Sep 042014
Furious Fred: Civic Awareness

You’re probably used to seeing brown water around Krakow’s tram tracks when it rains. Maybe you’ve asked yourself why that is. Maybe, on a dry day, you’ve experienced clouds of fine, iron-red dust thrown up by the traffic. It’s rust from poor quality rails, which is not particular healthy, especially in Europe’s third-most polluted city. You might ask yourself why they don’t clean the roads more effectively. You might wonder why other European cities with trams don’t have the same problem. I’m referring specifically to the new tracks laid since Poland became an EU member in 2004, and the European procurement rules for large projects became applicable. Go from ul. Starwiślna over the Powstańców Śląskich Bridge and then left along ul. Limanowskiego towards Kalwaryska to see what I mean. The tracks are of such low quality that they need constant maintenance. It is not unlikely that you may think that inferior materials have been used to […]

Jun 212014
Furious Fred: Changing Krakow's Politics

On the 25th of last month, together with the elections for the European Parliament, a referendum took place in Krakow that asked citizens whether they wanted to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, among other things. They said ‘no.’ With the tremendous costs of Sochi in mind, spent to glorify Russia’s neo-Stalinist President Putin, one wonders why Krakow would even consider hosting these games? What were the benefits supposed to be? The 2022 bid would have been Krakow’s second. The first was in 1998, for the 2006 Winter Olympics, which eventually went to Turin. The recently defunct bid had it origins in March 2010. About a month before the fatal plane crash in Smolensk that killed him, President Lech Kazcyński announced that he would like Poland to be a candidate for the 2022 games. In 2012, Poland and Slovakia’s National Olympic Committees (NOC), together with Krakow’s city administration, agreed to submit a joint bid. The Polish Parliament […]

Jun 132014
Furious Fred: If Mayors Ruled the World

If you install the Air Quality app on your phone or tablet, you can see day by day how bad Krakow’s air quality is, and get charming messages such as: “Don’t stay outdoor for too long,” or “Hypersensitive individuals should minimize outdoor exercise.” If you are waiting at a tram stop and an ambulance passes by, you might be flooded by clouds of fine dust, because the city is not cleaned enough Krakow and Amsterdam have the same number of citizens, but Krakow has three times the number of cars. Not all of these have low emission rates, not to speak of the highly polluting trucks and buses. Highly polluting old cars and trucks are not allowed to enter the city of Amsterdam. By contrast, Krakow has a highway in the middle of the city. On top of that, a large part of the heating systems uses polluting coal. The survival rate of Krakow must be […]

Apr 302014
Furious Fred: Culture Gap

Krakow is missing a trick – many cities have laid out cultural ‘trails’ that visitors can follow to see the best points. There is much potential for these in our own urban landscape. The footbridge over the Wisła River from ul. Mostawa to ul. Nadwiślańka has opened a new route from Kazimierz to Podgórze. Lots of pedestrians now walk from ul. Bożego Ciała via the dead Pl. Wolnica, with the attractive Ethnographic museum, to Mostawa over the bridge toward a nice small square at the beginning of ul. Piwnica and then straight ahead to the also dead Pl. Podgórze. No wonder the place is dead – there is an ambulance station there that emits deafening sirens of over 90 decibels in the middle of a residential district. The bridge was built with EU-money. There are many new pubs and restaurants along the route it has opened up, not to mention the restaurant-boats almost under the bridge. […]

Mar 222014
Furious Fred: Homo Sovieticus

About three years ago, my Polish lady and I decided to get married. We arranged all the necessary documents, or so we thought, and went to the marriage department of the municipality. All the documents were fine, except for the one confirming my divorce. For it to be accepted, a Polish court first had to validate the document with the authorities in my European home country. We submitted this to the Polish court. They sent a letter, in Polish, to my former wife, which of course she could not read. Not knowing what it was or what to do with it, she did nothing. It took the court two and a half years to validate the verdict of a court in another European country. Bravo for the effectiveness of the Polish court system. Once we were married, the municipality sent the certificate to my nation’s consulate. Instead of an international certificate, they sent a Polish one. […]

Feb 252014
Furious Fred: Red Tape

I live in Poland – that’s my country of residence, but I’m not Polish. My driver’s license, issued in my home country, is expiring. According to EU regulations, I need a new one issued in Poland. I asked my consulate about the procedure and which documents I would need…

Jan 112014
Furious Fred: King of the Road

You live in an average Krakow apartment. It’s 50 or 60 square metres. Two rooms, maybe three if you’re lucky. You have a family, a wife and two children in their teens. You are obliged to watch television all evening, with no chance of a relaxing nap. Every night, you fold out your bed…

Dec 112013
Furious Fred: Police Stop

You see a lot of talking heads from the police on the TV these days, as if they are the popular representatives of a respected institution. I hear a lot of anecdotes and tales at parties and in pubs that suggest the opposite. The jokes may not be politically correct, but there is no smoke without fire…

Nov 112013
Furious Fred: Kazimierz Chaos

Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Krakow’s Old Town has undergone some major changes. Good city planning has improved the infrastructure of the area, enabling and boosting tourism. Meanwhile, in Kazimierz, city planning is a mess. For many people, Kazimierz is situated…

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