Poland in the summer is filled with enveloping sunlight, as bright and life affirming as a hug. Vibrant life, bees and flies take a circuitous route through fields of barley, poppies and wheat in the countryside.
The air filled with drifting dandelion and pollen. A cacophany of bird song fills the countryside accompanied by a distant flutter of wings in fervent flapping as they enter the boughs of trees.
In the cities where tourists and locals roam, there’s a sense of excitement at the cultural pleasures of city life. In main city squares, buskers engage with passing pedestrians by creating enchanting airborne bubbles from gigantic cannisters of soapy water. These float and carouse up past the bustling traffic and colourful city walls and dissapear into the cornflower blue sky, interrupted only by the cotton bud clouds high up in the atmosphere.
Inside of the Wieliczka Salt mine, a thousand steps seem to guard you from the surface of the world. A thousand false ceilings seem to call out and confuse your senses. So far away are you from the grounding blue of the sky and the sensation of dirt under your feet. Inside of this mine thousands of people toiled away to procure the medieval world’s first supply of salt. An expensive luxury during times of trading, salt was what made Poland rich during the ages. Not only that but it was completely voluntary and (according to the guide) a decent wage for the age and for the toil. Some men lived their entire lives underground and some indeed dedicated their lives to salt, becoming immortalised by it, in the form of voluntarily carving a spectacular underground cathedral, a dedication to Christ but also a homage to their fellow workers who often lived and died in there, in the dark, dank and dangerous conditions. Exquisite chandeliers rendered completely from salt hang from above a dining room that’s fit for royalty and underneath of our feet, geometrically placed and decorated tiles of sheer salt are polished to a marble sheen.
Inside of gargantuan and grand cathedrals which dot the landscape, a nascent and calming presence reverbrates through the air – benevolent and passive – the sound of silence. Even aetheists and non-believers find a sense of comfort here in the silence. Up there in the rarified air of the cathedral where light pours through shards of coloured glass. Up in the cavity where doves and pigeons dream of flying, a person’s eyes are drawn to exquisite frescos and paintings of Christ in various stages of his life. And thoughts are driven aloft towards broader, universal concerns and ideas. A feeling of evanescent joy pours through a person and looking at this magnificence every day – who wouldn’t believe in a god.
In one of the endless paddocks and fields, there was one home and in that home lived people with their own loves, beliefs and philosophies on living good and productive lives. In this home was a family who were three generations in breadth. They were hosts and custodians to a whole range of farm animals. These lively beasts scattered wildly and randomly and caused a good deal of ruckus, mess and smell. Loved by one and all, the late spring and early summer they all had babies. Then more mayhem, noise and muck ensued all around the clock. So much so that all members of the family barely took off their boots. This year the family welcomed their newest member, a young human baby to the flock. This meant another babe to be fed around the clock along with the other animals outside. The lights constantly seemed to be on and the kettle always ready with tea and coffee. This year the noise level, hillarity and laughter that has ensued on the farm was at pandemonium level.
On a first class train compartment between Zamość and Głogow, the area is enclosed by a glass screen, door and curtains. The chairs are a plush blue velventeen and the leg room, wide and spacious enough to do yoga in between the chairs, to the bemusement of passengers, who passed by to see a strange woman, half concealed by the curtain, in a squatting mudra with eyes closed and a man on a computer doing nothing particularly exciting. A moody sky of inky clouds and rustling windy fields quickly hastened in a sudden summer storm that drummed at the windows outside.
In the walls of Wawel castle on the night of midsummer, an atmosphere of enchantment abounded. The mauve and violet light of the sky melted into the golden lamps that fell onto the cobble-stone pathways, this skimmed and bounced across gabled iron rooftops of the castle.
The light from the opera ballet performance stage shone in a dramatic cascade of red and green. Women in high-heels stalked past draped in pashminas, they caressed their perfectly twisted french braids before taking their seats, led by men in suits who gentle caressed the curve of the womens’ backs as they sat down, suddenly there was an audible intake of breath as the performance began.
The strawberry moon of midsummer hung low like heavy honeycomb in the sky, as the world turned from golden jute to amber and to indigo and eventually to an enlivened silver grey.
All photos and copy are copyright of Athena Dennis (c) 2016. Please ask for permission for use.