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 #49: Saturday, Nov. 4: The Communists Are Rewriting History Again

That Proto-Austro-Militant-Femino-Marxist we all know and love has struck again! Here is the comment she wrote correcting - or perhaps simply "improving" - my report on our visit to All Saints:

"My dear friend and room neighbor in Willa Decjusza, responsible for many a happy vodka-evening, has, alas, a bad memory. I did not say "we", although, of course, he would have liked me to say so for the sake of a good line. I said: "That's why communism failed." I never was a communist, though I still embrace socialism in its milder social-democratic version of the long ago seventies. I have, in fact, contributed to the downfall of Czech communism by actively supporting Czech dissidents in and outside Czechoslovakia! (You should have seen me traveling to Prague with secret letters taped to my youthful body.) But, of course, such subtle differences are unknown in Hawaii.

Regards from Erica (www.erica-fischer.de)"

PS: Erica, if you're reading this: Should we both strike it rich with our next books, I will accompany you to Hawaii and show you why it is exactly we Hawaiians don't have a very good memory for little details or otherwise pay attention to meaningless world politics!

Day #48: Friday, Nov. 3: Space Ship

This space ship must have landed years ago. Why did no one ever notice it?

Day #47: Thursday, Nov. 2: The Katja Murder Mystery Continues

Something about Katja's murder bothered me. It just didn't feel right. When no one was looking, I investigated, looking through her room for clues. I found this. It's her pillow. She had been sleeping on this all the time, and didn’t know it, because it was wrapped in a white pillow case. No wonder she was tortured by strange nightmares and inexplicable visions. Did someone put this inside her pillow case on purpose, when she wasn't looking? Was it some kind of curse put on her, a Polish version of a voodoo doll? I may never know.

Day #46: Wednesday, Nov. 1: All Saints Day

Hearing a rumor that the action in Poland on All Saint's Day was at the cemeteries, we found our way to the main one in the north of town. The streets around it outside were cordoned off by police. Vendors selling flowers and candles in colored plastic jars crowded the sidewalks.
It was dark. The cemetery was crowded with quietly strolling couples, families, kids, grandparents. Hardly a grave didn't display two or three candles in garish red, yellow, orange, green jars. The graves were lit up in the darkness like a thousand miniature carnivals in the dark.
In the chapel, four priests intoned Latin and Polish, and loudspeakers carried their reassuring words throughout the cemetery. Women kneeled inside and outside the chapel.
Just in back of the chapel was a shrine "To the victims of communism." It was loaded down with candles; candles spread around it like a spreading puddle of colorful lights. People kneeled, stood and watched, murmured prayers.
Erica Fischer, that stalwart Austro-Feminist-Proto-Communist, was astounded when she figured out the words on the shrine: "We couldn’t compete with this," she said. "We should have just given up."

Day #45: Tuesday, Oct. 31: All of Krakow in a Litfaßsäule


Look at it closely. At the bottom you see a new film about none other than – yes, you guessed it – Pope John Paul II. I.e.: Religious tradition. In the middle you have an ad for Da Vinci's "Woman with an Ermine," Krakow's most famous art treasure. I.e.: tourism. And at the top you have what is clearly some kind of ironical poster for a cabaret or something like that: In German (and English), but in a way that every one can understand it, and sarcastic too. I.e.: Intellectualism and irony.

Day #44: Monday, Oct. 30: Mirek is alive!


Already I had suspected the worst. I hadn't seen him for days. His room was strangely silent. The thundering techno-dance-beat music that otherwise shook the villa guesthouse during the day had ceased. Late at night, after three or four in the morning, i would creep down into the kitchen in hopes of finding him and a bottle of vodka waiting for me, but the kitchen was empty. Did he return to Warsaw? Or... worse? I lay in bed nights wondering if I should venture into his room and look for clues to the silence, but whenever I reached the door, a strange superstition, a fear of what I might find behind it, drove me away.

Then, today, thirsty for the comfort of a beer, I entered the dark, silent kitchen, reached into the fridge and found... this.

Oh Mirek, I forgive you! You're alive! Alive! That's all that matters!

Day #43: Sunday, Oct. 29: Too Soft and Too Hard

This is a famous non-lesbian Polish writer by the name of Joanna Oparek who apparently likes to write novels featuring male lead characters, in whose voices she writes.
When Erica asked her why she, as a woman, chose to speak though male characters, she uttered a great line: “When I write as a woman, I am either too soft or too hard.”