I’m told the countryside has much to recommend it, and isn’t just there to put decent intervals between interesting places. For example, thenews.pl recently reported that crop circles with ‘magical strength’ had appeared in a Polish field. A local dowser is quoted as saying: “No evidence of human activities in the field is noticeable,” presumably apart from the 30-metre crop circles and, you know, the crops.
Summer is traditionally the time city dwellers get it into their heads to leave the city and have a look at the countryside. It’s not a coincidence that summer is also the time when people who spend very little time in the countryside get into all kinds of trouble there. Urbanites drown in lakes, get struck by lightning, see imaginary gorillas and generally provide country folk with a rich stock of hilarious stories to tell each other through the bitter winter months.
My own relationship with nature is complex. I like to go and look at nature from time to time, and nature likes to extract my blood with tiny, irritating mouth parts. I know my limits. No mountain hikes or white-water farces for me. I’m more comfortable in parts of the countryside with regular, reliable transport links to downtown.
This might seem like a deal-breaker, but that’s only because you are not aware of the miracle that is the MPK Krakow Agglomeration bus network. I’ve only discovered it recently myself. My only previous acquaintance with those mysterious ‘aglomeracja’ bus tickets was for trips to the airport. It turns out that Krakow city buses go to as many, if not more, places outside the city than in it. This is an almost absurdly convenient way to get out in the big green without messing about with cars and the evil of private minibuses.
Get on most buses and you can expect them to remain politely within the municipal limits, where buses belong. Not the aglomeracja bus. One minute they’re bowling through the blocks of Prądnik Czerwony like perfectly rational mass transit vehicles, and the next they’re off the rails completely, nosing down tiny country lanes with eagles wheeling overhead and bucolics types mowing beehives, or whatever they do. It’s easy to imagine yourself part an art house movie about a bus driver gone rogue.
There are strange and exotic sounding places out there. The 221, for example, which transports you in city-style public transport comfort directly to charming Niepołomice, passes though Brzegi I and Brzegi III (no word on the mysterious fate of Brzegi II).
Heading north toward Ojców, the route of the 220 includes the flamboyantly-named Skrzyżowanie do Podchruścia. And who can pretend not to be curious as to exactly what Borki looks like?
After a predetermined period wandering about in the countryside, being satisfactorily bitten and sunstroked, the urban tripper simply wanders up to the nearest bus stop and waits. Invariably and on schedule, the city bus rounds the bend. emerging from a nearby forest like a tiny piece of roving civilisation, stops as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, and carries you back to a comforting reality where buildings outnumber trees and decent bars outnumber bears. Miraculous.