Lviv – Krakow – Prague – Vienna {part 2}

{>>>To the previous part}

Kraków

How should I start the section dedicated to one of my favourite cities? For those years I owed it at least several publications here, but somehow the inspiration and the moment hadn’t been coming, at least not together. This city could be an inspiration in various way – it’s streets of stone, easily heated in the summer, its shadows in the parks around the old town, sheltering worlds on their benches, its hidden histories just around every corner…

My first visit to Krakow was as an Erasmus student. The choice of the city and the country had provoked me to start my Slavic studies and to switch my mind from the Czech studies, as I had planned earlier, to the Polish profile, but that’s a separate story to be told (and it includes Portuguese, too). So, arriving there at the end of February, having studied the language for a semester in the university and for another half year by my own, was quite an adventure. Attending a Polish language course along with seminars and lectures held in Polish, hanging out with Polish colleagues, living with Poles made my staying in Krakow very intimate. I felt like home there, made dear friends and sometimes miss the city. My staying there also formed me a lot like the person I am now – it changed my musical tastes (finding the post-rock of Sigur Rós, the ethno-jazz of Avishai Cohen, Chopin, Cesária Évora, Ana Moura, etc.). Thanks God, I’ve been having the chance to go there almost every second year so far, so whenever I get there, it feels as if I hadn’t left the place…

It is written so much about Krakow that I won’t dive into detailed descriptions of it history, its the streets and squares, the art and the culture which are basically encountered on every angle of the city. I’ll mention here again only several spots that have made me such a great impression that I keep going back to them every time I find myself in Krakow.

Wisła

I’ve grown such fondness of big rivers that once in Sofia, which I love quite much, I said to a friend in a slightly joking way ‘It’s such a pity Sofia doesn’t have a big river, with bridges! One does not have where to throw themselves from!‘ As a child I often went fishing with my father, but only if we were going to a river or to a place with a big forest around. Despite of the sea, which, as I often say, I don’t feel so attracted to, I loved to spend my time in strolls along the river bend, or just sitting on the grass (preferably with a book). So, Wisla is usually the part of the city I miss the most. (Agnes Obel has said it right.) There is something mystical in the rivers, in their severe hidden might. There’s intimacy, something tragic and obsessing. But also there is the power of the floating water, taking away everything you have, like Time itself.

Park im. Henryka Jordana

As I was living/staying always near the centre of the city and/or Miasteczko Studenckie (i.e. the district of the students), I often visited this park. It’s not a big place but I find it quite neat and pleasant. It was probably one of the first sights where I saw people using the grass terrains for resting (sitting and lying) – something still quite uncommon in my country.

Massolit

Definitely the most magical place for me. I found it at the very end of my Erasmus stay, when big heats had been suffocating us. It is a second-hand English book bookstore combined with a café. What more wonderful than this, you may ask? I’ll tell you – near the bar there is a door leading to an inner part of the building where a corridor will take you to a separate small apartment, filled with more books. I was astonished the first time I got there. And I am every time I get back there. Actually it was not until my this year’s visit that I finally learned where exactly the bookstore is situated; so every time I was heading there, it felt like some kind of magical quest, where you are lead by the mere intuition and the visual memories of the surrounding buildings. I loved to escape from the heats there, to dig among the books and to find things I had no intention of finding (like, e.g., Basic Tagalog for Foreigners and Non-Tagalogs and Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition).

Kazimierz

I started liking this district so much the last time I visited Krakow this year. It is said that the local people prefer to go for a drink there, because it stays aside from the main tourist flow. Kazimierz [kaˈʑimjɛʂ] has its own special atmosphere and even culture. It is also said that this is the most hipster part of the city (though a friend told me that more and more hipsters are moving rather to the area around the Schindler’s Factory, probably due to the more old industrial climate). I joke that I’ve become even more Krakowiak since I started hanging there more often 🙂

Nowa Prowincja

IMG_20140506_153345

My favourite café, very close to the Main Square (Plac Główny) looks small from the outside (it has tables very close to the walls, on the street!), but there is semi-hidden second floor. The atmosphere in the first floor is more, let’s say, medieval, while the second floor provides more bright and cosy environment, ideal for an afternoon with tea-pot and books. What I found this year, thanks to a friend who is also big fan of that place, is what awesome hot chocolate they have (yep, that’s the picture you see). This café is also known for the literature reading organized there which I still haven’t got the chance to assist to.

No matter how much time passes, it always seems to me that this city has many more moments and stories which will keep appearing in my mind in the following years (and hopefully some of them might find a place in the blog, too). So, I’ll stop here.

Prague {a.k.a. Česká inspirace}

I told you a bit about how I got involved with Poland above. I mentioned also that I initially was heading to Czech and I’ll tell you a bit more about this now. Czech was the very first Slavic language I touched consciously and studied systematically as a foreign one in the past. I don’t know why I was so eager of it, probably because of the children fairy-tale movies with castles, magicians, dragons and so on I watched in the vacations as a child. I was very pleased to find a book with lessons of Czech language in a local bookstore in my home town; then I found another one in a second-hand bookshop and I sticked to it as it was more detailed and explaining. But still, those were books intended to be worked over with a teacher, and not a self-study books (i.e. answers are not provided, nor audio recordings). So, after several months I just quitted learning the language, which remained as a huge linguistic trauma of mine.

Anyway, I never tried to learn in again during many years, probably because my enthusiasm had grown low, too. But this ended after I got a place for a one week specialization in Prague. I chose particularly this city among the others available (Madrid, Lyublyana, Copenhagen etc.) because it was a place I’d like to go most, and surely because of the opportunity to practice the language. It was just a bit after my last state exam of Polish that I started revising Czech, this time with a better self-study  system with audios (you just need to listen to that language and its melody in order to reproduce it and to get some of its features). During my stay in Prague, I realized that it was such a lovely, amiable,  present from God – to go there just after the Polish studies, which I started because I believed (and still do) that it was God who lead me to them.

So, Prague. Praha as it originally sounds. I fell in love with it after less then half an hour stroll from my hotel to the river Vltava. The following days only confirmed my initial impressions of the city. Regardless the tourist flows, which basically fills the narrow medieval stone streets, the splendour of the city is beyond words. It reminds me the one of Krakow, but multiplied with the magnitude of, let’s say, Budapest (which is another love, deserving to be talked about). I walked around and saw most of the Staré Město, Hradčany and Malá Strana.

The very first evening, while wow-ing and taking pictures at the Charle’s bridge, me and my colleague heard a music coming from the other side of the river. The sound was good and intriguing, some sort of jazz, mixed with mother electronica and something like post-punk and grunge. We immediately headed there and discovered a small club, rahter, a bar, separated from the surrounding space and river beach with a wire-netting. There was a band playing, impressively consisting of a crazy-improvisational female vocalist, drums, percussions, bass, electric guitar and effects, trumpets, trombones, saxophones and a dj. We were caught by their sound!!! Later we discovered their name and even bought their to cd-s. What a nice beginning of our stay 😀

I do hope to go back there! I had an intention to go to Prague for an year through the Erasmus+ program, but for now I think I will postpone it for some other season of my life.

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