My last night in Europe. It has been a good trip even if at times I have been confused and unsure where I was and what direction I was going. Today has been a good example, trying to find places that no longer exist and getting turned around and missing what has been there for decades. Paris is a big city. And frenetically busy.
Where I am staying, my second hotel in Paris this time around, the first being an utter disaster, is near the Gare du Nord ( North train station), is an area of non-stop motion, taxis and buses flying around corners. What makes this area all the more interesting is the large North and former French West African residental population, along with untold number of Pakistanis and Indians. It is quite an interesting mix, creating an unique ambiance not easily found elsewhere. Last night I ate in "Lahore, Lahore," a Pakistani restaurant filled mostly with North African men. Everywhere there are bars and coffee shops filled with young men, with not a woman in sight. The food at the restaurant was just fabulous. And very spicy. A big change from the terrific pirogi I was eating in Poland.
The only positive about the first night was the Parisian cabbie who assisted me in finding the hotel. My flight from Krakow ($70.00 one-way on EasyJet, quite a deal) got in about 10:30 PM so I knew I would be searching for the hotel in the dark. The smartest decision I made the entire trip was buying train tickets when I was here in September, making it easy to quickly locate the Paris-bound train, not having to fuss with ticket dispensers. It also helped that I had figured out which metro stop I needed.
Once stepping out of the metro station I was bewildered. Thankfully I saw a vacant cab parked next to a Turkish kabab cafe, with the driver sitting inside eating. He didn't speak English but showing him the address he motioned with his arms forward, then making a right turn motion, which were perfect instructions, making it easy to find the hotel. When I told him I was a "United States taxi driver", he gave me an enthusiastic "thumbs up!" Yes, that's right, taxi brothers to the end!
I'll conclude with two poems relating to my travel experiences. While a trifle self-indulgent, and of course, off subject, I hope you will enjoy following some of my recent adventures, or misadventures, depending upon the point of view.
The first is about my trying to find the beginning of what is known in Sanok as the "Trail of the Ikons," which is a series of old churches spread along the countryside. Confusing doesn't accurately describe the difficulty I had. Regardless, by my second weekend I had more or less figured out where I needed to go. That particular day I must had walked a total of 10 km, my feet were sore and tired by day's end.
I wanted to arrive but not reading Polish
I didn't know how to start yet regardless
I began, turning left down the lane
avoiding the scattering chickens
and the leaping puppy I walked
and walked, the River San to my right,
and to my left, farms then forest climbing
the hill, all the while scanning ahead, and 3 km
later, just as the sign promised, a grey onion
dome above the trees.
There is my ikon.
I have found my church.
It was a beautiful old Greek Catholic Church now used by the Polish Roman Catholics. Have I neglected to tell you that Poland is wall-to-wall devout Catholic? My next poem is all about that reality. Anyway I was pleased to have found at least one of the churches, making my time in Sanok just a bit more worth while.
This next poem is a "real" travel story, meeting someone in a favorable manner, and boom! it all blows up. The person I am talking about boarded the same bus, the one taking me from Smerek in the Carpathian Mountains to downtown Krakow. She got on in Solina, a town on a large lake about 30 km south of Sanok. In the course of our conversation she showed me pictures on her telephone of "ikon" painting she had done. I wa astonished at their quality. She also told me that she had gone to Rome with a choir to sing for "Papa," namely the Pope. Turns out she was "crazy" about Jesus, and I made the mistake of being honest. Oh well!
Today God Was Polish
Our conversation was satisfying to us both
until my saying, "Evil doesn't exist, only confusion,"
which, explicitly contrary to Catholic doctrine,
shocking her into a sudden disdainful silence clearly
implying I sinned by suggesting realities not containing
and by ignoring dictates
I kneel and pray
thanking Him for an existence
I have no understanding of
She was on her way to a week long retreat at a Catholic monastery. I was just dis-invited. Don't think they had room for a secular rationalist anyway. Actaully I am sure of it!
More soon from Tacoma/Seattle.