendship we share is what makes this project such a privilege and pleasure for everybody who takes part. STAFF AND STUDENTS AT THE WELCOME MEETING It was then on to classrooms for lessons. The students were divided into two groups, with representatives from each country in both groups.
  4. 4. ANGUS WORKING WITH HIS GROUP IN A LANGUAGE LESSON During the language lessons small groups of students worked together on a variety of different topics. They then produced a script in one language, which they then recorded. This activity worked really well as the students from different countries all worked together. The work that they did was based on our friendship dictionary.
  5. 5. MICHAEL AND OTHER MEMBERS OF HIS GROUP RECORDING THEIR SCRIPT The students stayed in their groups for the music lessons where they were taught by staff from all the different countries. While one group was learning the songs the students in the other group were involved in an art workshop. The biggest round of applause in the music lesson went to the three German teachers who all joined in and led the singing, despite not being music specialists! One of the Czech teachers kindly accompanied them on the keyboard. Whilst some of the students and teachers had sung the songs before many were hearing them for the first time and performed them very well. Our hosts had kindly prepared a booklet with the words to each song, which was very useful.
  6. 6. STAFF AND STUDENTS IN THE MUSIC LESSON
  7. 7. After lessons it was time for lunch, kindly provided by the school. This was another opportunity for everybody to relax and get to know each other.
  8. 8. STAFF AND STUDENTS HAVING LUNCH LEAVING SCHOOL TO VISIT CITY HALL
  9. 9. We then had a short coach journey into the city centre for our visit to City Hall where we were welcomed by the Deputy Mayor. STUDENTS IN CITY HALL
  10. 10. We watched a short film about Gdynia and then the Deputy Mayor told us more about the city and answered questions. We then left for the concert hall which was right next to Gdynia’s beautiful beach. THE VENUE FOR OUR CONCERT WITH THE BEACH AND SEA BEYOND
  11. 11. ELIZABETH AT THE PIANO DURING THE REHEARSAL Every group had the opportunity to run through their programme. It was a great venue and our host school had provided refreshments for everybody. After rehearsing the students all went upstairs to get changed, ready for the
  12. 12. concert. STUDENTS FROM ENGLAND AND BULGARIA GETTING READY
  13. 13. We were surprised to see that there was also a film crew at the venue from the local television station. They interviewed a number of students and staff from different countries. ANGUS WITH OTHER STUDENTS AND STAFF BEING FILMED AND INTERVIEWED FOR POLISH TELEVISION The concert began at 5.00 p.m. Two students from Gimnazjum 4 introduced all of the students from the participating countries. The hall was full and everybody enjoyed all the varied performances. I find it amazing how well the concerts work. Although everybody has obviously spent a lot of time rehearsing and preparing their part before they arrive when you watch the performance it seems almost impossible that this could have been achieved with just one and half hours rehearsal time together. This is largely due to the hard work put in by staff and students at the host school, thank you all, you did a wonderful job.
  14. 14. The whole event was recorded and each school has a DVD so that we can all watch and enjoy the concert back at home. STUDENTS AND STAFF PERFORMING AT THE CONCERT
  15. 15. ALL THE STUDENTS ON STAGE AT THE END OF THE CONCERT SINGING THE POLISH PROJECT SONG STAFF AT THE CELEBRATION DINNER AT HOTEL ANTARES AFTER THE CONCERT DAY 3
  16. 16. A SNOWY MORNING IN GDYNIA After breakfast we all departed by coach to Gdansk. It had snowed a little before we left and the snow came down again during the journey. The coach trip gave us the opportunity to see a little more of the ‘Tri-city’ area which includes Gdynia, Gdansk and Sopot. Trolley buses and trams link the three cities. Much of the housing was built during the communist era and is very utilitarian. Large, identical blocks of flats that have now been repainted in bright colours, making them look much brighter and more cheerful. Our guide told us that people building private houses during this time were also subject to restrictions, for example, only flat roofs were allowed as pitched ones were considered to be an extravagance unless you lived in a mountainous area with high snowfall. It is hard for us to understand how different life was under the communist regime. It was in this area that Solidarity made their stand against it which eventually led to Poland becoming a free state. We saw monuments erected in memory of those who died in this struggle. Our guide told us about the history of Poland and the city of Gdansk in particular, which has been a free state in the past. It grew up as a major trading and industrial centre. Its
  17. 17. strategic position was recognised by Hitler, and the Second World War began here in 1939. Much of the city, along with many others in Poland, was destroyed by bombing during this time. A PHOTOGRAPH HANGING BY THE CITY GATE IN GDANSK Much of the city has now been rebuilt and some buildings are still in the process of being restored. The city centre is beautiful, with distinctive hall, narrow, colourful houses.
  18. 18. STAFF AND STUDENTS IN THE MAIN STREET Gdansk is famous for its shipbuilding and also for amber. Whilst there, we had time to visit some amber shops to buy souvenirs for friends and family. We all enjoyed a tour of the city, including its cathedral, which is one of the largest in Europe. Like the city, it has an interesting history, being used by both Catholics and Protestants at various times. The snow showers continued and we were glad to find a cosy café where we enjoyed a hot chocolate and cakes.
  19. 19. OUR PARTY BY THE STATUE OF NEPTUNE IN THE CITY CENTRE
  20. 20. THE WATERFRONT IN GDANSK CITY CENTRE In the afternoon we moved on to Sopot. This was where the rich merchants of Gdansk had there summer houses and is now a popular seaside resort, although it was definitely not beach weather when we were there!
  21. 21. THE CROOKED HOUSE ON THE MAIN STREET, SOPOT OUR STUDENTS AND BASIA BY THE PIER
  22. 22. SOPOT PIER, WHICH IS 500 METRES LONG (none of us were brave enough to walk to the end in the bracing wind!)
  23. 23. THE BEACH AT SOPOT FROM THE PIER Our final stop of the day was back in Gdynia where we visited the aquarium and city museum. The aquarium is situated at the mouth of the harbour which will host the Tall Ships Race later this year. A VIEW OF GYDNIA HARBOUR FROM THE AQUARIUM
  24. 24. STUDENTS STROKING FISH IN THE AQUARIUM The large modern museum was really interesting and showed the development of the city from a small fishing village to a modern commercial centre and resort. In the evening, after dinner at the hotel, we all went over to the school for a drama performance. It was a mime, based on the park next to the school and what happens there during the course of a year. It was something the students had put together having observed life in the park and they gave an excellent and memorable performance which we all thoroughly enjoyed. When it had finished we discussed drama and arts and how they fit into the curriculum in our different schools, with Miss Walisiak helping with translation. In many of the schools drama is only available as an after school activity.
  25. 25. STUDENTS FROM GIMNAZJUM 4 ANSWERING QUESTIONS AFTER THE DRAMA PERFORMANCE At the end of the performance it was time to say goodbye to our friends from the school in Southern Poland. They had a very long train journey home the following day. It had been difficult for them to attend as they were unable to use any of their funding for a visit to another school in Poland. We were so glad that they were able to come, it wouldn’t have been the same without them. As we made our way back to the hotel it was snowing again and the students from England and Cyprus enjoyed a snowball fight! DAY 4 In the morning we said goodbye to our friends from Bulgaria who were flying back home later in the morning. The rest of the party set off by coach to
  26. 26. Malbork Castle, once the main fortress of the Teutonic knights who ruled the area for hundreds of years. After fighting in the Crusades they built a series of castles across Poland and Lithuania, Malbork being the largest and the centre for the order. Our journey gave us the opportunity to see more of the Polish countryside, particularly the very floodplain of Poland’s main river, the Wisla. Large areas of land were reclaimed hundreds of years ago by Dutch settlers who had been driven from their own country; it is still rich farming land. Large areas of Poland are still covered by natural forest and hunting continues to be a popular pastime. Malbork Castle is huge! It is the largest brick castle in Europe. Much of it was destroyed towards the end of the Second World War by Russian soldiers who launched an offensive on the German troops stationed there. THE ENTRANCE TO MALBORK CASTLE (The long slits in the wall show where the drawbridge used to be.)
  27. 27. The castle is divided into three areas. Outside the moat was the Lower Castle which housed the stables, storehouses etc. The middle castle is situated around a large courtyard. VIEWS OF THE INNER COURTYARD
  28. 28. The Higher Castle was the home of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order. Renowned for their fighting, this was also a monastic order. Much of the castle is still being restored but much work has been done. Its walls were covered with murals and patterns. In the rooms used by the knights under floor heating was installed. Stones were heated in cellars under the rooms and the heat travelled up through round vents in the floors of the rooms above. The attention to detail in the castle was amazing, tiny, but beautiful carvings on the pillars along the long corridors and murals on the fan vaulting above.
  29. 29. A CORRIDOR LEADING TO THE CHURCH IN THE CASTLE Saint Mary’s Church was perhaps the most moving place in the castle. Before seeing it in its current state we had seen a photograph taken in the 19th century, showing it in all its splendour, with opulent decorations, lighting and furniture. What we saw was very different; the restoration has begun, but there is still a great deal to do. Much of it was destroyed by Russian shelling and although the walls have been rebuilt and a temporary roof has been put on to protect it, the inside is still very much a ruin, with shrapnel marks in the walls that were left standing. The people who showed us around were obviously, and justifiably, proud of the castle and all the work that has been
  30. 30. completed so far. Our guide told us that it would take two days to see the castle properly, I can see why! SAINT MARY’S CHURCH, MALBORK CASTLE We left Malbork and travelled on to Torun. This is one of very few cities in Poland that was not damaged during the 2nd World War, so much of its medieval centre remains. Torun is famous for two things, firstly, it was the birthplace of Nicholas Copernicus, who discovered that the Earth moves around the Sun, rather than the other way round, and secondly gingerbread! Copernicus was the son of a rich merchant and we visited the museum dedicated to him, which is situated next door to the house where he was born. We learnt that he was not just a great scientist and astronomer but also a doctor and very well educated man who spoke many languages. The merchant’s house itself was interesting, with special metal windows on the first floor, which was the grain store. The grain would be hauled up and in through the windows which opened from the bottom.
  31. 31. THE COPERNICUS MUSEUM IN TORUN Situated on the Wisla river, Torun was an important trading centre in medieval times.
  32. 32. THE CENTRAL SQUARE AND TOWN HALL IN TORUN We headed for the gingerbread shop and stocked up for friends and colleagues at home and then had time for a hot chocolate and cake before going back to the coach. As you can see from the picture below, this was real chocolate!!
  33. 33. THE DONKEY IN TORUN Merchants and others who misbehaved were made to sit on the donkey and the people of Torun would throw rotten fruit and vegetables at them!
  34. 34. OUR GROUP UNDER THE STATUE OF COPERNICUS IN THE MAIN SQUARE, TORUN It was then time to head back to Gdynia after an action packed day during which we all saw and learnt so much. It also gave staff and students from other countries time to talk and get to know each other better. It’s become almost a tradition now to have a sing song on the coach as we travel back to base. This time we able to use the microphone at the front of the coach. Everybody sang the project songs and other songs from all the different countries.
  35. 35. Back at the hotel we enjoyed our last evening together and had the opportunity to thank our hosts for a wonderful and memorable trip. I’m sure it is something that we will always remember. All of our students got on really well and gained in confidence. They would all love to go on another trip, as would the staff! DAY 5 It was an early start, off to the airport and more sad goodbyes. The great thing is that we all keep in touch and will be together again at future meetings. The flight back was on time and we all arrived home tired, but with our heads full of the wonderful experiences we had shared.

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