Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kashubian Adidase

I’m on my third day of Dermelan treatment, which means my face looks hideous. Do you remember that scene in "Mission Impossible" when Tom Cruise peels a latex mask off his face? Well, that’s how it is with me now, except that I’m peeling off my own skin, not movie makeup.

But the fact that I look like a leper wasn’t enough to make me stay at home today. I went to Kartuzy to visit the Kashubian Museum (Muzeum Kaszubskie), my peeling skin, purple face and all.

Museum in kartuzy

You see, my heritage is apparently part Kashubian and part Galician. So now you should know why I suffer from a major case of itchy feet. Because while both of those regions are known for many things (like being piss poor back in the olden days), they are probably most famous for mass emigration (which I suppose went hand in hand with being piss poor). Untold hordes of people left Galicia and went looking for a better life elsewhere. And untold hordes of people left Kashubia, too. It’s a miracle that there are still Kashubians left in Poland at all. But anyway, that goes a long way towards explaining why I feel the need to run around the globe looking for a better life myself. It’s not my fault. I was born that way. It’s genetic.

The Museum was cool. Very cool, actually. I learned how to say “shoes” in Kashubian – “adidase”. LOL! I bought a Kashubian flag (well, not really, because the “official” flag is a very fierce looking black and yellow combination) and a fridge magnet. Both of them are going with me to Japan to REPRESENT!


What surprised me was just how crowded the museum was. There were people from all corners of the world there, speaking English, German, Dutch and a couple of other languages I didn’t recognize. And I think we all came to the same conclusion – that it was a really nice museum. Actually, I can even say that it’s one of the best small town museums I’ve seen, and I’ve seen plenty, trust me.

Because I’m a total ignoramus, I had no clue that the name “Kartuzy” comes from the Carthusian Order (Le Grande Chartreuse). And those are monks. Catholic monks, to be exact. It’s amazing how it all makes sense once someone points it out to you. But if you’re like me and know exactly nothing about Catholic monks, you need to hear more to get the whole picture. And the whole picture looks more or less like this:

There was once a bunch of those Carthusian monks who schlepped all the way from France to this place (it wasn’t known as Kartuzy back then) and built themselves a church. Or rather, a charterhouse, as their monasteries are known. That was back in 1380 or so. Their church was mighty fine and from all accounts those monks were decent fellas, too. A bit obsessed with death, but maybe that’s what made them decent. You think I’m joking about this death thing? I’m dead (no pun intended) serious. The roof of their church looks like a coffin lid. And instead of “Hello brother so-and-so, how are you today?” or whatever it is that monks say to greet each other, these guys used to say “Memento mori” which is Latin for “Remember, you will die.” What a joyous bunch those Carthusians were! So full of life, wow…

Kartuzy church 2

Anyway, the church is still there, and the roof still looks like a coffin lid. I went inside and, needless to say, there was a mass in progress. This is just one of those things that happen to me in Poland – I can enter any church, anywhere in Poland, at any time and there will be a mass going on inside. I tell you, this is one religious country.


This time, it wasn’t just any old, boring mass – it turned out I crashed a full-blown “here comes the bride” church wedding. And the bride didn’t even look pregnant. What a disappointment.

Kartuzy is an interesting place. It has a dual personality of sorts – Kashubian and Polish. It’s officially bilingual – the Kashubian language has been finally recognized as a language of its own, and after years (if not centuries) of sometimes forced polonization, now it’s part of the school curriculum in this region. There’s even a lady at the University of Gdansk who wrote her entire master thesis in Kashubian. How cool is that?

Kartesci powiot

I like the fact that this language is no longer considered inferior and that the good people of Kashubia proudly display their ethnic and linguistic heritage. Even the road signs are bilingual.

And even you’ve learned at least one word of Kashubian already. Adidase! LOL!


I was really curious and looked up the origin of the Adidas (company) name. They claim that "Adidas" is a combination of the first (Adolf) and last (Dessler) names of the company's founder. So it just so happens that a company named "Adidas" got its start by making sports shoes and that the word "adidase" means "shoes" in the Kashubian language? What an amazing coincidence... Yeah, right...

Anyway, Kartuzy was a very agreeable place and in a very near future (like tomorrow, if the weather's nice) I'm hoping to visit other important Kashubian places.


Two handsome Kashubian men out on the town.

At first I had a sudden flashback to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, but then noticed that these guys weren't dressed in black. This was Kartuzy, and not Amish country after all.

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