5 hours ago
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Eastern Europe: On the Vistula...
I wish I could tell you that the rain let up and we have sunshine in Krakow but that didn't happen. If anything, the rain got a little more persistant. I don't think we ever saw an inch of blue sky in this city. No worries - by now we had gotten some umbrellas and were more mentally prepared to see the sights a little damp.
I confess that I expected to like this city the least. It is certainly the least popular in terms of tourist write ups so I expected a little more of a low key place. And while that was true in some ways - the city is certainly smaller than Budapest or Prague - its no less interesting. The medievil wall still stands in certain parts of the city and the central part of town is mostly off limits to cars. LOVE THAT! I can't really say why Krakow was my favorite. Maybe because it was smaller, it was easier to get a lay of the land and feel a little more like a home away from home? Who knows? But I definitely recommend a trip there to anyone considering it.
On the negative side, the hotel we called home during this part of the trip, Andels, was my least favorite. There was nothing really WRONG with it but it was the little things that were lacking. Zero counter or drawer space to put clothing so the room always felt like a mess; no hair dryer or conditioner; a weird tv speaker in the bathroom that was EXTREMELY loud and we couldn't turn off; eerie neon blue and orange lights that made it feel like a nightclub all day long. So I can't really recommend it. In fairness, Im very much of a hotel snob so my bar is pretty high when it comes to this.
Much like Budapest, the food we had nearly everywhere was delicious. I was shocked at some of the portion sizes...I thought Americans had the monopoly on ridiculous helpings!
I didn' t do much buying but window shopping is my addiction :)
I think Prague is more famous for their music study but I have to say that everywhere we went in Krakow, street performers were amazing. Certainly better than I have heard anywhere else. Like this woman playing her violin...
and this man who had such an incredibly powerful voice, I couldn't believe he didn't have a microphone
or this woman who juggled flames
And aside from enjoying the free entertainment on the streets and eating ourselves stuffed, we booked a couple of excursions outside of the city. The first was to the Salt Mines.
They are no longer operational but still a pretty amazing site. At first you walk down an endless set of stairways
and through a series of salt covered tunnels
with various interesting stops along the way featuring carvings made of salt, small chapels miners created to pray during their work days, etc. And then out of no where, the tunnels open into this huge chapel complete with salt crystal chandeliers!
Stunning! Evidently people can get married and have grand parties there. What an amazing location.
The following day we took a detour from the frivolity of vacation to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial. Ive done a bit of reading about the Holocaust so I wouldn't say the experience was informative as much as emotionally powerful to see in person what I've only read about. The gentleman that escorted us through the tour of the memorial was also excellent. Im sure he's given the same tour a million times but made us feel as if we were the first ones. I imagine working there must be very difficult so I was really impressed.
The next day was our final day in Krakow so we tried to soak up as much of this beautiful city as we could in the short period we had.
And then it was time to say goodbye and head to the airport for our final stop, Prague...
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