Kraków

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Heading up north at a steady pace while fleeting greens and yellows fade along the way. We pass cement block houses, old iron works, and unknown industrial factories. Just a few hours later and we’re at the border of Czech Republic and Poland. Crossing the border, a thought enters my mind that I should probably explore Poland more. When I step off the train I recognize everything known and unknown, the buildings are familiar and memories all too vivid, particularly being able to enjoy restaurant food and get a taste for the night-life. I’ve had some delicious food and drink here with my family. Getting back on track, I grab a Prince Polo and meet a devoted friend at the Adam Mickiewicz statue, we sit and watch people pass with the hero of romantics. “Hey”, “Hey again”. After a long journey, proper food is in demand so we visit a shawarma guy and grab the most disappointing Zapiekanka I’ve had in my whole life. All bread, no substance, it deserves the name “Crapiekanka”.  Along with our foolish food impulse, drinking beers on a full stomach had us stumbling and bumbling around town in style and grace We meet more friends, drink more beer, and the reunion has transformed me into one big bourgie mofo. At home my wallet simply wants to be left alone and live a reclusive life but in eastern europe the leather wants to be seen on the scene. I guess it’s about enjoying how far your hard earned money will take you.

Walking out the door what do you expect. I just want to walk around, see things, maybe eat something good, look at the people, share a joke. Maybe meet someone interesting… like those 3 construction workers, the Italian guy, the American guy, and the Polish guy. So, they’re working on a high-rise building and during lunch break the Italian guy says “I’ve been eating pasta every single day, if my wife packs pasta for lunch tomorrow, I’m gonna jump off this building”. The American guy says “Yeah, my wife, she brings me hot dogs everyday, If I get hot-dogs tomorrow I’m going down”. Polish guy says “Yeah, if I get kielbasa tomorrow, I’m jumping”. The next day, the Italian guy goes “Thank you God, a meat-ball sandwich” the American guy goes “Ah finally! A cheeseburger” And the Polish guy? He jumped. Why? Well, I don’t know why, he packed his own lunch. Almost all Polish jokes end up with a punch-line that implies Poles are dumb. And if stereotypes don’t provide enough evidence than I guess the screen-door on a submarine is just Polish ingenuity. That was a joke and there’s much more to every culture then at first glance. Almost immediately we make assumptions and comparisons which most people will accept as “that was my first thought, so it must be true.” But I think we need to take one step forward and two steps back, detach a bit, get new angles and perspectives then make a judgment call.

We stay in a penthouse outside the city and whenever there’s an event to attend the tram is always there to give us a ride. Looking out the window, what do you see. Walking down the streets, who are you hoping to meet? At the supermarket, on top of a mountain. Making eye contact and looking away. Smiling or scowling. Every single day. What to do. What to do. It’s a cliche and makes me sound like a puff but how about sharing a beautiful view and depositing a smile in to your memory bank. Nature has that effect, I wouldn’t want to half-ass the description of this area but it’s some kind development 10 minutes outside of central that has turned into a natural lake. Elevated cliffs offer a long view into the vista for many kilometers. A location fit for a lakeside king. The nature of this area is hilly terrain with wide valleys that carry fresh water from the mountains. Southern Poland sees lots of evergreens cozying up together surrounding townships scattered about the planes. You’ll see the occasional castle, spot a McDonalds somewhere along the road, and even see a couple grandmas walking to church.

Krakow maintains a history of higher education and serves as a cultural collision point between artists, musicians, and poets of all ages and all backgrounds. For centuries it had been a cultural mecca centrally situated to Prague, Budapest and Warsaw. The city is well-preserved in its history which permeates a tradition of resilience and self-improvement. Krakow continues to grow and the ingredients for a rich city are seen on the streets. Many young students, artists, and musicians attend higher education in the city and create a vivid city life amongst professionals, craftsmen, and seniors whose integration into the local fabric maintains the cities character and feel. The expression of the local people shows a deep understanding of artistic traditions and a desire to push ideas further. The National Musuem highlights 17th, 18th and 19th century works by polish painters and sculptors.

A night out with the king of krakow couldn’t have been scripted. At first glance their suits reeked of zloty but when the bill had arrived we were all equal. We talked business, life, wives and children while each round of vodka came swinging like a boxer, fortunately for me, the Danish system had conditioned me to walk toe to toe with the heavyweights. Poland’s citizens are known to be heavily favored when it comes to last man standing. In drinking wars, they’re the special forces unit in general alcohol’s army. And so we hopped from an art-deco bar to an exclusive night club with long lines and beautiful people. A rare treat for the underemployed adventurer intent on maximizing his enjoyment. My alcohol soaked thoughts and observation of local social interactions tempted me to push the envelope a bit. There’s a genius at work when punches are being thrown in another direction while I’m directing the mockery of the entire social scene. There’s genius in all the truths and all the lies when you’re dancing with the wolves. Knowing what is acceptable and what is not acceptable takes a wise guy wherever he wants. From the first handshake to the final farewell, we ran with the wolves and it was fun as hell. It was fun to be exclusive for a while at least for the duration of our engagement, afterwards, I’m ordinary like the rest of em.

Where do you go when you don’t know where to go. I guess Kazimierz it is. With freedom from friends, some money in my pocket, and the force of gravity moving me towards this or that. I might like to write a bit, drink a delicious drink and have a conversation. Talking nonsense can satisfy me more than the whole let’s go through the facts. “Yes, I’m from New York, yes, I’m traveling, yes I’m also Polish” and “Yeah, it’s cold, yes, it’s night” After answering the same questions, my character development needs to keep things interesting for myself. “Why yes, I’m from outer space, I’m an inter-galatic alien traveling the seven wonders of the world and Poland happens to be number two on the list and yes these nipples are pepperoni and they could cut ice but hey who turned off the lights!” The script only gets better or worse depending how far down the weirdo chain you’ve fallen. Based on social experiments, those of us at the bottom produce favorable results in shared gratification among the jiving community, an experienced jiver can hang with the plebeians and mingle with the chiefs. And there’s nothing better than drunk jiving. Under the influence, I’m following my instincts and I find myself pursuing the sound of the city. I’m at a music club called Mezcal and it’s really happening. There’s about a dozen in the crowd and the music is alive. Its an improv with a interesting cast of players. A mix of mustache, gray beards, and peach fuzz.  Before the 2nd number ends, Police interrupt the good vibrations and kill the sound. Tensions between artists and authority are hot but after some “it’s we’re making good music here” and “every polish person is one familly” and , the officers leave and another jam starts up. I volunteer for some soft drumming as not to disturb the local authorities and I find myself in the middle of an exciting spontaneity. Led by a blues vocal that saws through a funky bass line with sloppy southern licks getting people wet. I chop beats with hip hop feet and we take a walk in each others shoes. A beer is shared off stage and smiles exchanged. I love it. One more Zapiekanka for the road and a four am cab right to the airport.

I’m tired, sleeping at the terminal with only 3 regrets… drinking screwdrivers at the house of beer, eating a crapiekanka from a kebab shop, and being too humble… like not spending enough money and painting everything red, white, and blue. Ah wait that’s not true, I did tip the cab driver more than you would.

Here’s a piece of free writing from Alchemia a cool spot to grab a beer and write.

 

In the city of today

No one knows your name

Having a pint on my own

With belief in another day

All the people around me

Touching and talking

In different tongues

Im stuck inside my head

Thinking too much now

Screaming politely, how?

This overdose on thoughts

Is pushing me deeper in

But I can see the way out

Through a scream or shout

With a pint and pen

I bleed, I write

Thinking, how’s it gonna be?

Krakow, I must leave

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