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A little about Shakespeare

It is pointless to try to prove the longevity of Shakespeare’s works, as everyone knows them. On the other hand, it may be interesting to frame in words some personal encounters with his works. 

The first of his books I read was for a mandatory school reading of Hamlet, and later I needed to become familiar with another of his literary works, Romeo and Juliet. I grew up much later to his Sonnets.  Shakespeare’s Sonnets are special, because they were meant for sensitive ears and for those who like to dive into the beauty of poetry.

Given my love of music, it should come as no surprise that the first sonnet which I ever read began with the words: ‘ Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?’ I found it so beautiful; however, all the archaic contractions such as ‘hear’st’ or ‘receiv’st’ seemed very confusing to me, though I still found them charming.

As I have mentioned, everyone knows Shakespeare. His works have been translated into many languages, and obviously into Polish. As stated on Wikipedia, the first translations of Shakespeare’s work into Polish were undertaken by the Polish writer Ignacy Hołowiński in the years 1839-1841. However, many readers are more familiar with Polish poet Stanisław Baranczak’s translations, as they are the most popular.

Several years ago, the Polish singer Stanisław Sojka even went as far as a musical interpretation of the Sonnets and and he turned out to be a pretty good artistic interpreter.  Particularly noteworthy is the sonnet performed by Sojka that starts with ‘ My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming’,  which in Polish means: ‘Mocniej cię kocham, choć na pozór słabiej.’

I am convinced that anyone who is able to understand both the Polish and English languages would agree that the translation of Shakespeare’s works into Polish did not take away their charm.  So, let us read and listen, all the while enriching ourselves with these timeless works.


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Edinburgh, one the most charming cities in the UK

‘My dear Sir, do not think that I blaspheme when I tell you that your great London, as compared to Dun-Edin, ‘mine own romantic town’, is as prose compared to poetry, or as a great rumbling, rambling, heavy Epic compared to a Lyric, brief, bright, clear, and vital as a flash of lightning,’ wrote English novelist and poet, Charlotte Bronte in one of her letters in July, 1850.

Indeed, Edinburgh is one of the most picturesque and astonishing cities in the UK. Undoubtedly, there are many nooks and crannies in this city worth seeing. Edinburgh Castle is definitely one of the most interesting historic buildings which I have ever seen. It’s incredibly huge and the view out of it is more than marvellous. Also, its inside is very imposing, especially the Great Hall, which was built in 1511 as the chief place of ceremony in the castle. Another interesting thing to see in the castle is the Honours of Scotland – the Crown, Sceptre and Sword of state, which were made in Scotland and Italy and first used in 1543 during the coronation of Mary Queen of Scot at Stirling Castle. However most visitors would be very interested in another Scottish icon – the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish kings’ seat, which arrived at the castle in 1996.

A wide road runs down from the castle called the Royal Mile. It’s of the most interesting streets in Edinburgh, as many buildings next to it are old (from the 18th and 19th centuries), and it attracts many tourists. In other words, something always happens there, especially in August, when the Edinburgh International Festival audiences have an opportunity to watch street artists from around the world.

At the end of the Royal Mile there is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty the Queen. Also, it is known as the former residence of a Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace has many fine rooms, which can be visited for a charge – the Great Gallery is worth seeing, for example.

Across from the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the new building of the Scottish Parliament, which was opened in 2004. Its architecture may be perceived as a bit bizarre, but on the other hand you would never see any similar buildings in the UK, and possibly in the world.  The Parliament is open for tourists from Monday to Friday, but there are specific hours of visiting, which are stated on the Parliament’s website.

In my opinion, Princes Street Gardens – a public park in the centre of Edinburgh – is the place that cannot be missed. According to net sources, the park was created in the 1820s. Today, it’s a popular place for meetings and many people go there to bag some rays.

Obviously, Edinburgh’s monuments are so absorbing and there are so many of them, that you would have to spend at least one week there to see everything. It is a truly amazing and astonishing city, but you have to go there and see its entire marvel for yourself.

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A little known Europe – Czech Republic.

Studying and living in a different country is a great opportunity to improve one’s knowledge about people who sometimes are your neighbours living beyond the borders of your home country.

I remember the 22nd of May 2008 like it was today, as then Aberdeen College celebrated International Day. Also, at that time I spoke to one of my College tutors about my nation’s emblem, and I unintentionally referred to a very old Polish legend. This legend says that a long, long time ago three brothers wandered around the world to find a place where they could settle down with their people. They were named Lech, Czech and Rus. Lech built his city and named it Gniezno, which became the first capital of Poland and the place of coronation for the first Polish kings. The second brother – Czech, went to the South and Rus went to the East. They founded their countries over there and since then, these nations have been inhabited by Czechs and Russians.

Knowing many Czech people, who I obviously met in Scotland, inspired me to improve and at the same time share my little knowledge about them. The Czech Republic is not that big a country. Its area is 78 866 km2. It is a landlocked country and is situated in Middle Europe. It has borders with Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.

The name of the capital of Czech Republic, Prague, may sound familiar to many people.  It is situated on the river Voltava with a dominant royal castle – Hrad above the city hill. The city has over 1.250.000 inhabitants and is the most popular and oft-visited place by tourists. This city is like a „living textbook” of the development of architectural styles. It is full of Romanian, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings with unique examples of cubist architecture. However, the most famous is Charles’ Bridge, built between 1357 and 1402, decorated with a gallery of sculptures.

The Czech kitchen is quite interesting, and Czechs are well known for their love of noodle called ‘knedliky’. The other most popular dishes are: ‘buchty’ – raised cookies and ‘kachna se zelim’- browned duck with cabbage. Also, Czechs like eating fried slices of cheese with…chips.

Beer brewing has a very long tradition in the Czech Republic and many of the breweries have brewed their original beer until now. One of the oldest breweries in the Czech Republic is brewery called Regent.  People interested in the beer production can visit a museum of brewing, and the oldest museum of brewing can be found in Pilzno.

The pride of Czech classical music is Bedrich Smetana,  born in the 19th century. His symphonic poem ‘My country’ became a kind of symbol of Czech music. A curious fact is that the composer never heard his own composition, because a few years before he wrote it, he lost his hearing.

Currently, the most popular Czech musicians are Karel Gott, Peter Spaleny, Lucie Bila, Iveta Bartosowa, Heidi Janku, Hana Zagorowa, Helena Vondrackowa, among others.

Several times I have heard that the Czech and Polish languages are the same, so finally I would like to say few things about the similarity in meaning between the Polish and Czech languages. Doubtless when Poles and Czechs meet for first time they will understand each other much faster than the English and Russians would do, for example (obviously presupposing that they wouldn’t know each other’s languages). However, it does not mean that the Czech and Polish languages are identical. For example, the Polish ‘freak’ means ‘theatre’ in Czech, the Polish ’shed’ means ‘house’ in Czech, and the Polish ‘ladies’ means ‘man’ in Czech. They say ‘assault’ for our ‘idea’, and ‘penance’ for the Polish ‘fine’. We must be careful when we talk about smells because our ‘smell’ in Czech means…’stink’.



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