In Klezmer-Hois, Krakow
Soft-spoken lighting. A single waitress, white-capped and still. I’m the only customer. The waitress could be sixteen or sixty and this was once a ritual bathhouse. Earlier today, I jumped on a bus to the camp and did The Official Tour: suitcases, bunks and hopeful letters home.
The starter is carp: salty, sly, exquisite. I eat, the waitress smiles, I eat some more, the waitress smiles. I put my knife down, keep the fork in my hand. I think about the Stamford Hill girls’ laughter and their wigs; she smiles and takes the plate away. There is no rabbinical supervision here, the website said. Once upon a time in Kazimierz, the fog outside was sweet and held love and adventure.
This afternoon I let the nice young couple walk into the shower block ahead of me. They both seemed grateful and our guide was young, keen, factual. Music starts: a yearning fiddle and a glass-sharp, ancient voice. I ask the waitress who it is. She writes the name down and the song title. It was, she says, written by a man who lost his sister in that place. I didn’t cry or anything today. I don’t cry now and, for a moment, I think I hear women’s whispers: nothing between them and the waters and God.
In the photograph, the grinning doctor on the railway platform was pointing. Those fit enough: to the right and then work and then death. Those not fit enough: to the left and then death. A sip of the Galician red, I think. The waitress brings my main course: stuffed goose necks. We all have to try something once and they obey the rules of kosherness here, the website said. I gulp down the flesh and wonder which way the doctor would have pointed when he saw me.