Temporary Insanity

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Flag of Poland  ,
Thursday, August 3, 2006

Since I left Ios, Ive (I apologize now, Hungarian keyboards lack apostrophes -- they also put the z where the y should be and vice versa) had some random encounters with people I met on the island. I bumped into a friend on a random street in Berlin and did the pub crawl with him. In Cesky Krumlov I ran into an Aussie girl Linda who I met on my second night (back in early May). Linda, in fact, was a girl I slept with within five minutes of meeting her and before I knew her name. True story. And not what you think either. In Prague I happened to cross paths with Meesh (short for Michelle before you think its too weird a name) who also worked on the island. But I knew shortly after arriving in Krakow that Id be meeting up with Adrian and CJ, two of my best friends from the island, and for four days we were back to our old tricks, acting like idiots, going for long afternoon sessions and taking the piss out of each other at every possible opportunity. One of the nice things about traveling with friends who you've known a while (I knew them for 10 weeks, by comparison to what Ive dealt with, thats a long time) is you know exactly what you can and cant get away with without offending someone. With these boys, thats anything.

As for Krakow, its a great city and a nice relaxing break after the throngs of tourists in Prague. My first impression of the city was at night, and that turned out to be the best way to do it. The city is magical at night with the Main Square (one of if not the largest in Europe) lit up with a long trading hall slicing through the middle and a church and clocktower on opposite corners. The whole square, like most European squares, is lined by cafes and restaurants. One of the most beautiful manmade things Ive seen on this trip. Wake up in the morning and what you see in daylight you cant believe is the same place. Thats why I nicknamed Krakow the Beer Goggles City (and yes, I was sober when I first saw the city AND when I came up with the nickname). The Cloth Hall, the building that runs through the square, looks like it hasn't had a paint job since the Communists took over and it appears that a decent cross-section of the population has been using its walls as a giant urinal. Some of the buildings look rundown, and step immediately out of the old town and all you have is the boring Communist inspired architecture of large square blocks of gray.

The main tourist attraction in Krakow aside from the Square is Wawel Hill, which is a hill (as the name implies) with a cathedral and a castle at the top. Its free to roam the grounds and the large airy courtyard where the royal apartments are, but you have to pay to go inside anything. The tickets for most of the sites are capped out, so by the time I had waited out the rain (my first rainy day since April, give or take) all the tickets were sold so I never actually went inside -- the apartments anyway. I wasn't sure, at the time anyway, if you had to pay for the cathedral, so I just walked in. Nobody stopped me, so I walked around, snapped a few photos and came back into the sunlight. Apparently, I found out a few minutes later, I was supposed to pay. Oh well. Outside the hill, along the river, is maybe the cheesiest tourist trap Ive seen. There's a statue of a dragon (there's some legend about dragons and the founding of Krakow, not sure how it goes though) and if you SMS smoke to some number the statue breathes fire. The most cornball thing ever.

My other big day of playing tourist in Krakow was spent in Auschwitz, but that'll be its own entry. Otherwise my days were spent doing what the three of us had each independently decided you need to do as you hop from country to country -- sample the local food, the local beer, and if possible, the local women. The food was delicious, the beer smooth, but sadly, we don't know about the women (in the biblical sense anyway). My one disappointment about Poland -- aside being so tired from waking up early a few days and sleeping on the floor of their hostel (I had a nice little scam going -- I was paying five euro a night for my place then slept at theirs, taking advantage of its free breakfast, lively bar and über cheap barbecues) that I couldn't properly enjoy our last night out together -- was not having a proper conversation with a Polak, a goal I have for each country I get to (I did take the train from Prague to Krakow with two sisters from Toronto who had lived in Poland for 10 years, I suppose I can sort of count that). But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the city. I'm sure the company played a large part, but I found it just as charming as Prague without all the tourists and tourist gimmicks -- dragon statue aside.
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