Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Kracking Krakow

Arriving in Krakow I eventually found my place, don't always trust GPS. Had to use an address, old school.
Turned out to be a rather large apartment on the top corner of a busy road & tram intersection, just round from the local metal bar.
Nice quiet spot then.
As it was nearby I headed to the National Museum, this monstrous museum had three man sections: armoury, decorative art and paintings.
Also on temporary exhibit of Leonardo Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine - a pure stoater.
The top floor art exhibits was the most interesting going from traditional painting to modern art with some weird stuff in between.

Krakow picturesque old town is surrounded by a thin stretch of green, the local gardens.
I entered past the university and headed for the main square. This huge square serves as a focal point for pubs & restaurants.
Plenty of people milling around, drinking beer. A strange mixture of tourists, Cracovians and even the occasional Franciscan Monk (not just in Dan Brown novels).
A bride was taking photos in the square, then noticed by a group of Argentinian tourists started singing and chanting, which only drew out the drunken Brits into a singsong. I had a wander around town, going out to Kazimierz and back along the banks of the Vistula.

At night I decided to be cultural and attend a Royal Chamber Orchestra concert in St. Adalbert's Church in the main square. The acoustics were excellent, just a small space, all seats taken. Played a mix of classical and film scores.

The next day it was on the train to see the Wieliczka Salt Mine. A lengthy queue proceeded a lengthy tour.  A lot of descending of stairs, but was well lit and I didn't feel claustrophobic.
We headed down one level, and saw some equipment, apparently they only stopped using horses 15 years ago. However the real star, was the vast chambers and the intricate carvings down throughout the lifetime of just 3 miners. So a man-made wonder, rather than a natural one. Salt chandeliers, salt tiles, even had the Last Supper carved out in amazing detail.
Busy tour though, just me and 10,000 other people, which meant that the tour groups would shuffle from room to room. The guide said goodbye and we had to get back to the surface ourselves. Through the underground gift shop & restaurant of course. After a bit of a hike, joined the queue for the lift back to the top, you don't want to be at the back of this queue. "Well be out by tomorrow", somebody quipped. I got squeezed into a lift with about 8 other people, this was definitely claustrophobic but short as the lift whizzed back to the surface. Glad to be back in fresh air after 3 hours underground, however rain was threatening, so legged it down the train station and back to Krakow.

At night I had a stupendously giant 'Polish Plate' It contains potato pancakes with goulash, dumplings, pork chop, cabbage roll, krupniok, polish bigos, white sausage and roasted potato.
Didn't get close to finishing it.

Another day, and it was off to the Castle. This must be one of the most confusing tourist attraction in Europe. You had to buy separate tickets for each attraction. There are at least eight, so you can do any combination of them. This results in an extremely slow moving queue, with lots of confused tourists. Luckily the entrance ticket office is running at full capacity today with a staff of one.
Later I found out that it would have been much easier and quicker to walk beyond that ticket office and purchase it inside.
Anyway I opted for the State Rooms, Lost Wawel & Dragon's Den. The state rooms were a series of formal rooms with artworks and decorations, but nothing to rival Warsaw Royal Palace.
The Lost Wawel turned out to be more like an archaeological exhibit of the old chapel on the which the castle has been built upon. Lots of rocks.
The main gardens were the best bit alongside the Cathedral (and ticket free!). Finally the Dragon's Den was the exit path down through the caves and out to the Vistula River, it was pretty cool, probably due to the dampness.

I opted for another Polish meal, this time in a cafe, one of the strange things about the menu was that all food is listed by weight. So I had the Zurek soup (250g) followed by the Pork Chop with tatties & cabbage (350g). The pork chop was really a schnitzel, flattened out, breaded and fried.
Another giant meal which I was unable to finish! Shouldn't have order the soup, that had a boiled egg and sausage in it, so not exactly a light starter.

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