We are in the departure lounge right now, awaiting our Frankfurt flight and listening to news in Polish of the subway explosions in Moscow.
There are so many impressions and emotions associated with the last week I’d be very hard-pressed to sum them all up; we’ll be processing what this has meant for our lives from some time to come I would predict.
A couple of things came together to create a very contented feeling yesterday though, and I think I can sort them out in some sort of explainable way. They centre on what superb city Krakow is for walking. I edit Spacing Ottawa and have a deep and abiding interest in how urban space works, so to be in a place where pedestrian scale, old-world beauty, and a perfect pace of life come together so seamlessly was like some sort of happy dream. I’ve yet to see Barcelona, to my shame, but until I do I can safely say this is simply the most attractive city I’ve ever come across. I could bang on about it all day, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
That’s one thing. But to be walking its cobblestone streets with feet that don’t seem to trip up over their toes anymore was an unexpected joy. I’d have enjoyed walking -as such- just about anywhere last night. Barrhaven, the south shore of Montreal, Surrey BC, Mississauga, Transcona – any unloved swath of suburban sprawl you can think of, really…but to be strolling through this magnificent old city, a city from a story book, with feet that really work properly –well, it was almost more than I could take in all at once.
This picture above is not of any of the beauty spots of Krakow, it’s simply of a typical street in the old town. But look how confident the senior citizens are of their right to be on the street, look at the litter-free pavement, observe the low curb – these and a hundred other little details like them all subconsciously send messages to pedestrians that their needs are at the heart of the planning process.
The Poles can teach us a lot, and not just about vascular surgery.