Welcome to Krakow. My hotel is around the corner from the main square, pictured above--the "marketplace" as its called
locally. A delightful, colorfully historic, quite negotiable town, Krakow is one of the largest and oldest cities in Poland--it was actually Poland's capital for five-hundred years back in the Ten-hundreds through the sixteenth century. Having escaped destruction (unlike Warsaw) by everybody's favorite loathsome German A. Hitler, Krakow has re-emerged as a major treasure trove of historical...stuff. Want to know more about it? What do I look like--a Krakow expert? Click here and go to Krakow's official site.
One of its truly imposing structures is...
Wawel Castle on Wawel Hill.
Wawel Cathedral (the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Stanisław and Vaclav) is a church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, which is Poland's national sanctuary. It has a 1,000-year history and was the traditional coronation site of Polish monarchs. It is the cathedral of the archdiocese of Kraków. Pope John Paul II offered his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of the Cathedral on 2 November 1946 and later as Pope considered being buried there. If this paragraph sounds slightly drier than many of my others, that's because I flat out plagirized it from Wikipedia. What are they gonna do, sue me? Everybody's busy suing them.
The Cathedral is supposed to be magnificent but we (my producer Z. Matz was with me) decided to skip it due to a massive overload of kids from school checking it out. Instead we toured the above-pictured castle--filled with delightful antiquities. Paintings, tapestries, marble stuff, the works. Amazingly, the Polish people evacuated these treasures just days before they were invaded by you-know-who in September of 1939. They managed to stow most of this stuff in Canada--thus preserving a major part of Krakow (and all of Poland's) cultural heritage. Sort of the opposite of what we--as occupiers--managed to do with the Museum in Iraq after our invasion. Want to know more about this castle? What do I look like--a Wawel-head? Click here to visit the Wawel official site. If that's your idea of a good time.
The festival is, thus far, an excellent experience. Last night we saw a performance (the opening one) of an absolutely terrific singer/bandleader/personality who, I'm embarrassed to say, I'd never heard of. Max Rabbe is a German singer and band leader of the Palast Orchester. He and his orchestra specialise in recreating the sound of German dance and film music of the 1920s and 1930s, especially by performing songs of the Comedian Harmonists. His career and that of the Palast Orchester began with a Schlager hit entitled "Kein Schwein ruft mich an" ("Why does no one call" aka "No pig calls me", 1992), a pop song in 1920s style, and the film Der bewegte Mann (English title: "Maybe, Maybe Not") in 1994. He writes original music, including film music, and also creates covers of well known modern pop songs in a 1920s-1930s band style, including such songs as Britney Spears's "Oops!... I Did It Again", and Tom Jones' "Sex Bomb". Does this paragraph sound eerily empty in its fact driven prose style? That's because I lifted it almost verbatim from Wikipedia. So nnnnnahhhh!
However if you'd like to visit Max Raabe's official (and slightly scary because it's so GERMAN) site, click here. Dumkopff.
Rabbe (this is me speaking now) is a kind of super-cabaret artist, not at all kitschy in his presentation but defiantly of the past. His style might be referred to as "Weimar Rundfunk"--he is steeped in an era of American and European dance music and plays the part of a nihilistic boulevardier to absolute perfection, posing in the bell of the piano with maximum dignity and calm when not singing. His cool is what puts the whole act over--as well as his (and his bands) superior musicianship. As you can tell I'm quite taken with this artist and here's the reason: much as I love the music from this period, I almost never enjoy hearing it elaborately re-created (as opposed to re-interpreted in, say, a jazz context). It belongs to its era and most attempts to faithfully revive it emphasize (and thus parody) its agedness, its lack of suitability to a modern ear. Somehow, Rabbe and his Orchestra don't fall into this trap--though they're perfectly willing to go to a comic place with some of the material. I think of him as a kind of method actor--so entrenched is he in that world that it is, in fact, not a performance; its a visitation from another planet...