If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Friday, October 31, 2008

Brazil - BRAZZIL - Goodbye to Baden Powell - Brazilian Music - November 2000

Goodbye Song

American musician Stan Getz once asked Brazilian conductor
Júlio Medaglia, "Why doesn't Baden Powell move to Europe or
the United States, where he would become the world's greatest
guitarist?" To what Medaglia answered, "Because, may be,
he's already the world's greatest guitarist."

The sounds he extracted from his guitar were magic and unique. Bossa nova owes a lot to him. His musical style at a time popular and erudite became a model for musicians all around the world.

Now, his guitar is silent and the composer is not writing anymore. Baden Powell de Aquino died September 26 from pneumonia, in Rio, at age 63, after a stay of more than a month at Clínica Sorocaba. He was diabetic and had kidney problems. Much of his ailments originated in his youth when he started to drink heavily and smoke, two addictions that followed him throughout life.

Rodolfo Espinoza

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Poland's Shifting Sands


Despite its inclusion on UNESCO's list of World Biosphere Reserves, few people have heard of Slowinski National Park outside of Poland. Fiona McWilliam visits this natural wonder.

It may not be tropical or particularly well-known outside of its mother country, but Poland's Slowinski National Park, located on the Baltic coast of Pomerania, just west of the popular seaside town of Leba, is nevertheless a natural paradise - particularly for bird lovers.

More than 250 bird species have been sighted in the park, 142 of which nest here annually. These include the white-tailed eagle, the black stork-a bird of almost prehistoric proportions which builds its huge nest atop telegraph poles-and the eagle owl. 

The prevailing winds in Slowinski National Park are from the west and southwest (although these are modified by the sea) and the park has a rich diversity of microclimates, in addition to a relatively low level of air pollution.

It is named after the culturally distinct Slovincians, a Slav tribe, which inhabited this part of the Baltic coastline until the 19th century, but is best known by ecologists, for its diversity of habitats, which remains unparalleled elsewhere in Europe and possibly even the world. Indeed, UNESCO recognized its environmental value in 1977 when it included the park on its list of World Biosphere Reserves.
Broadly speaking, Slowinski National Park comprises sand dunes, peat bogs and water. More than half of its 182 square kilometre area is covered by lakes; the two largest, Lebsko and Gardno, are former sea bays, cut off from the Baltic by the Leba sand bar, which stretches some 30 kilometres from Leba, westwards to the fishing village of Rowy.

"The richest bird life is associated with the water and shores of these lakes," explains Feliks Kaczanowski, the park's chief ranger, "and several reserves have been established in order to protect breeding sites and the resting areas used by migrant species." The shores of Lake Lebsko are also home to otters, he adds, "and the sea shore is sometimes visited by seals."
Large numbers of game, particularly red deer, roe deer and wild boar live in the areas of forest around the lakes, together with smaller populations of foxes, badgers, hares and racoon dogs. Occasionally, a single migrant elk or fallow deer can also be seen here.

The flora of Slowinski National Park is particularly interesting from an ecological and geographical point of view, with the number of anthrophytes (plant species introduced by humans) relatively low and mainly concentrated in the few villages skirting the park.

The most common (and numerous) species are those growing on the poor, acidic soils of the pine forests, the peat bogs and the sand dunes. 

About 30 per cent of the species are locally rare, and most of these are rare and/or threatened nationally.

Slowinski National Park is arguably one of Poland's best kept secrets, if not for its rich biodiversity, but for an amazing geomorphological phenomenon - huge, spectacular sand dunes.


Like all sand dunes, they are ephemeral features. That is, they migrate in response to the accumulative and destructive power of the wind.
The thought of a body of sand, several kilometres in area and up to 56 metres high migrating is somewhat mind-boggling.




 Yet this is exactly what it does. Shifting at a rate of up to 10 metres a year, the vast sand dunes of the Leba sand bar bury everything that lies in their way.


The main victims appear to be trees in the adjacent woodland, the remains of which emerge lifeless and eerily skeletal from the encroaching "white mountain."


"Up here we could easily be in the Sahara," remarks Vicky Froggatt, one of two British tourists we meet at the top of the largest dune, "that is, if it wasn't so freezing."

We think Kaczanowski is joking when he says that Rommel must have thought the same thing during the Second World War.
It's a fact, he insists, that the German's prepared for North African desert warfare on these very dunes. The park was also one of several test sites for the dreaded V1 and V2 rockets that bombarded London during the latter part of the war.

Although almost devoid of visitors in winter and early spring, Slowinski National Park is an extremely popular attraction in the summer. "We have thousands and thousands of visitors," says Kaczanowski, "most of them from Poland." In fact, so popular is the park during the summer months that between 1 May and 30 September, only day trips on foot are permitted, and these are confined to marked trails.


Looking down at the clean, welcoming stretch of coastline beneath, it is tempting to strip off and dive in. An icy gust of Baltic breeze chills me back to reality however and I pull on my gloves in preparation for our dune descent.