Krakow

Jun. 12th, 2006 02:15 pm
wonderlanded: (Mary smiling)
[personal profile] wonderlanded
My flight is now four hours delayed -- they're clearly letting the pilot sleep it off -- so I give you

I arrived in Krakow at lunchtime on Tuesday. It was raining. I sensed a pattern.

I adored Krakow. It's my kind of city -- the Krakows, the Innsbrucks, the Yorks, the Rigas. I prefer old, overhanging buildings and narrow cobbled streets and a real sense of both history and cosmopolitanism to all the grand avenues and showy palaces you could ever show me.

My B&B was in the old student district, a tiny wander from the Rynek, on the first floor of a prewar apartment building with a scary dark and mouldering staircase, but inside it was light and beautiful and my room overlooked the courtyard.

I just walked around for the rest of the day, ducking into shops, buying bread twists from street vendors (who are sorely and noticably absent from the streets of Warsaw, and I missed them. I found it really, really weird to be in a European city and not be able to buy food from someone as I walked down the street) and taking photos of things. I went up to the Wawel Castle, which is really quite spectacular, and has great views of the river and the town. I had a fossick round Kazimierz, and then started to drag my tired self back up to the Old Town.

The rain cleared up in the early evening of my first day, and I had dinner in a lovely restaurant on the Rynek, while listening to two marvellous accordion-players doing duets of things like Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D. It should have been dire but was instead fantastic.

On the Wednesday I took a train to Oswiecim to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, which I'll write about later.

On Thursday I went to the salt mine at Wielicza, which had been recommended by friends of my dad to my dad himself, who in turn was very eager that I go. I'm glad I did -- it was madly interesting, and I met a woman about my own age who's a photographer from Edinburgh, and who hadn't had a conversation with anyone who wasn't a middle-aged Canadian with adolescent children for a week either. We were immediately drawn to each other and nattered the entire time. We had a hilariously deadpan Polish guide. We were quite horrified in a very British way about the fact that the horses who worked in the mine were there until they died, and never saw daylight. Our guide deadpanned a few minutes later: "And you will be pleased to know that here there never were children working in the mine." Ali and Alice: "Ok, fair enough. But... the horses! The horses!"

We got back to Krakow mid-afternoon, and it was suddenly gloriously sunny and quite warm after a damp morning. We drank beer and ate sausage pizza -- the sausage being our concession to being in Poland -- in the Rynek, watching the trumpeter who plays from the tower of the cathedral on the hour, and talking. We then notably failed to find a Ghastly Floating Virgin Mary Head Keychain for [livejournal.com profile] leedy. Krakow seems to have gone slightly upmarket in the souvenirs department.

Ali had to go and book trains, and my own train to Vienna didn't leave until 22.30, so we split up after exchanging contact details. I walked through Kazimierz again to get to Podgorze, where I was struck by the Ghetto memorial at the former Plac Zgody (now called Plac Boheratow Ghetta, or Ghetto Heroes' Square). It's quite something, and the entire experience of Podgorze and Plaszow seem to underline the different attitudes towards the Holocaust that exist in Warsaw and Krakow.

Later that evening, I failed to be seated in a nice restaurant in an old cellar, and after half an hour of drinking gin at the bar while others were seated ahead of me I went next door to a dessert place. My father would approve of Krakovian iced coffees.

Got on the train, where I had a private sleeper. We crossed three borders and acquired carriages from Moscow, Riga, Warsaw and Kiev en route -- so between passport control and shunting, I managed about half and hour's sleep. I was grateful for the bed, anyway!

Oh my god. My flight is now five hours delayed. WHAT IS GOING ON? I'm definitely getting my 10 quid's worth out of this lounge, though.

Date: 2006-06-12 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leedy.livejournal.com
We then notably failed to find a Ghastly Floating Virgin Mary Head Keychain for leedy. Krakow seems to have gone slightly upmarket in the souvenirs department.

CURSES! But thankyou for going on that (entirely frivolous) quest!

It sounds like you had a brilliant time.

Date: 2006-06-12 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wonderlanded.livejournal.com
Oh, the quest was masses of fun! Just disappointing that Poland has apparently gone all fancy in the souvenirs department. Unless you wanted a dragon from the Wawel.

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