In 1491, the eighteen-year-old Nicolaus Copernicus and his older brother Andrzej came to Kraków from their home town of Toruń for a few years’ study at the University. Michał Karski was there at the railway station to witness their arrival…
NICOLAUS: Postremo sumus hic. (Aside) If that was the express train, I’d hate to see the slow train. (To Andrzej) Hic locus grandis appellatus est “Plac Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego”.
ANDRZEJ: Schau mal, Bruder! Die schönen Mädchen da.
NICOLAUS: Quare loqueris in lingua Germana?
ANDRZEJ: Because we’re both supposed to be fluent in Latin, German and Polish and a few other languages, aren’t we? Mind you, I only got a C- in Latin.
NICOLAUS: Quare das Mädchen et non die Mädchen? Non est femina?
ANDRZEJ: You and your analytical mind. But actually, that’s a good point. Why is ‘girl’ neuter in German? Those two over there are far from neuter. Shall we go and say hello?
(enter an Erasmus student)
STUDENT: Cześć chłopcy! Dokąd idziecie? Na uniwerek? Volete andare all’universita?
NICOLAUS: Sum famelicus. Invenimus fish chipsque hoc apud?
STUDENT: Co on prawi? Qu’est-ce qu’il a dit ?
ANDRZEJ : Don’t you understand him? I thought everyone spoke Latin in Poland in 1491.
STUDENT: Parlo un po’ Italiano. Un peu français. Etwas Deutsch. En smule dansk. Algún español. Um pouco de português. A bit of Cherokee and Esperanto. Even a bit of Dick Van Dyke Cockney. Cor blimey, guv. But not Latin.
ANDRZEJ: He’s saying he’s starving and is there anywhere we can get some fish and chips?
STUDENT: Well, strike a light, me old China! As it ’appens—
NICOLAUS: (Aside) ‘Struth. This is like a Quentin Tarantino film. We need subtitles.
ANDRZEJ: How is the university, my friend? And life in Kraków in general? I hear you have a baseball team.
STUDENT: Oui, nous avons le baseball. Abbiamo anche la musica Klezmer molto caratteristica. Och aye the noo. Очень хорошо.
ANDRZEJ: I don’t know how much of this I can take. My head’s spinning. In fact, the earth is spinning beneath my feet…
NICOLAUS: (Aside) Earth spinning? That gives me an idea… (continues like this until 1495)