I 'Krak' Myself Up..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Poland  ,
Thursday, June 8, 2006

Greetings from Krakow.

We'd heard and read good things about Krakow on our trip south through the Baltic states so much so that we were expecting big things. Add to that the football world cup would finally be kicking off on the Friday night which would give us a chance to mingle with the locals and knock a few back whilst watching Poland play. Were we setting ourselves up for some major disappointment ? Read on..

So we decide to catch our first train of the trip and missed the train we were going for due to a touch of indecisiveness on our behalf, didn't help that we can't read or speak Polish but that's part and parcel of travelling I guess.

Anyway, we arrive into Krakow a little bit later than expected but we did get to meet a nice Polish lady on the train who told us some stories about life under communism. My favourite had to be the one about the 'Maybe Bags'. Most men and women during the communist period would carry around briefcases, large handbags or an abundance of plastic bags (you still see it today in Romania actually) no matter what they were doing on any given day. The reason was that maybe, just maybe they'd stumble across a shop that had some items (any items) that they didn't have to queue for. They'd go in, load up, and make off with their booty. It wouldn't take long for the word to spread around and before you know there'd be a 'banana queue' a mile long.

If I can touch on the queuing style of the Eastern Europeans for a second. Lets take a train ticket window as an example. In Australia we queue in a straight line directly out from the window right ? In Eastern Europe (and I mean all of Eastern Europe) they queue to the right of the window along the counter, this is called a 'banana queue'. They also stand right on top of you when you're being served essentially listening to every word being said and pretty much nudging you so you'd hurry and leave.

This was confusing for Kat and I for the first couple of times as we'd be standing there next in line when out of no where some old lady would come in from the right and totally gazump us, in fact it gave me the absolute shits. Old bags gonna get some.

We cottoned on pretty quickly however but Kat just couldn't quite bring herself to use her elbows on the old women who seemed to constantly try to push in infront of her. The old ladys were no match for me however and after laying some serious smack down on them, word spread around not to mess with the fat headed guy in a banana queue.

So, we arrive into Krakow and make our way to our hostel (Dizzy Daisy's - pretty good spot, clean and not too noisy). During the day the walk from the hostel is quite pleasant but at night it doubles as the red light district and wino central. Not somewhere you want to be walking around with pretty much your house and bank for the next 8 months strapped to your back. The winos were relatively harmless, just going about their wino business, you know, getting drunk, bashing each other, falling over that sort of the stuff and the ladies of the night were going about theirs, you know, looking skanky, talking dirty to me in Polish, propositioning the garbage men. Nice to have them all as neighbours, sort of like living in Darlinghurst.

Back to Krakow. Beautiful, folks you didn't disappoint. The old town of Krakow was left pretty much unscathed by the Germans and Russians during WW2 and no-one knows why. The rest of Poland was used for artillery practice by both sides it seems but they just seemed to miss Krakow. Thank your god I say. It's beautiful and is renowned for having the biggest medieval marketplace still in existence and it's pretty big, 10 acres of bigness. Big enough in fact to land parachutists on which is what they were doing one of the days we were hanging out there. No idea why as that whole Polish language thing got in the way but I'm sure they had a good reason and a permit. I also must apologise for not having any photos of the Krakow old town as the camera ran out of juice while we were there. Bummer. Guess you'll have to check it out yourself.

Krakow also has a wonderfully preserved castle called Royal Wawel Castle which we do have some photos of. It served as the royal residence and the site where the country's rulers governed Poland for five centuries. It's also a symbol of the independent Polish state which makes it even more miraculous that it survived both German and Russian occupation. Worth the walk up the hill if you visit.

The Friday night was of course the opening nights play of the World Cup, something which you couldn't help but feel building up from the time we landed in Europe back in mid May. We were pretty excited I have to say so we headed out for a meal and then to a local bar to watch the game. We happened upon a lovely little bar in the Bohemian section of Krakow that had the obligatory big screen and a mass of Polish guernseys. This'll do, bar girl, 1 glass of red for the lady and I'll take a pint of your finest ale.

Sometime during the German match we got talking to a trio behind us, two Germans and a Polish chap. Talk to turned to football, football turned to booze and before you know it Poland was playing (badly) and we were all pretty much drunk. As history will tell you, Poland lost but a good night was had by all. Piotr, Roger and Vanessa, thanks for making the night a memorable one as we couldn't have asked for a nicer crew to spend the night with.

So that's Krakow, Maybe Bags and Banana Queues covered. Wherever will we go from here.

Next pod, Aushwitz.


Nath and Kat.
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