Krakow Travel Diary - 2008

Sunday 27th April 2008

After clothes shopping with Marti (got a red dress for the wedding!), Neil watching Ferrari get a 1 + 2 at the Spanish GP and the boys being in Hartvicovice with babi and deda, we packed out bags and started on our merry way, direction Bilovec (Kaja first and them lemon). Ad BBQ at Kajas with beautiful meat (Neil proclaimed it to be the best chicken he has ever tasted) and then stayed at the same place as Vlasta Redl!!! (in the lemon). Apparently he got home after his concert at 3:30am waking the landlords to open up. Bloody Celebrities. **Removed due to censorship laws** and a good night sleep. Also said hi to Jirka at Kajas – very tall boy.

Monday 28th April 2008

After out wonderful Lemon breakfast at 7:30 (and Kaja stopping by to bid us farewell) it was a fairly easy trip until we hit the toll gates. Even though the sign said Euros, she had some other dude change our euros to zlotys at a horrendous rate. The next toll booth wouldn’t accept coins so luckily we had a 20 Euro note, which then supplied us with about 57 zlotys in return. Welcome to Poland. Continuing along “If we cross the river, we have gone to far”. Seconds later “Oh look, there goes the river.” Followed by a quick adjustment in the manual GPS and that was our only drama before finding a parking station in front of our ‘guest room’ Rang up the proprietor, who said the room would be ready in 20 minutes. So we went and got some money from a wall and not long after then phone rang. It was our bank confirming the transaction. Wow, Big Brother, but in a good way.

Then into our lovely little room (that was so cold Zuz put the heater on) then off to explore the lovely town of Krakow. We went to the main town square and walked around, through the cloth hall filled with jewellery shops (selling lovely amber pieces), souvenir shops with overpriced T-Shirts (although they were nice) and artists stalls. Next we cruised down Grodska St to the Wawel Hill and looked around the castle and the cathedral (we decided to go there on a whim). It was very formal, orderly and structured following a pre-designed path. We climbed the bell tower and touched the Sigismund Bell, came back down and did a bit more of the church. Including the silver coffin of St Stanislav (very nice coffin and quite an interesting story too) Also saw the royal tombs and the grave of the famous Polish poet Adam Michewicz and then out we went.

After Wawel Hill we decided to see the happy dragon and when we got there we found a big bronze statue of a dragon, which to our amazement started breathing fire while we were there. Now that’s cool. Then back up to the square to find some dinner and settled on a pizza restaurant. Sicylia – it was pretty good. Big meals for not much money. Got to be happy with that. Zuz ate all hers and part of Neil’s. Then back to our very warm room for a well-earned nights sleep.

Tuesday 29th April 2008

After a granola breakfast and a perfect shower we were heading for the hills. Getting out of Kracow was relatively easy, even though the way was 100% correct. It was not long and we were out in the bush, bush and we turned off to drive through the park. It was very pretty with lots of rocks. It is called Ojcowsky National Park. Lots of green with nobody else around. After a while we have found that we had driven out the other side so a quick U-Turn was made and as this time we were driving the other way, we could actually see the castle. We parked and payed out 10Zt tax and headed up the hill to the ruins of the Ojcow Zamek (chateau). As they were just opening the ticket office, we were privileged to be the first customers of the day to pay the 5zt taxation. So, in we went and up in the gate tower was a model of what the place used to look like in its prime. Impressive! Then we had a look into the watchtower, the well and admired the view from the ruins ‘living quarters’.

Then we decided to walk along the valley for a while. Had a giggle at a lady trying to protect her sausage dog from a small terrier. As we walked down the road along a many a summerhouse with ‘noclegi’ signs on almost all of them. Then we saw a tree that looked like it had been felled by a beaver? A EUROPEAN BEAVER? (Earlier on we had stopped at the Krakow gate (big Rocks) and ventured down to the very beautiful stream where we discovered a beaver sign.) We continued on down the road until we came upon a lookout. Against the best wishes of our legs, we decide to climb it anyway. It was a very nice view over the valley up to the ruin. We could also see some fishponds down below which led us to investigate. It was a fish farm with fresh water coming in from an aqueduct into the ponds. There were 100’s of little trout swimming around in these ponds. Many a feast will be had at the end of summer.

So back to the car and on elsewhere to find our lunch at our next destination, Zamek Pieskowa skala. We parked in the car park for a lowly 6.50zt after the attendant had told us the restaurant was open and cooking. As we walked into a cold, dark and empty restaurant smelling of nothing that resembled food, we thought ”You lying bastard”. Two rings of the bell later and surprisingly a friendly cook came out and took our order. Zuz had the tackle soup, which just looked plain wrong, a big sausage and half a boiled egg floating in a sour soup - hence the name ‘tackle soup’. Neil played it safe and had a more conventional meal of steak and chips.

All full up we struggled up some more stairs to the castle. The gate said tickets in the museum. There were no directions or mention of any museum on the castle map. Zuz finally found the museum by climbing an anonymous set of stairs deep in the castle. We paid our 10zt each and went through a tour of history ( namely gothic, renaissance, baroque, rocoque and classicist art and furniture in two stories of the castle). The thing that got me the most was that they would need 1000pl to go on the tour each day just to pay the wages for the people paid to watch us watch the exhibits. (15 guards for 15 small rooms and no photos allowed inside either.)

Next it was out of the castle and to Hurcules mace which is a 50m high club shaped limestone rock. Zuz took a photo for a passing family whose dad thanked us with a ”dzenuji, grazie and thank you” Talk about well mannered. Gave us a good laugh. Zuz also managed to butcher the cheesy rock-in-hand photo before returning to the car via a couple of memorials, the unknown soldier and the 63 victims of the ‘freedom uprising’

It was time to end our day in the wilds, and all was good until we hit Krakow with the map, yet again being incorrect and not showing all of the no left turns (lets not blame the navigator, shall we). This caused us to circumnavigate the old town before we found our way and also managed to find a parking spot outside our apartment. We rested and then decided to go out for dinner. After a bit of a stroll and not much luck, we took the fall back option of the restaurant offering Georgian Cuisine and I was extremely glad we did. We both had beautiful meals with 3 sauces and it was literally as cheap as chips with a very nicely tasting beer (called something like Ocie). We watched some fire twirlers come fire spitting dudes after dinner in the square. We also walked down to Florians gate and up Florian St, which was a very pretty walk.

Wednsday 30th April 2008

We slept in a little and decided to wait for the parking dude to pay for a days worth of parking. Went down to check at 8, then 9, then 9:30 and after 10am we decided that it was enough and we went on our way to town anyway. Then we stumbled into the lady at the bakery getting her morning tea before starting her shift. She must have only had 1-hour tickets as she killed 2 trees in the process of writing the tickets for the duration of the day. (8 in all, all spread out on the dash. Look pretty funny.)

We decided to do the Royal route, staring at St Florians church, where Pope John Paul ][ was a vicar between 1949-1951, looked at the Grunwald monument on a square, then on to the barbakan which was pretty big but as it had 3m thick walls there was probably only room for 5 soldiers inside.

Then back through the Florian Gate and looked at all the artworks shown on the city walls then walked down through johns street to the square to see the alter at St Mary’s. Refused to pay the $5 for photos, even though we had to pay the cover charge of 6.50. The church was pretty impressive though with lots of gold and an awesome (imitation of a starry night) ceiling. Next we ended up buying a phone card from a pencil (in between 2 polish pretzels that were unlawfully delicious) and rang mum. We found an Irish pub, so in we went for lunch and forked out for a 13zt Guinness and 2 of the nicest hamburgers I have ever tasted – SARCASM! Smaller than a junir burger, microwave jobbies. But at least the guinni was nice and they put on U2 over the sound system when we got in. Then we needed some ice cream to wash down the burgers and when we found some, it was sold by weight.

Then back down through the main square onto the street that led to Wawell then onto Dominican square we saw 2 churches (one was the holy trinity and the other one was St Francis. That one was pretty cool die to the stained glass windows. As I was finished, we decided to walk back to the flat. Stopped for some souvenirs and went for a rest. We wrote our diary and slept for a couple of hours. Woke for not long and decided to sleep until the morning with no dinner as we knew we had a big day ahead (the salt mines in Wielicka)

Thursday 1st May 2008

Ahhhhhhhhhh, no more diary……….But that’s a whole different story as to why. But from what I can remember of the day;

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