20 07 2008

Krakow, Poland

It’s pronounced Crack-off. Or Crack-ov. Honestly I still can’t reach a consensus on how to pronounce most of the words in Polish. If there’s one thing you get tired of during traveling it’s trying to speak another country’s language with any amount of accuracy. We spend at least 4 days in every city we visit, though we’ve met a ton of people who consider 3 days to be a long stay. I have no idea how these travelers have the time to learn Hello and Thank You. It’s easy to get lazy about learning languages, though, especially when half of the world has taken the trouble to learn how to speak English. Of course if they’ve taken the trouble to learn our entire language, the least we can do is learn how to say thank you in theirs.

Well however you pronounce Krakow, I have to admit that it’s wonderful. The city is a wonderful mix of ancient and modern. Relatively intact after the second world war, all of Krakow’s rich history is still there to witness and enjoy. Gage and I started our tour of Krakow with Wawel Hill where the some of Poland’s first kings set up residence. It’s kind of a crazy mish-mash of different buildings and landscaping, but the view you can get of Krakow is priceless. We ran up there early Monday morning to get free tickets to the State Rooms and then bought some tickets to the Dragon’s Den, which was truly awesome. Legend has it that it used to hold a dragon which King Cracus slayed, and the tunnels are fantasy-inducing enough that I’m inclined to believe it.

Krakow is pretty well known for having a huge market square and I have to say that it’s pretty impressive, though it doesn’t hold a lot of magic for the budget traveler. As you can imagine, a hot tourist destination is not interested in offering low prices (although anyone who actually had a job would find the restaurant prices to be about half what they are in the USA). What all of Poland does offer is the glorious Milk Bar. The milk bars used to be subsidized by the communist government so that workers had an inexpensive place to eat. Basically they are glorified cafeterias for the working class. There aren’t as many as their used to be, but those that still exist are still cheap and, more importantly, still delicious. I finally realized how deep my Polish roots were when I ordered some pirogies and they came out as pasta dumplings filled with berries and topped with cream. And this dish was on the dinner menu! See mom and dad, dessert can be dinner. Poland says so.

I might be facing divorce if I don’t mention Gage’s favorite aspect of Krakow, Planty. A little background information is necessary here. After seeing a strip from my favorite comic Get Fuzzy in which Satchel, the dog, reveals to his owner that he names every inanimate object in the house by adding a ‘y’ to their name, Gage and I started doing the same. So when we sat down on our couch we were ‘sitting on couch-y’ or ‘Gage was working on Mac-y’. So imagine our elation when we found out that lamp stores in Poland are called ‘Lampy’ and hot dog stands have signs that say ‘Hot Dogi’ and computer stores often say ‘Komputery’. Well what finally did it for Gage was learning that Krakow had filled in the moat that formerly surrounded the city and turned it into a gigantic park that circled the city and they named it…wait for it…Planty. Poland is our kinda country.

Krakow Suggestions:

– The hostel that we stayed at was incredible. I can’t recommend Deco Hostel enough. Though I have to say that Krakow is apparently changing the hostel game because most people have given glowing reviews of their Krakow hostels. Either way, I don’t think you can beat Deco Hostel’s amenities for the price. It’s a 10 minute walk to Old Town and it’s on a busy road which means you should bring ear plugs, but at least you have something to look forward to when you walk home.
– Krakow is full of museums, many of which are free on certain days. Guidebooks often get those days wrong so check the museums’ websites for details of free days before making the trip.
– If you want to get some of the free tickets to Wawel’s State Rooms available on Mondays, be sure to arrive at the ticket office before 10am. There is a sign board with a count down for the amount of tickets remaining right next to the ticket window. Whether or not you get the free tickets, it’s worth the few dollars to buy a ticket to the Dragon’s Den, Wawel’s underground tunnel system.
– You can find milk bars by looking for restaurants with the words bar mleczny on the sign or window. If you want to be safe order the pirogie ruskie which is potato and cheese. If you want to have fun point to something on the menu board and cross your fingers.
– The clock ceremony in Collegium Maius isn’t quite as exciting as you may be led to believe. See previous post.




2 responses

20 07 2008

The pictures of the Deco Hostel in Krakow are indeed impressive. Sorry to hear that the Dizzy Daisy in Poznan is the balance.

One more indication that you and Gage were made for each other: evidently you don’t remember, but my recollection is that you affixed a “y” to any number of inanimate objects when you were very young. I’m glad Gage likes that sort of thing. I always thought it was kind of strangey.

21 07 2008

Wow! Beautiful! I continue to enjoy every word and photo. Any plans to visit the Czech Republic? I hear it’s quite an amazing country. But, they all have been, right? Hmmmmmm-where will we find you nexty?
Love, Kathy

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