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 #75: Thursday, Nov. 30: Time To Go

It's been 75 great days in Cracow. The Poles are great people. Cracow is a great city. The denizens of the Villa Decius Guesthouse were great writers, interesting people and I hope they will remain good friends.

A few of us who were left - Erica, Tanja, Katja and her friend Katja - sat around in the Gosopda restaurant last night and discussed whether we had accomplished what we had set out to acccomplish.

The goals were wildly different: Erica finished her book but did not "finish" learning Polish; Katja did some writing and did not "find herself," but she almost did. Tanja just plain didn't want to leave.

And me? Did I accomplish anything here? I didn't finish my great renaissance novel, but I did sold two books, one of which is a comic novel, I finished the website and there was something else strange that happened. Spending 75 days surrounded by writers who take their work but not necessarily themselves very seriously, I began looking at myself a little bit differently too. Can't really say how. And no one else noticed it, I think, but I did.

Late last night around 1 a.m., I put on my headphones, found Bob Dylan's latest record on my iPod, cranked it up and wandered outside into the damp, deserted dark. I danced. Through the parking lot, around the Villa, into the park and around it, through the sculpture garden and back home. Don't know why i did that. Haven't ever done it before and will never did it again. But let me tell you: If you've never played air guitar in the dark in the fog in the middle of the night alone in the park behind the Villa Decius, you haven't lived.

Time to go.

Day #74: Wednesday, Nov. 29: Guesthouse Emptying Out For Good

The house is almost empty. There have been many goodbyes, mostly associated with too much vodka much too late at night. There have been many heartfelt promises to keep in touch. Now it's time for me to go too.

What have I learned about Poland?

They use very thin napkins. Their sheets do not cover the entire mattress. The poles are great cooks.

Do I have any regrets?

Yes. That I did not buy a fly strip in the first week.

Has this experience changed me?

Let me see... When I arrived, I was struggling to turn my career from journalism toward book writing and unsure of myself in terms of whether I was really a book writer. In the Villa Decius Guesthouse, something happened. And it happened because of the other writers in the house. They took it for granted that I was a writer, like they took for granted that they were. None of us were all that successful, few of us were very established, we all had different opinions and different ways of looking at writing, but everyone felt like writers and acted like writers.

It may sound strange for a man whose been a journalist for 15 years and has already published two books, but until now I felt like a wanna-be. When I came out of the Guesthouse, I felt like a writer.

Fellow Writers of the Villa Decius, if you're listening: I owe that to you.

Day #73: Tuesday, Nov. 28: I Miss Someone

Sunday Morning. A little hung-over, a little lonely. Listening to Hank Williams again.
He's telling me: You've been away from home for quite a while now.

I have been, Hank. But I have one or two things more to do here.

How long is too long? When is it time to hit the road back home?

Soon, I tell him. Very soon.

Day #72: Monday, Nov. 27: The Gospoda

The Gospoda makes a great plate of pirogis and as been a great place to hang-out. On one of our last nights, we found out that the owner, to whom we had been speaking mainly English the whole time, speaks nearly perfect German and has spent time in Germany with her husband, a physicist who worked at the Hahn-Meitner Institute in Berlin.

Day #71: Sunday, Nov. 26: The Last Readings

Oh yes, and I almost forgot. The reason we were in Warsaw was because Tanja and Katja were invited to a multi-lingual reading alongside a couple of more established Warsaw authors. though I only stood a few lines, it seemed to me that Katja and Tanja stood their own pretty well.

Then we hit the bars.

The very next day, Nicolai recieved us in the Villa for his reading.
He too was paired with a local writer.

And again, I have to say: Not only was he miraculously somehow sober and capable of performing, he wrote rings around the guy. Ah heck, I'm just plain proud of my Decius Gang.