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Day Six – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna!! Festiwal Indii

Day of Enlightenment

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I arrange to meet Alexei at the school he is staying at, about an hour’s drive from Niechorze. When I say staying at a school, I mean he has been bedding down on a mattress here for several months with two hundred other people who follow the Hare Krishna faith. It’s technically not permitted usually, but the Polish government has granted this arrangement for their travelling troupe.

I love Hare Krishna's followers. Their energy, peace, love and aura about them is refreshing. I follow Alexei into his school and am greeted by faces high on life. A large classroom has been converted to make food, which is all vegan cuisine, and its aroma is gorgeous. There are piles of shoes outside each school as he sits me in a tiny chair outside his room while he says goodbye to his wife and gets his camera gear. We are travelling to Kolobrzeg for brunch, then onto Niechorze for the festival in the afternoon.

We are like excited kids, laughing and joking and trying to fill in all of the happenings of the past ten years apart. We quickly understand the depth and complexity of the situation and laugh about filling in the gaps for each other’s memory as we remember events that one of us has forgotten about. The trip to Kolobrzeg is scenic, but I am distracted by our conversation and Alexei’s insistence on listening to Maroon 5 on Kia’s night club sounding stereo. Our music tastes are very different as Spotify goes all disco on me and chooses a Club 7 remix of a track that Alexei believes is the 1970s original.

The café that Alexei knows in Kolobzeg is, of course, vegan. We ordered a vegan omelette, which was both filling and delicious. I am curious how you make an omelette without eggs. We choose coffee and large slices of chocolate and boysenberry coulis cake with sweet cream; again, there’s a magic show happening in the kitchen without dairy. Alexei shows me his collection of mirrorless cameras he will use for the day and is quickly immersed in his iPad editing video he captured yesterday. He’s working whilst I am the tourist asking dumb questions about everything. I give him a break from my constant chattering and walk down the street from the café when I spy a tank. It’s a Russian T-34, and it’s from a much earlier time. It’s parked with more tanks, and as I get closer, I realise it’s a museum for tanks. It seems open to the public, so I walk through an open gate and am immediately confronted with a severe man speaking lots of Polish quickly. The entrance is closed between us, and I am ejected without understanding a word, but merely because I got the free entry part wrong. I can easily take photographs from the fenceline, so the paid entry fee seems a moot point.

Alexei is ready to go; we wander the cobbled streets as I take panoramic shots of incredible buildings and churches. It’s a beautiful city from another time. We drive to Niechorze, high on whatever was in the food and dancing and doing disco moves in the front seats, trying to outdo each other’s performance. Alexei has a permanent grin creased from smiling for what must be going on ten years. He’s well-travelled and talks of our planned adventures that I missed due to personal circumstances. He speaks of his upcoming birthday in Bali and an incredible two-week 160km trek around the base of Everest that we should embark on. They sound like great ideas, and he is fun to travel with.

The Festival itself is incredible. It’s all in Polish, but their many performances show it’s a well-oiled slick thing with chanting, instrumentals, singing, dancing and storytelling with human-sized puppets that look like they have stepped out of a Pink Floyd album cover. The Indian vibe is heavy and hypnotic, and the audience builds as the light fades in the late afternoon. It won’t set until 8.30 pm, and it’s before then I realise where I am on the map. I leave Alexei to do his photograph work and turn down the offer to get behind one of his mirrorless cameras. It feels too much like work, and I have a meeting with the Baltic Sea at sunset. I find a path and steps to the ocean that wind down through native bushes onto a high concrete wall. I arrive at the bottom step and can see for kilometres in both directions. At fifty-metre intervals, break walls are pointing in the sea to reduce the landscaping effect of the ocean on the shore and, as I discovered, allow fishing boats to launch from the beach. I am here scouting for German and Russian submarines from a different time. It must have been unbelievable here during wartime. Watching these vessels cruise past with their bearded captains on the bridges with binoculars seeking out the signatures of icebergs. Thankfully it’s summer here, but no one has told the ocean this. I remove my Polish sneakers and stuff my sock into them. I roll up my jeans and scrunch my toes in the sand as I dance and run when the surf breathes in and out; bubbles of foam chase me as I laugh about doing something I dreamed of. Play in the Baltic Sea, bucket list, tick.

I want to mention something about the Polish people here who, like me, are on holiday. Their faces carry the world’s problems on them, and they appear physically burdened by them. They rarely will make eye contact with you, and when they do, it’s the frightened glance you’d expect if you’d wandered into someone’s backyard and they had just discovered you trespassing. Nobody wears flip-flops, and only a few brave children are barefooted, screaming, yelling, and playing in the waves. I wonder why few are dressed for the beach. It’s like the bus dropped them off here unexpectedly, and they are not planned nor packed for the occasion. Some heavily tattooed people stroll past drinking beer, but the alcohol seems to have made them louder but not happier. They offer what I am terming the Polish scowl, and it annoys them that I’m smiling like a Cheshire cat all Hare Krishna’d up as if I’d spent the afternoon with Bob Marley. They aren’t prepared for me, and I don’t care. It makes me smile more, giving me more room when passing people. My happiness feels like a threat to them as they give me a wide berth.

I spy a long pier in the distance and decide it will be as far as I go, and I am curious about what fellow fisherpersons are pulling from this famous sea. They have long surf casters and are whipping them towards Sweden but not retrieving them with their spinster reels. No lures, no silver bombs or squidgees to arrange whatever they are catching. I walk to the end of the pier and ask one of the kids fishing if he has seen anything. His reaction is like I asked him to come back to my car. He’s wary of my accent and funny words he doesn’t understand. His mother pushes past me to protect her flock. Her face wants me to go away. I smile, which again is unwanted and not returned. I laugh out loud. It’s like they are playing this game with me and are all in on it. I notice the hook and sinker on the boy's line, and it’s less than 1/0 with a ball sinker not much larger than a pea. I surmise the fish they are catching must be sardines, but I refrain from asking Google what they catch here, as I’m happy these angry people won’t be eating fish tonight.

The sun is setting over the water, which may seem weird but living in Melbourne; you can get this effect in Port Phillip Bay without flying to Perth. I want to foreground a woman modelling for her friend’s SLR camera. She is too severe for the landscape, and her pose is pouty and needy. I like the silhouette on my Samsung, but I have drawn the attention and ire of the model who thinks she is at a private photo shoot and won’t be used as collateral in my art. If I had taken the shot, I would have titled it “Grumpy at the Beach.” I find some friendlier items, a pile of colourful Crocs for the foreground, and I’m happy with the result. I apologise to everyone. I still haven’t figured out how to insert photos in this blog!

I return to the end of the festival, pay three zloty for the privilege to pee, and find my friend Alexei hard at work, tip-toeing to see in a viewfinder he’s mounted on a single post-tri-pod. Okay, pod, there’s no tri, just do. He’s noticed me missing somehow in his busy schedule. He empathically knows I’m missing something in my life and knows some background to the story as to why I made this trip in the first place. “So you want to become a Hare Krishna Andy?” he offers like it’s the only thing that could make sense now. I can’t follow one religion, one god, or one set of ideals for my spirituality, as I feel there is much wisdom in the teachings of ALL faiths. I like to borrow from the bible and the Koran; Buddha occasionally features with scoopings of Freud and Jung. To every person of faith I have ever met, they consider me truly lost. I feel supported and surrounded by metaphorical spiritual goulash. My mixed mash of beliefs, combined with using the word universe, suits the mainly scientific approach that I heavily season with chaos, impossibility (nothing is impossible) and quantum theory.

How about getting an astrology reading done? Sure, I say. I am introduced to a wonderful man curious about my accent and where I am from. He asked me for my date of birth, and I replied, I don’t need to know about my chart, but I need to find answers about someone else. About why I came to Poland and why this woman I fell in love with and have communicated with for the past twenty-three years refused to meet with me after all this distance and time travelled. If you are ever going to get a reading of any kind, never offer up any form of internal dialogue, as It normally gets cleverly reworded so you feel enlightened by it. You become part of the circus trick. This man offers me a chair in a tent, and I show him only the date and time of birth of why I have travelled to the other side of the planet. I open up my voice recorder app and press record.

His explanation and chart reading blew me away. He seems to know the personality traits exactly of a woman I have communicated with for twenty-three years. Nothing off the mark. Nothing general or airy-fairy. He is reading from the book of Oosh. (Urszula) and it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There’s some real problems and issues discussed here but he explains something I have been missing all this time. The expansive rationale for these behaviours, linked to the very position of stars and planets, when she was born. Other’s can pooh pooh and term Astrology a poor cousin of the truth, but I can truly attest that I have never met anyone who nail what I know about Urszula in ten minutes of talking, by only knowing her date and time of birth.

I am overwhelmed by it. I feel incredible joy inside. The final number is belting out from the stage. Their head guru is leading everyone in a powerful chant. Circles of arms intertwined followers repeating his name, “Krishna Krishna” so I joined them. I am crying tears over everything. I can’t stop it from giddying and making my soul and heart sing. I feel grateful. I feel blessed but not by Krishna. By the information I have been shared by one man. I have answers to many questions. They fulfil me.

I seek my last audience with Alexei. He wants me to get a sari around me and tell them my story on stage. He wants me to feel the joy of Krishna. I know I have a drive back to my Airbnb, as I need to prepare for my journey tomorrow to go to Zielona Gora, make my last presence felt by walking the streets of a woman I love, and pay my final respects – to the ghost I have created and dreamed of. I give him a huge bear hug, and we receive each others farewell without saying anything. Don’t leave it too long before we do this again Andy. See you in Bali for your birthday.
I make it to the Kia Sportage, and as if the universe has been watching and listening, the stereo knows the Polish soundtrack to play on my journey back home. It’s dark outside, and I’m smiling and crying. I feel like I finally understand everything all at once.

End of Day Six.

Posted by Andy_in_Europe 09:26 Archived in Poland

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