Pióra (Klinger)

Today's Explorers

Pióra (Klinger)

May 4, 2023
min read
Charles Forman

Where are you from?

I am from Warsaw, Poland

When did you start your interest in exploration?

I think my travel addiction started when I was 6 years old and my father was reading to me in the evenings “The Children of Captain Grant” by Jules Verne, since then I wanted to see the World.

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

When I was a child we didn’t have TV at home so I spent time reading books by London, Curwood, Verne, Karol May and Polish children writers writing about travels and adventures and later I was checking all these names in the big Geographical Atlas, where physical maps had brown mountains and green plains. These exotic names - Nanda Devi, Great Slave Lake, Orinoko - they were feeding my imagination. It was in the 70s/80s in socialist Poland and it was like reading about travelling to Mars. But also I was travelling with our family and friends every summer to the Polish mountains or to France for a long 2 months summer holidays. My aunt was living in France, so I was the lucky one from socialist country behind the “iron curtain” who could spend summer holidays abroad. That time getting passports, all transit visas, crossing borders was a really difficult and very humiliating experience for my parents, but for me and my sisters it was so exciting !!! We were going to Europe !!!! Crossing the border was an exciting adventure. Until now I feel these butterflies in my stomach when I cross the border and I love airports.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

Speaking languages definitely helps me. I speak English, French, Russian and Chinese, and a little Georgian and Czech. I think also my mixed national and religious background gives me a lot. I am Russian Orthodox with Russian roots, my mother is Polish Catholic, my stepfather is English and my stepmother is Jewish, so I could say that I have the cultural mixture, tolerance and openness in my blood.

Where have you explored so far?

Many times since childhood in France and Belgium, Spain, Lisbon, many regions in Romania and Bulgaria and Greece, Moldova with one of the most unique experience in my life - the musical afternoon with my Jewish friend Klezmer, who played music on his violin, with Roma people’s King in his house in Soroca, Transnistria, Japan, Nepal, Tibet, many times in Georgia, living for 2 years in China, many times in Czechoslovakia and later Czech Rep. and Slovakia ( one semester of lyceum in Prague ), Zanzibar, European part of Russia, Israel and Palestine, many times in the UK, and my latest amazing exploration place – 8 times in Algerian Sahara in Tassili n’Ajjer region.

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

Travelling many times to one country.

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

I dream of going to Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan and Pakistan to see my beloved high mountains, to sit on Fairy Meadows with a cup of milk tea and watch Nanga Parbat. Also Cambodia and Laos.

Where would you recommend others visit?

I recommend with all my heart to travel to my beloved Algerian Sahara Tassili n’Ajjer National Park region where Tuareg people, who have their unique culture and language live. It is a region of breathtaking beauty and a variety of rock forms, sands of many colors and desert landscapes with prehistoric art - rocks paintings and engravings from the Neolithic era inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

From Poland I usually need to take a plane, but when I reach the country of destination I like trains – for example 6 days on the train from Chengdu to Kashgar in China is an adventure you never forget - and small local buses. When you drive 5 hours by small bus “marshrutka” in Georgia and you speak Russian so you can communicate with people, it is so interesting. Of course, it is best to wander around the city by foot.

What are five pieces of equipment you always travel with?

• I must have my camera and a smartphone with me because I love to take photos, probably because I take too many of them.

• I always travel with paper maps.

• I take a meal set – spoon, bowl, mug and Swiss knife – which allows me to make small meals even on the train. Probably this is a habit I inherited from my parents living in socialist country, where we didn’t have money to go to restaurants.

• And, what probably sounds a little funny, I always take a small box with earrings in, with me.

What inspires you to explore more?

The world is so beautiful and interesting. I am inspired mostly by films and documentaries. And sometimes I don’t know why, but I just feel that I want to go to some place.

How do you engage with others?

I always stay in one place as long as I can and just go to the same small restaurants and buy at the same market in the same stand. I just wander around a village and then there is always a woman or family sitting outside, so I can ask what they do or start to smile and this is how it starts. I also usually immediately buy local clothes. I don’t do it for the purpose of using it as a pretext, it’s just usually much more comfortable in a local climate and people immediately have a different attitude towards me. I go to a local small hairdresser or tailor so after 2 days people start to recognize me. But there is one thing which probably helps a lot, except speaking the language – I am woman travelling solo so it is much more easier and comfortable for me and local people to start to talk with me, especially in Muslim countries a woman can have access to men’s as well as women’s space. This is how my relations with Tuaregs started. I was invited to Tuaregs home to stay. It would never happen if I was with a group.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

While travelling we have a wonderful chance to experience all these differences which make our world so interesting. It gives me the opportunity to understand my own culture better.

What are your goals when you explore?

I am not sure if I have a specific goal. I want to know how people live, not only to see the scenery. But I always had the idea that I should appreciate the smallest little town. I can visit and try to find something interesting in some boring situation, which happens to be in a foreign country. That moment in the middle-of-nowhere can show me something extraordinary, that I will remember all my life.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

Fortunately until now no money or passport has been stolen and no serious illnesses. But as a woman travelling solo I was attacked in Georgia, so now I know what it means “the fear”.

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

Conversations with Tuaregs about life that made me think about my own life and make life changing decisions. But what is the most wonderful thing about travelling for me is that all these little simple situations I have during my travels stay in my memory and help me to look at my own life from a different perspective.

How has exploration changed you?

While spending time with my Tuareg friends in Algerian Sahara, I saw what it means in real life not to fight all the time in an angry way against reality, what does it mean to be positive, optimistic and patient. It showed me how fortunate I am living in the EU.

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

Be patient and don’t compare cultures and living conditions in different countries.

How do you explore locally?

I very often don’t go to the “must see” places. I take public transport. I always try to stay as long as I can in one place, like one week in a place where tourists usually spend 2 days. When I go back for the third time to the local market, people already recognize me and then I can really explore the place.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

Enjoy and admire every little place you travel.

Try to find something interesting in every simple or boring situation, like waiting the whole night for the plane in some faraway airport.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

• Don’t compare travelling in one place with another one, just because they are neighbouring countries.

• Be very patient with a different sense of timing.

• Try to spend as much time in one place as you can. Even if it means that you will see less of the whole country. Enjoy little aspects in the middle of nowhere.

• But generally - Try something completely different from your usual interest. If you like and usually go hiking in the mountains, try once to go to an island on the Indian Ocean, with big white beaches and turquoise water.

If you have read the book Strangers Like Angels - With a Devil or Two to Boot by Alec and Jan Forman, what would you write as your review?

I liked so much the way of telling the story of travelling and life quotes, private letters, describing small details which made me feel like I almost experienced the situations myself. For me it is not only the story about travelling, but also about travelling in time. And I definitely love the book for having maps and photos.

What are some comparisons you can make between exploration today, compared to what you know of exploration in the past?

When I look now at the way my parents taught me to travel and spend holidays, they were practicing real “slow travel”, before somebody invented this idea in the 21st century. In Poland during its socialist era when we had problems with getting our passports, all visas and transit visas and we didn’t have money, travelling was such an incredible effort. I think now with the internet travelling is so easy, maybe too easy.

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