Galeria Krakowska

Today we visited Galeria Krakowska, which is a shopping mall that is apart of a renewal process called ‘Nowe Miastro’ or new city. The project is to reflect a time of change in the post-communist era, as most shopping centers were built in fields and the Galeria is built near the city center. Our mission today was to look at the ethnographic of the mall in consumers who lived during the time of communism, and how they reacted depending on what kinds of goods they were looking for, or how salespeople responded to customers looking for convenient, shopping and specialty goods.

Convenient goods

Carrefour was a store similar to Wal-Mart, Target, and their wholesalers Costco and Sam’s Club. Products range from produce to sporting equipment, house goods, luggage, office supplies, and beauty products. Many of these products were sold at other stores in the Galeria, but at a much higher price. The product sold at Carrefour were more convenient in that the customer did not have to go to many store in order to satisfy their needs and wants. While most convenient goods are rather inexpensive, we were amazed at the incredibly low cost.

However, due to the mass number of products, the store was very unorganized with many items stacked on pallets scattered throughout the store, making it inconvenient for customers to purchase their convenient goods. Long lines at the check-out counter also made the store less convenient, as there were many people in the aisles waiting to check out, with few salespeople. The self-service check out lines were short, but had very interesting cash machines that looked more like conveyer belts, but there was no one to assist you, and it was difficult to change the language to one we could understand.

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Cash Machine at Self-Check Out in Carrefour

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Sporting Good Items at Carrefour

Shopping Goods

As the immediate post-holiday sales were in full swing, we quickly noticed it was up to the consumer to figure out what items were included in the sale. We often noticed workers on their cell phones and not concerned about customers in the store. We were rarely asked if we needed help, or if we were looking for anything in particular.

In the US, if you walk into a shoe store and even so much glance at a shoe, a salesperson is quickly asking if you need a size, or if you need any help. We walked into Venzia where the store was nearly empty and as Maria, Sarah and I were picking up shoes, the salesperson was sitting behind the cash register watching us like a hawk but not speaking to us. This may be due to the post-communist idea that youdo not speak to someone unless you can trust them, however we believe that if you are in sales you should want to be creating a relationship with the customer, no exercising a transactional sales approach. It seemed as though most of thestores were meant for a younger demographic, however we were near the university and we were at the mall during the work day, thus saw less of the older consumers that would be typically shopping.

Specialty Goods

InterSport was a store we walked into looking for ideas for our product category of sports equipment. The energy of the store was very different as many salespeople were helping customers. The store was very busy, and it appeared as though the salespeople were really trying to create relationships with the customer. This also shows that customers are doing more research about the products they are looking to purchase as many were asking detailed questions to the salespeople, which appeared to us to be answered promptly and to the customer’s satisfaction.

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InterSport Store Exterior

We also walked into The North Face store looking at specialty goods and had a completely opposite experience. The staff was not friendly, or asking if we needed help. We walked around the store for about five minutes before walking out, as the store was empty besides our group and the salesperson.

It was very interesting to observe the cultures and norms of the salespeople in the various stores depending on the type of product sold and their reactions to the customers seeking those products. As we set out for the Bonarka shopping center tomorrow we will be looking to contrast our observations of the consumer experience.

Cheers!

Jennifer C. Bailey

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Day Four: Auschwitz-Birkenau

Today’s excursion was undoubtedly the most emotional experience of our travels thus far. A two-hour trip of mental preparation through Krakow’s countryside led us to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German concentration camp of World War II. It’s next to impossible to express the eeriness lingering throughout the camp, the final destination of over a million Jews, Poles, gypsies, POWs, and other targeted groups. It was amazing in the most haunting of ways.

"Work will set you free"

“Work will set you free”

A young Polish woman led our tour. It began as we walked through the camp’s notorious entrance gate, which read “Arbeit Macht Frei,” (translating into the horrifyingly ironic phrase “Work will set you free.”) Auschwitz, the first of three camps built in the Auschwitz-Birkenau network, has created a museum of sorts within the block barracks. Each block contains an exhibit with artifacts from a different aspect of its history: everyday life, living and sanitary conditions, plundered goods and more. Within these we saw shocking amounts of remains from the camp’s prisoners, including over 80,000 shoes, artificial legs, eyeglasses, suitcases, and—most disturbingly—the shaved hair of an estimated 140,000 individuals. Though many of us expected the museum would make us cry, we found ourselves sick to our stomachs first.

Our group was then led through gas chambers and crematoriums, torture chambers and cells for medial experiments. We saw gallows where peoplewere hung in public, and the execution wall where individuals were shot. Scratches of the prisoners covered the walls of the buildings where they were strategically killed using Zyklon-B. Though everyone in our group had studied these placed before, we found that the horror really hit home while standing in the exact places that hundreds of thousands of people were brutally murdered only 67 years ago.

The firing wall in the Auschwitz death block

The firing wall in the Auschwitz death block

After our tour of Auschwitz ,we continued on to the Birkenau camp. This size of the camp was astounding; though most of the wooden barracks have collapsed over time, over 300 brick furnaces stood in their skeletons. The wooden barracks were built in the later years of the camp’s existence, when the S.S. realized that it was more efficient and inexpensive for the prisoners to build them using wood instead of brick. You read that right–they were forced to build the stable-like huts they would then suffer in. We were able to tour an unaltered brick barrack, as well as a recreated wooden one. Seven hundred people were crammed in each—five per small bunk. We shivered in the cold while donning warm jackets, scarves and boots, and imagined how exponentially more miserable it would have been if all we were allowed to wear was as thick as pajamas. We saw a rail car that held hundreds of prisoners, and stood in the spot where doctors impassively sent the arrivers to the left or the right—to immediate death, or to death by excessive labor. Though the majority of the gas chambers and crematoriums had been in this camp, the Nazis destroyed them after the liberation to remove the evidence of their cruelty.

Train tracks running through the largest camp, Birkenau. People traveled for hours or days crammed in small rail cars without food , water or fresh air.

Train tracks running through the largest camp, Birkenau. People traveled for hours or days crammed in small rail cars without food , water or fresh air.

At the end of the railroad running through the middle of the camp, a memorial to the prisoners has been constructed. Plaques in all 22 languages of the individuals held and tortured read, “Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews, from various countries of Europe.”

The entire experience wasone I won’t ever forget. It’s entirely impossible to imagine how these mass murders went without discovery for so long, or the absolute despair experienced by the prisoners in the camps. However, as our guide explained, the most important thing is not to imagine what it would be like—it’s to remember the tragedy so it will never happen again.

Maria Opatz

Historical and religious impact

Today we attended St. Mary’s Basilica for a morning church service. The services ran on the hour from 6am through 11am.

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Walking into the church it was really breathtaking to see each little fine detail of decoration the church had. Gold plated pillars, extravagant depictions of the Crucifixion of Jesus and separate alters within the church to worship at.  It was obvious how much this church meant  to the people of Krakow. Even though we were not all Catholic, we immersed ourselves within their culture to fully understand who they are. There were a few differences we noticed when comparing the Catholic church in America to now being in Poland.  Instead of taking communion in your hands, they give the bread to you in your mouth. They also didn’t use hymnal books, but knew most of the songs by memory, which shows how important the faith is. This is not something that is easily forgotten because it is rooted so deep in their tradition and culture. It was also interesting how people came in during the middle of the service, walking right up to the front. In the US, that would be considered disrespectful. We also took an interest in how well behaved the children were. It seems from a young age, they have a high respect for the service and know not to misbehave whereas in a Catholic church back home, it’s extremely common to see children acting out or crying or complaining or not even paying attention.

After the conclusion of mass we waited for the the festival of Epiphany parade to start. This parade was to conclude in Rynek Glowny central square located in the Old Town historical district.  Swieto Trzech Kroli is the name of this public holiday in Poland. Each one of the three kings start at a different location in Krakow, making their way to the town square. On their way to the square Christmas carols are sung by the king and the people of Poland that are following him.  When all three kings come together they take the stage where they then form the  Christmas nativity scene. This public holiday recognizes the official end of the Christmas.

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Looking back to what we have learned in the past couple of days, it makes sense how dedicated the Polish are to their faith. According to our tour guide, their religion was one of the only things that got Polish people through the communist regime. When there was so much turmoil and pain throughout Poland, nothing else could save them.

The city of Krakow itself has so much pride in its town and its people. Their faith is the main factor that unities this town, which at one time was so divided by those trying to conquer it.

Sarah Laughlin

Day Two

Greetings from Krakow!

Our first full day in Poland was full of excitement, sightseeing, and a desperate need of an afternoon nap.

Early this morning when the jet lag kicked we were off and ready to explore the streets and sights of the city.

The majority of our time was spent in and around Wawel Hill. We were fortunate enough to tour both its interior and exterior, which made for a mind-opening afternoon. With artwork, artifacts, and architecture dating back to the 16th century, it became almost overwhelming to see the amount of history that was right before our eyes.

Refer to the picture above (myself in front of the gold dome). Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures inside but I can assure you it was without a doubt a sight to see. Pope John Paul II was extremely dedicated to this particular cathedral. On many occasions he would come to say mass and pray. He was no stranger to its walls even after being elected pope.

Our final leg of the sightseeing was spent in Rynek Square. A small group of us stopped for lunch at a small, underground restaurant. While there, I was able to experience my first plate of authentic Polish pierogies. A long standing tradition in my family is the eating on these dumplings every Christmas Eve. Coming from Polish descent, I naturally feel obligated to say that my mother’s are better; however, these served as a close second.

While immersed, differences between Poland natives and Americans came to the surface. The most obvious difference between people of Poland and people of the United States is the ability to speak an additional language from their own. In Poland it is simply the norm whereas in America it is seen as a special skill.

Second, numerous people from our travel group have noticed that the locals have “kept to themselves” in many ways. Even in a place of strong sales pitches (such as the vendors in Rynek Square), salespeople will not persuade a customer on any product, yet patiently let them glance upon their goods. In addition, chances are you’ll receive a skeptical look if you give a stranger a smile as you pass on the street. Small things such as this that we become accustomed to in America are not reciprocated in Poland.

Finally: a word of advice. Unlike the strict rule of pedestrians having the right away in America, the natives of Krakow prefer to come to a screeching halt at the last second, causing the heart’s of us innocent Americans to skip a beat. Keep an eye out.

Nick Gral

We’re Not in Iowa Anymore

We’re finally here!

After short layovers in Chicago and Munich we are finally here! While we are all tired after our long flights and seven-hour time change, we are so excited to begin our adventure tomorrow in Krakow.

A first things we noticed that reminded us we were not in Iowa anymore was the obvious language barrier. While the barrier is low due to the many people who speak English, we will definitely need to brush up on our Polish vocabulary.

Although it was dark when we arrived in Krakow, we could still see the massive amounts of detail on the architecture, and the graffiti that added an extra flavor to the buildings. It also shocked us how many of the buildings were deteriorating externally, but were still inhabitable. It was really nice to see a large plaza area for foot traffic only with small shops, which is rather uncommon in the US as most outdoor shopping areas have streets, or are considered a mall and are indoors.

The biggest change we noticed was the food. While all international flights over three hours serve a meal, the meal usually is not gourmet by any means. Thus we were eager to see what the first dinner would be. We dined at a Restaurante C.K. Dezerter, where we were quickly lead to the back room decorated with copper pots on the walls and balloons everywhere to celebrate our arrival.

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Our first course was a chicken broth with noodles, followed by the main course of battered and fried pork with cheese and a pickle inside! That was probably the biggest shock was finding a pickle in the middle of meat. Dessert was a type of apple-flavored compote with crisp edges. It was a very delicious meal, but very different from the Hubble meals we have become so accustom to at Drake, or even the cuisine in America is quite different.

Keep checking back daily for updates on our travels in Poland!

Na zdrowie! (Cheers!)

Jennifer Bailey

One Week Away!

In less than one week, our class will be boarding a plane in Des Moines, making shorts stops in Chicago and Munich, and landing in our first Polish destination. After settling into our first hotel, eating our first Polish dinner, and adjusting to a seven-hour time change, we will begin our exploration of the amazing city of Krakow!

Like most international travelers, we are anticipating a bit of culture shock during this adjustment. No one in our group has visited Poland before, so it will likely take a while for us to soak in all the “newness” of our surroundings. We will be immersing ourselves in this “newness,” in the culture (both past and current) of the country, to ultimately perform an ethnographic study of the advertising and communications practices in Poland.

As we start to pack, we’ll be watching this live video feed of Krakow to check the weather near our hotel and take a peek into the country we’ll be visiting very soon. Check it out!

Until then, na zdrowie! (Cheers!)

Maria Opatz