Down These Strange Alleys

May 10, 2017

This is a girl whose questions raise doubts. Extremely unapparent. Baffling, especially to strangers, and always at ease. If you think you understand something, she’ll make you see the error of your ways with just a few short words. If you think you know yourself and your motivations well enough, you two should have a chat.

With just a bit of luck she could get lost in her own garden. When she needs to get somewhere, she always carries a map. Even if she’d already been there. It’s as if she were constantly rediscovering every place she visits.

I can't help but think that this girl is never in a hurry because haste is not elegant. That is something I would like to be... if I didn't have to be in a hurry all the time.


Winter in Warsaw

March 31, 2017

I’m not a big fan of subzero temperatures, so I hibernated my first winter in Warsaw away. You could count on one hand the days when I went outside with my camera. In fact, I am an absolute thermophile. On top of that, my work at the TV is really time-consuming, so whenever I had some free time and no place to be, I chose to chill under the covers. It was a time to hole up in other worlds: dream about future travels, read books, play board and video games. Not a completely dead period. I’d rather call it dormant.

Warsaw still remains a mystery to me. I know the area surrounding my flat in Mokot√≥w. A few cafes strewn about the city. A handful of outdoor locations such as parks and forests. About a dozen routes leading to places I frequent, mainly film studios. That’s all. When we moved in six months ago, in September, we gladly spent the first few weeks getting to know the city’s nooks and crannies. Now, I’m waiting for spring to return and bring my eagerness for long walks back to life.

Lately, I’ve been following Varsovian urban legends – partially due to my undying curiosity, and partially because of how amusing they are. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but many of them focus on the subway. The subway is the means of transport that I most commonly use, which makes me even more eager to explore the city’s continuously expanding chronicle. As I learned from the blog of Marcin Napi√≥rkowski, a semiotician of culture, there are at least three reasons to fear the M2 metro line… For it is her that most reeks of peril.

First of all, the M2 runs under the Vistula. It’s not enough that we have to travel underground, we’re also underneath the largest river in the country. If we go even deeper – nomen omen – rivers constitute a cultural boundary. They may serve as a border separating the known from the unknown. To cross a river is to cross the limits. The Devil appears next to border crossings – rivers, intersections, crossroads.

Secondly, the subway is haunted by the spirits of unburied World War II soldiers. Soldiers’ bodies are believed to have been hauled out of the construction site en masse. It did nothing to help, though – the spirits still frequent the area. Where do they appear most often? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine that.

Thirdly, underground equals evil. Hell, Sheol, Hades, however you may call it. New York has crocodile sewers, we have haunted metro tunnels.

Ever since I moved to Warsaw, I’ve been getting regular visits from several friends. Everyone has something to do in the capital. On a December day an old high school friend came by. We strolled through the city center, still quite unknown to me, and encountered Lapidarium – a truly unique antique shop.

The rest of the winter I will remember mainly through the TV glass, having worked on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Bake Off. It was fun, but didn’t let me invest enough time in my own side projects.



March 11, 2017

In December 2016 I decided to treat myself for Christmas: I got myself a new camera. I spent the festive period in my childhood home, in Cracow, and invested every spare moment into toying with my new precious. Among other things, A., Gabriela, and I wandered through an old armored fort for a good few freezing hours. I’d suggested that we bring a thermos with some hot beverage, but obviously none of us remembered to do it.

There are still forty forts in the city that make up the Cracow Fortress. When I was a kid I loved to play there. They were so dark, desolate, dangerous – I had to adore them. As the brave one I always won the competitions based on who would venture the farthest down the murky, moldy corridors. In our imaginations, creatures of thousand eyes lurked there.

Older siblings of the kiddos from my gang would tell stories about black masses believed to take place in the forts at night. We lapped up the stories dripping from their mouths and begged for more. We were even moreso fascinated as it was all supposed to occur right next to us. The Satanists were bound to pass by our houses and summon dark spirits in the very places where we played…

Later, after a few years, we discovered that the forts were a perfect spot for nighttime bonfires. We lay on the grass, baked bread, and more often than not someone would tell a scary tale back from our childhoods.

The childhood story that I most strongly remember tells the tale of a dark forest situated nearby. Of times when only fire or lightning may illuminate the night. If you want to travel, you mount a horse or change your mind. Distances we’re used to covering within hours took days back then. Everything seemed larger and more inconceivable.

There was a small village right at the edge of the forest. It had probably been built hastily and without enough thought. The settlers noticed it while building the very first houses. Things, eerie and unsettling, were happening by the forest. When you crossed the tree line, you could sense evil. The wiser of the bunch would remark it had to be caused by a creature that inhabited the forest. They’d say it must have lived there ages before first humans even set their feet in the area. Either way, they carried on with the construction and the few huts, chaotically strewn about, were soon transformed into a village.

A beautiful, although seemingly mute girl lived at its very edge. She was believed to have fallen silent because of her abusive stepfather. One night she was seen fleeing her hut towards the tree line. There, she disappeared in the darkness. The event caused the girl’s old mother to finally see the light; she wept and kicked her daughter’s tormentor out. She also called for the unwilling village men, who set out to look for her at the break of dawn. They were soon back, empty-handed, and said there was no trace of the girl. She must have fallen off a cliff or got caught by a beast, they said. In absolute despair, the mother didn’t believe them. She knew they were afraid of the evil lurking in the forest and most likely didn’t even dare to venture into its depths. However, old and ailing, she could do nothing herself.

She soon began having dreams that suggested something did indeed dwell in the forest. She reckoned it was her daughter. Every evening she approached the tree line and placed a bowl filled with food on the periphery. She would do this every day, and the food would disappear each time. The villagers proclaimed her crazy, but left her alone. In the meanwhile, the girl’s persecutor, her stepfather, began to behave bizarrely. He drank like a fish and, by night, shouted apologies towards his lost stepdaughter. One day, his body was found in a valley by the forest. His head was utterly smashed and on his crushed face there was a fearful grimace. The men who had once gone to the forest in search of the lost girl were now increasingly often seen silently staring into the distance. Some of them went completely insane. They were seen coming back from the forest with animal carcasses. At last, the villagers became anxious and banished them from the settlement.

A few years later, a group of children dared to play by the forest. Suddenly, everyone noticed one of the girls was gone. No one could saw her disappear. Her parents begged, but the villagers refused to help in the search. Her father took to comb through the forest on his own. When three days passed, he came back, wounded, powerless, and numb. The girl was already believed to be gone for good, but after seven more days she came out of the forest. She confided to the villagers that in the darkest thicket she encountered a beautiful, three-eyed woman who asked her: “Do you prefer to stay here?” The girl replied that she loved her family and thus preferred to return to the village. “Then, I went back”, she finished the story. Ever since the story has repeated itself a few times. Each time, it was enough to truthfully claim to love your family. However, no one knows what would have happened had that claim been a lie.



February 23, 2017

It was our first trip of this kind. We had just sixty-eight hours to see a green, spring-summery Tuscany and enjoy each other. I recall these moments as a miracle suspended in time. They were so different from everyday life, especially as back then I worked for a closed-minded and heavily structured corporation. We could already feel it at the airport in Cracow, waiting for our evening flight: travel-induced excitement mixed with relief. We would finally get away from it all. The flight was supposed to take two hours and I was awaiting it like a catharsis.

The plan was as follows: after landing in Pisa we would take a train to the port town of Livorno, and there, having inhaled our share of the city, we would find a beach on which to spend the night. In the beginning everything was going well. We found the train, the city, and cheap carton wine in a twenty-four-hour shop. Saddled with backpacks, so exhausted that we couldn’t stop giggling, we exchanged names with the town’s nighttime alleys. They twisted like rhizomes and caused our shouts to dully resonate. An enchanted city in the night. Intoxicated by the encounter we reached the docks and set out to meet its drowsy merriments.

At about three in the morning our energy finally withered, so we gave up on our search for a suburban beach. We cast the anchor at a city beach right next to a tiny park. It got dark, cold and quiet. No sound came apart from the icy water’s murmur and the occasional shout. There was a moment of consternation. We had no sleeping bags. We had towels, backpacks, and a shopping bag filled by biscuits, Italian cartoned wine, and Mexican bottled beer. Wishing to hide from the sea breeze, we tracked back and found a suitable spot amongst the cozier of the park bushes. It was there that we set up our little camp. I grabbed the empty beer bottle and told her I would protect her with this here majestic weapon. We slept on the towels, covered by our hoodies and huddled together until the breaking of dawn.

Morning roused us with a drizzle. Our host set the check-in for as late as 1 p.m. The long hours separating us from throwing the luggage off our backs and throwing ourselves on a comfy bed, we spent strolling through the city. We fled from the rain through a seaside plaza called Terrazza Mascagni; ate an Italian breakfast based on tomatos, olive oil, and mozzarella; quarelled in front of a monumental cathedral and did our grocery shopping in a market about to burst with a striking variety of cheeses, fish, and seafood. Through all that we felt as if bizarrely suspended between dreamlike fantasy and reality. We were absolutely exhausted. We were both dreaming about a cold shower and soft, cold bedding.

When we finally stepped inside of our apartment, I realized sleep wasn’t that important at all. I wanted more. When you’re tired long enough, you cross a point of no return and all you’re ready for is more. It was then, after the long hours, that my organism entered a high activity mode. Falling asleep wasn’t easy, but when I finally managed to do it and then woke up in two hours by the side of A., who was still sleeping, I was overjoyed, well-rested and ready for more sightseeing.

That night we laughed for hours in the kitchen, cooking pasta with pesto and pistachio-stuffed cheese. I love Italian cuisine and I love the time we spent there.

Day two had an entirely different aura. Hot, sunny, and thoroughly tender, it led us right to the green heart of Florence, its gardens: Giardino Bardini and Giardino di Boboli. These huge, amazing green spaces are situated in the middle of the busy city. Sunrays fight for attention with shadows that slide amongst the lush green. I think the loveliness of the gardens is up to this glow. Mysterious and baffling. One might think that magical creatures roam behind the oaken branches. A hill towers over the verdant area. If you get to the very summit, you can enjoy a view encompassing all of Florence.

I am still to mention the most important fact of all. It was our anniversary, exactly a year after we got together, and I had a diamond ring with me. I made use of it in one of the alleys shielded by a canopy of branches. I was (and still am) indescribably in love with A., and that day I was also indescribably in love with Tuscany. It all seemed infused with a kind of charm I had never before experienced. And the way she laughed melted my heart.

The last day, in Pisa, we tried to grasp as one reaches out for last sunrays. It was hot, stifling even. Flaky, dusty walls were tempting us to enter and get lost in a labyrinth full of identical alleys. Following a stray cat or just strolling with no destination in mind. We were caught by surprise by how soon our flight was to take off. We almost sprinted to see the city’s main attraction, so afterwards we had plenty of time to sit down and enjoy pizza in Pisa. We have our priorities straight.


The Cursed Island II

February 16, 2017

When I talk about strange things happening on the island, I mean an unsettling atmosphere and accidents that wouldn’t cease to occur. As the Cursed Island sank my phone, damaged my monitor, and broke my girlfriend’s netbook, I think electronic devices are at an exceptional risk there. In the end they’re not what’s the most important though.

While there, we didn’t care for a visit in the nearby temple. We passed by it every day, but it never occurred to us to cross the cast-iron gate separating the promenade from the sacred spot. We’re not too religious. Gods wouldn’t like it.


The Cursed Island

February 16, 2017

A cape on Thassos, a cursed island belonging to Greece. My girlfriend and I enjoyed it for a week, over the course of which many a strange thing came to pass. What is worse, they kept happening even after we returned home. But I prefer to think it’s the island that’s cursed, not me.

Thassos is a place that lets you see so much at the same time: one landscape might fit a beach and a forest, and a city, and a harbor, and some mountains to top it off. It’s a small island in the north of the Aegean Sea, which we chose off the top of our heads. We had no time to waste and simply packed up our suitcases and left. It was a lazy but weird week in our lives.

About me

I am at a crossroads with several passions that, in general, may be described as words, sights, and feelings. Formally, I graduated Polish Philology and Sociology and now I’m a TV editor. Not so formally, I’m just a word lover and amateur photographer.

Another thought storage of mine, old, dusty, and abandoned, is where I would write while I was majoring in literary criticism.

© Sylwia Kluczewska