Tag Archives: wroclaw

Poland – Part 8: A Boat Ride, Eating, Videos, AJAX, and More Eating

June 21, 10:00AM (Father’s Day)

After I woke up, had breakfast, and cleaned up, Tamara offered us the opportunity to go on a boat ride down the section of the Odra River that runs through Wroclaw.  I was interested in going, so I watched some European music videos while I waited for the others to get set.

It was going to be Yev, Jiv, Chantelle, Ryan, Tamara, Peter, Alexi, Sonia, Una, and myself on that boat.

A few minutes later,  and we were underway.


It was an absolutely gorgeous day – sunny, warm, and beautiful.  Perfect for boating around Wroclaw.


We chugged down the Odra, and then turned around.  It was very pleasant.

We also took the opportunity to ask Tamara about the racial/cultural tension that we thought we had picked up on the night before.  She told us that she thought it had much to do with the racial monolithicism of Poland.  Not sure if I mentioned this before, but Peter Brook said that the Polish audience was the most racially monolithic crowd he’d ever seen.

The boat trip finished.  We docked, and the group conversation eventually sizzled out until it was just Tamara and I talking, as we all walked down the streets of Wroclaw.  I mentioned how I have never really had the business-end of racism in my face before, and have never had the experience of being the “other”.  Tamara responded by telling me that I was very lucky to have grown up in Canada.  I agreed with her.

Deciding that we were all hungry, the group split off into smaller groups to find something to eat.  The group I was in eventually settled down at a very nice crepe place.  I got a crepe with chicken, cheese, spinach and corn.  Totally hit the spot!


After eating, we had the rest of the afternoon to do whatever we pleased.  As had become custom, we spent our time hopping from restaurant to restaurant, sampling this and that, and watching the locals.  Una, Sonia, Chantelle, and I eventually found ourselves at “Pomazanka”, which our guidebook promised would provide the “widest selection on ice cream, cakes and pastries on the Rynek.”

Sonia had apple cake.  Chantelle had chocolate cake.  Una had marzipan cake. I went for strawberry gelato, and we all decided that our choices were very good.



Had an interesting conversation with Sonia about the gay culture in Poland.  When asked for her impressions, she told me that from what she saw, since Poland is highly religious, it stands to reason that the gay culture is probably carefully hidden from plain sight.  I told her that I agreed with her – at least for Wroclaw.  Warsaw seemed a bit more relaxed.

There’s a lapse in my journaling for a few hours here…from memory, I know I eventually went back to the hostel and phoned my Dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day.

My journal picks up again here:


At this point, I was in the middle of watching one of the optional films for that day – MADAME DE SADE directed by KRZYSZTOF WARLIKOWSKI (yep – the same fellow who directed CLEANSED).  Yikes.  Granted – this was a videotape of a theatre piece, so it was weakened right off the bat.  Anyhow, the camera was too far away, so the audience never got to see the actor’s faces, and the sound was just awful. If theatre is a medium for communication, this video fell way short.  I fell asleep.  Instantly forgotten.


It was a double feature for videos that day – the next video was a version of MEDEA by ANATOLIJ WASILJEW.  It was a one-woman piece…the video was from a presentation that looked like it happened in an art museum.

How to describe this piece?

Two words:  Enraged, and Naked.  Props to the woman for the effort and the work she was putting in.  She was clearly committed, and working hard.  However, watching a naked woman yell at me from a chair for an hour is not how I like to spend my time.  I just wanted it to stop.  If it wasn’t so loud, I’m sure I would have fallen asleep there too.

Video recordings of theatre pieces always fall flat for me – even if they’ve been edited well, and recorded with video in mind.  There really are some things that only live theatre can do.

Why didn’t I leave?  True – there was nothing keeping me in the theatre.  However, I hate leaving bad shows halfway through – I always have this little bit of hope that maybe they’ll save themselves towards the end.  Still, I’m usually let down.

Anyhow, we shook off the two videos, and walked back to the hostel to pick up our tickets for that nights live show:  AJAX, THE MADNESS by THEODOROS TERZOPOULOS.


Here are some dark and blurry photos of the whole gang getting ready to see AJAX:


AJAX was a heavily ritualized Greek performance/meditation on the Ajax myth.  The show promised murder, guilt, madness, and war satire.

Like I said: heavily ritualized performance/meditation.  It was like a 20 minute mantra that was repeated 3 times.  There were 3 actors, each taking turns leading the mantra, and each putting their own spin on it.

The first guy was my favourite.  Total commitment the entire way.  The mantra involved lots of repeated physical actions, and this guy put his whole body into it.  I knew he was working hard.  How did I know?  Because he was sweating buckets.  And he never swallowed – saliva just gushed out of his mouth for his entire 20 minutes.  The man must have lost 2 litres of body fluid over the course of the show.  It was unbelievable.  I was blown away by the energy and commitment of that guy.

It went downhill for me from there.  The second guy had this highly reflective knife that he kept shining into the audience, and it was really annoying.  By the time the third guy went up, I think I had the mantra under my belt.  It was nice to see the little differences that each iteration had on the last, but it didn’t really grab me.

And the war satire was kind of weak – at least for me.  It almost seemed tagged on, like an afterthought – jetfighter fly-over soundcues, and this image of a processional of coffins.  I think I heard a Roger Waters tune tucked in there too.

Anyhow, it was OK.  Not great, not terrible.  It was awkward for the curtain call though.  The audience gave the cast some real good applause, and they were bowing, and that was fine.  But then they wouldn’t leave.  And because they wouldn’t leave the stage, the audience felt compelled to clap more.  So they stayed.  And then the director came out, and we clapped for him too.  And I could feel the applause dying down, but then they’d come up to centre stage and bow again, and people would keep clapping in an attempt to avoid awkwardness.  It was almost like they were drawing applause out of us, as opposed to letting us give it to them.

Somehow, the vicious cycle eventually ended.  We left.

Saw some interesting sculptures on the street on the way out:


Not sure what time it was, but from the photos, it looked like it was starting to get dark out.

On our way home, some of us decided to get some midnight snacks at the grocery store.  I got some orange juice (a respectable kind, with an expiry date that I felt good about), and some waffle cracker things.  Our shopping finished, we walked back to the hotel to eat what we bought.

While eating, we watched David After the Dentist:

and some more Dave’s Farm.

Then, because we weren’t tired yet, we went to Wizard Hat for an hour or so, and then went back to the grocery store for more midnight snacks.  I got orange filling Jaffa Cakes, and shared them with Sonia.

Finally, we went back to the hostel for the last time that night.  We chatted for a while in the common room, and then I had a shower and went to bed.

Click here to go to Part 9:  The Halfway Point

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

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.


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.


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:


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:


Very perplexing.

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


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.


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.


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:


See it?


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.


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.


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

Poland – Part 5: Exploring Wroclaw

June 18 – 10:19 AM

It had been an easy sleep.  At this point in my journey, my jet lag appeared to have mostly worn off.  I woke up, and had two bowls of Cocoa Puffs.

Fun fact:  Cocoa Puffs seem to be very popular as a hostel breakfast cereal.  Almost every hostel we went to invariably had Cocoa Puffs.  It was nice knowing that no matter what kind of situation I got into in Poland, I’d always have Cocoa Puffs there to bail me out.

Dry Cocoa Puffs though.  Because frankly, the milk I tasted in Poland was too strange for me.  It was thick, and tasted…bleh.  Apparently, I’m not the only one to notice differences between North American milk and European milk.

Anyhow, after breakfast, Chantelle, Reid and myself decided to go grocery shopping to see what the local produce was like.


Food in the grocery store was remarkably cheap after conversion to Canadian dollars.  Reid and Chantelle loaded up on local fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

During our exploration, I learned how often I feel the compulsion to say “sorry”, and how frustrating it is to not be able to do so.  So, I learned how to say it in Polish:  przepraszam (psheh-prasham).  I kept practicing it, ready to whip it out next time I accidentally bumped somebody or something.  Unfortunately, when my opportunity arose (I think I accidentally cut off some old lady in the supermarket), I said dziekuje (thank you) instead.  Awkward moment.

Another awkward moment was when I bought a jug of orange juice.  Check out the expiry date:


Holy smokes – this unrefridgerated OJ expires in 2010.  Sounds like a boatload of preservatives to me.

I opened the jug, and took a swig.

It took a few swigs to realize that something was bugging me…I’d missed a step in the process.

And then it hit me.  The seal had been broken.  The seal had been broken off of some strange unrefridgerated 2010-expring OJ that I had just bought in Poland.

I hate waste, but I hate getting sick more.  I threw the jug out.  Poland: 1, Mike: 0.


After we got back, the whole group decided to go exploring all together.  We streamed out en masse onto the streets of Wroclaw.


The first place we went to was St. Mary Magdalene’s Church.


According to my guide book:

During the Reformation it was taken over by the Protestants and was not returned to the Catholic church until after WWII.  It’s most striking feature is a 12th-century Romanesque portal that was moved here from the Benedictine abbey.  It is considered to be Wroclaw’s most valuable relic from this era.

We didn’t manage to see the portal, though.  I imagine they wouldn’t just have that out and about for tourists to gawk at.

I was starting to get used to the majesty of the high, arched ceilings.  I had seen so many churches that they were beginning to blend together in my memory.

But this church had something else to offer:  The Witches Bridge.  The Witches Bridge connects the two tall towers of the church.

We paid the 2z, and started our climb.  And it was quite a climb – it must have been something like 200 steps.  And there were spooky landings on the way up:


But the view was worth it:


We spent a good chunk of time up there, taking snapshots, and enjoying the cool breeze.  Eventually, on shaky, tired legs, we walked back down.  Some of us poked around other parts of the church.  A bunch of us eventually went back outside and talked some more about UR-HAMLET.

And then (it was inevitable), somebody got hungry.  We left Mary Magdalene’s, and went to the market square to hunt down some food.

The group was divided on diets, so we split up.  I decided to go with the vegetarians to the same place as the day before.  The soy chops were delicious:


If you go to Poland, try the ice cream.  There are vendors everywhere, and it’s delicious.  In Poland, it’s called “lody”, and it’s b”lody” awesome.  I eventually had one almost every day that I was in Wroclaw.  Mmmmm….

Anyhow, slowly but surely, the group reassembled.

It was at this point that I got hit by a reality check:  a tiny Romanian girl (couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5) came up to us to beg for change.  Absolutely heart-breaking.  I gave her 50z, and then watched her run over to 2 older boys (brothers?) and walk away.

There were a variety of opinions on what happened.  Some felt that by giving her change, we’re just making the problem worse.  Others argued that if she didn’t go back with some change, she might get beat up by the people she was with.  Personally, I was happy to give her the 50z.  I hope things work out for her.


My friends back in Toronto are really into this hobby called Geocaching.  Without going into to much detail, it’s essentially GPS-based global treasure hunting.  It’s a cool idea.

Anyhow, the reason I brought it up was because there are probably some AWESOME geocaching sites here in Wroclaw.  Nooks, crannies, and history,  is strewn about everywhere.


Click here to read the Wikipedia article on Geocaching.

While we were walking, we saw what might be the world’s ugliest car:  a Fiat 1st generation Multipla.  Check this monster out:


Holy smokes.  Barf.

We kept exploring Wroclaw.  Our next stop was the University of Wroclaw.


Funny story about this last guy:  according to Tamara, legend goes that this man was playing cards, and lost everything.  Everything.  Everything except his sword.  I guess the University is showing us what can happen if you gamble…?

We kept moving.

Photo Shoot

While we were walking, we saw this killer piece of wall graffiti.  It looked like something BLU might do.


We decided to do a photo shoot in front of it.  I didn’t get any shots of the guys, but here are the ladies:


Our photoshoot over, I finally figured out where Tamara was leading us:  Cathedral Island, Wroclaw.  Not surprisingly, the “island” was festooned with tall church towers and monuments.


This statue is of John of Nepomuk, the national saint of the Czech Republic who refused to divulge to his king details of the queen’s confession.  You can read more about John of Nepomuk here.

Our main stop was at Wroclaw Cathedral.


The inside was nice, but I was more interested in the view from the towers.  It was a pretty steep climb, and even then we had to take an elevator part way.  But the view was worth it:


Oh, and here’s me:



The show that night was OCZYSZCZENI (CLEANSED): a Sarah Kane play directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, and it was starting at 8PM.  So, after climbing down the steps of the tower, and a short stop for a drink at a local cafe, we decided to split up for dinner before we met up at the theatre.

I’m not sure what I did – there’s a big blank spot in my journal.  I probably went back to the hostel to get my ticket for the show and had some food.

CLEANSED Directed by Warlikowski

I knew going in that this show was going to be dark:  it’s Sarah Kane, what did you expect?  It’s also 2.5 hours with no intermission, so prepare to get rocked.

And, well, I found it underwhelming.  Maybe the sadistic violence of this brutal love story blew all my circuits and I went passive – it happens.  Either way, I didn’t feel much of a reaction from myself.  To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely certain what this show was trying to communicate to me (or if it was communicating to me), so in that regard, the experience was a bit of a failure.  There were some interesting lighting choices, however…


This is a shot of the CLEANSED curtain call.  Notice how some people are standing up, and some are sitting down?  Says a lot about this show, because this was one that a lot of people disagreed about.  The whole load of us discussed it and hashed it out while we slowly walked to the market square.

And we sat down at a restaurant, ordered some drinks, and hashed it out even more.  Some people got nightmares from it.  Some people got angry by it.  Some people found it hilarious at points.  Some people thought it was genius.  I neither liked it nor disliked it – I was indifferent.

But I liked sitting down and talking about it with everybody, hearing what they got out of it (if anything).

Here are a few shots of us discussing CLEANSED:


And then we walked back through the market square, went back to our hostel, and eventually turned in for the night.


Click here to go to Part 5:  A Taste of Total Freedom

Click here to go back to Part 4:  To Wroclaw


Poland – Part 4: To Wroclaw

Here’s your Polish lesson for today – how to say “thank you”:

dziękuję – pronounced, “djienh-COO-yay”

It’s probably the word I ended up using the most over there.

Anyhow, where was I?

June 17 – 9:08AM Local

Nobody really had trouble getting up (especially poor jet-lagged Yev, who had gotten up around 4AM, and started exploring Warsaw on her own).  After breakfast, we tossed all of our stuff into the green bus, and got on our way.


The original plan was to pick up Sonia, another UCDP student who was coming a day late from Toronto due to prior commitments.  However, it turned out that her seat had been double-booked in Toronto, and that she’d have to come later.  It was a bummer, but it also meant we could start our journey to Wroclaw right away.

Wroclaw.  Look at that word.  Looks like it should be pronounced “RO-claw”, right?  Totally wrong.  It’s actually pronounced “VROT-suave”.  I never would have guessed.

It was a long bus ride – about 7 hours journey from Warsaw to Wroclaw.  We were able to stretch out on the seats, and relax.


There were about 15 of us in the huge coach bus, so we weren’t afraid to spread out a bit.  I shared some of my journal notes with Chantelle, who is also keeping a record of our journey.  I think Alex is too.  I’m really glad I took this notebook along – I think I’ll do this on all of my big trips.


11:50AM Local

Our first rest stop.  A lot of us are feeling restless and cramped – we’ve been doing a lot of sitting for the last few days.  We all pour out of the bus, and run around.


The weather was great!  Nice and sunny, but with a cool breeze.

Rural Poland looks a lot like rural Ontario.  I guess farmland is farmland.


After some supplies (I grabbed some orange Fanta, and some kind of Lindt chili pepper chocolate), we got back onto the bus, and kept going.

We get about half an hour at the rest stop, and then we get back on the bus and keep going.

1:10PM Local

We stopped again to walk around and get some lunch.

But not at a gas station.  We stopped at a very interesting, and historically important monastery that once withstood assault from the entire Swedish army.


According to Tamara, we were in Czestochowa, and the monastery was the Jasna Góra Monastery. According to Tamara, there’s a very special picture of the Virgin Mary at that monastery. She also told us that during WWII, the painting had been hidden inside a secret compartment in a large table in the monastery, to keep it from falling into the hands of the Nazi’s. It sounded very Indiana Jones.

I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, we had less than an hour to tour the grounds. I snapped as many photos as I could.


While I snapped my photos, I thought to myself: “It really can’t be easy to worship here while surrounded by the inane buzz of tourists.”

And with that thought, we left.


By this time, we had reached our second hostel.  We would be staying at this one for about 5 days, so we made ourselves comfortable.

It was a pretty nice place – it was called Cinnamon Hostel.  Not as good as the previous hostel, but I was totally happy with it.


We had an hour or so to settle in and freshen up.  During that time, I also read some interesting things about Wroclaw in one of the free guidebooks that was lying around.

Ever heard of Project Riese?  I’ll quote my guidebook:

It was here in 1943…Hitler ordered the undertaking of a massive, top-secret underground complex known as Project ‘Reise’ (Giant).  One of the Fuhrer’s most ambitious and maniacal schemes, the exact nature of which remains unclear, Riese remains one of World War II’s greatest mysteries, about which suspiciously little is known over sixty years since.

It sounds like Hitler started a mystery mole hill near Wroclaw, and never got it finished.  We didn’t visit it, but it was interesting to hear about.  Another Indiana Jones moment.

You can read more about Project Riese here.


Eventually, we left our hostel, and started to explore Wroclaw.  We were going to be in the city for a few days, so we wanted to get our bearings straight.


Squinting into the sun, we headed towards the market square.


It turns out that the market square seemed very similar to the one in Warsaw:  large open space for walking around.  Outdoor patios.  Buskers.  Pigeons.  Churches.


Oh, and gnomes.  Did I mention the gnomes?

Let me back up.

Warsaw had it’s particular symbol – the mermaid.  Well, for Wroclaw, it was all about the gnomes.


Anj took it upon herself to start a gnome count.  I think I stopped at one.


Festival Guests!  And then food.

While we were in Wroclaw, we would be seeing shows as part of the “The World as a Place of Truth Theatre Festival“, which was being put together (I believe) by the Grotowski Institute.

Somehow, word had gotten through to the people running the festival that we were coming, and that we were rabid students who were eager to devour good theatre.

So wouldn’t you know it, they gave us free tickets for pretty much everything.  We were given “festival guest” status.


Here we are, getting our free swag.  God, we were spoiled rotten.


BIG thank you to the people running the festival.  Dziękuję!

After getting our tickets, we headed to a nearby vegetarian restaurant to fuel up.  I had some kind of samosa perogi.  Not bad.

Waiting for UR-HAMLET

Our first show for the festival was happening that night – UR-HAMLET, directed by Eugenio Barba.  We killed time until the show by hanging out in the market square.  Some of us smoked.  Some of us shopped.  Some drank coffee.  I had strawberry gelato, and watched the sun set.



And then we saw UR-HAMLET.

I’m not going to go into a big, deep analysis of the play.  I’m no theatre critic, but I know what I like.

Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it:  where else could I watch an African Hamlet in tiger-stripe pants wipe out his Balinese family with the help of a Samurai sidekick?  And do it with the seriousness of an ancient ritual?  Despite the chilly weather (it was an outdoor show), I dug it.  I had never seen Balinese theatre before, nor heard the music, and this was my first taste of it.  A very interesting, intricate style.


There was also a Balinese commedia-dell’arte-like dumb show for the first 20 minutes, that had the audience roaring.  Hamlet Sr.’s ghost had more stage time than Hamlet himself, and ended up hooking up with Ophelia in heaven.  It was awesome.

There was also a moment where bodies were being loaded onto wooden skids.  Then a forklift came on stage, hoisted a skid with 5 bodies on it about 6 or 7 feet up in the air, and peeled out on to the bumpy stone walkway to take them out of the playing space.  I was sure somebody was going to fall and break a wrist.  Luckily, it didn’t happen.

Funny story:  so it’s (what I believe to be) the climax of the show, with Hamlet wiping out his family with his Samurai sidekick.  Balinese men are being stabbed.  They’re going down.  The music crescendos.  The last man falls.  The music stops.  All silent.  My stomach chose that moment to release the loudest growl in my life.  Like…monstrous growl.  I got a few dirty looks from the international audience sitting around me.  It really killed the moment.  It was awkward.

Anyhow, we hurried back to the hostel to get our jackets (it was freezing out!).  And wouldn’t you know it, but Sonia was there waiting for us!  She’d taken a later flight over, and trekked all the way to our hostel to meet us!  Our travel group was finally complete.  After a round of hugs, we headed to the “U.S. Artist Initiative mixer party” that we had been invited to earlier in the day.

It was also Alex’s birthday, so we had no excuse but to have a good time.

Much dancing was done.  It was fantastic.

And then I went back to the hostel.  I had a shower.  And then I went to bed.

Click here to go to Part 5:  Exploring Wroclaw

Click here to go back to Part 3:  Our Day in Warsaw

Poland – Prologue

Did I mention I’m going to Poland?

If I didn’t, well, now you know.

On June 15th, at approximately 5:30PM EST, I will be hurling through the skies at absolutely tremendous speeds with a collection of fellow University College Drama Program folk.  We will be traveling to Poland, where we will meet other UCDP folk who are already there.  We will be there for 15 days, doing tours of Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, and Poznan, and seeing plenty of theatre – including shows that are part of the Malta Festival.

Oh, and did I mention that the UCDP is footing the bill?  That includes flights, train trips, lodging (European hostels, here I come!), and food!  Wow!  Thanks UCDP, thanks UofT.  Thanks.  What a way to cap an undergraduate career.

Oh yeah, by the by, I got word back from UofT – I’m good to graduate.  I’m scheduled to convocate on the 16th of June…unfortunately, I will be in Europe.  Single tear.

So that’s that.  I’m pretty much all packed.  I’ve got reading material, notebooks, my camera, and an exciting itinerary.  No laptop.  No cell phone.  I will be mostly out of touch.

But who knows – if I do happen to stumble across an internet café while I’m out there, I might write up a blog post recounting some adventures,  and upload some photos.

Either way, it’ll be business as usual when I come back on the 30th.

Do zobaczenia wkrótce!  (Thanks, Google Translate!)

Click here to go to Part 1: Departures and Arrivals