Destination: Poland

In Krakow, Jewish Culture has Become Hipster Culture

In June, more than 20,000 people descended on Krakow, Poland for the city’s annual Jewish Festival—complete with Hasidic dance performances, Hebrew calligraphy lessons and klezmer music galore. But perhaps the most interesting thing about the gathering was that very few of the festival-goers were Jewish. Jewish culture is gradually making a comeback in Eastern Europe. And in Krakow, it seems, it has become downright trendy.

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Invasion of the Kilt-Wearing, Buttocks-Baring Scots!

Photo by hans s via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Our hearts go out to the nation of Poland. Groups of kilt-wearing, underwear-challenged Scottish men drawn to cheap beer are apparently invading the country, getting loaded and, adding insult to injury, yes, lifting their kilts. “It’s easy to spot these so-called ‘tourists’ from a mile off,” sniffed one local paper. Now, authorities are considering changes to the law. According to “In the city of Wroclaw, in the south-west of Poland, officials are exploring a kilt ban after being horrified by groups of drunk Scottish men who lifted their kilts to strangers to reveal their buttocks. Local police admit they have been unable to control the groups of maurauding Scots, despite complaints from outraged locals and fed-up bar owners, who claim Scots are rowdy, break glasses and leave pub toilets in a shocking state.”

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Rebranding Nations: Can a Logo Change the Way We Think About a Country?

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently hired a branch of the global advertising agency DDB to design a logo to be used to promote tourism and trade in the country. The resulting image—a red-and-white kite whose tail is held by a dancing stick figure that doubles as the K in the word Polska—has spurred discussion in and outside of Poland regarding national “branding.”

“[A]s with any other brand, people have associations, good or bad, with the nations they know,” writes Sarah Boxer in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. “But can you change people’s minds by repackaging, rebranding a nation?”

The governments of Poland and many other countries seem to think so. Why? It’s Spain’s fault.

“Two decades ago, Joan Miro designed a splashy, sunny national emblem to promote tourism,” Boxer writes. “Thanks in part to the Espana logo, Spain is no longer associated just with Franco, the Spanish Civil War and Don Quixote. It is a country of wine (Rioja), movies (Pedro Almodovar) and art (Miro).”

Poland’s logo may not spur the same sort of transformation, but it has had its intended effect on at least one person: me. I’ve never been to Poland, and I’ve always had a vaguely gray, industrial image of the country. Now? I’m amazed, and even a little reluctant to admit, that the logo has instantly brightened my thoughts.

How does the new logo affect you? Check it out here and share your thoughts.