An exemplary sentence

41K5ATQ9E5LAlthough I primarily know him as a poet, I love Adam Zagewski’s prose. Here is a snippet from his memoir of his student days in Krakow, Another Beauty,  beautifully translated by Clare Cavanagh. It’s about the cleaning lady for his student apartment:

She was a magpie, a snoop. I suspected her of regularly rummaging though our things and once left a card that said “Please don’t look here” in my desk drawer. Helena took offense and didn’t speak to me for several days, and then, when her anger had subsided, she reproached me bitterly: “How could you even think such a thing? So you don’t trust me at all.” Continue reading “An exemplary sentence”

Final trip post

We are actually safely home, but I do have a few last thoughts on our trip, in no particular order

images-5I loved the big car-free squares and pedestrian walkways of Prague and Krakow. I wish we did something similar here–it makes the city so much more inviting. Combined with excellent public transit, it goes a long way to creating space for people to interact in a leisurely way. In Krakow, they even have an elegant pedestrian bridge across the Vistula, as well as walk and bikeways along the edges.

Continue reading “Final trip post”

A miscellany

Today is our last morning in Eastern Europe, but I have several days worth of posts to continue. This one, our day in Kazimierz, the old Jewish section of Krakow. This area seems very lively and energized, with youth hostels competing with museums and ancient synagogues, There is a square with dozens of restaurants stretching between one old synagogue and another. Here are a few shots–one each from the synagogues:

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We happened onto a lovely Klezmer band on the sunny afternoon in Kazimierz, and sat down in an outdoor cafe to listen. Continue reading “A miscellany”


city_map_of_KrakowThe first thing we do in each new city is get a little tourist map from the hotel that gives a basic outline of the city and lists the main sights. I thought about this wandering around Krakow yesterday, so many of us with our little maps, exploring.

city_sightseeing_route_map_san_franciscoIt made me think about what would be on a tourist map of San Francisco–the museums, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, the ferries, Alcatraz… and how that wouldn’t be my idea of the city at all. I don’t think you can hope to get to know a city by seeing its sights or even shopping in its markets or going to its museums. Tourists can’t penetrate beyond the outer layer of a city. But still, it’s fun to see the great sights, and for me best of all, to wander the streets somewhat aimlessly.

Being a tourist by definition is being an outsider. And I know as an inhabitant you might never get around to seeing the things on the map. Just the history here is overwhelming–poor Poland, invaded over and over by Tartars, Swedes, Germans, Russians, burned, ravaged, partitioned… And yet, great things happened here.

imagesThe hotel we’re staying in was where Copernicus stayed when he visited the city 500 years ago, writing his tract on a heliocentric universe. The main square has been excavated to discover and display the layers of history going back to over a thousand years. The university is one of the oldest in Europe.

copernNot to mention one of the pleasures of travel–discovering a swimming pool and sauna in the basement of your hotel!