Krakow - premier tourist destination of ...
Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
20Trip End Aug 22, 2002
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When a guide book is published in 1999 and I am travelling in 2002, why on earth would time have moved on? Why on earth would two hostels close? Why on earth do I continually get myself lost? That last question is rhetorical.
According to my trusty backpacking sources the best hostel in Krakow is an old convent overlooking the Vistula River. Unfortunately for me and most of the backpackers wandering the streets in an equally dazed manner, it had closed. Two genial and very tipsy old men stopped me outside the convent, shouting loudly "Oleandry", pointing in a non-specific direction and shrugging at my attempts to interrogate them in rudimentary Polish
Against my better judgement I caught a tram. I should never travel on public transport unescorted. I promptly meandered in the general direction away from Krakow - realising when I came across a highway instead of a castle. Finding my way back to the centre, now on foot, I was caught in a rainstorm and sheltered in a hotel that used to have a hostel attached to it. I was sharply informed by the dragoness receptionist that "The room, it cost 250 zloty. I think it is not for you." Fair enough. As I waited drenched and dripping for the rain to cease, I unpacked my backpack in the foyer, rearranged all my belongings and ignored her intimations that I should leave as soon as the rain ceased. One thing I love about Polish Customer Service is that it doesn't exist. Rudeness is mandatory.
Eventually found my way to a hostel and yes, it was Hostel Oleandry and yes, it also had a dragoness receptionist. I think those four and a half hours allowed me to cover the entirety of Krakow and walk past numerous tourist attractions in a complete daze. The building I thought to be an impressive institution turned out to be the fantastic Wawel Castle.
But away from my trails and tribulations and back to Krakow itself. Destined to be the next Prague and in my humble opinion, much lovelier.
The Main Square is the place to be, though much cheaper beer is to be discovered in the winding backstreets away from the centre. Every hour the trumpeter plays from the Tower overlooking the Square. whith great Polish adherence to folklore, the tune is cut short. The Trumpeter of Krakow is famous for his martyrdom, shot by an arrow during his performance when the city was under siege. Still, you have to admire his determination - he's still performing five centuries later......
Fantastic little pubs are hidden along narrow passage ways leading from the cobbled backstreets. One in particular is memorable for the three happy drunks who encouraged us girls to "dancy, dancy! We go disco!" Hmmm, tempting, but no. The most wonderful pierogi (potato dumplings) is here. If nothing else, I have mastered the art of ordering my favourite foods - pierogi with sourcream or sauerkraut. And learning that the cheap beer with the really long name is alcoholic and awful!
Perhaps the most difficult choice I had to make in Krakow was watching Poland v Sth Korea or visitng Auschwitz. Given the abismal performance by the Polish footballers, I am glad I chose the latter. So for Krakow, cafes, coffee (kava in Polish), and concentration camps pretty much sums up the scene.
A few hours after visitng the camps I found myself back in the Main Square of Krakow, amidst drunk Polish fottball fans, a mad accordian player - Guantanamera in Polish? It was a fun time but sensory overload and time to rendezvous in Prague.