Have you ever had to vanquish a pigeon? As of the wee hours of this morning, I have.
You may not be familiar with Krakow’s other inhabitants if you’ve never been to Krakow. Allow me to enlighten you. They are plentiful. They are everywhere. If you are me, you avoid trees and building overhangs, and you constantly look around to make sure that you’re not in a pigeon’s flight path.
Of course, there’s a justification for the presence of the pigeons. They’re knights, or so local legend says. I’ve read different stories about their origins, but that one that was told to me was this:
Once upon a time… a prince wanted to attack the city. Unfortunately, he couldn’t breach the walls because they were too high. Time for a new plan. He had all of his knights transformed into pigeons so that they could fly over the walls, but when they landed on the other side, they stayed as pigeons, and the attacker was left with no army.
The more common tale seems to be:
Once upon a time part 2… the kingdom of Poland had been divided up into smaller pieces, and a prince from Krakow wanted to reunite them. Unfortunately, to do this, he needed vast sums of money, but there were no venture capitalists to turn to for support. He also needed to travel to Rome to get the approval of the pope, another expensive undertaking. So the prince turned to the second-best option – he asked a witch for help. The witch agreed to assist the prince on the condition that his knights be turned into pigeons until he successfully returned to Krakow. Well, what was the hapless prince to do? He agreed. The next morning, the knights gathered on the Rynek Głowny, and the witch transformed them all into pigeons. As the pigeons flew to roost on the Kosciol Mariacki, the large church, they knocked showers of pebbles from the roof, which magically turned into gold coins upon hitting the ground. Soon the prince had enough money to set off on his quest in style. But as we know, style costs money. To make a long story short, the prince ended up broke, never made it to the pope, failed in his quest, and couldn’t find the witch to put the knights back into their rightful forms.
Regardless of the story, the people of Krakow have been taking care of the pigeon-knights ever since. Babcias feed them. Children feed them. Tourists feed them. And they multiply. Which brings me to my story.
At 2:46am, I received a phone call from two of my friends:
“A pigeon flew in the open window and landed on Kirsty’s bed and seems to have gone to sleep. We can’t get it out. What do we do?”
I googled. “Google says to chase it out with darkness, but since it’s sleeping and it’s dark outside, that won’t work. Google says to throw a blanket over it and chuck it out a window. Try that.”
“Do you want me to come over and do it for you?”
“No, we’ll do it.”
“Ok, call me and let me know how it goes.”
5 minutes later, another phone call:
“Did you get it out?”
“Well, if it’s not too much trouble, could you come over and do it?”
So, armed with a pair of leather gloves and a sweatshirt in case the pigeon woke up and was aggressive, I set out on my quest. When I arrived, the pigeon was presumably asleep on the bed, although I never saw it as my friends had thrown a sheet over it and weighted the corners down with books, presumably to discourage it from flying around in case it awoke. There was also a trail of bread leading out the window. My friends were keeping their distance, thoroughly disgusted by the pigeon.
I took stock of the situation. With some assistance, I gathered the still-sleeping pigeon up in a duvet and shook it out the window. After a moment, the pigeon was dislodged and flew all of about 2 meters and went to sleep again under the balcony.
Thus all was right in our little corner of the world. The pigeon was unharmed, the duvet went in the laundry, and I did some math puzzles before going home.