I went to the pub in search of the rumoured Polish bikers, but got distracted and ended up cuddling a puppy instead.
So this bundle of delight is Bailey, and she was shamelessly charming the clientele under the watchful eye of the pub dog, Baxter.
Bailey was just a visitor – she belonged to one of the barmaids – but Baxter is a permanent fixture. He is the pub dog, which is a position of canine eminence. In my opinion, all pubs and workshops are enhanced by the calming and gentle presence of a good dog; they set an excellent example of how to relax, and how to take pleasure in simple things. A good dog will teach you all you need to know about how to welcome a stranger, and the zen art of finding the whole universe in a dropped Twistie.
The Polish bikers were not hard to find, as there were not many others in the bar on a damp Tuesday evening in Cracow. Meet Andrzej and Eugene.
They were from Brisbane, riding around for a few days, because why wouldn’t you if you could.
Andrzej, in fact, has some pretty epic motorcycling adventures coming up in the next twelve months. This bloke will be heading back to Europe, collecting some mates and riding the Atlas Mountains in north Africa. Then he’s going to the Isle of Man. Then he’s maybe planning a ride from the Southern tip of South American to the top of North America.
That’s pretty epic, and I totally believe this man when he says he’ll do it. I’m tempted to describe Andrzej as a ‘bear of a man’, which is a bit of a literary cliché and not (I hope) peculiar or offensive to Andrjez when he reads this. But you see, Andre has this gloriously substantial beard; a powerful stature; and after speaking with him for a little while, you realise that he has no fear. This is a man who not only hiked alone around Alaska in Summer, but when he saw a bear on the road he ran towards it. Because he wanted to see it.
Although I am personally terrified of bears (well, most things with big teeth and claws which would make death stressful and unpleasant), the general idea makes sense to me. The idea of not being afraid of solitude, not being afraid of death.
It turns out that Andre is a Catholic priest; he rides his giant Victory motorcycle with God’s Squad when he’s not being Father Andrzej at his parish in Brisbane.
Now, some of you might know already that I am not a religious person, and that I might have some acerbic things to say about organised religion. I also don’t like hypocrisy where I find it. However, what I do believe in is acting with genuine love and kindness to our fellow human beings, and I absolutely cannot fault anyone who does that in the name of a god, or otherwise. On the contrary.
Funnily enough, Andrzej was to be the first of a number of men of god that I would encounter in the next few weeks of my trip.
With Andrjez, Euguene and Michael, I drank whiskey and we talked of many things in the bar that night.
When left I Cracow the next morning, it was raining lightly as I headed North, and I suddenly felt very very light, and very very free.