Gdansk – 6

In 1956, Nikita Khruschev’s address to the 20th Convention of the USSR’s Communist Party spoke of strengthening socialism’s grip on the East, and of the dangers of individualism. Already simmering with discontent the Polish media helped stir local discord and on June 28th a strike started in the Stalin brick factory (later the ‘Hipolita Cegielskiego Factory’), before spreading to the city’s other major industrial plants. An estimated 100,000 workers descended on the Municipal National Council (now the Zamek building), chanting slogans like ‘Bread and Freedom’ and ‘Out with Bolshevism,’ while demanding lower prices, higher wages and a reduction in work quotas.

Initially peaceful, the protests took a violent turn when it was revealed that the team negotiating on behalf of the strikers in Warsaw had been arrested and detained. The demonstrators stormed Poznań prison, liberating 257 inmates, destroying records and seizing armaments. These insurgents marched back to the city centre to continue their protests. The communist authorities reacted by deploying 10,300 soldiers, 400 tanks and 30 armoured personnel carriers. Street battles followed, but with the city cut off from the outside world, order was quickly restored by 30th June. The clashes officially left 76 civilians and eight soldiers dead, with over 600 strikers injured (though unofficial estimates were vastly higher). The victims included a thirteen year old boy, Romek Strzalkowski, who was shot dead whilst waving a Polish flag. News of the riots helped spark an equally heroic anti-communist uprising in Budapest later in the same year, which was also brutally suppressed.

All this historical information surrounds the living room of a typical flat available to families from the Polish state. These flats were assigned to their owners and wouldn’t have been given to people taking part in events described elsewhere in this section of the museum! The items on show included a soda syphon decorated with a sticker of Goofy, an alarm clock, and a radio. The owners would have been able to listen to Radio Free Europe if the authorities hadn’t jammed the frequency.

Travels through History – The Balkans: Journeys in the former Yugoslavia

The Macedonians build a fountain and upset the Greeks.

Villages on the road to Lake Ohrid fly Albanian flags instead of Macedonian ones.

Kosovan taxi drivers believe fundamentalists are being sponsored in their country by former foes.

Dubrovnik is so popular a one-way system is now in operation on the city walls.

In Sarajevo, the place the First World War started is not easy to find, but evidence of more recent atrocities is.

All these stories and more can be found in my new book: Travels through History – The Balkans

Memories are long in The Balkans, contrasts and contradictions are all around. History is always in your face, reminding you nothing stays the same for long in this most fascinating corner of Europe.

 

The Frisby Waterless Murders

The third book in the Inspector Knowles series sees Knowles and Sergeant Barnes investigating why the wrong person died on a murder/mystery excursion on a steam train. It seems more than one person wanted the victim dead and the question is: who murdered Major Harkness in full view of 24 people without any of them noticing?

As with the Goat Parva Murders and the Manton Rempville Murders, Knowles and Barnes work tirelessly to see through the smokescreens placed in their path. The clues point this way and then that way. More than one person is disappointed to find out they didn’t kill the Major before Knowles and Barnes track down the real murderer.

Characters from previous books are reintroduced such as Carly Waferr, the magic mushroom lady, who was hired to provide the catering for the excursion train, and Adelaide Hills the owner of Bingo the retriever, who makes his usual significant contribution to the investigation.

The verbal sparring of Knowles and Barnes is once again to the fore in this fast-paced ride through the lovely, but dangerous English countryside.

The Frisby Waterless Murders

Coming soon to a website near you – the third Inspector Knowles book entitled The Frisby Waterless Murders.

The third book in the Inspector Knowles series sees Knowles and Sergeant Barnes investigating why the wrong person died on a murder/mystery excursion on a steam train.

It seems more than one person wanted the victim dead and the question is:
who murdered Major Harkness in full view of 24 people without any of them noticing?

As with the Goat Parva Murders and the Manton Rempville Murders, Knowles and Barnes work tirelessly to see through the smokescreens placed in their path. The clues point this way and then that way.

More than one person is disappointed to find out they didn’t kill the Major before Knowles and Barnes track down the real murderer.

Characters from previous books are reintroduced such as Carly Waferr, the magic mushroom lady, who was hired to provide the catering for the excursion train, and Adelaide Hills the owner of Bingo the retriever, who makes his usual significant contribution to the investigation.

The verbal sparring of Knowles and Barnes is once again to the fore in this fast-paced ride through the lovely, but dangerous English countryside.

 

Istanbul – Spice Bazaar – 3

This extract is from ‘Travel Tales from Exotic Places like Salford’

I made the mistake of lingering for three seconds looking at a blue T-shirt of Istanbul.
“Welcome back,” said a voice.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You have been here before I think.”
“Yes I have,” I said, “in 1999 and 1990.”
“I have been here for 15 years,” said the stallholder, “so I must remember you from 1999. You are German.”
“I am English,” I said.
“And last time you were here with three other people?”
“I don’t think so, just the one maybe and I might have been on my own.”
“You said you would come back and buy something. You are late.”

Gobekli Tepe – Part 5

This extract is from ‘Travel Tales from Exotic Places like Salford’

Enclosure C was discovered in 1998 and contains two concentric circles of pillars. Enclosure D, discovered in 2001, contains two central pillars 5.5 metres high. Another pillar contains an image of a headless man with an erect phallus. Another pillar in this enclosure possesses a similar image. Both of these men are wearing a belt with a loincloth. Other carvings in this well-preserved enclosure depict boars, bulls, gazelles, foxes, spiders, scorpions, and snakes.

Currently only about 5 – 10% of the whole site has been opened to the elements – the remainder lies under the dirt, soil, and detritus that the centuries piled on top of Gobekli
Tepe after it was abandoned by its creators. However, the archaeologists do believe that when the site was abandoned, Gobekli Tepe was covered by the ancients with 500 cubic
metres of earth, which created an artificial mound that remained hidden for around 9,000 years.

Dry-stone Walling in Littondale

An extract from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions

“I can build a better stone wall than you can,” “My wall is straighter than yours,” and “My stone wall is longer than yours” were all familiar brags in 15th Century Yorkshire when the farmers were building walls around Littondale to enclose their sheep and cows.

After 100 years of controversy and shoving between rival wall builders a man called Clarence Boycott decided to settle the issue once and for all. He began the Littondale Wall Contest in 1632, where farmers from this valley and beyond were given the task of building a wall up a hill within the 24 hours of the day of the summer solstice.

Each farmer was allowed three helpers who could bring food and drink to him and place stones along the line of the wall, but they must not help him construct the wall in any way. The helpers could also hose the farmer down on the hotter days.