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Follow the Traveler

Ladies, eat your hearts out. For most of the day Monday in Krakow, I had these two all to myself.

There’s just something about touring a European city with a proper Englishman on one side of you and a charming Frenchman on the other. Both of these guys would probably complain about my descriptions of them–I know @GMuxx protests at the idea of being considered “proper”–but it sounds good, so I’m going with it.

This whole “follow the traveler” thing wasn’t how the day began. It actually started with a headache. Remember my last post? The one about the alkohole? Yeah. This was the morning-after.

I might have still been a wee bit tipsy when Muxxy and I wobbled out onto the street, blinking in the sunlight like a couple of regular vampires. Did I mention that his glasses darken in the light? Well, mine don’t. I squinted my way through the crosswalk to a tiny little delicatessen or whatever it was and managed to take a photo of the hotel from there. Accomplishment number one of the day.

The INX is pretty unremarkable from the outside, especially in the daylight. Those big, colorful planters on the sidewalk and the old car under the portico were a really good idea for brightening up the place.At night, strategic lighting makes a more impressive spectacle. And the interior, of course, is quite posh.

At the tiny deli, we ordered brunch, as it was getting on toward noon. I wish someone would have warned me that the coffee that shop serves has hair and that when you stir it and let go of the spoon, the thing stands upright like you stuck it in a block of canned ham. I have never tasted coffee that strong. That appealing cup of java you see in the photo below? The only sip I managed to take of it got spit into my napkin. Holy bells of St. Mary, that was a strong brew.

The sandwich was good, though, and so was the parfait. I watched as Muxxy savored his cup of jet fuel and barely stopped myself from gagging right there in public. My granddaddy always said strong coffee would put hair on your chest. Well, poor Muxxy must have gone home looking like a gorilla. I hope Kim had her hot wax kit all warmed up for him.

We left the deli and followed Muxxy’s GPS toward Wawel Castle. He’d been there the previous afternoon for the Independence Day celebration, and we debated whether or not the place would even be open since it was a holiday in Poland. What the heck, we decided. At least we can see it from the outside.

Along the way we found a few really neat things to see. Painted walls, cobbled streets, a stylish bar nestled behind a structure that looked like it was built in the fifteenth century–we stopped to take pictures of them all.

Presently we came upon the castle, perched high on a knoll overlooking the city. I spotted a flock of pigeons dining like royalty in front of it and promptly forgot everything else I was there to see. I was quite impressed by the fact that locals seem to have established a tradition of tossing out bread for the pigeons, since these birds are considered a nuisance in so many metropolitan areas..

I also liked the tree in front of the castle really well. Too bad the dang castle blocked the entire backdrop. I think that tree would look best in contrast against a solid sky. But some genius decided to build a castle behind it instead. People. I guess I’ll just never figure them out.

After that, we joined a throng of people climbing the Hill of Death to the castle. (No, that isn’t what it’s called. I call every hill bigger than a speed bump something similar.) Near the top, we passed underneath a large iron gate that looked a little dangerous. I, of course, was awed by the magnificent statue of a horse that graced the entranceway, while Muxxy set about taking photos of every iron and concrete dragon he could find.

Our fears about the castle being closed were for naught. There were scads of people visiting that day. Hundreds. Muxxy and I quickly became lost in a sea of tourists milling about in the courtyard. I found more pigeons. In fact, I found a pigeon I particularly liked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with feathers marbled quite as gloriously as this one. I wanted to take him home with me, but I figured the airline might have a bit of an issue with that.

There were other pigeons, too. My cell phone screen will forever bear the imprint of the castle courtyard floor after I dropped it trying to take pictures of them. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a table full of pigeons under the canopy where people were eating lunch. Nobody shooed them away! Why, heck–here at home, some good ole boy with a .22 woulda dun been out there pickin’ ’em off one by one. There in Krakow, the pigeons dined side by side with the people, and I loved it.

But my surprise at the pigeons helping themselves to leftovers was nothing compared to the surprise I got when I turned around. Guess who was standing right behind me? Not just another Steemian, but one of the three Steemians I mentioned in an earlier post who I said I wished I’d had more time to get to know. Yep, there stood @michelios, no doubt having quite the laugh at me out there in the castle courtyard chasing pigeons.

GMuxx came rushing over when he saw Michel and the three of us took a bit of a rest under the canopy while trying to decide what was see-able in Krakow on a day like that day. I wanted to tour Schindler’s Factory, but it closed early because of the holiday. Okay, no problem. We’d just walk and find whatever wanted to be found. We’d start there at the castle. I confess I was feeling disappointed that so much of the castle complex looked new, when I had been expecting to see Medieval architecture and very, very old stuff. The garden looked old, so I got a photo of it. The wall looked old, so I took some pics of it, too.

There were cool things to see at the castle, despite the fact that I was initially a bit underwhelmed. One of the things that caught my attention was the bronze replica of the castle that included the dragon’s den below us, which made me really curious to see it.

 

So we headed down the walkway toward the river, not saying much, just walking as a loose group of three with no real idea where we should go. Then something caught my attention.

At first I thought she was having a seizure. No, really–I did think that. Then I heard the music. Listen closely, and you will hear it, too.

I’m still not quite sure what she was doing, other than dancing to “Sail” by AwolNation. Her friend was videoing her, so it could have been just a fun thing to do, or she could have been getting that footage for a professional reason. Who knows. But it sure stopped me in my tracks for a minute or two.

In all honesty, I can no longer recall exactly which route we took to get where, or in what order. At one point we ended up traversing a patch of ground covered with pavers that had sunk and twisted at odd angles over the centuries. There I was hopping along with a cane, trying to preserve my dignity without face-planting in front of hundreds of people–all I can remember is keeping my eyes glued to the ground in front of me and an overwhelming need to get away from some obnoxious American dude who was yelling insults at an old man. Yes. Really yelling at him. Not joking around. Serious. And mean. Those dang Americans! You can’t take them anywhere. So I hobbled as fast as I could, with Muxxy and Michel picking out the smoothest path for me to follow along behind them, hoping to get away from that awful scene as quickly as possible.

At some point, somewhere, I snapped two really good shots of the Vistula River.

Muxxy and I compared phones to see which one captured a better picture of the sky. His did, of course. But I like my picture, too.

Apparently Josh Hartnett visited Krakow at some point in the past. But the hand prints seemed kind of small to me. Hartnett was all grown up by 2013, wasn’t he? Hmmm. . .

Finally we made it down to river and found the dragon’s lair. It was closed. No tours for me. But seeing it did stoke the imagination, especially when Muxxy told us about the dinosaur bones found in the cave centuries ago that were mistaken for dragon bones. Apparently they still hang in the cathedral today.

At the statue of the Wawel Dragon, all three of us hung around with our phone cameras aimed and waiting for it to breathe fire. It did, and we have matching videos on our phones of the grand event. LOL Here’s my version:

Further down the river stands a statue of “Pies Dzok,” a dog who, like Hachiko, waited in vain at the exact spot where his owner died. We visited that monument just long enough to get me good and teary-eyed. I wrote more about Dzok’s story in this post from the @tarc account.

Shortly after that, Michel spoke up about being hungry. He’s not exactly a chatterbox, so whenever he said something, Muxxy and I tended to listen. And oh boy am I glad we did. Because it was then that we turned the day over to Michel and let him take us through the city. As long as I live, I’ll never forget that experience.

From what I could gather, Michel has been backpacking around Europe for a bit. He’s well-traveled. He knows how to find what he’s looking for in an unfamiliar city, and he takes the side roads where life happens at street level. Muxxy and I were bouncing from eatery to eatery, trying to find something that suited, and with one word, Michel pointed us in a different direction. “Polish,” he said as Muxxy and I stared at a pizza menu. I had to admit, authentic Polish food did sound good.

“So what restaurant are we looking for?” I asked, convinced Michel had some particular establishment in mind.

He just shrugged, and with a rueful little grin, said, “I don’t know. I just think one will be down this way.” And he pointed to a street I would never have taken in a million years.

The following video is a result of that conversation. If you don’t watch another video I post, watch this one. The moment I heard music, I knew something special was happening. We would not have chanced upon this gifted street performer had we not listened to Michel–had we not followed the traveler instead of following the tourists. The final production is a combination of footage from my own camera as well as Muxxy’s. Thank you, Muxxy, for letting me use it.

Once the performance ended, we hadn’t made it far when a man with a thick Polish accent shoved something in front of me. “Real Polish food!” he promised. “Pierogies. Pork neck stew. Duck with red cabbage.” The thing he stood waving in front of me was a menu.

Straight to the Polish food Michel had led us. Morela was across the street, and we hustled over there without wasting any time.

I ordered pierogies because I’d been hearing about them since arriving in Poland. Yum! One bite and I understood why people talk about them so much. And, though you can barely see the bottom of the glass in this photograph, I enjoyed the best lemonade I’ve ever had in my life. It reminded me a bit of the lemon sours I used to order from the Hillside drugstore in the town where I grew up,. I drank two.

Then came the coffee, although after the morning’s experience I opted for cappuccino instead. It came complete with a little heart doodled in the froth. I’m happy to report that, unlike the deli coffee, my cappuccino did not have hair, nor did flatware stand upright in the mug after stirring.

For Muxxy and me, and probably for Michel too, a sense of nostalgia was setting in. Steemfest was over, and tomorrow we’d all be in different countries thousands of miles away from so many of the people we’d gotten to know over the previous few days. So we dragged the evening out as long as we could, returning to the INX for drinks in the hotel lounge. Then came the hard part–saying goodbye to a person GMuxx and I both had come to regard as a new friend. We all vowed to stay in touch, and there may be some tentative plans to reconnect in the spring of next year. I certainly hope that happens.

It’s hard for me still, thinking about the day that came after. Muxxy and I shared an Uber to the airport, and I hid in the back seat and wept quietly as we left the city for the last time. There’s just something about being around the kind of energy that Steemfest generates…when you leave it, you feel the loss. Yes, there will be next year. And hopefully some meetups between. But I’ll never forget Poland, or the beauty and strength of its people. Maybe some day I can go back. Until then, I’ll dream of horses and carriages and castles and pigeons, and I’ll never be able to listen to Lindsey Stirling and “Crystallize” again without thinking of that street performer and the day I spent following a traveler on the streets of Krakow.

 


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The Wieliczka Salt Mine and Closing Drinks (a.k.a. the Alkohole)

 

Sunday was the last day of official Steemfest activities. I think every Steemian there was gearing up to grieve, because we knew we had a few hours left with each other, but at the end of that, nothing more. @roelandp had arranged tours of the Wieliczka Salt Mine with our closing dinner to be held right there in the mine. By then it was easy to trust his judgment, but I confess a moment of head-scratching at the idea of fine dining underground. I’m from Coal Country in the U.S. and have my own ideas about the connotation of  “mine.” Boy, was I in for a surprise.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located just outside Krakow proper and was in continuous operation from the 13th Century until 2007. Greater than 1,000 feet at depth, the mine is a network of tunnels and chambers that total more than 178 miles.

Roeland knew that the Cane Crew, including @GMuxx, @soyrosa, and myself, would not be able to navigate the 380 steps down to Level One. Overall, the official tour includes approximately 800 steps altogether. So he arranged a special tour for us with a phenomenal tour guide. We took the tiny elevator down and proceeded from there. This meant we missed the first part of the tour, but I don’t believe we missed the best part. I failed to catch our tour guide’s name, but he constantly amused and amazed us with good humor and stunning facts. For instance, he’s worked at that mine for seventeen years and still has not seen all of it.

Some of the carvings inside the mine were made by workers throughout its centuries of operation. Others were done by commissioned artists to supplement the originals. There’s an overtly religious theme, with statues of Pope John Paul II and The Crucifixion, among others. Wall carvings depict scenes from the Gospels and there are four separate chapels in the mine with altars and chandeliers carved directly from the rock salt.

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The walls are made of actual salt. Many people in our Steemfest group confessed to licking the walls, and reported that they are indeed quite salty. I did not engage in this practice, for the simple reason that I felt sure if the thought had crossed my mind, it had crossed other minds as well, and danged if I wanted to go lapping all over a communal salt lick. Yuck. But I did find a discreet little corner and scratched at it with one finger, and yep– the little flakes in my palm tasted like salt.

Nearly every chamber of the mine had a different pattern of stone flooring carved directly from the rock salt floor of the mine. This was one of the most intricate. You can see where the “tiles” are worn smooth by millions of feet passing over them through the years.

In one of the caverns is a gift shop and several large display cases. I have no idea what all the minerals collected in those cases are, but I presume they’re somehow related to salt.

Directly overhead in this chamber, the ceiling seems to stretch to infinity, with several overlooks and blocked passages from different levels of the mine.

In many mine tunnels, the old cart tracks still exist. My thoughts naturally went to the horses who lived and worked there over the centuries. Our tour guide said they actually lived there underground, and years could pass before they saw even a glimmer of daylight or touched a blade of fresh grass.

I saw two of the four chapels on my abbreviated tour. Everything but the wooden furniture is carved in place directly from the rock, including the chandelier frames.I can only imagine what archaeologists will think millions of years from now when they discover this place with all of these ornate furnishings and decorations. Since a single catastrophic event could wipe out all signs of internet, communication technology, electrical and nuclear power sources, and every written word above ground, would they see all this and marvel that we had the ability to create such sophisticated things with our rudimentary chisels and hammers?

All throughout the public areas of the mine, ornate wall carvings are graven into door posts and lintels and the walls themselves.

And then there’s the beautiful underground lake, so high in salt content that, like the Dead Sea, the only way it can support life is by disallowing any living thing to sink.

After the tour, we all settled into the main banquet hall for dinner. Remember my skepticism about dining underground? Pfft. Yeah–silly of me, wasn’t it?

I finally got a picture of @ura-soul. He’s an elusive bugger, let me tell ya. But one of my favorite witnesses, hands down. Hence my stalking him with my camera. Oh wait. He was sitting with us at dinner. No stalking involved. LOL

On my immediate left was the fabulous Mooxxy, and on my right was the lovely @elizacheng and @soyrosa. If you haven’t figured this out from my previous SF3 posts, I became a huge fan of Eliza during this event. I believe it’s her mission in life to bring joy to people and make them smile. It’s a gift, and she certainly has it.

Eliza and I got matching snow globes as keepsakes from Enginewitty. We had fun shaking them up so they’d have exactly the right amount of snow for this picture.

Another keepsake for me from this event was the following photo I have of Yidneth and me. See the warmth in her eyes? That’s real, folks. She’s beautiful inside and out.

@enginewitty and @katrina-ariel are smiling like they have a secret. 🙂

Poor even Yidneth found herself upstaged by a clown act. Lord have mercy. @enginewitty and @arcange–good grief. I don’t think a serious photo can be taken of the two of them together. I finally just settled for getting one where Yidneth was smiling. Good enough for me. LOL

Speaking of Yidneth, she was there with her long-term partner @hedac. At one point during dinner, hilarious names for phone wi-fi hotspots kept popping up. Most had to do with Ned or Roeland, but then one appeared that had Yidneth oohing and aahing on her side of the table. Yup–hedac sent her a love note over the wifi hotspot list. I promised her I wouldn’t post the photo that I took of her showing him how much it meant to her (it’s very sweet, and I hope she posts it herself) but I will show you what the phone screen looked like that prompted her spontaneous display of affection.

From the dinner, we headed back to the buses and back to the Qubus for closing drinks. That’s when things got a bit iffy for me. Somehow, @gmuxx and I both fell down the alkohole .I guess this is what happens when the event coordinators put out a table full of all-you-can-drink wine and beer with enough variety to suit everyone’s taste. It just kept pouring. Yep, all by itself–it jumped from the bottle to my glass more than once. Really! It did. I don’t remember certain portions of that party, but those in attendance assure me that I didn’t fall down, dance on a table, start a fight, or die. So I think I can call that a win.

GMuxx, Enginewitty, Mrs. Blocktrades (I don’t know if she wants me to mention her by name, so I’ll err on the side of caution,) and moi.

Here’s GMuxx with the lovely Yidneth. I prefer the photo above I have with her. But I’m biased, of course.

@vladivostock tried to out-tacky Roeland with his money suit. I think he might have actually succeeded. . . .

Then, as the alkohole became increasingly deeper, I had some issues taking photographs. Let me demonstrate.

Muxxy and @revisesociology, Take One:

Hmm. Let me try that again.

Not the best photography, but it’ll do.

Then things got just downright ridiculous.

“Come meet @abh12345,” says Mooxxy.

“Abh1234 is here?” I say back.

“No,” says Mooxxy. “ABH one-two-three-four-five is here. Come meet him.”

“Asher,” I say. “I’ll just call him Asher.” So I stagger after Mooxxy, wondering where my cane got off to.

These were supposed to be photographs of Arcange and Asher (abh one-two-three-four-five.) I don’t blame Asher for not looking up for the last one. I wouldn’t have either. LOLOL!

Yes, we all had a great time that night. I’ll never forget it. Or maybe I’ll never remember it. Whatever the case, I’m very much looking forward to Steemfest 4, wherever in the world that journey might take us.

Just for fun, here’s a snippet of odds and ends that I captured on video that night at the salt mine and closing drinks. We have @yidneth and the fufunchis, @arcange doing a jig, and even @gtg gets some face time.

 

 


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Steemfest Friday and the INX Design Hotel

 

 

Day Number Two of Steemfest–the ICE Krakow Conference Center hosted our second round of presentations and round table events. I was there for part of the festivities, but this was the day @Gmuxx had a bit of a health wobble and required a quick trip back to the hotel. I didn’t get many photos of the conference center, other than the one below that I snapped as we arrived. I also took some of the super-swanky restroom, but I’ll keep those for myself. LOL

For this post, I’ll show you what a wonderful hotel we stayed in, with great staff like Witold, pictured in the cover photo. He offered us invaluable help with debit card snafus, after the whole international thing blew my bank’s mind (even though I’d called to advise them of my travel plans.) He also helped get us sorted with breakfast, since we had two separate reservations, one of which included breakfast and one of which didn’t. Staff at the INX Design Hotel is top shelf, folks. I hope to some day return to Krakow for another visit, and when I do, there is simply no other place I would consider staying. This is largely due to the friendly, super-efficient people who work there. I have never lodged anywhere that I felt more welcomed.

Below is a photo of the basement level, where we had breakfast every morning, alongside a slew of other Steemians including @shanibeer, @r00sj3, the @steembirds, and many others.I ate real Polish sausage in that dining area, and I’ll never settle for anything less again.

And here is the hotel bar and restaurant where I set my face on fire with a B52. Yes, I certainly will have another, thank you very much.

It’ll take me a while to get through all my photos and thoughts from Poland. Still to come are the Wieliczka Salt Mine Tours, closing dinner, closing drinks (what I can remember of them, anyway,) and freewheeling in Krakow with a world traveler. Eventually I’ll get to Auschwitz. That’s going to be a different thing for me, though, most likely a series.I was affected deeply by that tour, as I expected to be. I have much to say, and it’s going to take bit for me to rein all those emotions in enough to write sensibly about it.

In the meanwhile, here’s a long, underproduced video of Polish countryside that I duct-taped together for your viewing pleasure. Actually, it’s raw footage taken through a bus window. You’ll see a lot of strange reflections and hear snippets of random conversations, but for people who’ve never visited Poland and are curious about the landscape, this might be an interesting watch. I’ve spliced together several clips, interspersed with traffic circles that are not in sequence. I have absolutely no idea how to put this together in the order it actually occurs on the road. But you can see traffic patterns, vehicles, gas prices, and American fast food restaurants. Gaah, they’re everywhere. LOL I very, very much want to revisit Krakow some day. I feel like I left a piece of my heart there. It’s a beautiful city with beautiful people–most of those photos will come from my freewheeling city tour the Monday after Steemfest. I can’t wait to post that one.

Til next time, keep Steeming!

 

 

 


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More Steemfest!

The burning question for me is: how is anyone here at Steemfest finding time to post? Good grief! I’m finally getting this one up three days after the fact. It has been nonstop, and for someone like me who has serious health issues, the pace is deadly. So by the time I show up for the ‘Fest, take all the pictures, have all the conversations, then rest enough to keep breathing–there’s no time to post a thing.

Happily, we had some down time this morning and I’m using it. I’ll tell everyone some things about the goings-on here. Wednesday night we all met in the Qubus hotel lobby for opening drinks. Suffice it to say that a great time was had by all. I met some Steemians who just blew me away, folks I’ve known for a while but never seen face to face, like @alexvan (top photo) and @martibis (bottom photo.). Alexvan is the reason I’m at Steemfest to begin with. His witness, ro-witness, provided the ticket to get me in the door in the awesome contest they held. Martibis is a fellow writer and we’ve known each other a while. Let’s just say pictures don’t do these guys justice. A warmth radiates from both of them that the camera completely misses. They’re people you want to be near just because they make the world around them brighter.

The same thing is true for the guys in the next photo, with some differences.

@GMuxx, far left, is one of my bestest best friends in the world. We have a lot in common, but our frighteningly similar health issues make it almost prudent that we stay in close proximity. Either of us could have a crash at any moment, and both of us did while we were here. Someone who hasn’t been around M.S. or lupus likely has no idea to how handle an autonomic meltdown– but we do. I think it’s largely because of this experience dealing with the problems caused by autoimmune disease that neither of us ended up in a Polish hospital. Let’s just hope that nonsense is behind us now. It certainly isn’t fun.

In the center of the photo is @arcange, who I already adored and voted for as a Steem witness. But you know what? He surprised the heck out of me. Not what I expected. Oh, no. He faaaar exceeded my expectations and now I’d go so far as call him friend. This guy is the real deal. That ear-to-ear smile? It’s as genuine as they come. Never miss the chance to meet him in person. That’s my advice for the day.

On the right is @Michelios, someone I only just met here at Steemfest. But he’s another one that lights up his corner of a room, and I regret not having a chance to talk further. GMuxx and I had to deal with a bit of a medical emergency on Friday and I haven’t seen Michelios since I went tearing out of SNDbox presentation looking for Muxxy.. Gaah! Hope to see you at the closing dinner, man-whose-name-I-can’t-pronounce. LOL We all very much enjoyed meeting you and hope we can all stay in touch on Steem!

Above, the Qubus meet and greet in the grand hotel lobby. Good memories!

 

Krakow is a truly fascinating place–a blend of past and present with old world architecture and modern buildings side by side in a thriving city. Above is the exterior of the Stara Zajedznia, and below is the interior and one of the “barrel” booths that made such good seating for the presentations.

I met a lot of wonderful folks over the past few days, all of whom I didn’t get photos of. For example, half of the @Fundition team who was here–@hightouch and @free999enigma. However, Muxxy and I did get a pic with @goyard and @addictedtolife, who I’d spoken with on the mind-blowing post Fundition did about The Writers’ Block. 

Other notable people I got to meet but unfortunately got no photos of:were @ura-soul, @starkerz, @blocktrades, @revisesociology, and @karinxxl . And oh gosh, so many others. But I did manage to snag some people with my lens, like @ezzy, shown here with Michelios just before The Writers’ Block presentation. Everybody knows I fangirl over Ezzy–even Ezzy knows this. I think his writing is strong and commercial and is, in fact, what gave me the idea that blockchain and fiction are a good match.

Then there’s @fredrikaa, whose work with @steempress-io has been nothing short of amazing. I am a personal fan of Steempress and The Writers’ Block is both supportive and grateful for this initiative. To meet and spend a bit of time with this developer was a privilege I don’t take lightly. Pictured right to left below in one of the Stara Zajedznia “barrels” is Gmuxx, Frederikaa, and @Jayna.

I also got to meet and spend time with @elizacheng, whose warmth and sincerity blew me away. Still another lovely Steemian whose energy lights up a room. Here she is proudly showing off her family–I made a special point to get this photo at this moment because of the joy on her face. Elizacheng, it is a real joy knowing you. 🙂

Two other people I met who I hope to stay in contact with are @bugavi and her mother, @olga.maslievich. They brought such joy to me during this conference, and as is the case with Michelios, are people I won’t get to say goodbye to unless they are at the closing dinner tonight. I had to abandon our plans of further conversation when Muxxy and I left the Congressional Center in such a hurry on Friday. Needless to say, I hope we have a chance to talk a bit more very soon!

And now, just some random photos I took of a K9 S&R trainer’s car and some other lovely scenes I found on my walk to the Stara Zajedznia.

Last but not least, an edited video of TWB’s presentation about Steemhouse publishing and Wordrow. It’s edited to exclude reference to the witness group I left last night due to differences in alignment. It’s otherwise intact. Please be sure to watch it! It’s only 20 minutes long, and chock full of information some of you may not know!

Happy Steeming!


 


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Holy Crap! I’m in Poland!

It still hasn’t sunk in, not completely. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am so grateful I took it.

I’ll start by saying that if you ever get a chance to visit Poland, do it. Don’t let fear of unknown places and differences in culture hold you back, not from coming here. I don’t speak a word of Polish. No, that’s wrong. I can now say “thank you,” but I darn sure can’t spell it. No matter. A startling number of Poles speak fluent English. I haven’t had a bit of trouble since landing in Warsaw. Short hop to Krakow on a LOT Bombardier with a handsome friendly male flight attendant who spoke both languages flawlessly, Uber ride to the hotel with a Polish stud blaring disco punk from the speakers, and a lovely clerk at the hotel who helped get reservations sorted like a champ. Not to mention no fewer than six offers from dashing gentlemen at the airport to help get my luggage down four flights of stairs (for those who don’t know, I walk with a cane and struggle a bit sometimes) and the lovely Hungarian native flying from Florida to visit her mother beside the Danube.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned running into @instructor2121 at Chicago O’Hare, or the fact that my bestie @gmuxx was waiting for me when I landed in Krakow. Everything has gone so smoothly that I’m afraid to keep talking about that, lest I jinx it.

Steemfest won’t officially kick off until later this afternoon. So for now, I’m just taking it in, absorbing the fact that I’m thousands of miles from everything I’ve ever known, dropped squarely into the middle of a world that has been here long before the nation I call home even existed. These streets have history. And I can feel it. I see it in the eyes of the people who live here. There’s a certain wisdom, a certain knowledge, that transfers automatically from generation to generation, a soulfulness that’s missing in so many other places. I think the whole modern movement in some countries to erase the past from our present is a mistake, but that’s another post. I’ll make that one soon.

Small World

I flew out of the Charlotte/Douglas airport Monday afternoon around 5:00. After landing in Chicago just after 6, I immediately got busy trying to get myself to Terminal 5, lest I miss my international flight to Warsaw. So focused was I on my task that I didn’t pay attention to the man sneaking up behind me in a black hoodie and black knit cap.

Would-be mugger? Hah. Not a chance. I turned to see Rick Miller, @instructor2121, doing his ninja routine with a big shit-eating grin on his face. Over six hundred miles from home, and I run into somebody I know in the same airport, same line for the transit to Terminal 5. In what world do things like this happen? Mine, evidently. Most striking about this is that it’s a byproduct of Steem. When you form a close-knit community that spans the globe, bumping into people you know at international airports becomes as common as bumping into people you know at the grocery store. It’s just what happens.

Planes, Trains, and Buses.

Holy moly, the 787 is a big aircraft. A whale of a jet. Three rows of three seats and wide aisles, with a herd of flight attendants and a self-serve juice bar in the tail of the plane. Well, I don’t know if that last part is official, but it was on our particular flight. LOL They fed us two meals and I finally got to watch “The Martian” on the back of the seat in front of me.

Our average cruising altitude was 36,000 feet, and cruising speed was 625 mph. We hit the ground in what was, without a doubt, the hottest landing possible without setting the wheels on fire. I’m literally afraid to say how fast the pilot came in based on the in-flight information system, because it seems impossible. But let’s just say we all met the backs of the seats in front of us up close and personal, that there was lots of rubber screeching and smoking, and I’ve never heard engines roar so loudly to slow forward momentum. At least we made it out alive.

The brief flight from Warsaw to Krakow was on a prop plane. At first this troubled me, but only until we hit the air. From my seat, I could watch both the right propeller and the right landing gear in action. My fear of airplanes has turned to fascination.

The INX

The INX Design Hotel is remarkably attractive, inside and out. In my opinion, they sacrifice practicality for fashion a little too much, but it’s far from camping. And the fact that I actually ate Polish sausage in Poland is going to be a bragging point from now on.

How to Guarantee Seeing Someone You Know? Wear Your PJs in Public

A quick meetup with @katrina-ariel? No problem. Katrina and I have hung out before. She knows what I look like. But dang—I sneak down to the INX front desk to make sure the last day reservation was booked properly, and BOOM. There’s @crimsonclad, tackle-hugging Muxxy and scaring him witless, and none other than the @steembirds themselves behind me in line. GAAAH! Well, at least I’ll be dressed for the meet and greet. It’s an hour away, so I’d best stop typing, get this posted, and start heading to the Qubus.

 


 


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

I’m On the Road to Steemfest, Too!


Last night, once again bumbling about on Steemit far later than is healthy, I came across an initiative by @anomadsoul that piqued my interest. He offers a challenge for those of us planning to attend Steemfest 3: make a post a week from the heart, first introducing ourselves to other Steemians bound for Krakow in November, then letting them get to know us through our words. Using the #roadtosteemfest tag, we can find other posts by people we’re likely to see there, and by the time we meet in person, we’ll already know each other.

What a great idea! I think it’s a fantastic way to jumpstart the fun and form lasting relationships within the broader Steem community. Having recently celebrated my one-year Steemiversary, I’ve been here long enough to know that relationships are the key to longevity on this platform. Most of us tend to find communities of like-minded people and there we stay. This gives us a reason to stretch our boundaries. Again, great initiative! I can certainly get behind it.

I did balk at one aspect of the challenge, though. Anomadsoul calls for this to be a freewrite. Anyone who knows me knows that ain’t gonna happen. I’m a writer and editor by trade, and the blockchain is permanent. No way I’m going to publish a first draft of anything anywhere, least of all here. But I can write informally, which I think is the crux of the matter. Anomadsoul just wants to hear from us, no pressure, no pretense. And I can get behind that, too.

So Who Am I?

In the Steemiverse,

I’m one-fourth of the @noblewitness team comprised of @anarcho-andrei, @GMuxx, @SirCork, and myself. The four of us are not just witness partners but IRL (In Real Life) friends. The camaraderie between us is real. Though we have strikingly different personal styles, the four of us have one mind about the future of the blockchain—we’re invested, heart and soul. We’re not blind to the flaws of Steemit, but we understand that this platform is just one part of a much bigger picture. We have a solid plan to make our corner of the crypto-world better, and part of this will be announced at the Steem Creators Conference and SMT Summit in Toronto next month. Hopefully by November, we’ll have all three parts of our business model “stood up” and ready to introduce at Steemfest. More about that in a minute!

All four members of the @noblewitness team are part of @thewritersblock, a writing community that thrives on Discord. We all serve different roles. Cork is part of the IT team working on the project I’ll tell you about in a minute. Anarcho-andrei is one of our Executive Officers alongside @shadowspub. This means they can (and have) served as admins in the Discord when neither of our regular admins is available. And who are our two admins? Why, GMuxx and myself, of course. We worked together in the Fiction Workshop at MSP for months, until it outgrew a single channel and needed a server of its own.

The Writers’ Block is one component of a larger “Triangle” of writing and publishing resources we’re bringing to the Steem blockchain. It’s a place where writers with all levels of experience can interact with and gain insight from professional authors and editors. Next month, we’ll announce a new front-end site that’s just for creatives, designed from the ground up to ensure more visibility for writers of fiction, creative nonfiction, and journalism. Eventually we hope to add other forms of artistic expression as well, like art and music. By the time Steemfest rolls around, we intend to have our publishing house ready for launch.

In the “Real World,”

I’m the Director of a 501c3 nonprofit organization for animal welfare. I rescue dogs. Sadly, the situation where I live in rural Appalachia is very grim for animals. I won’t bring us all down by going into detail about it here, but I’ve posted prolifically about it on my blog. You can read more there and on Steemshelves.

Let’s Get Real

Those things about me are all true. And I think people need to know them. But do those things really make me me? Not as much as the fact that I grew up in the southern U.S., in the country. My best friends were animals. I’m the mother of two grown kids and this past year became a grandmother. I’m married, and he’s on Steemit as @sk43 . I spend all my time at the rescue with dogs other people threw away. I can’t bear to think of them as “unwanted.” That part of their identity and history makes me willing to sacrifice almost anything to keep their bellies full and their tails wagging.

To understand me, you have to know my spirit animal is a raccoon. I didn’t realize this until much later in life. I share so many personality traits with procyon lotor that it’s a wonder I haven’t grown a ringed tail. The rescue is located at the bottom of a wooded mountain, and raccoons are just part of the landscape here. You’d think the dogs would scare them away. Nope. The dogs and the raccoons are friends. They conspired to help one crafty creature gain access to my office last year, resulting in the mess you see below. Raccoons seem to sense I am one of them, and they take full advantage.

I have little raccoon handprints on my wall from where juveniles came down the chimney my first year living here and smeared soot everywhere. One day I’ll repaint. Until then, I keep the prints as a type of abstract art appropriate to my lifestyle. All of my windows and doors are damaged. I have gaping holes in the drywall where raccoons have tunneled in, and out, and in again. In my part of the country, there is no option of relocating raccoons. Having them exterminated is the only option. You can bet I won’t do that, so I live with the constant destruction. Ah, the things we do for love.

Well, that’s enough about me to get us started. Who knows what I’ll talk about next week. When it comes to my crazy life, I haven’t even scratched the surface.