Krakow


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Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland » Kraków
August 1st 2010
Published: August 6th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

July 28 - I hate Krakow. Or at least I hate today. I did everything right and it still didn't work as planned. I got up at 4:45am, because I can never sleep as late as I should when I know I have to get up early. It was ready in plenty of time to get the bus at 5:27am. As soon as I stepped out of the building, it started to rain. Of course I didn't put the rain fly on my pack because it wasn't raining when I left. But I was able to hide under a building for the ten minutes before the bus came, so tha helped a little. I followed along with the map as the bus went along, so I would know where to get out. When I thought it was time, I asked the driver, who spoke English, and he said to stay on for a few more stops. A few stops later, he told me we were at the last stop. I asked about the train and he said that was several stops back. I told him he told me to stay on and he said he didn't hear me, and that I should have said it louder. How would I know he couldn't hear me if he never told me? So now it's 5:50am and I am about to cry because I am afraid I will miss my train and I worked so hard to make it. He called me a cab - exactly what I was trying to avoid by taking the bus at 5:27am - and they said four minutes. Five minutes later he called them back and they said one minute. The cab came at 6:04am. I told him when the train left, but I had to tell him in German, since he didn't speak English. Not speaking German didn't hold me back this time. We got to the station at 6:09am and I bought a rushed ticket, ran to the train, and the door was locked. I tried another and got in and I think the train pulled away before I even sat down. But honestly, I can't remember as I was all adrenaline at that point.

Once I sat down I relaxed but there would be no sleep for me, so I started to work on a plan for Krakow. Then I got back to reading David Copperfield, which I find funny but still quite a lot to digest. And it seems the book is forever long, so I wonder what will happen in this character's life. Anyway, after an hour or so, the man in my compartment asked me if I was going to Krakow.. I said yes and he told me something else, but in Polish, so I didn't understand. Finally a woman told me that this comparment would not be going to Krakow, so I needed to get to one that did. I'm glad they told me, since there was no conductor to look at my ticket yet. I got all my things and moved a few cars down to one that said Krakow and found a new seat. The rest of the journey was writing in my journal, reading, and listening to some music. It took about five and a half hours. Of course I actually started to fall asleep as we got close to Krakow, so I had to work to stay awake to get off in the right place. Ridiculous.

Getting off the train sucked. It was raining, of course, and I wasn't sure where to find the bus I needed. I asked some info people and they said to take a different (first) bus and that I could get it in the mall right there. So I went to the mall, put the rain cover on my pack and then found the bus. It was there so I got on and bought a ticket. I got off and then had to get another bus. There were four buses that would take me there, so no worries, right? But I checked the times and they only came once an hour (!) and the next one was not for twenty minutes. The hostel really should have put this on their website - I never would have chosen to come so far if I had known the tram was not working. So I sat in the rain for twenty minutes before the bus came, and then I still had what felt like ages of walking to do to make it to the hostel, which is a house in a neighborhood.

The hostel is nice, but nothing special. They do nice things like give you lollipops on Thursday and free pizza on Sunday, and there are cold drinks in the fridge, which is nice, but nothing could make up for the distance and the time suck of getting back and forth. Anyway, I was less than pleasant when I arrived, but the girl working, Aga, was very nice and helpful. She helped me arrange what I would do each day in a way that makes the best use of my time. I will stay five nights but still feel I will be pushed for time. I settled my things in and said hello to the snoozing Swedish boys in the room. They had just arrived from Prague on an overnight train and were relaxing. I got my stuff together and headed out for lunch and then a free walking tour of the old Jewish neighborhood. It took ages to walk into town, maybe forty minutes to get where I was going, not the twenty I had been promised. But I went for lunch somewhere Aga had recommended and it was ok, but quite touristy. It was a bit pricey also, but I was in a hurry to make the tour at 3pm so I just ate there. The tour met in front of St. Mary's church, the big one on the square (which is the largest town square in Poland). Did I metion I forgot my camera!!!! First day of the whole trip with no pictures whatsoever to show of it. Damn. And did I mention it was still raining? All the way from the hostel to the tour. I thought no one would show up but it was quite full actually. I met two teachers from Canada and we chatted a bit during the tour. The tour guide was quite good, being a law student. He said lawyers and tour guides are the biggest liars, and he is both. He gave us a lot of information and it's all so much to take in, but was quite impressive. I am still struck by the fact that my Polish history knowledge is so limited. I did not realize (or remember) that Poland did not even exist for over 100 years, as it was split between Prussia, Austria and Russia until the end of WWI. He was also telling us what Schindler was really like - though he did good things it would seem he was not quite the saint he has been portrayed to be. Our last stop was the Schindler factory museum, which I will go back to tomorrow.

The teachers invited me to dinner and I accepted. They were nice to talk to, and we went to a good but cheap place. Tons of food! I got beet root soup and four huge potato pancakes with an iced tea for $4. They split a meal that would have been impossible for one person. They invited me for hot chocolate - cold and rainy day - but I decided to head back to the hostel for a shower, since it would take me so long to get back anyway. At the hostel, the Swedish boys were getting ready to go out, presumably for the first time that day, and I showered and interneted. I went to bed early and that was nice - I was exhausted. They came home around 3am or so. I didn't want to deal with earplugs and it worked out ok.

July 29 - I love Krakow! Today was such a better day that yesterday. I slept ok and got up around 7:30am. I met a few people over breakfast, and they were nice to talk to. It has been a relatively lonely trip, which has been surprising for me, as I thought Europe would be crawling with new friends, but no. I left around 9am and headed over to Wawel Castle, a big tourist draw in Krakow. I got there just after 9:30, when everything starts to open up. And the weather was looking good - I could see blue sky! It turned out the weather was gorgeous today - such a change from yesterday. It made me so much happier just to have some blue skies. There are many things to see in the castle grounds, and you have to buy a ticket for the things you're interested in. I had decided to see the royal apartments (compulsary tour), the cathedral (free), the royal tombs, the bell tower, and the cathdral museum (combined ticket), the Lost Wawel exhibit and the Dragon cave. I got a tour time of 10:50am, so I had an hour to look at the cathedral, climb the bell tower to see the largest bell in Poland (11 tons) and visit the royal tombs. It includes the tomb for the recent president of Poland, Lech Aleksander Kaczyński, who died with his wife in a plane crash earlier this year. Next was the tour of the royal apartments. Much of the architecture was original, but none of the furniture was, as it was all destroyed in the war. They do, however, still have 120 tapestries that were made in the 1500s for the castle by a place in Belgium that were evacuated from Poland during the war for safe keeping. They were then taken by Russia and kep there for 100 years or so before being given back to Poland. After the forty-five minute tour I went to the Lost Wawel, which showed exhibits of how the castle used to look, as well as including many pieces of things that were found in the rubble of parts that had been destroyed. My favorite part was the foundation of the castle that you could see - similar to ruins, which I like. The cathedral museum was ok, showing amazing clothes priests and higher ups have worn, including Pope John Paul's things. I ended with the Dragon's cave, which is just a cave that leads out to the river. When you get out there is a dragon statue that breathes fire. Cute, but not worth paying for to walk through the cave.

Now it was 1:00pm and I started walking towards the Schindler factory. I was looking for a quick lunch and ended up eating at a pizza place. Mistake. I thought it would be small and then I could have a nicer dinner, but I was never hungry enough for dinner later. I should have gone back to the place where I had dinner last night, since it was not far, and then I could have had one quality meal. Hindsight. I made it to the Schindler museum around 2:30pm or so. I wasn't sure what to expect but had heard a few people tell me it was good. It was good and then some. I think it is my favorite museum on the trip so far. It was so well done, and cool to walk through. Every room looked like you were somewhere else, in a house, outside, wherever you needed to be. There were blurbs to read, videos to watch, interactive computers. Everything drew you in. I spent about three hours in there and was not disappointed. I'm so glad I went.

When I was out, I decided to walk to the old town square and try to get some pictures with a blue sky. The only problem was that my feet were killing me. I had been walking all day as it was, but the crack in my foot made walking much worse. To avoid the pain, I was walking on the balls of my feet, mostly my left foot, and basically throwing the foot down in a wierd way. It is not a comfortable way to walk and so my foot was hurting from this as well. Two different hurts, excellent. So I hobbled over to the old town and took some pictures and went into St. Mary's church and a couple other churches, but couldn't get excited about them because of my feet. So I decided it was time to start the half hour walk back to the hostel. I stopped and got some instant noodles for dinner and then came back, showered, and have been chatting on skype and typing the blog. Met my new roommates - sadly, the room is now full - and will try to go to sleep a bit early tonight. We shall see.

July 30 - see Auschwitz

July 31 - See Debica

August 1 - Today was more of a lazy day. Initially I considered going on a tour to the salt mines nearby, but realized I was just not as interested in salt as I was in walking around Krakow some more. I got up around 8am and came down for breakfast. I slept in a room with two snoring boys; the one in the bunk above me sounded more like a creepy whistling, haunting sound. Weird. I talked to some of the people here over an extended breakfast, met a new roommate and another girl who arrived today from Prague, like most people do. Eventually I got a cab to town with her (Emily) and the new roommate. Saved forty minutes of walking and cost me $1. Sweet. I spent half the day with Emily, walking to many sights I'd already seen but liking seeing them again. It turned out to be a nice warm day with sun eventually, very nice. We had lunch at the Polish restaurant I ate at on the first day and shared two kinds of pierogis. I dropped her off at 3pm for the Jewish quarter tour. Next stop was the church tower, but it was closed today. So I tried for the archaeology museum (free today) but it closed at 2pm. So I walked a bit and then headed home. I stopped in at the grocery store and then walked another half hour up a hill to look for some kind of mound, but I must have missed it. I did have good views of the city and walked around a cemetery, so that was ok. But my feet were killing me when I got back. I pounded them all day and they were tired, not to mention the cracks on each one. Ouch. I showered and then pulled up to the kitchen table to have some free pizza that the hostel has every Sunday night. Same place we ordered from last night, but an even more enormous pizza.




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