I got the center only just before I was to meet with Casey, my host for the next two nights. We were to meet at the gate at the north end of Floriańska street. I walked past a band of traditionally dressed accordian/recorder seated on Planty and under the gate onto Floriańska, which looked like a very prime spot. Naturally I moved some meters in (the gate provided complete sound insulation from the other buskers but it never hurts to be polite) and went for it.
Rain threatened the entire half hour pitch, in a very schizophrenic way. Large droplets with sun, misty drizzle under beautifully light suffused slate clouds… At one point, when the rain threatened the most I sang Here Comes the Sun and voila – it returned, improbably. That got me some tips :). Kraków, though stingy, yields very fun pitches. I sang all happy, quick songs, not because I felt I had to but because I felt that way. The girls tending the nearby jewelry and tour shops stood at their doorways watching. A young man handing out pamphlets completely forgot to offer them to passersby for a good fifteen minutes just watching me. Many youngsters gathered on the low windowsills of the McDonald’s to my right.
This weekend was apparently scout weekend in Kraków – nearly half of the passersby were youngsters in brown uniforms affixed with colorful cloth badges. Many of these stopped or gathered around me. Some, of course, gave me the stink eye. When I finished the young man with the flyers came up shyly to give me a smile and a thumbs up.
Casey took me straight to his flat in Nowa Huta, the socialist planned area of Krakow (geometric streets, large green spaces, concrete block housing. Quite nice actually) where he made me a gorgeous pizza. We talked at length before venturing back out – as the first American I’d couchsurfed with and his first American he’d hosted in Europe we had rather a lot to babble about. He also taught me some rather useful Polish grammar rules.
On re-entering the center I started by ducking away from the rain in a church near the city’s castle. Three old ladies were seated at a pew in front of me, chanting/singing something and the sound was very comforting – really helped me meditate and pray for I have no idea how long. I wandered through Wawel with Zebra and then looked for Andrew on Szewska, but he wasn’t around – likely the threat of rain was too much.
I tried again at Floriańska, but at a less ideal place closer to Rynek. Rynek itself was sonically dominated by three busking acts – a trio of accordionists playing classic pop like the William Tell Overture (who were quite good), a crappy long-haired guitarist playing bar chords and shouting but raking it in, and an obnoxious electric guitarist playing over backing tracks. My original pitch was occupied by a large group of scouts sort of spilled on the sidewalk singing Polish campfire fare.
After just a few songs met during which I was almost entirely ignored, the lady in the opposite clothing store gave me a scathing glance and yelled out her door: “Prosze!” her arms gesticulating forcefully for me to move away. Something about her demeanor really hurt my feelings and I packed up.
The highlight of this day in the city, however, occurred a couple tram stops away from the center. Casey met me at a beautifully unspoilt former quarry – a place for climbers but also swimmers. Where Viggelandsparken in Oslo epitomizes picturesque approach, this Zakrzówek represents the sublime. It’s technically illegal to enter at all, expressly illegal to swim in the quarry – but even on this coldish day we saw quite a few others. I tried a drawing while Casey bathed… but the lack of light spelled a crummy result. The sky just before we headed there boiled gloriously.
Earnings: 21 PLN + €0,50, 1.25 hours
Song of the Day: Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles