Sunday, 22 October 2017

Poland - Monday and Tuesday (Kraków)

Monday, 16 October 2017

Our flight to Kraków was uneventful, albeit a bit cramped again, as to be expected on flights with budget airlines, but I can deal with that for a few hours.

Getting through customs took a while and waiting for the hire car staff to turn up took even longer.  After two phone calls a young man approached us and took us to the car.  And then disaster struck!

Well, not totally unexpected, but I had hoped we wouldn't run into problems.  It's like this:  I have never had a credit card in my life.  Never needed one.  So far we have always been able to get our hire cars on a debit card, although I had noticed that it was getting more and more difficult over the years.  Last year's problem with Europcar was the straw that broke the camel's back, so this year I made sure I left with one in my pocket.  As usual a first credit card is not easy to get, but I finally had mine in the mail two days before I left!  Now, if that would have been all, I wouldn't have had a problem, but with a short time at home to get everything organised I only checked the night before if I had packed everything.  Indeed I had, even remembered my international driver's licence!  What I hadn't remembered was checking the date and oh s...t!  It had expired!  Well, too late to apply for a new one, so hope for the best was all I could do.

It wasn't enough though, because, unlike most other countries, in Poland you're not allowed to drive without one and you can even loose your regular licence if you do.  We would have to pay a double deposit on our hire car if we wanted to take the chance and would not be insured.  Well, a double deposit I would have carried, but no insurance? Not on your life, so..... no hire car for the next two weeks.  I've never been without a car for so long: two weeks in Sweden, two in Scotland and again two in Poland.

Anyway, kicking myself was not going to help, so we took a taxi to Renata's place as we had no idea how to get there by public transport.

I can't even remember if I have told you about Renata.  Renata and her daughter Eva have stayed with me earlier in the year on a hospitality exchange.  At the time of her first request I had no intention to go to Poland, so I had told her that she was fine to visit anyway, which they did.

When she heard later on that we were going to Ustroń and would be landing in Kraków, she said that they actually lived in Kraków and would I like to visit?  Of course, Patricia and I liked that very idea, so that's how it came about that we were on our way to Renata in Piaski Nowe on the southside of Kraków.

We arrived at Renata's place in the afternoon and settled with a cup of tea waiting for her to arrive home from school as she was teaching. While waiting we decided to be brave and get some groceries from a supermarket around the corner.  We did get what we needed, even though we didn't recognise half of the names on the products.  Pointing, hand gestures (polite ones!), and smiling gets you very far. :-)

Soon after Renata arrived and the lovely person she was she invited us, no insisted, that we would stay for a couple of days so that we could see Kraków and do the tours from there as it would be so much easier now we didn't have a car. We will also come back a day or so earlier so that we can stay with her and Eva before we leave for France as our flights are mostly early in the mornings.

As our arrival had been expected Renata had made us a Polish dish for dinner: Borscht, the well-know Russian beetroot soup and Bigos, a traditional Hunter's dish. After dinner she took us to stare miasto (the old town), basically to show us how and where to catch the bus and tram to town and back.  It was a real learning curve, because add all the foreign names we had to remember!

I didn't have much time or opportunity to take pictures, but I managed at least these two.  The tram sign was merely meant to remember for our trips, but I never needed to use it after all...

Rynek glowny (big market place)

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Our first venture on our own in Kraków was visiting the castle.  As you do!  We caught the bus into the city and wandered to the castle, where we spent a good few hours walking around and enjoying a cup of coffee.

Wall decoration on the way to the castle

The Vistula River

Original: water spouts

Apologies for the dirty cups. I merely wanted to catch the ambience of the place.

The beautiful cathedral (no pictures allowed inside)

The Dragon Den (Caves under the castle)

On our walk back to the old part of town we meandered a bit and visited a few shops as well as a geocache hide.  Patricia bought jeans and a winter jacket for her next trip back to Sweden and together we found the cache in a park which used to be the old river bed before it was filled in and became partially a tramway as well.  We had our lunch on one of the benches, being rained upon by the falling leaves.  Autumn in Europe is wonderful!

#1761 - Stara Wisła

And on we walked to Rynek glowny (big market) where we had another coffee and enjoyed watching the horse-drawn carriages showing the tourists around town.  We also booked a tour to Auschwitz/Birkenau for Thursday and watched a buskers band and visited the under cover market.  Then on to Bazylika Mariacka (St. Mary's), also a beautiful church with a jaw-dropping altar and other most wonderful decorative parts.

(For pictures of the altar google: altar of the bazylika mariacka krakow)

Please note that you will not see any photographs from inside churches taken by me as often it is not allowed, but personally I don't think it a place to walk around with a camera.  Where necessary I will add a link, because there are plenty of pictures on the interent anyway.

Park along Swietej Gertrudy

The Buskers Band in action - they were great

The under cover market area

Plac Mariacki

Polish traditional costume in the windows

Plac Mariacki
Then it's time to walk back.  We walk past Maly rynek (the small market) and find the tram that will take us home. Close to Renata's place we walk past a little fruit/vegies shop and through a park, past the supermarket and a few other shops and arrive at her flat.

Renata is already home and has prepared us another local dish: Pierogi (Polish dumplings).  Again yummy! We spend the evening together talking, drinking Polish coffee and wodka (and lots of it! ;-))

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