Underneath Poland


An article about Poland, a machete attack, and a visit to an underground city nazis were building – With more didactic content than two hours of History Channel.


It was the last Saturday from the first month of 2018. I woke up early (much earlier than usual, what it means that it was not lunch time yet). It took me some time to remember where the hell I was: an empty, though quite familiar apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. That was my first day without work, after the end of my three-month notice period time, since I had quit my job at the end of the previous year. At the time, I had already left my home and had spent that whole month living in the house of a portuguese friend who was in Brazil at the time.

I went to the kitchen and, while taking a quick breakfast based on coffee and buttered toast, I got all the remaining food I had: some breads, chocolates and a fair amount of cheese. As the house would be empty for some time and I had no plans of staying there longer when I get back to Berlin, I took everything that was perishable and edible to consume as meals during my trip – a common strategy for those who travels without money. My bags were already packed, placed in a corner – they would stay there during the 17 days I would spend travelling in East Europe, going through Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. At that moment, however, I was still not sure about my route, once improvising the way is another characteristic of those who travel without reason. The only thing I knew for sure is that I was going to Poland on that morning.

Back to Poland

Just like the German Empire or the Sovietic Union did in past centuries, I was also coming back to Poland from time to time. I have an emotional bond with the country, once I always take with me a small gift Poland gave me: a small scar at the left side of my face. The incident happened in 2011, at my first visit to Kraków, in a tale that was in many opportunities already told, but never before had been transcript in bad-written words.

Why do we run after the cheese?

Down the Hill in one of the world’s most stupid events

It’s a clouded May Monday afternoon in Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire (a county in the south-west of England). Almost 4 Kg of cheese jump happily on the grass, down a hill. A beautiful ballet of human bodies fall behind it, like ragdolls. Well, ragdolls aren’t able to get dislocated shoulders, broken legs and cracked ribs, but people are, and people can also only stop rolling at the end of the hill, where a group of rugby players volunteer to hold the competitors and take care of more severe injuries. The person who rolls until the end first, wins the cheese.

look! that’s me!

The Cheese-Rolling Race is an annual and historic event. The tradition is centenary and no one knows exactly why it started. It is believed that the event was part of spring celebrations. Reports also suggest that rolling after things on a hill was a pagan habit. Some say that people roll after cheeses at least since the 15th century.

From 1941 to 1954, due to food rationing because of the Second World War, the festival organizers had to build a wooden cheese with a small piece of real cheese inside – The only permission granted at the time by the Food Ministry for the race. When real cheese could finally be used again, an 18 Kg one was specially produced for the event.

The tradition continued year after year, being organized by volunteers and made for residents nearby. But in 2009, when more than 15000 people showed up for the event, health and safety issues started worrying local authorities who decided to officially cancel the cheese event of 2010.

Only for Tough Guys

Translated from the original text: http://blog.paulovelho.com.br/tough-guy-piaui-directors-cut/ A version from this text was published at Piauí Magazine 64 (Brazil, april/2012). http://revistapiaui.estadao.com.br/edicao-67/esquina/onde-os-fracos-nao-tem-vez
source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093629/Not-faint-hearted-Hundreds-annual-Tough-Guy-challenge.html

Mud, hypothermia and electrical shocks in the world’s toughest race

It was a typical winter Sunday, in Perton, Staffordshire, a place about 20 minutes from Wolverhampton, England. A thin layer of ice was covering many points from the lakes that are part of the Tough Guy’s course – a race that is considered by many (and self-proclaimed) the toughest race in the world. It was about 1ºC that january morning, when a cannon shot the starting signal, releasing a rabble of 3.4 thousand people, from many ages, coming from all around the world, some of them in costumes. There were a good percentage of women and maybe a dozen men in ballet skirts. From those people that started the race – according with statistics from the organization – at least one third will not finish the route of about 13km.

The mastermind of the race is Billy Wilson, most known as “Mr. Mouse”, a pleasant 73 years old man, porting an emblematic moustache. Mr. Mouse was walking around, nattily dressed with his kilt, inspecting closely all details for the beginning of the race. He is experienced in races organization. Tough guy evolved from some cross country trails that he used to organize and dispute. There are no official register, but this winter obstacle marathon happens every year since at least 1987.

“Every year we try to add something for a more difficult race. Sometimes we make some change in the route or we add new turns at the Slaloms… some change to make an obstacle a little bigger or tougher. Anything for a different race every time someone does it. I raced it eleven times in the winter and eight times in the summer and it was different each one from another”, said Paul Gossy, 46, who, further on the organization, is one of the marshals around the place, helping the competitors that fail in keep going. “We used to have some electrical wires at the Tiger, and now we put some at Interrogation Pit, some at Viagra Falls. This year we have electrical wires everywhere.”