Posts Tagged With: politics

Gdansk, Poland: The Beginning And The End

Snowy Gdansk

Snowy Gdansk

The Old Town section of Gdansk is very beautiful. But the thing that surprised me about it the most is how it looks so much like Amsterdam without the canals.

I learned that Dutch Mennonites built the city and were a big part of the population from the 16th to the early 20th Century. They built the city to resemble Amsterdam. Neighboring Germany also played an important role in the development and architecture of Gdansk, which was once a German city under the name Danzig. Adolf Hitler used the loss of Gdansk to Poland as a pretext to attack Poland, which was at the time allied with France and Britain.

And so began World War II.

The city is also where the Solidarity movement against Communist rule began. That movement is said to have emboldened others in the Soviet Communist Bloc, three months later leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Much of Gdansk, particularly the Old Town, was destroyed by Russian and Allied forces who attacked German forces occupying the city. When Poland decided to rebuild the Old Town in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it made a political decision to rebuild in the Flemish-Dutch architecture instead of the Germanic-style construction. So today Old Town looks more like a town in the Netherlands than one in Germany. Gdansk does still have houses and buildings reminiscent of ones in Germany and can be found in neighborhoods untouched by Allied bombings.

 To look at Old Town today one cannot imagine it has been rebuilt.

The reconstruction was done using the same bricks, painstakingly putting the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle. The place is truly beautiful, especially this time of year with the snow and Christmas lights.

I took a walk in a snowfall in the Old Town and these are just some of the images.

Click on the photo above to see more images I uploaded to my Facebook page.


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A United States President The World (Still) Likes


Then President of the United States of America...

Then President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States of America has been a country for 236 years. For one reason or another, in all those years, no American president has enjoyed the level of adoration across the world as Barack Obama. If today Obama were running for President of the World – instead of for President of the United States – he would win handily. The world – not all, but certainly a great chunk of it – loves Barack Obama. And unlike some of his fellow Americans who from Day One have vowed and worked to defeat him and block his proposals in a stated effort to doom his presidency, his support outside the United States remains high.
I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with two women from Paris, France. I met them on the beachwalk in the South Beach area of Miami Beach in the state of Florida, U.S.A.
As others I’ve met from other parts of the world, they told me that when Obama won the U.S. presidential election almost four years ago, they – along with thousands of others in their city – jumped for joy as if they had just won the lottery.
Amelie, the one with the better command of English, said people in Paris took to the streets in spontaneous celebration. I heard similar stories from people from just about every continent. The reaction, many said, was partly a response to eight years of President George W. Bush, whom to this day is one of the most widely disliked U.S. presidents across the globe. But it was Obama himself – a man who impressed people from Europe to Africa to Asia to South America to places far aflung – who was the man of the moment, wowing the world.
When I hear people who are not Americans say that they celebrated Barack Obama’s election, especially people in rural areas and small villages with little to no access to television, it still surprises me. Non-U.S. citizens dancing, hugging and kissing over the election of a U.S. president? Seems a bit strange to me. After all, before Obama, when was the last time spontaneous partying broke out across the world in celebration of an elected American president? It’s simply never happened.
Amelie said she was “so happy” about Obama’s election that she and some friends ran out onto the street to join the party. Then she did what many seem to do today, now that Obama has been in office and is up for re-election. She asked the question they all ask with great concern:
“How is he doing?”
My answer? Not as good as four years ago, I’m afraid. In fact, we could end up with a new president, and his name is Mitt Romney.
Amelie did not like that answer. People around the world don’t like that answer. Decisions by the president of the United States has such a tremendous impact on the rest of the world that who sits in the Oval Office is seen as extremely important.
“Obama is the best!” Amelie said. “And he’s what is best for the world!”
Maybe so, Amelie. But Americans are fickle. While Obama may have done some things right – members of the Republican Party might suggest he’s done NOTHING right – the United States’ economy is still in the dumps. Millions of Americans are still unemployed and can’t find a job. And Obama gets blamed for that, even if he took office after the U.S. economy was in the tank.
Americans are prepared to give Obama the boot. Even some of his previous supporters have abandoned him. Some of those supporters maintain he caved too much to his Republican opponents, the same opposition that treated him as the enemy instead of the president.
Others say he didn’t deliver on promises. What ever, the world watches and waits. Among them Amelie.
“I hope Obama wins,” she said. “I think the other will be bad like Bush.”




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