Goodbye to Wrocław: a All Saints’ Day train-velogue

Stardate: November 1, 2011. One last blurry nighttime shot of the Facade of Contemplation in Wrocław to speed us on our way…and back on the train again, back to Warsaw. (I took this picture on the evening of Oct. 29.)

I like to stand in front of this Facade, in the Rynek, and think, whenever I’ve seen a theatrical performance that confused me. I spend a lot of time in front of it.

The first of November? Really? I’ve been in Poland for three months and ten days. I arrived early—my Fulbright window only officially started on September 15—but I got here July 20th to take some workshops with a theater in Wroclaw. They’ve been busy months. I have another 6.5 months left on the Fulbright. (Through June 15.)

Today is a Polish national holiday, All Saints’ Day, and so for the first Tuesday in many Tuesdays I won’t have language class right after I get off the train. I’ve been traveling over so many weekends that it feels like I’ve gotten into a rhythm of train-to-language class.

I’m writing this on a familiar train now, the one from Wrocław to Warsaw, and we’re speeding past the countryside. I’ll post this later, when I get into town.

Free tea arrives! Czarnę herbatą z cukrem! Bez cytryny! (Not on every train, but on this one. You can always buy it, if it’s not free.)

Working on another application. Fall seems like the right time to do it. When you get into the frame of mind of applying for things, one leads to another.

This is the end of one leg of extreme travel—2 nights in Lublin, 1 in Łódź, 3 in Wrocław. I did spend a day in Warsaw in between Lublin and Łódź—it’s nice to be in the center of the country—but it feels like a week of uninterrupted travel, and I’m looking forward to a few days at home. Just a few. I’m planning to go to Kraków this weekend for the Joseph Conrad festival, for sure, and also to return to Łódź as soon as possible. I had a really good experience there, and it wasn’t nearly enough time.

We approach a larger town. On the outskirts, an extended patch of repeating vegetable gardens gently fenced off from one another in a loose afterthought of not-very-tall chain-link, trees in fall regalia, hedges, wobbly garden sheds and small houses. It’s a setting that I see on the outside of many small-to-mid-size Polish towns when taking the train. I don’t want to get on the Stereotype Horse and talk about THE CONNECTION OF THE PEOPLE TO THE LAND, but there is a visually apparent…well…connection of some of the people, at least, to the land.

It reminds me of something else I saw all over Poland when the weather was better. People sitting on porches or staring out windows or standing in front doors. Some smoking, but many not. Shop owners standing outside their shops. As if all they wanted to do was be outside, looking at the sky.

[the passage of time]

Application finished. 1 page, as opposed to the 45 (really!) for the last one.

More stations: Zabrze. Katowice.

Past Katowice, at about 12:15 PM, we pass a cemetery full of people—Polish men and women in Sunday best, standing in and among the tombstones, carrying bunches of flowers, placing flowers and wreathes on graves for All Saints’ Day. They are listening to a priest at the front of the cemetery. They are almost all wearing black, and the effect is as if the stone tombs had been outlined in black. The red and white of the flowers is striking.

Working on a story.

I look up again, later, and the trees outside the train are all in shocking yellow.. Rows and rows of gold trees, with an occasional green one among the gold. We pass by a field of short trees, where the train is riding a bit higher, and we can see the tops of all the trees, like a bunch of gold pinecones.

In the courtyard by the White Stork Synagogue, outside Mleczarnia in Wro., last night, all the leaves on the enormous central tree had shriveled. They were ready to fall off. I’m so used to being in Poland in the summer that I’ve never seen the tree looking like that before.

I’m glad I went to Lublin while the leaves were still on the trees.

The other woman in my compartment has taken off her shoes and put up her feet, and is sleeping. She is wearing a sweatercoat over a sweater dress.

1:10 PM. Only about one more hour to Warsaw.

Arrive in Warsaw around 2:30 PM.