Harris Piano Bar is located just inside one of the main buildings of the Old Town Square in Krakow. It is a basement-level jazz joint, a hideout kind of a place if there ever was, but it’s cleaned up enough—you can tell the paint is relatively fresh. You had some difficulty trying to find it this place, though in the end, it was pretty obvious. It’s a Wednesday night, which happens to be a no-cover, jazz and blues improv night, and you slink with some trepidation down the steps, scout out a seat amongst a dark room packed with strangers. But who knew that the narrow, shallow stone stairs descended into heaven? 

Because that was what it felt like to listen to the voice on that man there in the center stage. He starts to sing an a capella blues song—you know, an old, old, old blues song—in unaccented English, with so much emotion you’d feel your insides aching. He has one of those voices that, when you hear it, forces you to immediately stop whatever you were doing and listen. Whatever life you were living up until you heard this man sing is not important. Whatever conversation you were having, you are suddenly thankful for leaving. It’s like someone has just thrown an ice-cold bucket of water on you, and you are gasping for air as you listen, because this—this can’t possibly be his actual voice, can it? No one sings like this anymore. You’ve never heard this music live. Your bones feel tired and so alive at the same time, and you are grateful for everything. The musicians join in, at first delicate guitar strings and featherlight piano notes, and then more, and louder, and there are harmonies, and it seems like even the chinking of glasses and the rowdy laughter wafting over from the bar are in time with the song. You could be in any bar in any town in any country in the world, and somehow you are here, at this bar, in this town, and you cannot believe how impossibly lucky you are. 

When the song is over, the man who was singing laughs—a giant, big, booming laugh, the same infectious properties of his vocals—and he speaks to the crowd in Polish, says something to his band mates in Polish. Everyone laughs, and you do too, though you don’t understand what’s happening. Another song starts, and you recognize this one—a cover of “Georgia On My Mind”—and you sink back into your seat, nestled, and suddenly, you are far, far away, farther away than you have ever been before.

Harris Piano Bar is located just inside one of the main buildings of the Old Town Square in Krakow. It is a basement-level jazz joint, a hideout kind of a place if there ever was, but it’s cleaned up enough—you can tell the paint is relatively fresh. You had some difficulty trying to find it this place, though in the end, it was pretty obvious. It’s a Wednesday night, which happens to be a no-cover, jazz and blues improv night, and you slink with some trepidation down the steps, scout out a seat amongst a dark room packed with strangers. But who knew that the narrow, shallow stone stairs descended into heaven?

Because that was what it felt like to listen to the voice on that man there in the center stage. He starts to sing an a capella blues song—you know, an old, old, old blues song—in unaccented English, with so much emotion you’d feel your insides aching. He has one of those voices that, when you hear it, forces you to immediately stop whatever you were doing and listen. Whatever life you were living up until you heard this man sing is not important. Whatever conversation you were having, you are suddenly thankful for leaving. It’s like someone has just thrown an ice-cold bucket of water on you, and you are gasping for air as you listen, because this—this can’t possibly be his actual voice, can it? No one sings like this anymore. You’ve never heard this music live. Your bones feel tired and so alive at the same time, and you are grateful for everything. The musicians join in, at first delicate guitar strings and featherlight piano notes, and then more, and louder, and there are harmonies, and it seems like even the chinking of glasses and the rowdy laughter wafting over from the bar are in time with the song. You could be in any bar in any town in any country in the world, and somehow you are here, at this bar, in this town, and you cannot believe how impossibly lucky you are.

When the song is over, the man who was singing laughs—a giant, big, booming laugh, the same infectious properties of his vocals—and he speaks to the crowd in Polish, says something to his band mates in Polish. Everyone laughs, and you do too, though you don’t understand what’s happening. Another song starts, and you recognize this one—a cover of “Georgia On My Mind”—and you sink back into your seat, nestled, and suddenly, you are far, far away, farther away than you have ever been before.

In Krakow, Poland. Old town square.

there was something about the green and blue bottles, clustered together, too close for comfort, that was simultaneously precious and choking. if only the windows were open wider, screamed the flowers. if only we had a little more water.

In Krakow, Poland.

there was something about the green and blue bottles, clustered together, too close for comfort, that was simultaneously precious and choking. if only the windows were open wider, screamed the flowers. if only we had a little more water.

In Krakow, Poland.

Outside our apartment in Krakow.

In Krakow, Poland.

I woke up in Barcelona.
Mr. Jasio [Johnny] nervously served beer and as a rule he didn’t give change back.
Pork jello with vinegar shacked strongly as a snitch sat down at the second table from the window.
I was sitting with Wojtek Pelon, who wanted to leave Barcelona
He dreamed of everlasting mountains that could touch the sky
But something did not let him go from the beer.
Then Andrzej [Andrew] came over with Zbyszek and Jurek Gizzelo
Both of them with a shifty smile on their faces.
But back then we still had a passport to be young.
What a joy.

— 

My mother’s coworker, Anna, speaks Polish, and translated the poem below for me. She warns that the poem may not make sense without knowing the history of the building, but for me, that’s not the important part.

Thanks, Anna.

This appears to be an uncredited poem on the side of a nameless building. I don’t speak Polish, and Google translate is being somewhat temperamental, so if anyone can translate, by all means.

This appears to be an uncredited poem on the side of a nameless building. I don’t speak Polish, and Google translate is being somewhat temperamental, so if anyone can translate, by all means.

Sunset from Wawel Castle in Krakow.

Sunset from Wawel Castle in Krakow.

Located in Krakow’s main square. Children were allowed to climb around this incredibly creepy sculpture like it was a totally normal jungle gym.

Located in Krakow’s main square. Children were allowed to climb around this incredibly creepy sculpture like it was a totally normal jungle gym.

This is a plate filled with some traditional, typical Polish food. There are some dumplings in there somewhere, and meatballs, roasted and stewed potatoes, breaded cauliflower, some kind of pasta hotdish thing, and some carrot-raisin-slaw stuff. I accomplished all of this at a somewhat nostalgic Restaurant Europa,” where lunch was served buffet style and you paid by weight. This is a very typical Polish lunch, I’m told. 

Personally, it brought me right back to my paternal grandmother’s kitchen in rural, small-town Wisconsin: little multi-colored spiral noodles, the meat-and-potatoes look of things.

This is a plate filled with some traditional, typical Polish food. There are some dumplings in there somewhere, and meatballs, roasted and stewed potatoes, breaded cauliflower, some kind of pasta hotdish thing, and some carrot-raisin-slaw stuff. I accomplished all of this at a somewhat nostalgic Restaurant Europa,” where lunch was served buffet style and you paid by weight. This is a very typical Polish lunch, I’m told.

Personally, it brought me right back to my paternal grandmother’s kitchen in rural, small-town Wisconsin: little multi-colored spiral noodles, the meat-and-potatoes look of things.

natalie gallagher. artist, writer, and the most unlikely south american explorer ever.

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