Stories, Sustainable Cities

The Buzz in Warsaw and the Dragon in Cracow

O smogu wawelskim

– I’m leaving this place. Pola, you have to take me to a big city – Warsaw for example. I can’t stand this place any longer! Sniff, sniff- Tola was weeping. She came to the bird’s clearing, pulling her bicycle to which she attached a pannier with all her belongings.
– But what for?
– Because of reasons! – yelled Tola, surprising her friends. But after a while, she took a deep breath to calm down a bit.
– Yesterday, when I was riding my bike along a dark street, somebody almost hit me. Nobody pays attention to cyclists here! Besides, there is no bus I could take to reach the cinema and there is a premiere of a feline film! So I decided I want to move out from here! I want to go to a city with a cinema and a theatre, where one can ride a bike and go to beautiful parks with lots of flowers to take a rest – she explained

Pola and Rascal looked at each other astonished.
– But why do you want to go to Warsaw?
– Everything I want is there! It’s Poland’s capital.

Pola didn’t have any plans for that day, so she decided to take Tola to Warsaw. She only hoped that the kitten will change her mind after taking a closer look at her ‘beloved’ city.

O smogu wawelskim widok na ulicę

– „All that is good, all that is new, take us away, show us the truth. Take us to Warsaw” – chanted Pola.
The world whirled around them and after a while, the three friends found themselves in Warsaw’s borough of Ursus.
– Oh, it’s so pretty here, look! – cried Tola with content, when she looked at the green park with alleys for cyclists and pedestrians. – I knew it will be beautiful in Warsaw! – Tola jumped with excitement. She wanted to run into the park as fast as she could.
– What?! I can’t hear you, something is roaring in the sky! – yelled the owl.
– Talk louder, I can’t hear anything, a lorry is driving by! – added Rascal.
WRRRR!

Indeed, two lorries suddenly passed behind them and at the same time a loud roar came from the sky. The noise was so overwhelming, that the animals couldn’t hear anything else.

– What is happening here? The sky is blue, there is no storm… – Tola asked, surprised.
They looked up and suddenly heard even louder noise.
– WRRRR… ZIUUU!

When the windowpanes of the nearest ice cream parlour started to shake, a huge plane flew right above them.

– Your Warsaw is full of buzz! You can’t lead a normal life here. I don’t like noise. You can live here if you want, I prefer our quiet village – said Rascal firmly.
– So I want to go to Cracow! It must be better there, you’ll see! – insisted Tola.

O smogu Wawelskim zwierzęta przy zadymionym smoku wawelskim

– „All that is good, all that is new, take us away, show us the truth. Take us to the centre of Cracow” – said Pola, content to flee from the overwhelming noise.
The friends landed on one of the alleys leading along the Vistula river and the Old Town.

– Oh, it’s so beautiful here! – called Tola and started to jump around her friends. – I knew that Cracow is nicer! It’s so calm, I can hear ducks swimming in the Vistula and pigeons in the tree branches! Oh, and everyone rides a bike here and… ekh, ekh – Tola coughed.
– You have a very vivid imagination, because I can’t see them here – said Rascal.
– What?
– I said that you either have a very vivid imagination, or the Wawel Dragon has just breathed fire here because there is so much smoke around, that I barely see anything – laughed Rascal, disturbing Tola’ counting examples.
– The Wawel Dragon does not exist. Don’t be a fool, Rascal – Tola stamped her foot.
– So why is there so much smoke? – asked the dog.

Ding, ding, ding! Suddenly, they heard a bicycle bell ringing.

– Get out of the way, kiddies, or I’ll run you over! – called a strange-looking person with a mask, who was riding a bike. The animals jumped away at the last moment.
– Because of this smoke, you didn’t even realise that we’re standing on a bike path! – said angry Rascal. – The dragon must have been here – he added firmly.
– There is no dragon! – called Tola.
– Yes, there is! – argued Rascal.
– No, there isn’t!
– Yes, there is!
– No! – yelled Tola. – Ekh, ekh, ekh – She coughed even louder.
– Calm down! – Pola interrupted their argument. – The dragon does not exist. But smog does…
– Smog?! – repeated her friends, startled.
– Yes, smog, a kind of smoke. When people are cold and burn fine coal to warm up their houses, a black-yellow smoke comes out of their chimneys. Look over there, you can see it coming out of that chimney – said Pola, pointing at a barely visible house with smoke rising from its chimney. – Due to smog, people can’t normally breathe in Cracow during the autumn and winter. They have to use special masks, just like the biker who passed next to us.
– I bet this smoke causes constant cough… – added Rascal, looking at the kitten.
– That’s impossible! – cried Tola, downhearted – There must be a city with a cinema, a theatre, where it is silently and everyone can see cyclists, with no smog and where everything remains in…
– In harmony?
– Yes!
– There is no such city. Let’s go, ekh, back, ekh – coughed Rascal.
– I’ve heard of such city – whispered Pola – I think its name is Copenhagen. It’s the capital of Denmark.
– Copenhagen? – repeated Rascal and Tola, curious.
– If so, I want to go there! – requested Tola instantly. – You can take me there. This is where I will stay. Without you – she added, looking at Rascal, because she was angry with her friend.

O smogu wawelskim

– „All that is good, all that is new, take us away, show us the truth. Take us to Copenhagen!” – the owl uttered the wish.
The world whirled around them and animals found themselves in a truly beautiful place. Low, colourful buildings surrounded them, they saw little boats moored along the canal, picturesque bridges over the water and a network of cycling paths.

– It’s so nice here.. – said Tola, delighted.
Ding, ding, ding! Suddenly, they heard the sound of a bicycle bell.
– Godmorgen. Hello – a hedgehog riding a bike called from the distance, smiling widely.

This time everything was clearly visible and animals managed to get away from the path in time.
– Are you taking part in the bicycle race, too? – the hedgehog asked Tola, when he spotted her bike – Hurry up, it’s about to start – he added and smiled at everyone before leaving.
– A bicycle race? – repeated Tola. – Of course! – she called.

Tola walked fast with Pola and Rascal following her. After a while, they reached a beautiful park with alleys. A lot of cyclists gathered on the edge of the park. Everyone with a bicycle was given a starting number.

– Godmorgen, hello. Do you take part in the race, kitten? – Crow the judge asked Tola.
– Of course! – she replied eagerly. – These are my friends, they will be here to support me, ok?
– Yes, everyone is welcome in our city – answered the Crow with a smile. – Doggy, don’t you want to take part in the race, too? I can see you’re strong, you have a chance to win.
– No, thank you, I’m still breathless. Because of my friend, we have come across smog.
– Oh, then you must be coming from far away, because here, in Copenhagen, we don’t struggle with smog. Well, have a nice time cheering and supporting your friend – he added and looked at the kitten again. – Here you are, number 77. Stand over there, next to other animals and wait for the countdown – he said.

– 3, 2, 1… GO!

The contestants started the race.
When Tola started to ride, Rascal’s bad mood evaporated. After all, his best friend was taking part in the race. She needed his support, not his grumpy expression.

The race course led through the park and along the canal, next to big tennis and basketball courts, then beside a picturesque playground and further into the city centre where it was turning back. Tola, although much younger, was constantly overtaking other competitors. Pola and Rascal were cheering her on the loudest of all the spectators.

– Come on, come on, you can do this! – Rascal was calling from the distance.
– Faster, faster! Tola, show them how we ride in Poldasie! Overtake this cat on your right! Come on, you’re doing great! – instructed Pola, who was flying right above Tola.
After 20 minutes, Tola reached the finish line. She was third.
– Congratulations! – exclaimed Pola as she hugged her.
– Tola, you were great! – called Rascal happily.
– Yay! I’m third! – Tola was over the moon. ‘If it wasn’t for you, I surely wouldn’t have been able to overtake so many contestants! Yay! – she was yelling and jumping.

O smogu wawelskim

Tola eventually sat down on the grass and Pola with Rascal joined her.

– I got really tired because of this pannier attached to my bike. Do you know where I can buy water? – she asked a little kitten sitting on the grass right beside them.
– Buy water? – the little Dane was surprised. – We have drinking water here for free, you can drink from every drinking fountain in this park. The closest is over there, where the contestants are relaxing – she added and pointed at the lawn in the distance.
– Don’t stand up, I’ll go – Rascal stood up eagerly and run to fill a water bottle.
– This is the greatest city I’ve ever seen in my life – said Tola, drinking the water from the fountain and resting her tired feet on Rascal’s back. – There is a park, clean water for free, a cinema, a theatre… It’s really beautiful here. Maybe you will move in here with me? – she asked her friends with hope audible in her voice.
– No… I can’t… all my family lives in Poland and Ukraine. I would miss them a lot – said Pola.
– So you will leave me here alone? – asked sad Tola.
– Not alone. You will have your cinema here, and a theatre, a playground, clean parks, bicycle paths and many other things you dream about…
– But I won’t have you… – said Tola silently.
– So maybe go back with us and together we will try to create the second Copenhagen in our Podlasie. We have forests, lakes, grasslands… – said Pola, trying to convince Tola.
– Thanks to Madame Trashion, we have learnt how to segregate litter and recently we’ve been trying to watch out not to produce too much exhaust fumes… – added Rascal.
– If you want, we can trace bicycle paths or maybe even organise a cinema or a travelling theatre. If you move to Copenhagen, who will organise this in our village? – asked the owl.

Tola remained silent for a few moments. She was hesitating, unsure what to say.

– Mmm… if you put it that way, I’m coming back with you – she answered quietly. – Together, we will make our village the best place on Earth. Next year, Crow the judge will visit us during a bike race organised in Podlasie – she added with her usual enthusiasm.
– One for all, all for one! – called the three friends and went back to Podlasie, to their homes…

Questions to careful listeners

1. Why does Tola want to move out from her village?
2. Why did Rascal say that Warsaw is full of buzz?
3. Does smog exist in Cracow? What is it?
4. Why did Tola find Copenhagen a place she would like to live in?
5. What do Pola, Tola and Rascal plan to change in Podlasie to make this place better to live in?

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