Dear fellow travellers
In rushed lives, spent clock watching and chasing deadlines, there can be something disconcerting when time suddenly stops. But that, for us, is one of the pleasures of long distance train journeys. Someone else takes care of keeping to schedule, while we can just sit back, relax and watch the landscape slip by. This week we had the chance to do just that, when we rode Europe's most outlandish train, the D-1249 from Berlin to Novosibirsk in Siberia. Admittedly our stamina and a looming print deadline for hidden europe 3 didn't permit us to take more than a small fraction of the entire route, but for a while we were part of another world, aboard a train that travels for days across steppes and taiga, makes tracks along deep valleys and through long tunnels to cross the Ural Mountains to reach its Asian destination. Time counts for little in the private world of the train to Siberia, where hours and days are defined only by card games, an occasional drink and the firm hand of the provodnitsa (ie. the carriage attendant who keeps all in their rightful place aboard Russia's long distance trains).
We return to the theme of long distance trains and the provodnitsas in hidden europe 3.
a Kraków curiosity
In our July issue we shall also visit southern Poland, and look at a couple of excursions from Kraków. But the city itself has some hidden curiosities. Walk the royal road south from Kraków's magnificent central square and you cannot miss the great hill of Wawel with its palace and cathedral overlooking the Wisla river. There are many reasons for climbing the Wawel Hill. But there is one that does not feature in many guidebooks. Walk up to the cathedral in the quiet of night, or at dawn on a summer morning, and chances are that you may find one or two people sitting in silent meditation that may last some hours. Wawel is a magic spot indeed, but perhaps more magic than the casual tourist might assume.
For beyond the graves of Polish kings, Wawel exerts another force. To Hindus, and others who believe in the power of the chakras, Wawel is a magnet, one of the few spots around the planet which offer a special access to serenity and self knowledge. It is said that there are just seven places on earth that afford such privileged access to chakra fields.
Wawel's chakra connections are not without contention. The Catholic authorities who preside over the administration of the hill and its facilities take a dim view of this spiritual competition on their doorstep. Although visitors in search of chakra forces are tolerated, the official tourist guides respond frostily to any queries about the chakra question.