I always think this is the town hall but it's actually a church tower. The tower at town hall looks the same except that it's smaller. This   actually may tell you something important about Polish culture.

So maybe you've noticed that sometimes you see the words Bielsko Biala and sometimes you see the words Bielsko Biała. Never mind that sometimes they're hypenated. Whenever you see the letter ł in bielsko biała all you have to think of is w cause that's what ł sounds like. It doesn't sound anything like the letter l, although it did used to sound like the letter l in the english word peel, which you may notice isn't really the same as say the l in laugh. Not too long ago, people from the east still talked like that. Maybe they still do. The rest of Poland makes it sound like a w which is tricky, because the polish w sounds like a v or an f. Anyway, bielsko biała is pronounced like bee-ELSE-co BIA-wa. BIA as in BIATCH as in watch out, Biatch and WA as in Wawa if you're from Philadelphia or Wachovia if you're from near Philadelphia and you used to have a bank account with them before they were bought out by Wells Fargo due to their subprime mortgage exposure. If you're not from the Philadelphia area I guess you could just say wa as in watch out, Biatch. Or you could just avoid the entire problem by shortening it to Bielsko, but that upsets me because it's like people calling it New instead of New York, as if New York were the only New city in the world. That's not an entirely accurate analogy. It's more like people calling St.Paul Minneapolis instead of Minneapolis St. Paul. Or what the hell am I saying? It's like folks calling them veggies from San Fran instead of vegetables from San Francisco. That's not right.  I'm not sure you can compare it to anything. I call it Bielsko all the time, which makes me a little sad for poor Biała.

I've been working a lot on my sensitivity. People in Bielsko Biała can be very sensistive. It's not so much that they want to please you. It's that they're deathly afraid of being shamed. This is mostly the fault of Roman Catholicism in case you were wondering (although the Communists come in a close second). Of all the criminal gangs in Poland, the Roman Catholic clergy are the most psychologically devastating. You can't get away from them. In Bielsko Biała they even say Mass on the mountains. It's like in middle eastern countries except the fogies wear different kinds of hats and it's Sunday not Friday. With their megaphones their morbid wailing gets carried halfway across Bielsko Biała. But we're working on that, aren't we?

Leave it to traditionalists to overlook the essense of a great tradition. Christian Mass is meant to be a joyful community feast, not an occasion to show Bielsko Biała that you've been freshly forgiven of your sins (because only the freshly forgiven take communion in Poland) and that through your austerity you've earned the right to kneel in front of a pudgy little man and get a paper-thin piece of bread fingered into your mouth (because in Poland only a priest can touch Jesus). The oppression is palpable only to the unashamed observor. In those parts of Bielsko Biała, with emphasis on the ła, the enlightened man better watch out. But we're working on it.

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