Relax, this isn’t going to be nearly as serious as the title suggests.
I just found out that Joseph Conrad (otherwise known as Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) lived in Krakow as a teenager. I live in Krakow, and that means I can cobble together a cheap post composed of references to Conrad, rivers, and people gasping “The horror… ! The horror…!”
Joseph Conrad—the inventor of Apocalypse Now, the Starship Nostromo, and Habitat—was born somewhere in what is now the Ukraine in 1857 and very sensibly moved to Krakow in 1869. After messing about being a teenager for a few years he later went on to write a series of books that have been mercilessly boring other teenagers to near insanity ever since. Annoyingly he wrote them in English, so I was among those subjected to their narcoleptic powers. Exactly why he wasn’t able to restrain his endless ramblings about fate and guilt and duty and all of those other things that exam composers are so enamored of to Polish or some other language that needn’t have troubled 99 percent of the rest of the world we will never know.
In Krakow no one can hear you scream (damn it, wrong movie!)
The one thing that everybody knows about Conrad is that he wrote Heart of Darkness, which is incredibly dull, and that Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now, which is incredibly cool, is somehow ‘based’ on it. Nobody with any sense has bothered to read Heart of Darkness beyond page ten, while none of the same people have failed to watch the movie less than ten times. The result is that everyone who’s seen Apocalypse Now thinks they know what Heart of Darkness is about, which they don’t and they’re much better off in consequence. The other consequence is that, somewhere, Joseph Conrad is rotating in his grave at a steady 700 rpm.
By the way, did you know that Alien (the movie that features the USCSS Nostromo—named for a Conrad novel) was released in the same year as Apocalypse Now? Makes you think doesn’t it… Makes me think about Ripley in her underpants anyway.
The River Bit
Krakow is a river city. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this already. The mighty Vistula flows through her in a delightfully none-too-broad, none-too-rapid, none-too-sluggish kind of way. There are swans, hardly ever eaten by the inhabitants, pagan wreaths thrown in by lovely maidens in mid summer, and a complete absence of olive green PBRs crewed by CIA assassins. In fact there’s a remarkable lack of boats of any kind. Sure, there are a few rusting hulks tied to the shore masquerading as ‘pubs’ and dozens of weird little craft designed to extract hard currency from summer tourists, but it’s incredibly rare to see an actual boat. By this I mean you almost never see privately owned pleasure craft cruising along the river going from someplace else to someplace else. In my typically perverse way I therefore conceived a scheme to cruise down the Vistula from Krakow as far as Warsaw, and maybe all the way to Gdansk.
A river runs through it (I may have to shoot my caption writer)
I didn’t get very far. As far as I can tell there is zero information on the interweb thingy about how possible this is. The best I was able to ascertain is that the Vistula is ‘navigable’ for some 900 km from the sea but that nobody has really bothered to do it since the days of the Hanseatic League 700 years ago. I’m intrigued. If I plonked, say, a 20-foot-long shallow-bottomed river cruiser into the Vistula just beneath Wawel Castle and headed north exactly how far do you think I would get? And if I headed south, towards the source, would I end up in a village full of skulls on stakes ruled over by Lech Wałęsa with a shaved head? It’s a tempting idea.
I’m here a year now… waiting for a mission… getting softer; every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Polak squats in the bush, he gets stronger…