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A year in Kraków

The year started badly. As 2012 turned into 2013 I was in some crappy Eastbourne nightclub, with the mother of all headaches.

I don't remember much about the start of the back in Poland. I remember getting what I proudly described as a "sports injury" doing the splits when ice skating. Actually I wasn't even skating at the time, I was just standing by the handrail of the ice rink when I slipped. Skating has been added to one of those activities that I won't be trying again for "quite some time". I decided to move out of Kielce when a rather antisocial flatmate came to stay for a while. The next stop was to be Kraków. A larger city, with more to do and the advantage of having its own airport.

Finding somewhere to live in Kraków was a little stressful. There was a bewildering choice of rooms and the turnover of properties seemed to be rather brisk. I answered an advert which contained the "Gentlemen over forty need not apply". The advert was in Polish and I replied in the best Polish that I could muster, "I am a little over forty, but look younger". Luckily my potential new flatmate had a sense of humour and we arranged a time and date for viewing. I crossed my fingers that the flat would still be available when I came to view it. The viewing day soon arrived and the flat was ideally located, spacious and still available. A few days later I moved in. Well, I didn't exactly move everything in, it took me several train and bus trips (sometimes with the help of friends) before I had all my stuff there.

My flatmate turned out to be a great find. I didn't see a lot of her, but we were a good match. She didn't have a kettle, I had a kettle. I cooked occasionally (especially in the early days) and she enjoyed my cooking. My diet went well and (thanks to a bet with my flatmate) I lost just over four kilograms. The flat in Kazimierz turned out to be dark, cold (even in summer) and expensive to heat. She wanted slightly further away from the centre into a more modern block. Good flatmates are hard to find (as I know from experience), so I agreed that we should move too. The fact is I wouldn't have minded paying to stay warm, but even after paying out what amounted to nearly forty percent of the rent on heating the place still wasn't warm. So, it was a wise decision. My room in the new place was slightly smaller than my room in the old flat, but large enough and with the benefit of having a balcony.

Although I knew a handful of people in Kraków I knew that I had to widen my social circle. My experience in Kielce gave me a few ideas; language exchanges, couchsurfing meeting were the first things to try. One to one language exchanges failed miserably. My advert on Gumtree gained quite a few replies, but didn't lead to any regular meetings. The meetings of Language Exchange Club Kraków turned out to be a great social event and through those meetings I have met lots of great people.

2013 was the year for finding a new hobby. Inspired by a certain female photographer from Kielce I decided to take up photography. I started off by going to a street photography workshop organised by Kraków Photography Group. I definitely had the worst camera there and it wasn't until I visited England in May that I decided to get myself a decent camera (yes, it was indeed a nice birthday present for myself.) My camera's first active duty was over a cosy lunch with the aforementioned Kielce photographer in a restaurant on the south bank of the Thames. The photos came out very nicely indeed (more due to the gorgeousness of my model, the great lighting and the amazing camera than my skills as a cameramen).

I was reunited with my modelka in August when she visited me for a couple of days. Gay Pride was on, but we hardly saw any of that. We were too busy, drinking eating and taking photos (she took photos of seagulls and I took photos of her). A nicely documented weekend. The other major photographic highlight of the year was an intensive weekend photographic course. Portraits, fashion (in the presidential suite of one of Kraków's top hotels), an artistic nude session, followed by an outdoor shoot in a deserted fort. Some great photos taken that weekend. Once again our photographic instructors, the models, makeup girl and my fantastic camera deserve most of the credit.

An old hobby was resurrected during one of my visits to Brighton. Themed life drawing sessions. Strictly speaking your subjects should be naked, but so far they have been wearing some minimal clothes. The first session was on Halloween, the model wearing spider web stockings and posing against a graveyard backdrop. The second session (which was much harder drawing challenge for me) was title Circus Noir, but turned out to be more Cabaret (think Lisa Minelli). The drawings from both of the sessions turned out rather well, so it's something I plan to do more of in 2014.

Other things I plan to do more of in 2014?

Blogging and restaurant reviews.

Seeing more of Poland (after a very pleasant weekend trip to the much-overrated resort of Zakopane).

Enjoying the summer (2013 left many happy memories of cycle rides to Tyniec and outdoor film screenings)

Losing weight again :(

In summary, 2013 was great. 2014 will be even better.

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