I had planned to visit people in Ostrava, Czech Republic as well as St. Petersburg Russia, so I ended up buying a return ticket from Toronto to Krakow, and another return ticket from Krakow to St. Petersburg. The idea was to visit the Czech Republic first for 2 weeks, then St. Petersburg for 2 weeks, and from there, fly back to Krakow, and then take the other return trip to Toronto. My tickets were booked in such a way that I only had one day in Krakow to my great regret in the end. Of all the places I visited, Krakow turned out to be my favourite.
April 2, 2012. The flight heading to Krakow with Polish Airlines was late one hour and the pilot made up for lost time towards the end by flying 610 mph instead of 520 mph and at 35,000 ft instead of 33,000 ft. Beer was not free on the plane, understandably. I landed in the domestic airport as I had changed planes in Warsaw, and I felt like I was in a bus station rather than an airport. My friend from Ostrava came to pick me up. The Krakow airport is only 55 km from Auschwitz and the way to Ostrava normally passes by Auschwitz but my friend said that place has such bad vibes that not only has she not visited it and never will, she takes the long way around just to stay far from it whenever she has to go to or return from Krakow airport, which was too bad because I wanted to at least pass by in front of it.
April 12, 2012. I was in Ostrava and had to catch the plane from Krakow to St. Petersburg. I took the train from Ostrava to Česky Těšin, crossed the border on foot, walked to the bus station, which took 20 min, and took the bus going to Krakow. The trip was 3 hours and cost 22 PLN. So many concentration camps were set up by the Nazis when they occupied Poland. I wonder how that has and is affecting the country. As with all former communist countries, people who work at service counters were really impatient and rude. Most information booths in Czech and Poland were not manned, even though the hours on the booth window indicated that it should be open. At the Krakow bus station, I found the bus that goes to the airport which was the 192. How funny! The airport bus from Kipling station in Toronto is also 192.
April 25, 2012. After visiting St. Petersburg, I flew back to Krakow. I got there at 10 am and went to a CS host's place which was just south of the river near Na Zjeździe. Then she took me to the escarpment nearby and the Krakus Mound (Kopiec Krakusa) where you can see all around the whole of Krakow. It was a beautifully green area to walk around. Then we went to a restaurant across the Laetus Bernatek footbridge that lights up at night all white and purple (it's better viewed from the adjacent bridge). She went home to work and I walked around the old Jewish quarter and then went to the Jewish cemetery on Miodowa, the main square area (stare miasto), and the Rynek underground. The Germans removed many tombstones from the Jewish cemetery and used them to build other things. Many of these tombstones were brought back to the cemetery after the war but since they didn't know where the graves were, they made various walls in the cemetery with these tombstones. The history in these places is just mind-boggling. The paths along the riverside was beautiful and idyllically full of joggers and cyclists. I found a lot of really cheap food in the Kazimierz. The Isaac Synagogue, built in 1644, is amazing and has Klezmer concerts. Late in the evening, I went to watch my CS host play hockey because I was so happy to find women playing hockey in Poland. The teams playing were mixed. The rink at the Krakowianka Sports and Recreation Centre on Michała Siedleckiego road has pleasure skating (Wed) at 8 pm for 1.5 hours and the cost is 10 PLN. There were other hours but I'm not sure when. I walked home alone at 11:30pm and felt pretty safe. (My host stayed on at the rink for more practice.)
Krakow was the capital of Poland from the 11<sup style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">th century to the 16<sup style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">th century. It was the main hub of eastern Europe in those days. Everybody passed by Krakow on their way east or west. Although looted, none of the buildings in Krakow were damaged by WWII. The Old Town in the centre of the city was the first place to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the preferred city of intellectuals and artists. I loved the historical and cultural atmosphere of Krakow, everywhere I went. It is a very small city and yet is full of life like a big city. I loved the fact that there is green all around the Old Town. When I think about it, I'm not sure exactly why I really loved Krakow. Perhaps it has to do with the overall vibes I felt while walking around.
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