Wroclaw: City of Murals

There are lots of obvious charms here in Wroclaw, including the architecture and food. But one of the more fun thrills is the unexpected one of Wroclaw’s abundant murals.  Blank walls here have been painted, many with whimsy, some with sardonic wit, others with more blatant messages (yes, there are also advertisements.) Here’s a quick rundown of our favorite murals in this fun, dynamic city.


Accordian Pig: Just down the block from our house, this musical pig kicks back in red boots, serenading someone we can’t see. Or perhaps just making a joyful noise?


Moneybag Pillow Sleeper. This guy is doubly clever – his eyes are actual windows, making him look sometimes like he sleeps with one eye open. The better to guard his money, I suppose.

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This lovely lady is on the side of a building on Sand Island, overlooking a park. She’s wearing a dress made of locks, and swallowing a key. The symbolism is obvious, yes?

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Right next to the Lock Lady is Sad Handcuffed Gorilla.

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This mural hangs over a large plaza near a major tram stop in our neighborhood, known as Nadodrze (pronounced nad-ord-jah. Or something.) It shows off the classic architecture and energy of this up-and-coming neighborhood.


Muddled symbol hoodie man

This piece, also in our neighborhood, seems to be telling us something but I’m not sure what it is.


Shy Dinosaur

Here’s a cute little tromp l’oel: pulling aside the skin of the building and peeping out to see what the weather is like is a cute blue dinosaur! Several gnomes stand on the wreckage offering encouragement for him to go out and have a good time.

Jaunty street scene

Jaunty street scene

Tucked into a narrow building is this festive collection of street scenes rendered in bright colors and simple shapes. Against the bright blue sky it’s a very cheerful sight for weary passersby.


Painting of a painter

Painting of a painter

Another splash of bright color, this one goes meta, showing a painting of a painter splashing color on the side of an otherwise colorless city scene.

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City of Meetings

A man relaxes, and above him images churn: a woman, a bird, an angel. City of Meetings, says the banner. This is one of Wroclaw’s slogans, which describes the city’s origins as a crossing of two trade routes, and its future as a place where international corporations have headquarters and manufacturing plants.

Welcome to Watson

Since Remi left us last June, we had a dog shaped hole in our hearts. Every time we saw a dog on the street happy with its person we knew a dog would be with us again. We’ve found that Polish dog culture is very friendly, dogs are allowed on trams (with their own tickets) and in most restaurants, and it seems like there are pet supply stores on every block. Dogs here are also very well behaved – many is the time we’ve seen little dogs waiting patiently outside stores for their owners to return.

We asked our landlord if it would be okay to adopt a dog. He replied that as long as we got a dog that is suitable for an apartment, we would be okay. He then sent us bus directions to the shelter.

So we decided to go out to the local animal shelter with our friend Karolina just to ‘take a look.’ The shelter is just outside the city so the animals have a taste of country life. The kennels are big and clean and the staff was friendly with us and the animals.

The shelter is lovely and we met all kinds of dogs. Big dogs, purebred dogs, huskies, spaniels, shepherds. Dogs that barked and dogs that cuddled. They have all sorts of animals. There were cats in their own play areas, a collection of birds, and even goats in a shed behind the main shelter.


On the Rynek and ready for action!

We were just looking, of course. Then we were just asking a few questions. This one was bad with cats, another one was a little bit aggressive. But then they suggested we meet one they were calling Wookie. A fifteen kilo dog with a shaggy face and brown, silver, and black fur.

They told us he was a Polish Lowland Sheepdog (now, we are not so sure), great with kids. We remembered seeing him on our walk. He was a dead ringer for Benji, the super-cute animal star of the 1970’s, and when we met him he was quiet and friendly and cuddly, all prerequisites.

We put him on leash for a trial walk. He kept pace with us, and ran alongside, and stopped to sniff other dogs but didn’t give anyone a hard time. We even walked him by the outdoor cat play area, and he paid them no attention. We considered taking a night to think it over, but Karolina helped us remember that if it was a good fit we shouldn’t wait, someone else might take him home first. It wasn’t long before we realized he was a keeper, so we borrowed a leash from the shelter and took him home.

And while we did ask our landlord for permission, we forgot to ask our cats. Ching took to Watson pretty quickly, allowing herself to be groomed with some serious head-licking action, but Clark spent much of the first week sulking around the house and hiding in the bedroom closet. Eventually, though, the new roommates warmed up to each other, and now they often nap on the couch together, though sometimes they have sibling rivalries for our attention.


Watson and Akasha in Krakow.

It took us a few days to think of a name. There was Wookie, of course, and Benji. There was Muppet (he’s totally a muppet!) and Charlie and a few others. But he started turning his head at Watson, and he’s a pretty good investigator, so that’s the name that stuck. Since then, Watson has settled in to domestic life. He sleeps a lot, plays with his hedgehog doll, and likes to play fetch at all hours. He’s something of a ball aficionado – squeakers are his favorite, but anything that rolls is worth a chase.

We have taken him to training. Polish dogs are very well behaved, so we wanted Watson to fit in. Training takes place in one of the local parks, and our trainer is very helpful and kind. After a few sessions where we struggled with motivation (Watson isn’t very food motivated, but does respond well to catch), Watson finally figured out what sit means. Since then he progressed to stay and stop. He’s even an obedient enough walker that he doesn’t usually need a leash – he just needs to know there’s a ball nearby and he’s happy to walk next to us. He keeps his eyes on us and stays a few inches away.


Training Time!

He’s also a good traveler. He’s come with us by car to Krakow and by train to Warsaw, and he’s a pretty brave adventurer, happy to sit on the floor and keep us company. To travel by train we just buy him a dog ticket for about 5 dollars. We hotels and airbnb both welcome pets, and Watson has received great reviews after our stays. Watson doesn’t go into museums, but he does like to look at the monuments, go to cafes, and play in Poland’s luscious parks.

Watson has made friends on the tram, they sniff politely and pass on by. We have yet to have an incident. Amusingly, we have also seen cats, wearing harnesses and leashes out for walks and on the trams.

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Above all else, he’s a people dog, eager to sniff and be cuddled. He’d love to meet you, so come on by and welcome him to the furmily!



Welcome to my classroom

Sorry that we have posted so little since we have moved to Wrocław. I’ve been focused on settling into my classroom.  While this is my 10th year teaching, I’ve co-taught every year but my first.  It is a new thing to plan every aspect of my day solo.  While it is overwhelming, I’m enjoying it.


My room is a cute little attic with a slanted ceiling and four support poles that I’ve turned into trees.

We are a very small school, in addition to being in my room for core classes, the students also take music, art, and Polish in my room.  The students who bring a bag lunch also eat with me,  in our room. We walk 10 minutes to a Tai Quon Do studio for PE  class.  Library is in the room next to our class.

We have one class for each grade level and I have 9 students. We work well together.  In addition to being from many countries, we have lived in a wide variety of countries on 5 continents. Their diverse backgrounds add to our lessons.




Recess is fabulous here.  We have 15 minutes in the morning and 25 minutes after lunch. Our spaces are limited but the kids play well. Lately, cops and robbers has been very popular and I keep getting arrested.

Next year we will merge with 2 sister schools to a large campus. It will be a big change for us. My room will quadruple in size and each specialist will have their own room.


Side view of our school

This is an IB Word School and we use the PYP transdisciplinary themes and scope and sequence as our structure.  I don’t follow a text book but I have a list of concepts that students must master (for our non -teaching friends. )

As an example: In the transdisciplinary theme, How the World Works, my unit is titled Our Changing World. In science I taught how the the world is organized into landforms and bodies of water, rocks and minerals, and how earth is organized into layers. We then evaluated how the earth’s layers can change quickly (earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanos) or slowly (weathering, erosion, and deposition.) In math, we explored units of measurement and how measurement is organized in metric units. Again, we telescoped from smallest to largest and back. We also applyed our understanding of measurement in describing the length/height of the layers of the earth and in the characteristics of the   aspects of the earth. In Language Arts, we developed our skills in comparing and contrasting as well as cause and effect. Students compared landforms, rocks, and minerals and described how the changes in our earth happen through cause and effect writing. We also developed our sentence fluency and looked at the traits and structures of sentences.
This is the closest that I’ve come to teaching as I wrote in my teaching philosophy and I am content.


Field trip to the Wielicka Salt Mines

Field trips are also fabulous here . I try to go on one every unit. In unit I went on two. We are learning about our world from top to core. On one trip we went on a walk to identify various landforms and we went to a science museum to do a rocks and minerals workshop. We were gone all day and took the tram.
On the second trip we traveled 3 hours to the Wielicka salt mine for a workshop where we learned about rocks, minerals, and the layers of the earth. It was a fantastic experience.


TAD 2016 Week 1

This has been a strong start to this year’s TAD. I have started a few projects  this week.
Today Mike and I started decorating the jars.
It took a million steps. But I hope that it looks good in the end.



I  started the softie. I am hand stitching cotton to felt so I added an extra 1/4 in allowance and am turning and edging the cotton first.



The first piece that I finished was a simple freehand embroidery.  It was inspired by this image. I still don’t know what to do with it.



The Great Mom visit of 2015!

My (Mike’s) mom is kind of a homebody. Aside from a few trips to Fargo every year, she’s content to stay in the Twin Cities, near her garden and the library. But ever since we moved abroad, she’s been hankering for an overseas visit.

The Christmas tree at Munich's town hall

The Christmas tree at Munich’s town hall

Lured by the promise of Christmas markets and European hot chocolate, Mom made the trip to Munich in December, where we met up for some winter tourism.

Munich is one of my favorite cities – it’s a perfect blend of old-world charm and new West conveniences. We stayed in one of Akasha and my favorite hotel chains – the Leonardo – which had great access to trams that led to the city center, and near several nice restaurants including the Lowenbrau beer hall. Prost!

We were fortunate in the weather – clear and cool, with a high blue sky – and spent the first day exploring the masterpieces of the Alte Pinakotech art museum. Here we brushed up against Rubens, Rembrandt, and the great German Albrecht Drurer. Mom loved the style of the Old Masters, marveling at how they painted eyes that could follow you around the room. She stopped often to sit and take in the works, communing with the painter.

Meet the new Queen

Meet the new Queen

Next day we took in the old imperial residence. This is a sprawling complex of stone towers and dusty corridors, but the treasury is a relatively intimate space filled with a hoard of silver masterpieces, gemstone encrusted jewelry, and many royal crowns. The big hit here was the ruby-encrusted tiara of Queen Theresa, an enchanting fantasy of glimmering gemstones that let mom indulge in a bit of fairy-tale imagining.

Back on the Town Square we took in the Rathus glockenspiel show – a carousel of medieval figures dancing and even jousting on a tiny platform high above the crowd.

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The Glockenspiel on Munich’s town hall

Then it was back to the markets, which were the hit of the trip. All over Germany, on the historic market squares, vendors set up shop to sell the goods of the season. It was a shame we only got to two or three of them. Mom was a thorough shopper, and as a true connoisseur of the season, she was careful to check each vendor’s ornaments for quality, uniqueness, and adorability before adding the chosen ornaments to her collection.

Near our Prague hotel

Near our Prague hotel

From Munich we went on to Prague, where the medieval architecture left mom speechless. From the great forked towers of the Lady of Tym church, to the stained glass wonderland of St. Vitus cathedral, we walked around with our jaws dropped. I’d been there before, but to see it through her fresh eyes returned a sense of wonder too easily lost by the frequent traveler.

It was here we tried haluska, a stirred-up hot dish of cabbage, pork, and potatoes, a spiritual ancestor to one of Mom’s favorite North Dakota childhood dishes, halupsi. But this wasn’t the same – it had starchy potatoes that had gone gummy over its time in the pot. “Guess I don’t need to try that again,” was mom’s one-star review.

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The Christmas Market in Prague

Wroclaw was next on her Central European excursion. We found some wonderful walking paths through Cathedral island that lead to St. John the Baptist’s cathedral. After that it was time (again!) to storm the Christmas markets, where she came away with more gifts for everyone back home, plus a few more for herself.

A week later, we took mom back to the States for the holidays, and spent ten days visiting Minnesota. That was a hectic, wonderful time too easily lost and taken for granted. But ever since her visit, I’m trying to take my mom’s example to heart, and I’ve resolved to keep trying to see every wonder around me, however common or seen before, through fresh eyes for as long as I can.

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Welcome to Wrocław

wroclaw - 11Dzien dobrie, everyone! We’ve finally settled down long enough for a blog post!

First of all, Wroclaw is a beautiful, friendly city and we’re happy and feel lucky to be here. We’ve been busy getting settled in and starting a new school year, and getting the hang of life in our new city.  It has been been a few months already, but it feels like only a few days have passed.

Here is a bit to give you a feel for our new neighborhood, home, and school.

Our Home

We get a monthly budget for housing and we could have chosen an apartment left by a departing teacher, but we struck out on our own and are very happy with what we found. It’s a modern apartment in a brand new building, but nestled into a quaint old neighborhood – the best of both worlds! We didn’t find a two bedroom apartment, but the living room has a full sized bed, a wardrobe, a door, and patio access so when you come to stay it will be your room.

We have tons of storage space and every cupboard is covered in panels that pop out. All the appliances are new and sparkly! Our cats – especially Ching – are enjoying the patio and sofa, and there are plenty of nooks for Clark to hide in. We also love the patio and the view of our neighborhood – we can even see the spires of the old gothic churches that are all over the old city.


A street in our neighborhood

Nadordze, our neighborhood
Our neighborhood is a mixture of modern and very old buildings. It evokes a romantic spirit but also suggests a bright future. Lots of things are happening in our neighborhood. A new headquarters for 3M is right next door. Ongoing gentrification turns older, crumbling facades into beautiful storefronts with charming restaurants and bars. And last year Stephen Spielberg filmed a movie on our block, the film – Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks – was released in November.

We’re very close to the center of town, the old markets, and parks on islands in the river. Lastly, we are surrounded by tram lines and bike lanes. We have found it easy to get around by hopping on the tram. It takes Akasha 24 minutes to take the tram to work and about 35 to ride her bike.

While we are on a quiet street we are near cafes, art galleries, and some beautiful murals. We have meant to go to more festivals and events but we’ve been having so much fun just exploring the twisty streets around us.

We hope you’re able to come and visit soon.

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