Life in Wolnica Square, a fiery philosopher, and a brief botanical divertissement


My place on the corner by the green awning

A graceful and thoughtful post (as always) from Patrick Kurp over at Anecdotal Evidence on An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czesław Miłoszit’s called “You Have to Have Some Basis in Being.” Also, a long review from last week’s Przeglad Polski, which I will post as soon as the translation is finished;  I edited it in an odd little cafe called “Freedom,” filled with shelves and shelves of tatty old paperbacks and pungent with the remnants of cigarette smoke – how retro!  I’m told that smoking is verboten in the cafe, but years of heavy-duty smoking has left its indelible traces.

The flames: lost in translation

At Freedom, I had my first-ever flaming coffee drink, called “The Fiery Philosopher.” That’s me.  The fiery philosopher. I couldn’t resist, really.  This photo doesn’t quite capture the effects of the roaring flames in the coffee cup, but I tell you, it did put some cheer into my afternoon. Especially since not all the alcohol was burned off.

Meanwhile, brief pause in my posts from Kraków, as I adjust to my new digs in Wolnica Square after nine days at the Miłosz conference’s hotel, which was able to provide the luxuries Westerners have come to believe they are entitled to.

Brick Gothic

In Wolnica Square, I am literally living under the shadow of Corpus Christi Church, which is right next door, and on the marketplace that, in 14th century Kazimierz, rivaled Kraków’s main square for size and bustle.  The original Kazimierz City hall across the square was built in the 14th century, burned down, and was rebuilt in the 16th and 17th century.  The church, founded in 1342 by King Kazimierz the Great, is Gothic, with the usual baroque era additions.  Hard to get used to medieval cathedrals of brick rather than stone.

Nowadays, the square is filled with shops and delis and boutiques and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Why the area is renowned today is that it is the old Jewish quarter, and synagogues, temples, and Jewish landmarks abound.

Meanwhile, among the joys of Kraków are the street vendors selling little bunches of lilies of the valley – virtually unseen in California, where the climate and soil aren’t hospitable to the delicate and fragrant beauties.  I have missed them – they were the favorite flowers of my childhood – and I have enjoyed  seeing the vendors’ barrels filled with them.  Lilacs, too.

Postscript:  Dave Lull just sent me a link for a Guardian blog piece about the Miłosz centenary – it’s here, though the writer James Hopkin gives no evidence he actually attended the event he is writing about.

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2 Responses to “Life in Wolnica Square, a fiery philosopher, and a brief botanical divertissement”

  1. James Hopkin Says:

    thanks for the dig. for your information, I was at the festival from Wednesday until Sunday, attending many of the events and lectures. The Guardian asked me for an overview of Milosz, not for a johnny-on-the-spot piece about the festival; they asked for just one paragraph about that. Nor did they pay for me to get there or be there. So please check your facts next time.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Sorry, James, I actually didn’t mean this to be a dig, though I realize now it may have sounded like one. I was actually just trying to determine if, in fact, you were there, or if it were reportage of the fact that the event happened, with your own reflections on the poet. The latter is a totally acceptable kind of reportage.

    And disappointed that I missed you there!