The Krakow Diaries

75 days in Krakow. On a literary grant from the German Kulturstiftung der Länder. In the Guesthouse of the 16th century Villa Decius, with 10 other writers from Poland, Germany, Belarussia, Ukraine and Georgia. Beautiful city. Nice Krakovians. Fun nightlife. Beautiful women. And in the guesthouse: Meetings of the minds. Too much vodka. Good friends. One of the great pleasures of my life.

Day #70: Saturday, Nov. 25: Ugly and Beautiful, Palms and Monsters


I had forgotten what a small town Krakow is until we took a weekend tour to Warsaw.

Big, bustling, dirty, raw and alive, Warsaw is a real city.

But it's not a faceless moloch. Alongside its historical and Soviet architecture, it has real surprises to offer.

In the middle of town there is a big intersection with a roundabout surrounded by massive flat-faced buildings that reminded me of the airy, generous squares on the Riviera. And lo and behold: In the middle of it was a palm tree.

In Warsaw! I asked our Villa-babysitter Renate how they managed to keep the thing alive in the cold and she said: "It's plastic."

Like Krakow, Warsaw also has a monster legend: A basilisk - a poisonous half-cockeral, half-snake with wings that can kill you by looking at you - haunted the cellars, streets and air of Warsaw until a hero (again, an artisan, I believe) killed it by tricking it to look into a mirror. But it is rumored to still be hiding out in the cellars here somewhere.
As we wandered through the rebuilt old town into the dark, more and more I had the feeling that we were being followed, but whenever I turned around, I saw nothing suspicious.

But the feeling grew finally I heard a fluttering, looked up and got this photo of the basilisk flying out of a window into the night. It's true, then: The basilisk lives!

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