Kraków

Our luck with the weather improved a little today. We did not see any sunshine but neither did we have to deal with very much rain. There was a little but it mostly held off when we were out and about.

We were both awake soon after 6:00 am and by 7:30 am we had showered, eaten breakfast, and were on our way to the car. Our early start allowed us to avoid the worst of morning traffic and Majella drove us out of Warsaw without any real problems.

The road south to Kracków is not yet at the standard of the roads we drove from Berlin to Warsaw but there are some new sections at that standard and some long stretches of roadwork that are moving it in that direction. That slowed our trip but we still made good time.

Once we had escaped from Warsaw we drove through flat countryside that seemed to be mostly orchards. We could see ripening apples on the trees and noticed one area where picking seemed to be underway. Further on the country became more undulating and the orchards were replaced by a patchwork of cultivated areas, some recently plowed and some with crops ready for harvest.

IMG_1926Our initial destination was Kielce, about 180 km south of Warsaw. The mother of one of Majella’s school friends, Barbara, had come from there. We stopped in an area of town near a large church and looked for coffee. We failed with that but did buy rolls for lunch and found a replacement umbrella for the one that had broken when Majella was using it in the wild weather in Warsaw yesterday. I drove us out of there and stopped at the first service point in search of coffee but Majella was not impressed by their offering, press button in paper cups, and had left her ‘keep cup’ in the car so we drove on without coffee.

We stopped to change drivers again about 50 km short of Kraków so that I could deal with navigation on the way in. A combination of the Cactus GPS and my iPhone brought us to the street where our apartment is located. Surprisingly there was a vacant parking space in the narrow street so we squeezed into that.

IMG_1927Soon after Majella took over driving I had messaged the number provided by Booking.com and by the time we parked had a response with the codes for the building and apartment. We let ourselves in and were very pleased with what we found. Parking was paid at a machine around the corner so we did that, brought in our gear and sat down to eat lunch of the rolls we had bought and some cheese and salami left from last night.

DSC_7148After lunch we set out to see a little of Kraków. The old town is just a short walk away so we headed there in search of more information and whatever else we could find. There was a market operating in the central square and Majella found some things to buy there while I enjoyed the old buildings that surrounded the square. We walked on from there to look around some more and considered whether to take a tour or continue shopping and photographing.

DSC_7178Eventually, at Majella’s insistence, we signed up for a tour of the old town and the old Jewish Quarter on one of the many small electric powered carts on offer. There were just the two of us as passengers with our driver, Michal, and a young woman, Karolina, who was learning the ‘trade’. There was a recorded audio guide but sometimes it seemed they had problems with that and added or substituted commentary of their own. The tour took a little more than an hour, saved us time and wear and tear on our feet, and gave us an overview of the area and some of its history.  We commented on the number of churches and were told that there were about 300 in Krakow, almost all Catholic. Our guide thought that about 90% of locals are Catholic and that about half of them attend Mass each Sunday. Pope John Paul II is certainly a favoured son and was well represented in the tour commentary. Our apartment is in, or on the edge of, the old Jewish Quarter which included a couple of Catholic churches as well as several synagogues. We stopped long enough to go into the Corpus Christi Basilica, which is richly decorated and undergoing some restoration work.

Our tour dropped us back at the central market where we went to see about a tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine tomorrow. The first place we tried had tickets for 4:00 pm but that seemed late to start a 4 to 5 hour excursion. Our tour had been offering a package so we went back to check on that. We spoke with an English man who was working there because his Australian son had a Polish partner and was living in Kraków (short version). He advised us that a larger group package would be better value and took us to a shop where we were able to arrange that for 9:30 am.

DSC_7193Dinner was in the market where we were lucky to find a traditional Polish Food Festival in full swing.  On the advice of Karolina we started with fried sheep’s cheese and cranberry sauce from one stall. We bought our main course from a larger stall. Majella had bigos (sauerkraut stew with meat) and ziemniaki (potato boiled and fried). I had kietbasa (pork sausage) and pieczarki (fried button mushrooms). That was all good and warming but Majella needed hot chocolate to thaw properly after our ride around town in an open buggy. We found a cafe that served hot chocolate for Majella and I had the special, beer with a shot of raspberry vodka on the side. I was surprised that the hot chocolate and my special each cost the same, 15 zloty (about $5).

We walked back to our apartment to put our feet up in preparation for what is expected to be a moderately active day in the salt mines tomorrow.

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