Tuesday was a day off and a change of pace for a touring musician, Marek and Ania drove Pandelis and I out of town to the southern mountains near Slovakia. I had never been to that section of Poland and was stunned to find yet another part of the country that was completely beautiful. Amazing houses, with unbelievably steep, metal roofs, unlike any architecture I had seen before. I guess the snow is so severe during the winter that the angles need to be extreme enough for the snow to slide directly off in order to prevent any damage to the buildings. As we drove through the villages I noticed that there weren’t any “Eastern Block” styled building designs and asked Marek why this was the case, you see them all over the rest of the country. He told me that the people were so stubborn in that part of Poland, having to live under such difficult conditions in the mountains, that the Soviets eventually just gave up trying to indoctrinate them. The four of us took a ride up into the mountains to view the countryside, walked around town, ate fish fresh from the river, ended things with some Polish beverages and music talk definitely too late in the night.
The next morning we met for a “hike to a cave.” I’d felt better in my life, but I thought, “Why not?” In my mind I pictured a short walk to a cool underground space to rest. The reality was somewhat different. The four of us proceeded to hike about five kilometers up a road into the mountains, passing innumerable groups of students on field trips with classmates. It was hot, and my black leather dress shoes were not the ideal footwear for the terrain, but still we pressed on. After checking a map Marek and Ania indicated that we had arrived. Initially I thought this meant to the cave, but what it actually meant was the beginning of a climb directly up one of the mountainsides. While we stood there catching our breath, a four-year-old girl climbed down the rock face with the help of a heavy, rusted metal chain. “Well, if she can do it I can do it,” I said, and we started up.
Everything was fine as long as we stayed below the tree line. Pandelis looked back to me as we climbed and said, laughing, “Ken, man, does this seem a bit extreme?” I nodded in fearful agreement, but everything was so incredibly gorgeous we just kept going. I mean this is the way they do things in Poland- All The Way. When we got to pure rock and out of the tree the view went from gorgeous to terrifyingly spectacular. I kept my eyes down and the vague trail, because every time I looked up things started to spin.
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