“We could go to Wylatowo,” I say to my friend, who’s visiting from Australia.“What’s there?” she replies. “Well, apparently aliens leave crop circles there every year.” I look at her, wondering if she will find this as interesting as me.
A friend from Australia is visiting, and we are sitting on my couch, discussing possible places to spend a few days outside of Warsaw. The only places I have ruled out are Gdańsk and Kraków, as I’ve already been to each of them a half dozen times already. Unluckily, that’s pretty much put paid to the standard tourist itinerary of Poland. Luckily, my friend is as fascinated by the story of the Wylatowo crop circles as I am. It’s off to Wylatowo we go.
Wylatowo is not on the standard Polish tourist itinerary. It doesn’t boast palaces, or old residences, or grandiose gardens. But that doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly lovely. There’s a huge lake, a big old wooden church, and at this time of year, fields and fields of green crops all around. It’s simply a little town, one of thousands, I guess, going about its business in the middle of Poland.
We arrive and park under a big shady tree, and I think perhaps before hand I should have found out where the crop circles, exactly, are supposed to be. But not having done so, there’s nothing for it but to start asking. Even though I realise this is going to make me feel pretty silly. Nonetheless, I pluck up my courage and say to the first man I meet: “Um, excuse me, I’m looking for the… flying saucers,” I say, since I know that word. “Ah, yes,” he replies. He thinks for a moment. “I’m not sure if they’re coming this year.”
He’s not alone. The crop circles appeared every summer from 2000 to 2006, but haven’t been seen since. There are plenty of photos of previous visitations on the internet. However, he suggests I might be better off speaking to a local, since he’s from outta town. Not unlike us, I guess. He looks slightly bemused, but at any rate he’s humoring us.
We head for the most likely looking fields. I’m not sure what crop it is, but it’s a hot mid-summer day and the beautiful waist-high fields of green are waving in the sun in a most attractive way.
We come across a group of 13 or 14 year old school kids, who’ve just finished school for the summer and are hanging out. “Hey, guys,” I call out, “So, umm, can you tell us where the flying saucers are?” They consult amongst themselves for a moment and point. “Over there,” one says, pointing to the largest field. We all look, but I confess I don’t really see anything. After a moment I turn back. “Umm, can you actually see anything?” I ask the boys. “Well, you can sort of see some indentations,” one replies, trying to be helpful. We all look over and concentrate some more. Including the kids. But to no avail.
After a while we decide that we’ll have to get closer. We leave the boys and cross over to the field, ‘Ground Zero’ a sign reads, in Polish and German. It also gives a website address. We take each other’s pictures by it but, despite our efforts, it seems the Wylatowo crop circles aren’t to be seen today. We take a few photos of where they might have been, and start to walk back.
On the way, we pass three men sitting on a park bench. I figure it’s worth one last shot. “Excuse me, sirs, we have a question. About the piktogramy…” I start. The words tumble out of them far faster than I can keep up.
“They are so symmetrical, that people say they can’t possibly have been done by humans!”
“As soon as they come, all these people turn up to do research on them. And this German professor from a university arrived just yesterday – he’s got a film with UFOs on it from here, you know!”
“The power goes out sometimes – just for 15 seconds. All the lights, the electricity. And then it just comes back on again!” They all have their own story and theories, which they can’t wait to share with us.
“Stuff definitely happens here. That’s for sure”, one finishes. Everyone nods.
“Hey,” one of the guys says, his head to one side. “You’re not Polish, are you.” I confess that I’m not. “So, you’re not Polish, and you’ve come from nowhere, speaking Polish and asking about flying saucers…” he leaves that thought hanging. All five of us stand, looking at each other and considering the unsaid.
“Well where are you from, then?” he asks.
“Australia,” I say.
“Oh, Jesus and Mary!” he exclaims. “You really ARE from a different planet!” We all laugh.
“But how did you hear about this place?” another one asks, clearly still a bit puzzled as to what we’re doing here.
“It was in a guidebook,” I reply.
“Our little town’s in a guidebook?” they puff up and nod approvingly at each other. I’ve rarely seen a prouder little bunch, and I’m genuinely pleased to have been able to bring this happy news to them.
The conversation draws to an end. “So, look, we’ll be going now, but thank you all for the conversation. It’s been really interesting!” I say, meaning it.
They put their hands over their hearts, and as one respond: “The pleasure has been all ours.” We wave them farewell and walk back towards the car.
My friend and I didn’t tick off a grand palace or UNESCO-listed heritage site at Wylatowo. But we did have a very memorable conversation that we couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world.
I have no further evidence of the existence of aliens, or whether or not they’ve visited Wylatowo. But I have gathered more proof of the friendliness and colourfulness of ordinary Polish people. As I have every time I’ve ventured off the tourist trail in Poland.