This afternoon I went for a walk in the communist part of Krakow.  Let me not drag this out.  Here is what the communist part of town looks like:

Now imagine this for miles and miles.  Ok, that was my adventure in communist Krakow.  The history is infinitely more interesting than the architecture but I have another story I want to tell today (or maybe two stories).

After leaving the communist side of town I went down to the Vistula River and descended the stairs leading to the path that runs alongside it.  As I walked I thought about what it might be like when I get to Spain.  I thought about how lucky I was to get invited to stay in Sweden after I leave Spain.  I guess I was just thinking about how good life is sometimes.  I thought about how happy I am that I will never have to look back and wonder what might have been if I had taken some risks.  I am taking them.  In that spirit I decided to take one more.  I threw a few rocks on the iced river.  I kicked it and jabbed it with some sticks. I chipped away a few inches of ice and was satisfied that it would hold me.  So I took one hesitant step off the shore.  Then another.  I stood three inches from the riverbank for a few seconds.  Sure, it was silly.  Maybe even dumb.  In reality it wasn’t really any more of a risk than I’ve taken every time I’ve gone ice fishing.  But it felt good.  It felt risky.  I thought, “I am probably the only person in Poland standing on the Vistula River right now.”  My unadventurous walk through the communist part of town somehow felt redeemed with these few steps.

I returned to the river walk and my previous thoughts.  Then, I climbed the stairs and as I entered the streets of Krakow I saw a statue.  It was a dog.  Being the dog lover that I am it drew me in.  There was a plaque underneath the statue and I hoped there would be something in English on it.  There was.  It was a moving story about a man and his dog, told in three sentences.  This memorial statue was built to honor a dog named Dzok.  His owner had died at the roundabout near this spot in early 1990.  Dzok waited at the roundabout for his owner to return for a full year.  One could argue that this dog was being silly.  Maybe even dumb.  But to Dzok it felt right.  All I could think was, “Good dog, Dzok.  Good dog.  You only get one life and you should spend it doing whatever you want to do the most.”  I pet his cold metal paw and continued my walk, though with an entirely different set of thoughts than I had at the start.

I wandered around Krakow for another hour gathering photos for an upcoming post on Krakow graffiti artists then headed back to the hostel.  I went to the common area and made a snack and talked with one of the guys who is staying here.  We started talking music and before long he told me he was a percussionist.  I was like, “me too.”  I later found out that he was a percussionist and I was a drummer from a rock band, though he was kind enough not point this out.  He told me about the instrument he is currently studying, the cajon.  It is a wooden box that you sit on and play with your hands.  I have seen them all over Europe and as he went up to his room to get his I was pretty excited that I was going to have a chance to finally play one.

He walked into the room with a cajon in one hand and a didgeridoo in the other.  This just got all kinds of awesome.  He showed me the basics of the cajon and told me to go ahead.  I beat the box, which mimics a bass drum, a snare, or bongos, depending on where and how you hit it.  I started getting comfortable and found a nice groove.  He picked up the didgeridoo and started wailing away on it.  We jammed for a while and he showed me how to play some basic flamenco beats on the cajon.  Then he really blew me away.  He propped up the didgeridoo and sat on the cajon.  “No way this is going to happen,” I thought.  But it did.  His face turned red as he blew into the aboriginal instrument and accompanied himself with the flamenco rhythm box.  After he stopped he told me that he would be sitting in with a couple friends tomorrow night at a music club and I ought to come by.  He even told me I could sit in if I’d like.  I’m not sure I am of the same caliber as this trio of percussionists that will be performing but I am pretty sure I will at least go to cheer them on.  If you want to hear him here is a link to a Youtube video of him playing the cajon with a guitarist in Krakow’s main public square.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOLxxTjQBjg&feature=related

Well, once again the adventure happened not where I looked for it, but where it found me.  I always just seem to be in the right  place at the right time.  Who would have thought the right place would have been at a little hostel on the south side of Krakow, Poland?  Well, until our next adventure…

And here a few pics from the day’s travels:

  The Most Kotlarski, a 127 million dollar bridge built in 2001.

 

 A controversial statue memorializing the 144 World War One soldiers of the Polish Legion.  The sculptures creator, Czeslaw Dzwigaj, has been accused of copying a statue that is displayed in Kielce, Poland, which was created by a man who served in the Legion.

 The Stanislaw Science and Technology Academy.  They specialize in mining and metallurgy.

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