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Thursday, March 14, 2013

77

A Week Alone In: Lithuania and Poland

Diana Clarke recently traveled through Lithuania and Poland.

Edith Zimmerman: Okay. Lithuania and Poland. Why there? And where specifically?

Diana Clarke: Well, I study Yiddish and writing, and Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (called Vilne in Yiddish) was once known as "the Jerusalem of Lithuania," because it was the center of Yiddish literary and intellectual culture before World War II. It was very much the place I had mythologized to myself as the origin-point of my identity. Poland, obviously, was also a big Yiddish center (although the Polish Yiddish dialect is different, and much harder for me to understand — not that that's relevant, given that there are basically no Yiddish speakers left in Poland now), but it's also where my dad's family is from. Polish Catholics — so between that and the Lithuanian Jewish background, I've inherited a lot of cultural guilt. Anyway, I knew I wanted to see Warsaw and Krakow — I'd just done a course on the history of Jewish life in Europe too, so I felt like I had a little more knowledge, and was a little more prepared to understand the context of where I was going. My academic program was in Copenhagen, and we had a two-week break, so I flew to Vilnius, and then took a bus to Warsaw (got my passport checked in the middle of the night), and an overnight train to Krakow, squeezed next to a very chatty Ukrainian man, and woken up every thirty minutes by the ticket inspector.

Tell me about the borscht. 

Oh lordy, the best. Don't tell my ancestors, but I think I prefer Ukrainian-style borscht (with chunks of vegetables and beans and meat) to the clear, brothy Polish style. But I didn't have a bad bowl the whole time. Just varying degrees of delicious, usually paired with pierogi full of sauerkraut and mushrooms, and maybe some braised cabbage or beet salad, just in case my root vegetable/brassica intake had gotten a little low. 

What did you wear?

Sweaters, boots, jeans, a coat. It was cold — I went in November — but not anything worse than New York gets. I was mostly concerned with carrying as little as possible (I only brought a backpack and a little pocketbook), and with not looking too American.

How much did it cost?

Again, I was already in Europe for an academic program in Copenhagen (round trip to NYC, $1,000), so the overhead costs were already paid. My flight from Copenhagen to Vilnius (on Baltic Air, with a stopover in Riga) was €69.56, and the bus from Vilnius to Warsaw cost THREE EUROS (46.94 EEK on Eurostar!). The train was a tiny bit more expensive, at 81 PLN, which comes out to about $25. I also spent five nights in hostels, at about $8 per night. Plus food and drinks and such, it came out to about $300 total.

Where did you stay? Where and when did you get the best sleep?

I stayed in hostels in Vilnius and Krakow — three nights and two nights respectively — and I slept two nights on transportation (between Vilnius and Warsaw and between Warsaw and Krakow), figuring that if I was going to pay for transportation, I didn't need to pay for lodging as well. I realize that that decision is a young person's decision. And this is cheating, but — the best sleep I got was on the night I left Krakow. After two horrible short nights of sleep on the bus and train, I sank dreamlessly into the bunk bed of my Krakow hostel. I slept loads, but didn't much love the top bunk or the sterile hostel, and it never felt like enough. But the when leaving Krakow, I booked an overnight train to Budapest. (This doesn't figure into the traveling-alone time because in Budapest I met my boyfriend at the time, who had flown across the Atlantic to see me, and who I promptly lost in the Budapest airport.) Anyway, on this train I was in a sleeper car, only half full. The other passengers were three giddy young people — East Asian, I think maybe Taiwanese. Anyway, we didn't have any common languages, and as a result there was no pressure to communicate or be sociable. Instead we just smiled at each other, helped one another hoist luggage and draw the blinds, and climbed into bed. I fell asleep to the rocking of the train, and when I awoke nine hours later, it was to small bright lovely houses nestled in the hills outside Budapest flying past my window. My bed was warm, I had slept long and well, and that night I was going to see the boy I loved.

Who was one of the most interesting people you met?

On the first morning in my hostel in Vilnius, I was eating waffles (which the owner of the hostel made personally every morning in a tiny plug-in waffle iron) with local jam, and chatting with some other travelers, obviously about Yiddish. When I managed that I was hoping to go find the Jewish cemetery, this one guy was really intrigued. He turned out to be a 39-year-old ex-psychiatrist from New York, who'd spent ten years living totally abstemiously (no sex, alcohol, or drugs; eating dinner with his best friend every night) in order to cope with the intense trauma of his patients, and with the feelings-box that his studio apartment had become from being used as his office as well. When I met him he was a year and a half into an undirected trek around the world supported by the sales of his documentaries about treating manic depression and schizophrenia without medication. And despite the heaviness of his story, he turned out to be a really adventuresome and goofy guy, and we walked around for three hours looking for this cemetery, which turned out not to exist any more except for a tiny memorial (because the Soviets had used the Jewish headstones to make the steps for the national art museum), and we sat and he told me about how distanced he felt from his Jewishness and his family, and we found our way to the Russian Orthodox cemetery, which was full of old people (the entirety of Vilnius is full of old people) laying flowers and prayers in preparation for All Souls' Day, and there was one grave with a bare femur lying on top of it, and does one smile when taking pictures in a cemetery? He took a picture of me, and later that day introduced me to a group of Lithuanian anarchist students, and we've hung out in New York a few times since.

What was the hardest you laughed? 

On my second day in Krakow, I decided to go see the Polish National Gallery, wondering how Poland represented itself, officially. There was a huge and boring exhibit on the evolution of Polish military uniforms over the last 500 years (spoiler alert: gold braid! lots of felt!), and a more interesting one on 20th Century Polish art, and in a little hallway between the two were three little glass display cases and a little bit of wall text: about the Jews in Poland! (Spoiler alert: there used to be some.) The cases were full of beautiful silver ritual objects — menorahs etc. — all labelled "Purchased from synagogue X between 1937 and 1939." Which — I mean it was just this obvious obscuring of history, this cognitive dissonance as what I knew and what I saw totally didn't line up. I knew there was no way I could really convey that, but I noticed that one of the books (in Hebrew, so right to left) was upside down, and tried to convey it to a museum employee. "No English, no English!" he shouted, flapping his hands in the air and walking briskly away. When he was gone, I just completely broke down laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing, at my inability to communicate or reconcile. Like, how is this true! There is nothing I can do here! I give up! It felt very much like being in a Kafka story.

Tell me about the bands / music!

I'm really bad at going to see music when I'm home in New York (plus, not really willing to spend the money), but seeing music is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. I like trying to see a local band in a local place, getting a sense of the scene such that I can. I pick up an alt-weekly if there is one, or just use the internet. I ended up at Tamsta, a rock club in Vilnius, seeing this Lithuanian folk band made up of droopy adorable Lithuanian guys, and I had to listen to the music because I couldn't eavesdrop because I don't speak Lithuanian, and I say at the bar and drank Lithuanian beer. One of the best things about seeing music abroad is that it often gives me the excuse to go to bars alone and just observe, which I really love doing, but which always feels more accessible when I'm not at home.

What was the latest you stayed up?

I think the latest I stayed up was until two or so, talking with the ex-psychiatrist, and to a friend-of-a-friend who was doing a Fulbright in Latvia and happened to be in Vilnius for the weekend, and she and I just had a million weird Jewish identity things in common, and I found out that the ex-psychiatrist's sister was a famous YA author whose books I had read, and we threw darts with some locals at this weird little dive bar and gawked at the six teenagers running around the square dressed up for Halloween, which isn't really celebrated in Lithuania.

What was the furthest-away you felt, if that makes sense? 

I'd have thought it would be in Krakow, where I didn't really end up meeting anyone, and wandered around the city for three days more or less completely alone, using the tiny amount of Polish I knew to buy apples and coffee and go to museums and galleries and talks on the Polish economic crisis. But because I was spending so much time in my head, I always recognized the landscape of my mind, and how I processed things. And in Vilnius, I made friends pretty quickly. So out of everything, what felt the most unreal was the morning I sat for hours in a swanky Warsaw hotel restaurant reading The Marriage Plot and lingering over a decadent breakfast that I sort of bought by accident (because they charged me for the whole meal when I just wanted a coffee) but decided to enjoy. I absolutely cannot afford decadent multi-course hotel breakfasts in New York.

What would you tell someone going to either place? (Tips, etc.?)

As with travelling in any country, I think it's really important to learn the basics of the language — pleases and thank yous, coffee with milk, etc. And also to say yes to things when they come your way, and to be flexible, and extremely understanding. I don't know! I had never encountered a squat toilet before, and crouched over it the wrong way the first time, so don't do that. Yeah — make sure you know which direction you're squatting.

Diana Clarke sometimes writes about books for the Village Voice, and when she can't get anyone to publish her, she just sends very long emails to her friends. Her short story "Pick Up" is in the most recent issue of Armchair/Shotgun, and she can be found on the internet at @dclarkwithane.

77 Comments / Post A Comment

gobblegirl

This was fascinating, especially about your experience in the museum. Thanks for sharing!

John Ore

I've been to that cemetery in Vilnius (my wife and I got married in Vilnius and our reception was at Trakai), did you go through Uzupis to get there? Happen across a tiny shack of a beer bar on the way called Snekutis?

Jill_Tata

Totally beautiful!@k

Claire Zulkey@twitter

In 2007 my parents took my brother and me to "the homeland" (Poland). Having been to St. Petersburg about 6 years earlier I expected a fairly grim place and was really surprised and delighted by Warsaw and Krakow. They're beautiful, inspiring cities with a youthful cool culture (plus that awesome "sit in the town square and drink a beer and write postcards" scene too.) And the food is fantastic--yes of course pierogi but also they have really delicious Italian food and ice cream. Warsaw was also where I first had the FANTASTIC combination of buffalo vodka and apple juice. I feel like Warsaw/Krakow are kind of the down-low version of Prague. I recommend a trip to Poland for sure.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Claire Zulkey@twitter Prague is still fabulous if you catch it in the off-season for tourists ;-)

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Countess Maritza
When is that, actually? C. wants me to take her to Prague and I said that I might...

SuperGogo

@Claire Zulkey@twitter Aaah, Zubrowka and apple juice is just the best of drinks!

cherrispryte

@Claire Zulkey@twitter OH GOD YES ZUBROWKA AND APPLE JUICE.

Judith Slutler

how y'all sullying the Zubrowka experience by mixing it with anything!?

Angry Panda

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Late fall and winter, I'd say.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Angry Panda
Cheaper trans-Atlantic fares, too! Thanks!

Miss Maszkerádi

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Well, you'll never can escape the tourists entirely, but spring and fall are better than high summer or Christmas/New Years. There's sort of this population swap that happens around the first of July because that's when school has finished and the vacation begins for everybody, so all the Czechs decamp to the countryside or hit the beaches in Croatia, and their spaces are filled by the sudden horde of noisy tourists. If you can manage to go in April or May (or September and on), also, all the theaters and concert halls are still running shows, museums have normal hours, the cultural life of the city is humming along like normal. Summer presents an almost "artificial" Prague....which is still lovely, but you can do better.

Angry Panda

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Your comment disappeared, but sure. Like Countess Maritza says, you can never escape the tourists entirely, but summer is definitely the worst.
Edit: Oh wait, I see your comment in the other thread. :-)

Miss Maszkerádi

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Also, don't stay in the Old Town. Wayyyy too packed and noisy most of the time, and food/beer prices are just stupid. Mala Strana across the river is an absolutely lovely atmosphere - still not cheap, but less crazy. Vinohrady district near the church of St. Ludmila is a nice residential area sort of away from all the utter madness, but still close enough by tram to all the main sights. Best beer in town is at Pivnice U Hrochu (Beer-hall "At the Hippopotamus", no idea where it gets that name) in Mala Strana on the way up the hill to the castle, but go in the early afternoon because after about 5 pm it gets completely stuffed. Lots of museums all worth seeing - unfortunately I think the National Museum main building is still closed for repairs, but the smaller exhibitions around town are all pretty good, especially check out the Museum of Music (Karmelitska street, just a short way across the Jirasek bridge from the old town, take the 9 tram.) ;-) OH GOD MARITZA STOP ALL THE NOSTALGIA OMG

titsgrande

@Claire Zulkey@twitter ugh. i moved from Prague to Canada about a year ago and my best friedn is still in Prague. I miss it every single day. I lived in Andel which is kind of industrial but right next to the river and had some great local old man bars that were cheap as anything. and the best deep fried cheese you could find!!

Miss Maszkerádi

@titsgrande Andel is awesome! The whole Smichov district is like, Mala Strana's slightly unshaven and disreputable brother who thumbs his nose at the pompous state officials uptown and knows all the best smoky pubs.
Random shout-out to Zizkov, too. Weirdest things I've ever seen have all been in Zizkov. Best was a Russian man and his little son gleefully playing soldier in and around a Soviet tank parked outside the military history museum while not twenty meters away a group of stoned goth teenagers with long neon hair were ritual dancing/head banging in a circle around a radio playing some sort of distorted techno. <3 u Zizkov.

THIS IS SO AWESOME!

Anne Wachtel@twitter

OOOOOHHH I went to Krakow this summer for a few days and I LOVED it! I'm from a town full of Polish-American Catholics and went to Catholic school that served perogies for lunch on Fridays, so I about died when I realized that I was in Krakow just in time for the perogie festival. Good god, were they good. The history is so sad, and the day trip to Auschwitz was terrible and gave me a panic attack (but recommended; it's only a few hours away), but it's a beautiful, inexpensive town, and pretty friendly in my experience. We moved on to Berlin next (which was the main part of our trip), and I wanted to go back to Krakow everyday.

rallisaurus

Great interview! But my immediate reaction was which famous YA author!?

My mind is totally flipping out over the upside down book in the Polish National Gallery. I mean...mistakes happen, but it just seems so sad. Sidenote: I'm going to Munich in the fall and I can't decide whether to take a trip to Dachau or not. Like, my past 9 year old Holocaust buff is totally into it. But then part of me is like, really, Holocaust tourism? And yet, I have no qualms about going to see battlefields pretty much anywhere.

rosaline

@rallisaurus My reaction too!

I get your concern but would encourage you to go anyway. I think it's all in how you approach it, and as with most of history, nothing compares to seeing the real thing.

highjump

@rallisaurus When I went to Auschwitz I was worried about a similar thing and maybe (probably) this is shitty of me but I felt I could trust myself and my travel partner but not other people. Since most sites rightly won't let you walk around unaccompanied you kind of end up in a tour group with whoever comes around the same time. We spent the ~$90US for a private tour and it was great! We could linger over stuff we felt was meaningful, breeze through things that were Too Much, and we didn't have to hear anyone's obnoxious comments. Private tour all the way, I'm sure Dachau has them too.

Smallison

@rallisaurus I went to Dachau about 13 years ago, and there was a lovely man who went to the camp every day to talk to people about being a prisoner there. He was quite old at the time, so I doubt he's still there,but he really wanted people to know about the survivors. Anyway, the point of all that is: I say go for it. It's absolutely heartbreaking, but worth it, I think. And when I visited you could wander a bit & be alone with your thoughts.

Little_Lakes

@rallisaurus Ha ha! My first reaction was: But, did she help the 39 year old man who'd lived "abstemiously" for 10 years break his "abstemious-ness"?!!

wink wink nudge nudge

rallisaurus

@Smallison Wow, that must have been pretty intense. Thanks for the advice everyone! All the other Holocaust stuff I've been to has been pretty powerful, so I think I will end up going.

stonefruit

I want to go to there! So much.

Two things that made me sick to my stomach:
"(because the Soviets had used the Jewish headstones to make the steps for the national art museum)"

and

"Purchased from synagogue X between 1937 and 1939."

D: D: D: so much lost/erased history there.

rosaline

@stonefruit The headstones thing reminded me of a big and rather old cemetery I visited a few years ago in Vienna. The Christian section was huge and well-maintained and flowers had been recently left on many graves. Then there was a Jewish section to the back--the headstones were tilted every which way, the grass was about a foot tall, and there were no flowers anywhere. There was no one left to take care of that part of the cemetery.

SuperGogo

@rosaline The Jewish cemetery in Warsaw is amazing and haunting in the exact same way. Huge ornate stones and mausoleums that are now just...engulfed and nearly lost in a 60-year-old forest.

Faintly Macabre

@stonefruit I was in Strasbourg last weekend, and went to the history museum with high hopes that they'd talk about the blend of cultures, the city's interesting/terrible Jewish history, etc. Instead, there were a few mentions of that time when they burned a few hundred Jews alive and a little display of very old chopped-up Jewish headstones that had been used for various secular constructions a long time ago. (I assume in the couple centuries after they burned/kicked out all the Jews and before the Jews came back, only to be deported and have their synagogue destroyed by the Nazis.)

Anne Wachtel@twitter

@rallisaurus I would recommend going to Dachau, but the experience of walking around a concentration camp with about 1,000 tourists, snapping photos in the sun, is BIZARRE. It made me feel icky. I went to Auschwitz in August, and the part of the camp with the offices was actually creepily beautiful. ICK ICK. But the tour guide, who was a blonde teenager, kid you not, had a good point: if you go, and see it with your own eyes, it makes it real. And making it real is one more step to make sure history doesn't repeat itself. Just be prepared for the weirdness. Thought I'd cry, but instead I just had a straight up panic attack inside the barracks. I had to literally run out and go sit on the bus.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Anne Wachtel@twitter GAHHH I could not handle watching tourists take pictures of a concentration camp. Not a chance, I mean, I nearly lost my shit at an oblivious Russian tourist in Prague a few months ago who was striking a grinning, waving-at-the-camera pose next to a large ironwork relief panel which happened to show the sad and cruel martyrdom/murder of Bohemia's patron saint by his evil brother. I was like DO YOU EVEN HAVE ANY IDEA...

rosaline

@Anne Wachtel@twitter On your point about visiting making it real--I remember visiting Auschwitz in July and feeling very disconcerted by the weather at first. In the movies, the camps always look misty and cold, so seeing them juxtaposed with a blue sky and puffy white clouds gave me the strangest feeling. However, it was HELLISHLY hot, and I remember being drenched in sweat and wanting to find shade so badly out at Birkenau. Somehow seeing it in the sun rather than with Hollywood mist and feeling that burning heat with so little shelter made it much more real for me.

Judith Slutler

@Countess Maritza I went to Buchenwald with the exchange program I was on (mumble) years ago and will never forget the girl who excitedly told me she'd brought b&w film for her camera SPECIFICALLY FOR THE CONCENTRATION CAMP. I didn't even know what to say!

clamshell

@Anne Wachtel@twitter I went to Dachau years ago in February, so, not many people around. It was also bitterly cold and gray and damp, so it felt appropriately haunting. I also thought I'd cry and didn't, but I was certainly overwhelmed by emotion and was left feeling quite heavy for a couple of days after.

@Emmanuelle Cunt The correct response would be either "what the ever loving fuck is wrong with you?" or "oh, are you an artist?"

debatingthisusername

@Countess Maritza

I went to Auschwitz during the first week of March 2010, and I was freezing down to the pit in my stomach. Watching the 20-something couple make out in the first camp lit a fire. The man smoking a cigarette made my fingers twitch with rage. It's amazing how little people can feel in places like that.

But in all seriousness: It was one of the most memorably overwhelming experiences of my life. Completely unfathomable and horrifying, but it felt like my being there had purpose. It felt like it was necessary for me to have gone (if that makes sense).

bellekaren

@Emmanuelle Cunt Oh no oh no :(
I also went with my study abroad group and I really recommend that other people avoid that fate if they can.

meetapossum

"What's the hardest you laughed?"

Edith, I love that question!

rosaline

POLAND! PIEROGI! BUDAPEST! This article encompasses three of my favorite things and I love it!!!

Judith Slutler

Ooh I can't agree on the borscht. I eat so much Polish borscht every time I go there.

Also OMG PIEROGI aaaahhhh must eat Polish food nowwwwww.

Also I loved the Jewish history bits of this article. Sometimes you can say so much with such tiny details.

OhMyGoshYouGuys

What an awesome read. In grade school, we got to sign up for pen pals and mine was from Vilnius, Lithuania. Recently I was cleaning out my old room at my parents' house and found all her old letters and pictures and coins she sent. I'd kept them all. She even tracked me down on Facebook, which I would never had thought to do.

mustelid

Eee I may get sent to Poland for work later this year, bookmarking for future reference!

hotdog

lituanian jewish and polish catholic??? SO AM I!!! Those exact combinations. Are we sisters (at least in some cosmic sense)?

Diana Clarke@twitter

@hotdog Right? And such similar food, until the Poles start getting funny looks for trying to put pork on their latkes.

KalinkaMalinka

If you like Krakow, I thoroughly recommend paying a visit to Lviv. It has some similarities, but a different atmosphere altogether--Ukrainian culture/delicious food, famous coffee and chocolate shops, and similar history of course.

Roaring Girl

Great piece! My dad's family is also Litvish--my great great grandfather was a kosher butcher in Vilnius.

cherrispryte

I lived in Warsaw for awhile and traveled to Krakow a bunch (and all over Poland) but never made it to Vilnus and THIS POST MADE ME SO HAPPY I CAN'T EVEN. I may have teared up a litle at the Sukennice picture. I want to ask all sorts of specific questions about places (eg, Was the Warsaw hotel the Bristol or the Victoria?) but realize that would be a little obnoxious and also I want to go back so, so SO badly.
(And if anyone's ever going to recognize where my picture thingy is from, it'll be in this post, so bonus points.)

Vicky

@cherrispryte Crest of Warsaw!

I spent, like, a summer in the south of Poland a decade ago and I still ache for fresh paçzki.

Diana Clarke@twitter

@cherrispryte Warsaw ghetto uprising!

cherrispryte

@Diana Clarke@twitter Just the city as a whole, not the ghetto uprising. :)

highjump

I went to Krakow last year and loved it. If anyone wants a accommodations that are reasonable but an important step up from a hostel I cannot recommend Tango House B&B enough. Wonderful staff and Tango music in your room! http://www.tangohouse.pl/

mochi

@highjump I'm planning a trip to Poland next spring (I find that advanced planning helps the time pass more quickly). If you have any other recommendations, keep them coming!

KalinkaMalinka

@highjump I stayed at Goodbye Lenin in Krakow (recommended). Also recommend a weekend trip to Lviv--there's a night bus that leaves every day, or cheap flights

MadRedactrix

Last picture: Cloth Hall in Krakow! I spent a week in Krakow around a decade ago and couldn't believe how magical the city was and how CHEAP.

But the casual anti-Semitism of some of the people we talked with was shocking (to me).

It sounds as though visiting Auschwitz now must be done by tour? We just wandered around completely on our own, which I think I far prefer.

Loved reading a little about what it's like now! Thanks for this piece.

AniaGosia

I lived in Krakow for a year a few years back and just loved it immensely. I speak Polish fluently, so there wasn't a language barrier and I'm sure that helped, but it is one of my most favorite cities. Seriously, everyone should go. I could go on and on.

Angry Panda

Pierogies are awesome! Being vegetarian in a country where the only vegetarian option is fried cheese, discovering Pierogies in Poland was the best part of my trip last year. I am headed there again soon and I can't wait!

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Angry Panda
I may have to hit you up for tips in that regard!

Miss Maszkerádi

@Angry Panda Fried cheese? I know where youuuuuu were! XD

Angry Panda

@Countess Maritza Hahah! :-) I'm still here! This is a half-hearted attempt at covering my tracks, I'd hate for anyone I know in real life to read my comments.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Angry Panda Ah, enjoy it - I miss it there. If you're in the capital of that particular country, say hello to the Cafe Slavia (across from the National Theatre) for me ;-)

Angry Panda

@Countess Maritza Will do. :-)

mochi

@Angry Panda I'm veg too, kind of fanatical about perogies, and planning a trip to Poland next year. Any recommendations?

Angry Panda

@WILLOWW Ah, I was in Warsaw for work, so I didn't explore the city a lot on my own, my colleagues took me around. The one place I remember is called Zapiecek. It's a super touristy chain restaurant type place devoted to pierogies. I thought it was pretty good. Sorry I can't be of more help.

Verity

Oh wow, the colours of that cabbage! I want to eat it all.

debatingthisusername

I did a solo trip to Krakow (Spring Break!) while I was teaching in Slovakia. The day before, I'd been robbed at knifepoint in Vienna, and was shaky both emotionally and financially. In Kazimiercz (the ancient Jewish section of Krakow), it started snowing. Magical, or so I thought.
While rolling a cigarette and marveling at the overwhelming sadness and beauty, two teenaged boys wandered up. From a series of grunts and smattering of Slavic phrases, their mission was clear: Smoke time. I asked them how old they were, and a six-inch knife came out. "18," he carved on the brick facade.
I calmly handed them a rollie and lighter, then turned on my cowboy boots and took the biggest strides imaginable. They followed me for about five blocks, but I ducked into view of quite possibly the most handsome man in the city.
The next day, while trying to enter some unfortunately locked synagogues (the one day they were closed), who should cross my path but Knife Boy. We embraced, kissed each other's cheeks, and laughed. Laughed, doubled over from the hilarity and odds of the situation.
Between the pierogies and architecture and happenstance, Krakow has one of the fondest spots in my heart.
I mean, after getting hit by a car in Cairo and hitchhiking with dog show people in Guangzhou, this was a welcome surprise.

Helvetica

I loved this post and not to be nitpicky but the bus fare couldn't have been 46.94 EEK because that is old Estonian currency. The Lithuanian litas would be LTL.

vernon hardapple

@Helvetica Oh I read this as an exclamation, i.e. '46.94 [euros] on Eurostar (compared to 3 euros on the bus) - eek!'

titsgrande

I miss Europe. I grew up in Romania, have lived in Prague and visited pretty much everywherre in Europe apart from Scandinavia (toooo expensive!). Now i live in Calgary, Canada where they knock down 100 year old buildings for fun and the cultural highlight of the year is to dress up like a Cowboy and get drunk for 10 days.
Thank god the economy here is amazing, Europes is all kind of screwed. But i do miss getting a pint of beer for less than a bottle of water....

whimseywisp

Krakow is wonderful, magical, absolutely one of my favorite cities in Europe. And so many kabob stands! YUM. I can't wait to go back.

u0301466

Ecopolitan EC has full and unique facilities, which includes a guard house, clubhouse, Function Room & Indoor Gym Tennis Court, 50m Freeform Pool Pool Deck, Wading Pool, Splash Pool & Family Pool Jacuzzi & Hydro Spa, BBQ Area Dining and Play Fountain, Fitness Alcove & Children’s Playground and Garden Trail. The condo’s facilities provide full family entertainment needs for your family and loved ones. Indulge in a serene and tranquil lifestyle right in the heart of Punggol.
Ecopolitan

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