Tag Archives: wroclaw

Poland: Part 17 – Homeward Bound, Final Entry

June 30 – 8:53AM (Poland Time)

We’re on the road, on our way from Wroclaw to Warsaw.

We had gotten up at 5:30AM, said goodbye to Una, Linn, Tara, Tom and Sonia (they were staying behind in Europe), packed, and boarded the bus.

We’re making good time – there’s light traffic and good weather.  We’re at a rest stop for breakfast:

On the road to Warsaw
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On the road to Warsaw30-Jun-2009 03:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 82

 
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30-Jun-2009 03:47, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 93

 
It was a curiously impressive rest stop.
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It was a curiously impressive rest stop.30-Jun-2009 03:54, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
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30-Jun-2009 03:54, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 64

 

3:07PM (Poland Time)

We arrived at the airport in Warsaw around 1PM.

Chopin Airport
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Chopin Airport30-Jun-2009 08:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.026 sec, ISO 64

 
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30-Jun-2009 08:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.026 sec, ISO 64

 
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30-Jun-2009 08:49, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.014 sec, ISO 64

 
Mullets are popular in Poland.
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Mullets are popular in Poland.30-Jun-2009 09:42, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.048 sec, ISO 100

 

We hung around, got our bags checked, and eventually said goodbye to Tamara.  She’d be traveling home sometime later.  Thanks so much for the great trip, Tamara!

Bye Tamara!  Thank you for everything!  You're amazing!
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Bye Tamara! Thank you for everything! You're amazing!30-Jun-2009 09:48, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 64

 

Security was no fuss.  We killed time in the duty free waiting for our flight.  I bought a chocolate bar with my last 10z.  We board at 4PM.

Jiv prowls the duty free
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Jiv prowls the duty free30-Jun-2009 09:56, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

 

We’re all really anxious to get home.  I think we’re all pretty sick of traveling now – and we have an 8+ hour flight ahead of us.  Just look at these faces.

We just want to get out of here
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We just want to get out of here30-Jun-2009 10:33, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 
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30-Jun-2009 10:33, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
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30-Jun-2009 10:33, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 64

 

We just want to get home.

Eventually we boarded the plane:

8 hour plane ride!  Woo!
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8 hour plane ride! Woo!30-Jun-2009 12:17, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.77, 10.4mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 64

 

7:05PM (Poland Time)

We’re already an hour into the flight.  Somehow, this plane isn’t giving me too much confidence.

The safety video (on a single screen at the front of the plane) kept flickering in and out, and I think I missed a lot of important information.

There were several instances where music would start to play for a few seconds in the cabin, and then abruptly stop.

Ryan and Jiv just noticed that there’s water dripping on them from above the overhead compartment.

My headphones don’t seem to work unless I hold them in.

And there’s masking tape holding part of the wall together.

A Lapse in Writing Cohesion

At this point in my journal, my writing really started to deteriorate.  The timestamps have less and less meaning as I travel across time zones.  I think my pen was starting to run out of ink, I was exhausted, and the boredom of the flight was starting to drive me nuts.  I’ll do my best to translate the scrawl that ended my journal.

8:50PM (Poland Time)

No idea where we are, so no real clue on what the actual time is.  Still, it’s pretty bright out.  Looks like mid-afternoon outside.  This is going to be the longest day of my life.

I’m trying to read Guns, Germs and Steel, but I just can’t concentrate.  I can’t wait to be home.

10:20PM (Poland Time)

Hannah Montana is the inflight film.  SHOOT ME.

GET.  ME.  OFF.  THIS.  PLANE.
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GET. ME. OFF. THIS. PLANE.30-Jun-2009 15:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 
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30-Jun-2009 15:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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30-Jun-2009 15:02, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
GET US OUT OF HERE
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GET US OUT OF HERE30-Jun-2009 15:02, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.476 sec, ISO 100

 

The minutes are crawling by.  3 or 4 more hours.  Pen is starting to fail me.

11:45PM (Poland Time)

Still bright out.  Spooky.  About to get our second meal!  Surprise:  it’s a sandwich.  And the Nutcracker Suite just came on in my headphones again.  That’s 6 times in total now.

12:55AM (Poland Time)

Just filled out declaration card for Canada Customs.  There are lots of confused people who don’t speak English on the plane.  Lots of passengers standing up, and gesturing to one another frantically.  Wish I could help, but I don’t speak Polish.

1 hour remaining.  Can’t wait.  Flying over Québec.

Final Entry

Got off the plane.  Buzzed through customs.  Luggage was late getting onto the carousel, but it eventually showed up.  Said lots of goodbyes to people.  Jiv’s family offered to drive me home, and I gratefully accepted.

Noticed plenty of garbage on the streets on the drive in – though I had imagined more.

Eventually showed up at my apartment in Toronto.  Said goodbye to Jiv and his family.

Went inside.  Fingers barely worked.  Made contact with Em, the guys, and my family to let them know I was alive.

And then collapsed into bed.  It was good to be home.

Click here to go back to My Poland Journal: Index

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

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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 10: Journey To Krakow, Wawel Hill, and The Dragon

June 23, 5:10AM

At 5:10AM, a huge clap of thunder woke us all with a start.  Groaning,  moaning, and uttering expletives… we tried to go back to sleep, but the thunder storm and heavy rain raged all around us.

And then, eventually, the storm moved off…finally, we could sleep…

…but before it could happen, one by one, our alarm clocks started to go off.  It was time to leave.

Grumbling, lights flicked on, and we headed to the washrooms and showers…

6:12AM

A few people reported that there was some food missing from the hostel kitchen.  Tom and Tara reported half a carton of chocolate milk had been pilfered, and half of Linn’s salami was missing.

Apparently, some of the guests thought we wouldn’t mind sharing.  Or there was a mix up.

Either way, it didn’t improve anyone’s mood.

Not long after, we packed up our stuff, got on the bus, and left Wroclaw for Krakow.

10:27AM

We had been on the bus for a few hours, and I had been trying (unsuccessfully) to take a nap.  I eventually gave up, and I joined in with a bunch of the group who were quizzing each other on Canadian provinces and U.S. states.

It turns out that I know relatively little about Canadian provinces, and next to nothing about U.S. states.  Hmph.

Eventually, we pulled over at a rest stop.  I took the opportunity to try some of the local junk food, and purchased two chocolate bars – a “Corny Big” and a “3Bit”.  They tasted better than they sound.

Tamara also took the opportunity to tell us how the rest of the trip was going to work.  She also lightly condemned the last hostel, which was clearly not to her liking.

While talking about the rest of the trip, she mentioned that she had arranged for us to visit Auschwitz for the next morning.  The group got quiet.  Tamara also said that she had left open the possibility of visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines after Auschwitz, but that it would really depend on our mood.  We would probably be upset after Auschwitz, and would want to go home and rest.

12:30PM

We arrived at the hostel around 11:30PM, and man, what a difference!  The place was absolutely spartan, the rooms were gorgeous, the views were incredible… we were quite happy, as you can see:

Yev and Alexi, posing in the Krakow hostel!
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Yev and Alexi, posing in the Krakow hostel!23-Jun-2009 06:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.15, 7.1mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 156

 
Una is digging the room
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Una is digging the room23-Jun-2009 06:39, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.15, 7.1mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 
Linn likes the room too!
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Linn likes the room too!23-Jun-2009 06:39, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.05, 12.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 181

 

Yes, it was a welcome change.  In case you’re interested, the hostel was called “Cracow Hostel Apartment“.  You can see more photos of the place if you click these words – but having been there, it’s pretty clear that these photos try to make the rooms seem bigger with lens effects.

So we had nice rooms.  But guess what?

Peter got the pent house! The lucky guy got the hostel apartment!  The room was incredible!  It was too bad we were only staying a few nights.

The hostel was particularly awesome because it was in the Market Square.  Here are a few shots of the view from the common room window:

Our view from the Krakow hostel common room window
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Our view from the Krakow hostel common room window23-Jun-2009 07:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.91, 6.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 64

 
Looks like rain...
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Looks like rain…23-Jun-2009 07:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.91, 6.2mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
Krakow market square - looks a lot like Wroclaw's, doesn't it?
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Krakow market square – looks a lot like Wroclaw's, doesn't it?23-Jun-2009 07:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.91, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

Wow!  (Looks a lot like Wroclaw, doesn’t it?  That’s what I thought, too.)

If it isn’t clear from the photos, it was still drizzling out.  But that didn’t mean we weren’t starving.  After unpacking and cleaning up, we hit the pavement to try to find some lunch.

Wandering through Krakow
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Wandering through Krakow23-Jun-2009 07:41, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.27, 7.7mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 64

 

1:06PM

This was lunch:

Mmmm....I don't remember what it was, but it was tasty.
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Mmmm….I don't remember what it was, but it was tasty.23-Jun-2009 07:54, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.12 sec, ISO 100

 

And this was where we ate it:

This restaurant was called "Chimera", I think...
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This restaurant was called "Chimera", I think…23-Jun-2009 07:56, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.313 sec, ISO 100

 

The place was called ChimeraInteresting concept for a restaurant.

1:41PM

After leaving the restaurant, Tamara took us on a walking tour of the surrounding area:

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23-Jun-2009 08:32, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 64

 
Exploring Krakow
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Exploring Krakow23-Jun-2009 08:36, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 
I think this is Krakow University
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I think this is Krakow University23-Jun-2009 08:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.012 sec, ISO 64

 
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23-Jun-2009 08:42, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.06, 12.1mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 

The rain had stopped, and the air was left dripping with humidity.

We stopped by a church called Bazylika Sw Franciszka Z Asyzku XIII W.  Hm.  Maybe I wasn’t hearing right, but apparently there was some stained-glass work by Adam Mickiewicz there…

Here are some shots from the church.  Not the greatest shots I’ve ever taken, but hey – it was dark in there:

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23-Jun-2009 08:49, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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23-Jun-2009 08:49, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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23-Jun-2009 08:50, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.476 sec, ISO 100

 
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23-Jun-2009 08:51, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.57, 9.3mm, 0.476 sec, ISO 100

 
Shroud of Turin?  In Krakow?  Maybe it's a photocopy...
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Shroud of Turin? In Krakow? Maybe it's a photocopy…23-Jun-2009 08:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.16, 12.7mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 222

 

I don’t know if Mickiewicz did the stained-glass – regardless, here’s a shot of one of the pieces:

Poseidon!
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Poseidon!23-Jun-2009 08:50, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.55, 16.0mm, 0.039 sec, ISO 100

 

2:07PM

We left the church, and meandered through the streets.

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23-Jun-2009 09:17, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

Eventually, we found ourselves at an outcropping called Wawel – home of Wawel Castle, which was to be our next stop.

A castle in Krakow.  The main castle, I believe.
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A castle in Krakow. The main castle, I believe.23-Jun-2009 09:13, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
The castle from the "front".
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The castle from the "front".23-Jun-2009 09:17, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

Here’s a window dog we saw on our way to the castle ramp.  It breaks the narrative, but I can’t resist:

Window dog
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Window dog23-Jun-2009 09:15, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

And while I’m breaking narrative, here’s Alex posing in front of a Bauhaus poster:

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23-Jun-2009 09:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

 

…and eventually, we found ourselves climbing the ramp up to Wawel Castle:

Going into the castle...
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Going into the castle…23-Jun-2009 09:21, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.5, 15.5mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
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23-Jun-2009 09:24, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

Here’s a view from one of the castle turrets:

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23-Jun-2009 09:24, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

At the castle gate, we bought tickets to enter, and to see the “Dragon’s Den” underneath the castle grounds.  We were stoked.

2:45PM – Wawel Castle

High security.  Metal detectors.  Armed guards.  This place wasn’t taking any chances.  There was a very strict code of conduct in there – no sitting, no leaning on walls, keep quiet, and absolutely no pictures.  So I just took notes.

So I can’t show you what it was like inside, but I can try to describe it:

It was a museum.  Stone and hardwood floors.  Quiet like a tomb.  Marble staircases.  Wooden cabinets, uncomfortable looking wooden chairs, wooden tables…tapestries, beds.  Old paintings.

Tamara told us a story about how when the Germans invaded, relics and artifacts were smuggled out of Europe.  It turns out that some relics from Wawel Castle eventually found themselves holed up with a cloister of nuns in Canada.  Go figure.

Everything was ornate, and gold rimmed.  Even the ceilings were covered in gold.

Oh the hell with it – so I couldn’t take any photos: that doesn’t mean I can’t scrape some from off the Internet.  Here’s what I was seeing, care of this website:

There, that’s better.  I’ve always been a visual kind of guy.

Check out the ceiling on this room:

You probably can just barely see them, but those are human heads carved and painted into the ceiling.  Just staring down.  And one has his mouth gagged.  It was creepy.  Apparently, those heads were carved by Sebastian Tauerbach back in the 1500s.

3:55PM

The castle wasn’t the only thing on Wawel Hill.  Inevitably, there was a church – Wawel Cathedral.

So, interesting theatre connection with Wawel Cathedral:

There was a theatre artist who wanted to do a show in the cathedral.  His idea for the play:  that all of the tapestries and statues would come to life on the night before Easter to demonstrate the resurrection of Christ.  It was like Night at the Museum, but with 100% more Jesus.

Anyhow, that play was called Akropolis, and would eventually be staged by Jerzy Grotowski in the 1960’s. Grotowki’s spin on it was to stage it in Auschwitz instead of the Wawel Cathedral.

Anyhow, Grotowki’s Akropolis caused ripples in the theatre world, and was a shining example of the “poor theatre” that he was striving to achieve.

For the people who don’t study drama, Grotowski, Poor Theater, and Akropolis are a pretty big deal.  I’ve seen a taping of Akropolis a few times…it’s one of the few recordings of Grotowski’s work.

Anyhow, that’s the connection.  We were inside the cathedral where that whole thing began.

4:02PM

Walking through the cathedral.  Once again, I couldn’t take any photos.

Description:  high ceilings, gold, tapestries, stained glass.  Gothic architecture.  Gold alter.  Chandaliers.  Ornate, dark woodwork.  Coffins and tombs.  Sarcophagi.

There was a narrow, claustrophobic staircase that led up to the cathedral bell tower.  It was windy up there, and the bells were absolutely massive.  Huge cast-iron things.  Mother of all bells.  I couldn’t help myself – I whipped out my camera like a gunslinger, and snuck a shot:

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23-Jun-2009 11:21, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.313 sec, ISO 100

 

Yeah, I know – doesn’t look that impressive.  It’s due to lack of size reference points.  You’ve just got to trust me.

There were tombs in the basement.  Thick marble slabs, stone… there were some disturbingly small sarcophagi too.

The tombs got more modern the farther through we went – towards the end, we saw tombs with the occupants’ firearms strapped to the wall.

Maybe I’ve seen too many Indiana Jones movies, but I couldn’t help feeling that there were probably secret passages all over the place.

4:30PM

Finally, we got out of the catacombs into the fresh air.  We hung around outside, and waited for stragglers.  I took the opportunity to take a photo of some kids who were clearly disobeying the “don’t step on the grass” rule:

These kids were totally ignoring the "do not step on grass" rule.  They were never seen again.
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These kids were totally ignoring the "do not step on grass" rule. They were never seen again.23-Jun-2009 11:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

Thunder rumbled in the distance.

4:50PM

Remember the Dragon’s Den?  That was our last stop on Wawel. We took a narrow, twisty flight of stairs down…down…deep…down…wayyyyy down into the cave beneath the castle.

It was…a cave.  Kinda underwhelming, but I don’t know what we were expecting.  A real dragon?

The lighting conditions weren’t ideal, so here are my crappy photos of the cave:

Exploring the cave
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Exploring the cave23-Jun-2009 11:55, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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23-Jun-2009 11:55, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 
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23-Jun-2009 11:56, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 

And here’s Tom filling up the cave with some dragon presence:

TOM IS THE DRAGON
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TOM IS THE DRAGON23-Jun-2009 11:56, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 380

 

We eventually left the cave.  We took the time to sit, rest our legs, and stare up at this dragon monument that was outside the exit:

Here's the dragon outside of the cave.  It's supposed to breathe fire, but we never saw it.
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Here's the dragon outside of the cave. It's supposed to breathe fire, but we never saw it.23-Jun-2009 12:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.38, 14.3mm, 0.026 sec, ISO 64

 

The Dragon

Now, I don’t know how the rumour got started, but apparently, every hour, that dragon was supposed to breathe fire.  So the bunch of us stuck around for about 15 minutes, waiting for the fireball.

Evidently, the group of us make enough of a crowd to cause other people to wonder what’s going on, because more people from off the street started joining our group, staring up at the dragon, waiting.

And then the hour came…and went…and nothing happened.

Jiv went to talk to a local street vendor.  It went something like this:

Jiv:  Isn’t this thing supposed to breathe fire every hour?

Vendor:  [Look of confusion]

Jiv:  [Mimes breathing fire, and points at dragon]

Vendor:  [Shakes head vigorously]

Disappointed, the crowd dispersed.

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23-Jun-2009 12:32, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.82, 5.9mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

5:35PM

Tamara had led us into the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.

Alex Rubin:  A Jew in the Jewish Quarter.
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Alex Rubin: A Jew in the Jewish Quarter.23-Jun-2009 12:37, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.0, 6.5mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

 

The storm was really threatening now – dark clouds, and rumbling that was closer than before.

Trouble brewing
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Trouble brewing23-Jun-2009 12:39, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.46, 8.8mm, 0.012 sec, ISO 64

 

Rain started to fall.  It was time to get indoors.  As a torrent of rain started to come down, we found a restaurant, and took shelter.

And then it started to hail for a bit.  Strange.

6:52PM

The restaurant we had chosen was pretty fancy.  I ordered what eventually turned out to be chicken shish kabab.  For the price…not that great.  But whatever, we were inside and dry.  And I was full.

The group was pretty tired at this point.  The lack of sleep from the night before, and the long tour of the day had worn us out.  After we had finished eating, Tamara told us that we had the rest of the day to ourselves.

A pack of us left the restaurant to explore the Jewish Quarter.  Eventually, we found ourselves back in the Market Square, where I promptly ordered myself a lemon sorbet.  I missed the ice cream from Wroclaw, but the lemon sorbet was amazing.  Sonia took the opportunity to buy some zapiekanka.

Have I told you about zapiekanka?  I don’t think I have.  Polish equivalent to a hot dog.  Long half of a baguette, topped with melted cheese and mushrooms, and a long strip of ketchup.  I liked ‘em.

Some of us went back to the hostel.  I hung around the Market Square for a little bit and snapped a few photos:

Poland is under construction everywhere.  There are cranes all over the place.
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Poland is under construction everywhere. There are cranes all over the place.23-Jun-2009 14:55, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.0, 6.5mm, 0.014 sec, ISO 64

 

Here’s Adam Mickiewicz again!  What a guy!

Adam Mickiewicz!
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Adam Mickiewicz!23-Jun-2009 14:55, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 98

 

And a giant head:

Massive head.
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Massive head.23-Jun-2009 15:10, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.62, 9.6mm, 0.073 sec, ISO 100

 

The very center of the Market Square was a…market.  Lots of little booths selling trinkets.  Religious figurines…amber… a high number of chess boards, which I found strange.

The market in the center of the market square.  It was like a flea market.
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The market in the center of the market square. It was like a flea market.23-Jun-2009 15:21, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.213 sec, ISO 100

 

And wouldn’t you know it, I also found some miniature copies of those creepy head sculptures that I’d seen in Wawel Castle!

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23-Jun-2009 15:43, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.175 sec, ISO 100

 

At this point, I was pretty tuckered out.  I walked back to the hostel, and eventually went to sleep.

We would be getting up early the next day to go to Auschwitz.

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

Click here to go back to Part 9:  The Halfway Point

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Poland – Part 9: The Halfway Point

June 22, Morning

During breakfast, I found out that it was another free day – once more, Wroclaw was our playground to romp around in independently, followed by another version of Hamlet (HAMLET. SILENCE FROM THE BODY by Roberto Bacci) that night.  It was also our last night in Wroclaw – we were going to leave for Krakow early the next morning.

The deal was even sweeter when Tamara handed us a 250z cash-infusion.

So what did I do?  Did I hit the town, and eat at restaurants?  Did I go sightseeing?  Did I go shopping?

Actually, I did laundry.  Yep, I had accumulated quite a collection of dirty laundry at this point, so I stayed back at the hostel, and slammed some dirty clothes into the washing machine.  While waiting for my clothes to get washed, I hung out in the hostel kitchen with Chantelle.

While talking with Chantelle, I learned that a few of the ladies in our group had noticed that men in Poland were a lot more obvious when “checking out” the women around them.  Chantelle told me that a few of them had even felt uncomfortable at times, and that it was almost as if some men wanted them to notice.  I told her that I wondered if it was just a European thing, and she said that she didn’t know.

I also took a time out to play with the Hostel Dog:

Hostel puppy!
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Hostel puppy!22-Jun-2009 12:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 
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22-Jun-2009 12:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

2:15PM

With my laundry air-drying on a clothing rack in the hostel, I eventually left to go exploring on my own.

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22-Jun-2009 09:30, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

It was chilly, rainy and grey out.  I also wasn’t sure where everybody was – we seemed to be all scattered about.

I eventually bought some postcards and a calling card – I was going to call Em later on that day.

2:55PM

I ran into Tara, Tom, Alex (or was it Alexi? My writing is a bit sloppy), Sonia, Ryan and Jiv at the milk bar we had originally seen during our tour of Wroclaw.  I had something to eat, and then we all left together.

Eventually, Ryan, Jiv, Alex (Alexi?) and I split off and walked through some of the small artisan shops.  We talked with a shopkeep, who told us about a major flood in Wroclaw that had happened about a decade before.  Apparently, flooding in the area was quite common.

We thanked the shopkeep, and left.

4:15PM

Somehow or another, I had gotten back to the hostel, and started writing postcards.  I also took the opportunity to call my girlfriend Em, and tell her how I was doing.

After the phone call, I felt a little Wroclaw-ed out, and felt I needed some downtime to recouperate.  I went into the common room and watched some BBC News.

Finally, I got up, and went out again for something to eat with Tom, Tara, Ryan, Alex, Una, and Linn.

6:33PM

If it hasn’t become clear already, the bunch of us became expert restaurant-hoppers.  Choosing restaurants, however, could be a bit of a chore.  Often, there were times where we’d travel the entire square several times before deciding on something we could all agree upon.

And for that night, the restaurant was a Greek place called “Ready’s”.  This is what my guidebook says about that restaurant:

Paper napkins and plenty of plasticky bits and bobs greet you in what rates as a very poor man’s Sphinx.  Eating is just a means to an end here, with plates of kebab meat, fries and chicken being the core dishes.  You may enjoy Ready’s, but only after a dozen beers.

Maybe it’s my attraction to no-frills stuff, but I enjoyed this place.  I’d eat there again.

In fact, we were enjoying our meal so much that we lost track of time!  We paid our bill, rushed out, and tried to figure out how to get to the theatre to see Bacci’s HAMLET.

7:45PM

After a failed attempt at walking to the theatre, we decided as a group to try to take a cab.  Eventually, we were able to hail one down, but only four of us were able to take it.  After a quick discussion, Ryan, Alex, Una and Linn hopped in, and the rest of us tried to hail another cab.  Tom, Tara and I were doubtful that we’d make it.

8:00PM

Luckily, we were able to hail a cab.  After flailing some arms, and gesturing wildly at our maps, we were able to communicate to the driver where exactly we wanted to go.  I think he knew we were in a hurry, because he floored it.

He pulled up right to the theatre entrance.  We paid, hopped out, and rushed into the theatre.

HAMLET. SILENCE FROM THE BODY Directed by Roberto Bacci

When we got inside the theatre, the show was just about to begin.  There was no seating left, so I sat in the aisle.

The lights came down, and the show started.

This version of Hamlet was spoken in rapid-fire Italian.  There were English and Polish subtitles projected on a surface above the stage.  Half-way through the production though, the English subtitles stopped.  They just stopped coming.

I think this was a good thing though, since it allowed me to focus on what I was seeing and hearing on stage, as opposed to flicking my eyes up to the screen every few seconds to get my place in the story.

So what did I see?  This version of Hamlet had the cast (with the exception of Hamlet himself) dressed in fencing armor – masks and all.  I thought the masks helped them pull off some nice sleight of hand, since it allowed them to “dissappear” characters into the anonymous chorus, and have them re-emerge elsewhere.  Actual fencing was performed on stage as well, which was exciting to see.

The stage was panelled in wood, giving it a very red, and earthy tone.  The major set piece was what appeared to be a large, rusty frame or scaffolding, somewhat like a jungle-gym.  This apparatus was climbed upon, walked through, and even had “drawbridge” doors on either side of it.  It was a neat contraption, though I was worried for the actors safety when they were climbing it at some points, since it seemed to have a very high centre of gravity.  I also wish they had used it more – it seemed to have a lot of potential.

The acting was decent.  I had a conversation with Tom about the show afterwards, and we seemed to agree that this was a pretty “meat and potatoes” Hamlet.  It did the job of telling the story, and it told it pretty well, but nothing blew our socks off.  Tom said that Bacci’s Hamlet was “like a Soul Pepper production, if they had hired a kind-of experimental director.  Pretty strong, but nothing special.”

We talked about Hamlet for a bit, and then walked back to the Hostel.  I hung around in the common area for a bit, and then I went to sleep early – we had to wake up around 5:30AM to get ready for our bus trip to Krakow the next day.

Click here to go to Part 10:  Journey to Krakow, Wawel Hill, and The Dragon

Click here to go back to Part 8:  A Boat Ride, Eating, Videos, AJAX, and More Eating

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