Thursday, November 29, 2007
Danzig, as it is known to the German-speaking world, is the Polish city of Gdańsk. As Gdańsk, the city has played a pivotal role in Poland's transition out of Communist rule. In 1970 anti-government demonstrations in Gdańsk triggered the ouster of Communist leader Władysław Gomułka. In 1980, the Gdańsk Shipyard gave birth to the Solidarity trade union movement. By 1989, Communist rule ended, and former Solidarity leader, Lech Wałęsa, became President of Poland in 1990.
But the name Danzig carries an altogether different set of connotations. Danzig has had a long history as a city-state, not only as a member of the Hanseatic League but also as a "free city" during the Napoleonic era. The best known use of the phrase, "Free City of Danzig" (Freie Stadt Danzig), refers to the independent city established by the Treaty of Versailles and overseen by the League of Nations. It represented Poland's sole hope for free access to the sea, a key premise of Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points." Because the city's population was overwhelmingly German, however, the Treaty of Versailles did not assign Poland complete sovereignty over Danzig. Eventually, the city became a primary target of the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The heroic defense of Danzig's Polish Post Office culminated the tumultuous two decades when Danzig/Gdańsk stood squarely between Germany and Poland.
Louisville, for its part, has combined elements of Southern and Midwestern culture throughout its history. It is predominantly Southern, but it looks northward as no other Southern city does. The resulting cultural mix can be analogized to the experience of Danzig during the Weimar Republic. One can only hope that Louisville never experiences the trauma that afflicted Danzig/Gdańsk during the half-century between the outbreak of World War II and the accession of Lech Wałęsa to the Polish presidency.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The November 4, 2007, edition of the New York Times' travel section features a story on the pursuit of bourbon and bluegrass in Kentucky:
[Author Steven Kurutz] embarked on a road trip centered on bourbon and bluegrass, exploring the back roads of the state where those two American mainstays trace their deepest roots. It was a trip that spoke to our passions and vices; [travel companion] Chris and I are both avid fans of traditional country and roots music, and we’re also dedicated whiskey drinkers, so much so that holidays are often met with an exchange of a bottle of whiskey between us. (Occasionally, we’ve even combined the two, sneaking a flask into a concert.)Cross-posted from The Cardinal Lawyer and Agricultural Law.
We fashioned our itinerary in the style of a bluegrass song: a defined structure but with ample room for improvisation. During the first part of the trip, we would hit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a whiskey version of California’s Napa Valley made up of seven distilleries (Maker’s among them) that are open to the public. Our final stop would be the sixth annual Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration in Rosine, the birthplace of Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass. It was in the central part of the state, in the rolling hills between Lexington and Louisville — where a layer of limestone filters the iron from the water, making it ideal for bourbon making — that Scotch-Irish distillers settled in the early 1800s.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Welcome to Danzig U.S.A., a blog about Louisville, Kentucky. The name of this blog comes from an offhand comment on MoneyLaw: "Louisville . . . is to the American South as the Free City of Danzig was to the Weimar Republic." I can think of no more succinct — and culturally loaded — way of describing my city.
I'm Jim Chen, law school dean at the University of Louisville and host of The Cardinal Lawyer and the blogs of the Jurisdynamics Network. From time to time, I hope to post observations about Louisville, Kentucky, and the American South. I am a native of the region and love Louisville. I also hope to persuade other Louisville residents to join me in presenting this city in a light that is at once honest and affectionate.