It’s sunny, finally.
The light enters through the lacy curtains and illuminates the small room. There are pot plants sitting morosely in the corner and I’m playing Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt through my laptop to try and infuse the domestic environment with some of the spirit of the road.
The communist style apartment block where I have been living for the past month or so is so dull it’s fascinating.
Every building is identical, giant grey concrete monoliths housing little old ladies who shuffle up and down stairs and young couples pushing prams.
I’m probably the only foreigner here, so always attract interested glances when I speak English. We were warned to close the blinds to apartment when we go out as curious neighbours have been seen peaking through the windows.
Poznan, an exciting medieval Polish city is about 30 minutes away by bus. The journey is a catalogue of interesting characters. Studded goth / metal types sit next to befuddled old men and staunch, stocky old ladies share seats with the alcoholic 30-something men who stare cow eyed into space clutching their cans of beer. Bright young students, heads buried in their book and full of ideas their parents can’t understand wear the latest fashion and lug their laptops off the bus and into trendy cafes with exotic paintings and cocktails inspired by post-modern theatre.
You’ll often find me in one of these places, reading Kapuściński (translated, of course) and trying to decipher the surrounding dialogue of impenetrable Polish.
The medieval streets, beautiful architecture, post communist scares and cheap booze are enough to make Poznan a worthy distraction from the road, but China beckons and soon I’ll be returning to the crowds, curiosity and chaos of Chengdu.
The traveller, if he is wise (and this one certainly is not) does not set out in search of stories, but merely accepts the ones that present themselves to him. Interesting things happen to the traveller not because of his or her own merit, but because he is there, an outsider, and looking at the world with an eye for the unusual, collecting yarns for the pub and fuel to keep the fires burning inside.
There’s the small side street that suddenly makes you change direction and leads you to an old Church surrounded by chattering old men who stand up in welcome and babble in an incomprehensible tongue. The group of local youths who, eager to practice their English and hear stories from overseas, invite you to participate in a night of local style carousing. The characters who drift through the streets wearing their histories like newspaper headlines on their faces.
Intrepid Times aims to make a record of these stories so that they exist in some more reliable location than merely in my mind.
It’s a pleasure to welcome you here.
Nathan James Thomas