Bury Patch

Halloween in Poland? Nope … don’t happen here. There are of course quite a few expat pubs around that host fancy dress parties that the occasional Pole will show up at, but these locals mostly just go due to the fact that they are either dating a foreigner or for the amusement factor of looking at a bunch of Brits or Americans in silly costumes. Hey, I am guilty of appearing at one of these myself many years ago at the local Irish pub (funny enough, me and an ex-girlfriend actually won the dress-up contest that night by default … default meaning that no one else decided to bother showing up with a costume). All in all, though, not much of a fuss is made out of it … even the trinket shops and shopping galleries more-or-less give it a miss. Poland does not have time for this nonsense. More effort has to be spent on stocking every square metre of market space and crowding every cemetery entrance with candles and flowers for All Saint’s Day (November 1st to all those non-Catholics out there). You see, the Catholic faith, which Poland proudly wears on its sleeve with a 94% practising population, has to be prepared to celebrate and honour the memory of those lost in the most grandiose of fashions. Many people, even Catholics themselves, will readily admit that Catholicism is a bit on the morbid side when it comes to a great number of things (come on … how many other religions display a bleeding heart surrounded in flames and entwined with thorns? And many nuns wear habits with this embroidered design on their chest as well!), and though the 1st of November has a certain beauty behind it, which we will come to in a moment, there is something a bit gloomy about setting aside a special day to go out, traipse around graveyards with candles and flowers and remember all the people who are no longer fortunate to be alive. Honouring the memory of a deceased loved one is one thing, but this can be done any day at all from the comfort of your own mind and memory; to shut down the entire country and block off roads to traffic so that bus-loads of faithful followers of the pope can fight the crowds of other well-wishers who put more gusto into celebrating an individual being dead than they ever did whilst the person was alive is just a bit overkill, don’t you think? As I said, there is a beautiful side to it … and that comes in the form of photography for me. The thousands upon thousands of flickering colourful lights scattered around the fog-filled Rakowice cemetery in the heart of Krak√≥w during the evening is a sight to behold! Just beautiful, I tell ya! And, to be honest, I believe about 20% of those out on this night are there just to take a few snaps (that number has risen from 5% over the past 5 years due to the falling price of digital cameras). It would be more atmospheric and almost a bit haunting if it were not for the hoards of people nudging you into mausoleum corners or making you trip over the remains of ancient gravestones. Now, on a bit of a side note, if you want to make a small fortune, invest in candles before November 1st and find yourself a prime location to set up temporary shop. A warning, though … competition will be fierce!

Sweating It Out

Sweating It Out

Not too long ago, I was in the middle of writing a blog about the fact that Poland was wet, cold and […]