Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dzok the dog

"Dzok the dog. Most faithful of the faithful, the symbol of the faithfulness of dogs. Through one year (1990-1991) he waited at the Grunwald Roundabout for his master, a man who had died at this very place."
See also Greyfriars Bobby, Hachikō, and the fictional Jurassic Bark.

My initial plan for today was to 1) visit Auschwitz and 2) take a tour of Nowa Huta, the communist era steel town built here. Apart from the emotional challenge, the first option seemed to be too awkward to negotiate as it would have meant leaving Bondi in the hotel for 5 hours (including 2hour round trip). The second fell apart due to flakey guides, who didn't turn up.

Instead I went hunting for some Stanisław Lem material in local bookshops. I'd had made some attempts yesterday morning but store staff were generally unhelpful. Finally I located Massolit, an English-language store, who combined the virtues of friendly, helpful staff with a cafe and fresh baked goodies. I got an English-language Lem novel, and directions to some bookstores which might have some of the standard Polish editions, especially of volumes never translated into English.

Mróz picture; The mass at Massolit.

I was also hoping to find some books or prints by Daniel Mróz, the Polish surrealist illustrator, who had provided covers and interior imagery for some of the more important Lem books. With Lem's death just over a year ago, there seems to have been an outpouring of biographical material about Krakow's most famous literary resident, but there wasn't a good selection of his actual works. I think it took 5 stores before I located what I wanted, and none of them had even heard of Mróz, with one directing me to a store selling new religious texts.

Poetry projected onto a wall near the central square (I have no idea what it says)

Make your own napkins: 'Singer' cafe-bar in the Jewish quarter (nearest machine is a Pfaff! scandal!)

I must confess that Krakow was a wee bit of a disappointment to me, dull even. I was expecting a more vibrant city, but without the students and tourists, I don't really see much going on. There may be some bursts of cultural activity as the summer wears on, but I didn't catch much ongoing energy in the air.

The Kazimierz, or Old Jewish Quarter, where I was, well, quartered, at the charming Hotel Ester seems to be the focus for new blood, but comparisons to Soho are premature. I doubt if Soho buskers, accordionists or not, play The Anniversary Song.

Finally, despite the apparent high rate of dog ownership, I think dogs were less welcome here than any place in my recent travels. I could barely set foot near the Wawel Castle or many shops & cafes, without someone descending on me with no dogs instructions ( there are never any signs indicating this ). Dogs are not allowed on public transport either (buses, trams here). It's just like Sydney :-(.

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