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Poland: Part 16 – Last Full Day in Poland, and THE TEMPTATION OF QUIET VERONICA

June 29 – 12:10PM

Today is our last full day in Poland.  We’re leaving for Toronto tomorrow.

To be honest, I’m kind of glad.  I like Poland just fine, but I really just want to go home now.

I slept in this morning, and then had a big breakfast of crépes with Jiv, Ryan, Reid, Yev and Alexi.

With my stomach full, I set off for one last solo-tour of the Wroclaw square.  I went into some shops I hadn’t seen yet.  I revisited some ones I was already familiar with.  My pen was starting to run out (my journal is almost full!), so I bought a new one and am using it right now.

I sat in the square and listened to people speaking different languages.  I enjoyed the weather.  It’s a nice day today.

12:55PM

I’m back at the hostel.  This place is in really good condition, and nicely decorated.  The beds and bathrooms are pretty nice, and a dream compared to what we dealt with in Poznan.  The staff (a family, I believe) seem a bit rude and resentful – like they really don’t enjoy running a hostel.  I’m almost afraid to ask for the key at the front desk, as it’s usually accompanied by a rolling of eyes and some attitude.

Pro tip:  hostels are a good place to donate old computers to.  As somebody who has now been in a few hostels, I can’t stress how important basic Internet connectivity is.  Just a thought.

I think I’m starting to get over my cold a little.  I seem to be over the worst of it, anyhow.  Others in the group are starting to get sick though – it’ll be good to get everyone home and rested.

We were going to see a Pina Bausch talk-back session today, but it was canceled due to sudden health problems (Pina Bausch unfortunately passed away on June 30th, a day after this entry was written).

Tomorrow is going to be a long day.  We’re waking up at 6AM.  Then, a 7 hour bus ride to Warsaw.  After that, an 8-9 hour flight to Toronto.  Both Yev and Jiv have offered me a ride from Pearson Airport back to my apartment – I’m grateful, and at this point I’ll climb into the first car I see.

I’m not sure what the best course of action is jet-lag-wise, so I’ll probably just try to stay awake for the entire trip home and see if that works.

When I get back, I’ll take a few days to rest.  I’ll hang out with Em and the guys.  I’ll write a few blog posts.  I’ll upload photos.  Then, I’ll be back to work on MarkUs (I wonder how Nelle and Severin are coming along?).

10:30PM

After hanging around the hostel for a bit, Alex and I left and walked around downtown. We chatting about the trip, and what we were going to do when we get home.

Eventually, we headed to the theatre to see a film recording of a Krystian Lupa play.  I tried my best to enjoy it, but I really couldn’t get into it.  Like I mentioned earlier, video recordings of plays often don’t work well at all for me.

I think I napped through a good chunk of the film.  Eventually, it ended, and I caught up with Alexi and Yev as they were leaving the theatre.

And it was absolutely pouring out.  Buckets.  Torrents.  Huge rainfall.  I was scared to take out my camera for a photo in case I damaged it, so I can only describe it:  lots of rain.

We went back to the hostel to rejoin the rest of the group, and then purchased tram tickets for the next (and final) theatre piece of the trip:  The Temptation of Quiet Veronica.

THE TEMPTATION OF QUIET VERONICA (or KUSZENIE CICHEJ WERONIKI) directed by Krystian Lupa

Maybe it was the exhaustion.  Maybe it was the fact that my body was starting to rebel against this trip.  Maybe I’d just seen to much theatre these past two weeks.

Whatever the reason, I just could not keep my mind on the show.  The only remarkable thing I can think of happened just as the play was beginning.

I’m sitting in between Ryan and Alex.  The stage is still dark, and the audience is buzzing.  Ryan looks at us and says, very seriously, “I swear to god, if I see one more naked person, I think I’m going to flip out.”

The house lights started to dim.  The stage lights lit up.  And guess what was standing there, spread-eagle in the middle of the stage?

You guessed it.

For the rest of the show, all I could really focus on was Ryan’s hand, gripping, white-knuckled, on to my knee.

The Last Supper

It was our last supper together in Poland.  We decided to head back to that same place we’d eaten at after seeing CLEANSED, and what our tour guide called “the oldest restaurant in Europe”.

Inside the oldest restaurant in Europe!
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Inside the oldest restaurant in Europe!29-Jun-2009 16:37, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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29-Jun-2009 16:37, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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29-Jun-2009 16:37, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 

It was an important dinner.

This trip marks the end of an era for me. I’ve known the people I’m traveling with pretty intimately for about 4 years.  We’ve acted together, studied together, sweated, presented, and complained together.  It’s a tight group, and when this trip is over, it will signal the end of my time studying at the UCDP.

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29-Jun-2009 17:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.31, 13.7mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:26, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:27, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.27 sec, ISO 100

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:27, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.86, 10.9mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
Ryan and Alex get the ribs!
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Ryan and Alex get the ribs!29-Jun-2009 17:28, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.1, 6.9mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 129

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:52, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.08, 6.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
Ryan Cooley does a killer Woody Allan impression
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Ryan Cooley does a killer Woody Allan impression29-Jun-2009 17:54, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 173

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:59, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.92, 6.2mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 

Glad to go out with a bang, though!  We bought Tamara a cake with an explosive on top:

Cake!
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Cake!29-Jun-2009 17:34, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.084 sec, ISO 100

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:34, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.132 sec, ISO 100

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:34, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.105 sec, ISO 100

 
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29-Jun-2009 17:55, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.345 sec, ISO 100

 
Thank you Tamara!
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Thank you Tamara!29-Jun-2009 17:55, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.175 sec, ISO 100

 

It was a good dinner.  Afterwards, we all headed back to the hostel and went to bed.  With layovers, tomorrow was going to be a 20 hour trip home.

Click here to go to Part 17: Homeward Bound, Final Entry

Click here to go back to Part 15: Back to Wroclaw, Suzuki, FRAGMENTS, and NEFÉS

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Poland: Part 15 – Back to Wroclaw, Suzuki, FRAGMENTS, and NEFÉS

June 28th – Early Afternoon

I awoke all stuffed up, miserable, and sore this morning.  Really didn’t sleep well.  I know I’ve been complaining a lot lately about this cold, but I’m actually pretty lucky that it hit me at the end of the trip, as opposed to the beginning.

After breakfast, we got on the bus and drove for 2.5 hours back to Wroclaw.  Tried to nap on the bus, but no luck.

It’s good to be back in Wroclaw, and around relatively familiar surroundings – it’s probably the closest thing I could call to home out here.  Compared to Poznan, Wroclaw fits me like a pair of comfy running shoes.

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29-Jun-2009 07:28, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.84, 10.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 64

 

We’re at a different hostel this time.  I like the decor.  I think Em would like it, too:

Our last hostel, back in Wroclaw
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Our last hostel, back in Wroclaw29-Jun-2009 08:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 118

 
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29-Jun-2009 08:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 156

 

After unloading our stuff at the hostel, we went to go have dinner.  Guess what we ate?  Pirogies!  I have to admit, I was getting a little sick of eating pirogies day in and day out, but I figured it’d be a long time before I had authentic Polish pirogies again, so I ate up.

2:55PM

I’m at a theatre, watching a talk session with Tadashi Suzuki, the famed Japanese theatre director/philosopher, and founder of the Suzuki Method of Actor Training (not to be confused with the training technique for music).  So, what’s the Suzuki Method of Actor Training?  Hard for me to say – I’ve never taken it.  But my movement instructor learned Suzuki during a sabbatical, and my girlfriend Em ended up learning it in her class.  From what I’d heard, it’s a lot of leg-work, feet-work, stomping, etc.  Here’s a description of a Suzuki course to give you an idea:

Suzuki is a powerful physical training technique drawing from ballet, martial arts, Kabuki and other disciplines. Focusing on breath, the center and the lower body, with stomping, slow movement and explosive gestures, Suzuki brings attention to the voice and its connection to the body.

Anyhow, I’m watching him during this talk-back session, and it’s a pretty interesting interview process.

You see, I don’t believe Suzuki speaks English or Polish.  The interviewer speaks both Japanese and Polish, but only Japanese to Suzuki.  Suzuki responds in Japanese, which goes through his personal translator, who speaks it in Polish.  A fourth guy on the edge then translates the Polish into English to give us poor Canadian sods an idea of what’s going on.

I must admit, I welcome the opportunity to zone out a bit while I wait for the English.

Here’s a shot of the linguistic circus:

At the Suzuki talk
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At the Suzuki talk28-Jun-2009 09:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.37 sec, ISO 100

 

The talk seems to be centered around modern technology, and how Suzuki believes it is damaging our collecting ability to remember our history.  Interesting, but I think I’ve heard that one before.

After the talk, I got up, realized I was exhausted, and headed back to the hostel for a short nap.

Late

I woke up at 5:52PM with a start.  The hostel was empty.  I’m groggy, and I have the faint suspicion that something is wrong.  Unable to fathom what it is, I put on my clothes and stretch.

And that’s when I notice my ticket for the next show:  it’s supposed to start at 6PM.

I have a lightning fast consultation with the hostel computer for directions to the theatre, and then a quick chat with the hostel desk girl for advice on shortcuts, and then I hit the street.  I sprint to the theatre at top speed.

And somehow, magically, I make it.  I was lucky – the theatre was pretty close to our hostel.  I enter the building and eventually find my comrades who had had no idea that I’d been sleeping when they’d left.

I didn’t even know what show I was seeing, until I looked at my ticket again…

FRAGMENTS By Samuel Beckett, Directed By Peter Brook

Wow!  Samuel Beckett and Peter Brook!  Now those are two names I definitely recognize.  I had studied Brook in both highschool and University, and Beckett in the latter.

I even saw Peter Brook that night – I walked past him in the lobby.  He was in the middle of a conversation with someone else, so I didn’t interrupt (I don’t even know what I would have said if I had…”you do great work”…?).

He’s shorter than I thought he’d be.

Anyhow, the show was absolutely awesome.  I loved it, back to front.

Fragments is a series of shorts originally written by Samuel Beckett.  The set was very sparse, containing only what was necessary.  The costumes were simple.  The acting was fantastic.

What was it?  Well, pretty black comedy is what I saw.  Gallows humour.

A one legged beggar and a blind beggar try to strike up a mutually beneficial relationship.

A lady in a rocking chair speaks hypnotic circles while waiting (and yearning) for death to take her.

Two men wake up in burlap sacks.  One goes through his day, “worldweary and bemused”, with every possible obstacle in life causing him to groan and sigh.  The other man goes through his day (and the same obstacles) with unbelievable energy and optimism.  Both end up in the same place at the end.  Classic Beckett, and wonderful clowning by the two actors.

Those were the three shorts that stood out for me, anyhow.  I really enjoyed them.

After the show, we all rushed out to the opera theatre…we had another show to see.

NEFÉS by Pina Bausch

Wow!  Another name I recognize!  From what I know about her (which, admittedly isn’t much) Bausch’s name is synonymous with incredible and original choreography in modern dance.

And that’s what we saw.  Incredible dance.  Incredibly choreographed, and incredibly executed.

I won’t lie – I’m a sucker for contemporary dance.  I lapped this show right up.

This, despite a partially obstructed view (the old opera theatre was gold and gorgeously ornate, but had some unfortunately placed pillars).

I can’t even begin to describe the dancing.  This clip is the best I can do:

Anyhow, thumbs up.  Here’s a shot of the curtain call:

The Pina Bausch dancers!
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The Pina Bausch dancers!28-Jun-2009 17:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.98, 11.6mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 

After leaving, I grabbed a few slices of pizza and chatted about the show with Ryan, Sonia, Chantelle and Una.  It was generally positive reviews.

I went back to the hostel, shaved, showered, and hit the sack.  Tomorrow would be our last full day in Wroclaw, and in Poland.

Click here to go to Part 16: Last Full Day in Poland, and THE TEMPTATION OF QUIET VERONICA

Click here to go back to Part 14: Guerilla Walk and CALIGULA

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Poland: Part 14 – Guerilla Walk and CALIGULA

June 27th

My journal for this day starts with an entry at 10AM,  recapping what happened the night before.  The next entry is at 1:55PM.  I’d have to conclude from this that it was a slow morning – probably just eating breakfast, checking email, and chatting with the others.

1:55PM

Apparently, tickets for the Guerilla Walk (an event that both Tamara and Peter praised endlessly last night) are sold out.  We’ve been put on the standby list though, so we’ll see if we can get lucky there.

I’m feeling pretty tired and incoherent.  Again, the bunks in this hostel aren’t very comfortable.  Not sure what I want to do today…

I’m in the Poznan square with Linn, Yev and Alexi.  We’re feeding pigeons.

My throat is still really sore, but Tara and Tom gave me some Robatussin, Alexi gave me some Polish cold medication, and Yev gave me some vitamin C.  And I’m constantly munching on Halls.

Hopefully it’s not a lethal combination.

4:35PM

I’m with Yev and Alexi, and we just watched a film called “Attempt of a Portrait of Jerzy Grotowski”.  Pretty interesting.  Next is another (rare) film on Grotowski, which demonstrates some of his rehearsal techniques.

I found a YouTube clip of the video:

The actor demonstrating it is ripped, and moves his body really violently…he’s snapping his neck around all over the place (see 4:00 onward).  It looks uncomfortable, but I guess he knows what he’s doing.

We’re going to watch a bit of it, and then leave to try to do the Guerilla Walk thing.

5:30PM

After watching a bit of the second Grotowski film, Yev, Alexi and I made a break for it and headed to the meeting place for the Guerilla Walk.

I wasn’t entirely sure what this Guerilla Walk thing was…Peter and Tamara had been (intentionally?) vague about it – saying that we just had to do it.

When we got there, we found out that some folks who had reserved tickets couldn’t make it – so we, the standbys, got the tickets.  Thank you drama gods!

We got into a lineup, and noticed that a bunch of other folks from the UCDP had also made it in.  We got closer and closer to the end of the line, and when we got there, a person asked for our passports.  Apparently, we would be getting a headphone set for listening to our tour guides (like at Auschwitz), and they wanted our passports as deposits.

Hm.  As a cautious traveler, this set off warning bells.  I had been instructed from the get-go to not let my passport get out of sight, and that Canadian passports are particularly valuable on the black market.  But, I watched my comrades fork over their Canadian passports for their headsets, and I eventually did the same.

So, I got my wireless headphones, and waited in the designated area for the “walk” to begin.

THE GUERILLA WALK – By Olliwood Productions

This might have been my favourite part about our trip to Poland.  I’ll do my best to describe it.

The tour group was about…I’d guess, 50 people.  All of us had wireless headphones on.

There were two tour guides.  One was decked out with an impressive portable DJ-ing rig and broadcasting system (large antenna out of his backpack).  The other guide had headphones similar to ours, but with a microphone to speak to us.  There was also some support guys walking around with spare batteries for our headphones in case we started to run low.  There was a camera guy filming us.

The banter between the two tour guides was absolutely hilarious.  It was something like morning-radio-show banter, mixed with highly-skilled freestyle rap.

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

Our guides then took us on adventures in the city.  We walked through a town hall (?…seemed like some sort of administrative building…) that Hitler had once visited, and listened to Chaplin imitating him from The Great Dictator.  We were then led out of the “bowels” of the building on to the street.

And already, we were putty in their hands.  The guides were very skilled at making us all feel like a mob that was cooler than anyone else around us who wasn’t wearing headphones.  A strange feeling of invincibility seemed to sweep through us as we marched along, invading various parts of the city.

We would periodically stop to watch our tour guides complete some kind of “mission”.  For example, they would do some “Guerilla planting”, and plant a flower at a city park.  Other times, they’d climb up a portable ladder to second-story apartments and say hello to the people inside.  If they found a lady, they’d ask for a lock of her hair.

They would chat with interesting people they found on the street, and give them a microphone so we could hear what they were saying.

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

And the entire time, there was a cool hip-hop back-beat, and periodic freestyle rapping from the DJ.  The entire tour group would dance sporadically.  I’m sure we looked silly or strange to people without headphones walking around us…but we just didn’t care.

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

Eventually, our guides led us inside of a building.  We walked up a flight of steps, and through some dark passageways.  There was a lot of us, and it was getting cramped.  Our destination was a darkroom, and it was pitch black.  All of us, all of the tour group, was in pitch black.  And then suddenly, beer was being passed around, our tour-guide lit up his neon suit, and we were having an impromptu “darkroom disco”.  Most of the music was Michael Jackson.  And it was awesome.  We danced, blindly.  We held hands with silent strangers that we couldn’t see.  Whooping and hollering in the dark.  Very cool experience.

We eventually left the darkroom disco.  The beer had really loosened up the tour group, and we were all getting pretty silly and dancy.  We waited for a streetcar, and danced until it finally showed up.

There were a few other missions after the darkroom disco…we put up some QR Codes around the city, saying things like “Something from nothing”, or “I love you”.

We gathered at a public, indoor swimming pool, stood around it, and sang a song about amoebas.

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

We intercepted a wedding party and talked to the newlyweds.

We saw Stormtroopers.

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

It was 3.5 hours of amazing.  And it ended in fireworks and a huge Michael Jackson dance off in the middle of Poznan square near one of the impromptu shrines:

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

Onlookers without headphones gawked as we danced our buns off to music that only we could hear.

Photo Credit:  Alex Rubin
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Photo Credit: Alex Rubin

 

But why just tell you about it, when I can show you?  They filmed the whole thing.  I pop up a few times in the video, along with my comrades.  This will give you a good idea of what we were doing.

After the tour, and after we’d calmed down a bit (the whole experience had really pumped us up), Jiv and I had an interesting conversation about the meaning of the piece.

While it could simply be viewed as a fun tour, Jiv noted certain patterns in its design and content.  Patterns like the amoeba song, the Hitler speech, the blind darkroom dance.  He said that it was an interesting study in mob mentality – and that it really only takes a charismatic, likable leader (our tour guides), and direct 1-way communication (the headsets) to create a mob.  We had become a benign, dancing, adventuring mob.  But violent, dangerous mobs could be created in the same way.  I think Jiv is right.

After the Guerilla Walk, we grabbed some food (we were starving), and then went to go see Caligula.

Caligula was being performed outdoors.  It was becoming a chilly night – I hoped the actors would be warm enough.

As an interesting aside:  outside of the theatre space, there was a monument to the Polish men and women who had worked on cracking the Enigma cipher:

Monument for Enigma cypher codebreakers
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Monument for Enigma cypher codebreakers27-Jun-2009 16:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 
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27-Jun-2009 16:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 
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27-Jun-2009 16:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 
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27-Jun-2009 16:47, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 148

 

I studied that for a bit, and then we went inside to see the show.

CALIGULA by Tomaž Pandur

Here’s the description of the show from the Malta! Festival website (though it looks like they just pumped the Polish version through Google Translate):

Caligula is a spectacle based on the Albert Camus’ drama but that spectacle suggests a different look at a history of Rome third emperor. It’s the story about the clash great ideas with the narrow-mindedness of the world and about the price that has to be paid by those who strive for perfection. This is the story about little people distroying, with the stubborness, everything that made them aware of their triviality – Caligula was brutally murdered and – what’s worst – he was slandered for ages. Pandula teared the shroud of the lies weaved by the Swetonius, duplicated later by historians and writers, and tells his own version of life and tragical Caligula’s end – the great visioner.

With his theatrical manifesto Caligula proclaims: ” Exciting illusion of the truth, the most beautiful spectacle in the world, the perfect place for the acts of God in the Earth, wonderful and attraction uncompared with anything, the thunder and lightning, destiny in the triumphal march… it’s the art of drama… people make mistakes because they do not believe enought in theatre.” This way the Caligula life became a living theatre, the journey without limits to the galaxy of everything what is invisible and unaware. The crowned poet with the divine clairvoyance of a hermit.

Hm.  Not the clearest description I’ve ever heard.  I’ll do my best to tell you what I saw.

Remember how I hoped that the actors would be warm?

Well, guess what?  The actors performed the entire time wearing next to nothing.  In water.  It wasn’t just a wet stage…it was…like, half a foot of water that the actors were standing and performing in.  I was freezing just watching them.

So, this was another take on the story of Caligula, the third Roman emperor.

And it was visually stunning.  I already told you about the flooded outdoor stage, but the rest of the set was this series of gray towers that looked like stone.  The towers would silently rearrange themselves in order to change the scenery.  The precision and expertise in the transitions was absolutely fantastic.  A marvel.  It was magic.

Once again, I think a lot of the story was lost in translation for me.  Plus, it was outdoors, and the actors weren’t mic’d (mic’ing would have been a nightmare in all of that water).  So hearing was a bit difficult.

There were certain points in the show that really caught my attention, visually.  The reflection of the water was used liberally to create some neat rippling effects on the set pieces.  Some additional “magic” was done with the set pieces – a stone tower would glide in front of an actor, and after it had passed, two more actors had joined the first.  Neat things like that.

So, visually, this show was stunning.  I also give full kudos to the actors for working in the freezing cold, naked, in water.  I can’t say much for the story or plot.  Still, an interesting show.

Here are some super blurry photos of the cast bowing:

Fuzzy shot of the CALIGULA cast
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Fuzzy shot of the CALIGULA cast27-Jun-2009 18:52, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 156

 
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27-Jun-2009 18:52, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 141

 
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27-Jun-2009 18:52, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 
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27-Jun-2009 18:52, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.38, 14.3mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 156

 
Those big blocks were mobile.  It was magical.
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Those big blocks were mobile. It was magical.27-Jun-2009 18:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 177

 

After the show, we all went back to the hostel.  As usual, reactions to Caligula were mixed.  Eventually, I landed on my lumpy mattress to try sleeping again.  We’d be heading back to Wroclaw the next morning.

Click here to go to Part 15: Back to Wroclaw, Suzuki, FRAGMENTS, and NEFÉS

Click here to go back to Part 13:  First Day in Poznan, Still Sick, and LA MENZOGNA

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Poland – Part 11.5: Back to the Hostel

In my last entry, I finished by saying:

My notes for the day end there, but I imagine I eventually headed back to the hostel and went to sleep.

It turns out that my notes for the next day start with a recap on what happened the night before.  So I can fill in a few blanks here.

Back to the Hostel

I got back to the hostel and found it mostly empty.  Most of the others must have been out doing something else.  Chantelle was there in the common room though, and we filled each other in on what we’d done that day.

After that, we brewed some tea, and played a version of Scrabble where we can make up words, so long as we can define them in a funny way.  It was good times.  As we were playing, more people started to come back and fill up the common room.

I had some jam on bread as a snack, and talked with Peter, Alex, Tara, and Tom about politics (mainly US foreign policy).  Somehow, Sonia convinced me to put some cheese on my jam sandwich.  I noted in my journal that I didn’t think it added much in the way of good flavouring.

It turns out that Chantelle and I hadn’t been the only ones in the hostel – Ryan and Jiv had been there sleeping.  They were both feeling pretty sick.  There was some kind of illness going around, and my throat was starting to get sore, too.

I had a shower, and then I went to bed.

Click here to go to Part 12: Getting Sick, To Poznan, and a Sketchy Hostel

Click here to go back to Part 11: Journey into Auschwitz, and Adventuring Alone in Krakow

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Poland – Part 6: A Taste of Total Freedom

June 19th – 10:00AM

This day started out amazingly.  First, Tamara handed us our second 200z installment of cash.  Second, she told us that besides seeing the festival show that evening, the rest of how we wanted to spend our day was up to each of us.

Total freedom in Wroclaw.  Excellent.

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19-Jun-2009 05:42, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.53, 9.1mm, 0.435 sec, ISO 100

 
Wrotswog the hostel dog tries to mooch some breakfast
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Wrotswog the hostel dog tries to mooch some breakfast19-Jun-2009 05:42, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

So, while chewing on some bread with jam, and playing with the Wrotswog the Hostel Dog, I mentally went over my to-do list:

  1. Get an international phone card, and call home
  2. Get some postcards to send home
  3. Find some souvenirs
  4. Do laundry!

So, I slammed down my toast, got cleaned up, walked out into the warm and humid Wroclaw air, and hit the streets with a few others.

As usual, our feet eventually led us to the market square.  On one street, with large stone spheres as dividers, some booths were set up where people were hocking their wares.

Me, trying to be artsy
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Me, trying to be artsy19-Jun-2009 06:41, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.88, 11.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

 
More Wroclaw gnomes...
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More Wroclaw gnomes…19-Jun-2009 06:40, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.88, 11.0mm, 0.009 sec, ISO 64

 

There were lots of little knick-knacks, but I actually didn’t see much that I hadn’t seen at other similar markets in Toronto.  I was looking for gifts that were unique to the area, and it took me a while to eventually find them.

Here’s a shot of us checking out some wares:

Shopping for Polish knick knacks!
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Shopping for Polish knick knacks!19-Jun-2009 06:56, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 

One highlight was a booth where a German man was selling hand-made wooden puzzles.  He was a good salesman (though I’m pretty sure he was hitting on Linn the whole time), so I bought one of his puzzles.  If you’re interested, and you read German, here is his website.

Here we are trying to solve some of his puzzles:

German puzzles!
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German puzzles!19-Jun-2009 07:30, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.05, 6.7mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

 

Very perplexing.

After a bit more shopping about, we decided to get some lunch.

1:10PM

I was about to get my first plate of pierogi since landing in Poland, and I was starving.  After glacing at the menu,  I ordered “pierogi ruskie” (basic potato, cheese, and onion pierogi), and a Sprite.  Linn was upset because the waiter told us that they were out of the meat pierogies, and didn’t have any without cheese (Linn is lactose intolerant).  So, she ordered fries instead.

Ordering Perogies...
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Ordering Perogies…19-Jun-2009 08:05, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.014 sec, ISO 64

 
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19-Jun-2009 08:07, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.023 sec, ISO 64

 
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19-Jun-2009 08:08, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.018 sec, ISO 64

 

Her fries showed up.  Our pierogies didn’t.

Something like 30 minutes passed.  Eventually, the waiter came back and told us that they were fresh out of pierogies.   Devestated, and famished for real Polish pierogi, I finished the rest of my Sprite, and we decided to try someplace else.

Ironically, Linn was the only one who ended up getting a meal there.

2:00PM

We found another restaurant that looked good, and sat down.  Unfortunately, there were no pierogies on the menu (was there a pierogi shortage?  In Poland?  Impossible!), so I ordered “penne spinaci”.  It was relaxing, sitting out there in the market square under the tent.  A couple of musicians with guitars and accordions played for us.  We got into a conversation with a local.  It was heavenly.  And it felt good to know that there was no rush to do anything – we could play the day however we liked.

And that’s pretty much how the afternoon went – we’d go to some restaurant, sit down, eat and drink for an hour, and then wander around until we got hungry and found another restaurant.  It was awesome.

It was also during that trip that Ryan and Jiv found what we would eventually name “Wizard Hat” – a bar near the Wroclaw University that sold 5z pints of beer.  This would eventually become one of the main watering holes for our group while we were in Wroclaw.

Here’s why it’s called Wizard Hat:

Wizard Hat!
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Wizard Hat!22-Jun-2009 10:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

See it?

Hanging out at Wizard Hat.
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Hanging out at Wizard Hat.19-Jun-2009 10:35, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 86

 

After chewing on some of the gummy candies that Tara had bought at some booth in the market, I decided to head back to the hostel on my own to see if I could find a way to call home.

Outside of our hostel was a convenience store, and somebody in our group had told me earlier that I could get a phone card from there.  So, I walked inside, and (after a lot of gesturing) was able to purchase a 20z “card” (really, just a receipt with a code on it).

So, I walked back up into the hostel, borrowed the hostel phone, and after some trial, error, and help from Tamara (the instructions were all in Polish!), I managed to phone home.

And nobody was there.  Nobody was at my girlfriend Em’s place either.  So, I put it on my “to do” list to try calling again that night after the show.

Putting back the phone, I walked into the common room, where the BBC was reporting on events in Iran.  Riots on the streets, total news blackout (except for social media)…our group watched the news in Iran carefully, especially Tara, who had planned on visiting there after Poland.  It wasn’t looking good.

6:13PM

A few hours passed.  There’s a gap in my journal, so I don’t really know what I did.  All I know, is that at 6:13PM, I was in a theater about to see TEBEK-JARAN (“The Stabbing of the Horse”) by the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble; a Balinese troupe.

So how was The Stabbing of the Horse?

Hypnotic.  I found a YouTube clip posted by someone who was recording the show.  Check it out:

It’s really quite fantastic what she’s doing with her body – very precise, very controlled.  It was impressive.  The whole company moved like this.  It was really other-worldly…I felt like some kind of scientist watching an alien ritual.  Quite incredible.

But, at the time, I have to admit my eyes got pretty heavy after about 20 minutes of that music and movement.  I didn’t understand the language at all, and had no idea what was going on even though they’d handed out a piece of paper explaining the story.  Plus, it was super warm in the theatre.  I won’t lie, I had to struggle to stay conscious.

And then they brought out the horse!  Which was awesome – it was clearly just some actor in a horse costume – but it was freaking hilarious.  The horse came out, played with the audience for a bit, and that perked me right back up.

And then they killed it. They stabbed the horse, my favourite character, just as it was getting good.  But I shouldn’t have been surprised – the title of the show was The Stabbing of the Horse.  What did I expect?

Hrmph.  Maybe if I knew more about the culture, I would have gotten more out of the performance.  Oh well,  I gave it my best shot.

After the show, Tamara gave us the option to see a performance of Macbeth.  Personally, I was completely drained from the last show, and decided to head back to the hostel.

Back at the hostel, I successfully called both my parents and my girlfriend Em.  It was good to hear their voices, and totally crazy to think that it was only 3PM back home.  It was like time travel.  My mind boggled.

Eventually, we met up with the people who saw Macbeth – and apparently, it was incredible.  I’d write more about it, except that I didn’t see it.  But according to them,  it was awesome.

After we met up with them, a few of us stopped by a Greek restaurant for some gyros.  We discussed the shows a bit, and I heard more impressions about Macbeth.  After our discussion, we left, and started heading back to the hostel.

We were just walking through the middle of the market square, when all of a sudden, it hit me:  I didn’t have my camera on me.  I’d forgotten it at the gyro restaurant!  I peeled out, and flew back to the restaurant.

The restaurant was empty – it looked like they were about to close.  And my camera was nowhere to be seen.  Finally, the European thieves and pick-pockets that I’d been warned about had struck.

And then the manager came out and gave me my camera back.  I felt like quite a shmuck.

11:52PM

After thanking the manager, I left the restaurant, and ran smack dab into another group of my fellow travelers who had taken a different route back from Macbeth.  They were hungry, and I was up for hanging out, so we stopped at another restaurant.  This one was a fancy Italian place.

Have you been keeping track?  Let’s count how many times I sat down to eat that day:

  1. Breakfast at the hostel
  2. Failed pierogi mission
  3. Penne spinaci, with accordian music
  4. Wizard Hat
  5. Gyros at the Greek restaurant
  6. Fancy Italian restaurant

Holy smokes!

So there we were:  Jiv, Ryan, Una, Linn, and Sonia, sitting at this fancy Italian restaurant, being loud and obnoxious, as per usual.  It took us about 20 minutes to finally realize that we were sitting in a restaurant geared towards romance, and that many of the couples around us weren’t appreciating how much noise we were making.

So we paid our bill and left.

And we went home.  And slept.  I hadn’t bought any postcards, and I still had laundry to do.

Oh well.  Plenty of time for that.

Click here to go to Part 7:  An Official Tour of Wroclaw

Click here to go back to Part 5:  Exploring Wroclaw

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