Saturday, April 10th, 2004

Saturday, April 10th, 2004

I was up around 7.00am and headed down to the airport supermarket for some “Bratwurst” and some chicken wings. I then took and S-Bahn into town to revisit some tourist sites for this blog. I took the S-Bahn to Hauptwache, which is only four long stops away from the airport. As mentioned I know Frankfurt very well and I know my way about. I first made my way to Romer, which at this time in the morning was deserted.

Ostzeile vom Romer / Romerberg

After Frankfurt’s old town was destroyed during the Second World War, heated discussions took place as to how the area between the Dom and R?mer should be rebuilt. Romerberg, Frankfurt’s old central square surrounded by steeply gabled 14th and 15th century buildings Actually, since eighty percent of the old city was wiped off the map by two Allied bombing raids during World War II, what stands today are largely recreations, but they provide a glimpse of the beautiful city that this once was. For centuries this medieval square was the hub of city government. It looks a bit fake, and it is fake. The R?merberg was leveled during WWII, and then partly reconstructed. The R?mer, city hall, occupies the west side of the square. On the east side is a row of restored half-timber houses called the Ostzeile, originally built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Fountain of Justice stands in the square’s centre. The R?merberg is the site of several public festivals and there is a tourist office located in the northwestern corner.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Romer – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Romer – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Romer – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

Dom

Originally built as a parish church in 1235, an edict of 1356 decreed that all German emperors be elected here, thus conferring cathedral status upon the church. The cathedral was rebuilt several times over the years: after a devastating fire in 1867 and after World War II. The only parts of the original interior which survived are the frieze of St. Bartholemew, the choir stalls and the Maria-Schlaf altar. The tower contains a masterpiece of the early Renaissance period – a sculpture by Hans Backoffen portraying a scene from the crucifixion. Destroyed by Allied bombs in 1944, it was rebuilt in 1953. One of its chief treasures is its choir stalls, which represent brilliant Upper Rhine craftsmanship, dating from around the mid-14th century. In the north chancel look for Maria Schlaf, the Altar of Mary Sleeping, dating from 1434. It is the only alter remaining from the church’s original interior.

I also walked to Sachsenhausen, which the cobbled stoned and sleep (on Saturday mornings anyway) entertainment and pub district, which has at least three Irish pubs. I also know from experience that the flea market takes place only 5 minutes away from Romer on the riverbank on Saturday mornings. Street markets in Frankfurt can be found on almost any given day in different locations around town. They are predominantly filled with fresh foods and flowers, and very few retail items. However, Saturday mornings turn the Mainufer into a large flea market with a huge selection of used items. Tons of clothes, books (with a reasonable selection in English), bicycles, and other bits and baubles are for sale. Frankfurt is a rich city but has a poor emigrant underlass which are mainly Eastern European (Serbian) and Turkish. To see the dozens of stalls with clothes been sold for 1 Euro and the vast crowds going through them shows that the most business orientated and capalitistic city in Europe has an underclass. Makes you think.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

People buying second hand clothes at a flea market – – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

I then walked to “ZEIL STRASSE” which is the busiest street (in terms odf expenditure) in Europe. Frankfurts’s shopping is concentrated along the pedestrian street Zeil, with equally exciting stores along the cross streets Schillerstr. and Goethestr. Grosse Bockenheimerstrasse, a.k.a. Fressgasse (Feast Street), is an endless choice of gourmet food shops and restaurants. The main shopping area is the Fussg?ngerzone (pedestrian street) of the Zeil, beginning at Hauptwache and stretching all the way to Konstablerwache, with the city?s main department stores (Kaufhof and Karstadt) book-ending each end. There are ample small shops and boutiques with clothes, shoes, leather goods, and plenty of fast-food joints and bakeries.

I purchased a shirt in Woolworth’s on Zeil and checked out some second hand stores.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Frankfurt (view from across the river) – Frankfurt – Germany (10-04-2004)

It was now 3.00pm and I wanted to catch the 4.15pm bus to the airport (hahn) from the main railway station. I took the S-bahn back and took the 12 euro trip (one hour an thirty minutes) to Frankfurt Hahn.

They were already checking in the Shannon flight. I had a beer at the airport (my first German beer, which I like so so much). It was a Hefe Weissenbeer, which I think is one of the finest beers in the world. Anyway I took the 19:25 flight and arrived in Shannon at 20:25. the flight was expensive at 64.47 Euro. Writing this today, you can catch a Shannon to Brussels flight for 7 Euro including taxes.

Sister drove me home .. back again. Nice break.

  • Good TIME atrticle on the so-called private security personnel (mercenaries) in iraq.

  • Morrissory (Mozzer) is back with a single and album in May.

  • Poland and a politician with a Hitler fixation.

  • Unrest in Vietnam. I was in the town of Buon Ma Thuot mentioned in the article.

  • how to upgrade an Aging PC.

  • Poles frown on strict U.S. immigration rules, fingerprinting

Increasingly, there’s a wealth of information on the web (take my webste for instance 🙂 ) written just like a travel guide – not by paid authors, but by others who’ve trodden the same path. Check these out….

Wiki Travel

World 66

World is Round

Lonely Planet

BTW, I havent even looked for a job yet. Must start looking 🙂

I see Diego Maradona suffered a heart attack at a Boca Juniors game. i was at that sadium last year and he still idolized there.

Thursday, April 8th, 2004 to Friday, April 9th, 2004

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

I was up and about around 9.30am and headed into town. My appetite has still not fully returned. It was pissing rain. It was cold and miserable. I walked to the old town area past various churches and old buildings. The old town, cathedral and square were empty. I then walked to the Warsaw uprising monument and then onto the main shopping area. Its a very gray and dour city which was totally destroyed during the Warsaw uprising.

After the uprising the Germans systematically razed most of Warsaw to the ground. Eighty five percent of buildings were destroyed: 25% as a result of the uprising, 35% as result of systematic German actions after the uprising, the rest as result of the earlier Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other combat including the September 1939 campaign.

The Warsaw Uprising

By 1944 with the tide of war turning, and their resources and morale seemingly in disarray, German forces had begun a strategic retreat from Warsaw. Following close contact with the Polish government exiled in London, as well as assurances of Allied aid, the Home Army (Poland’s wartime underground movement) launched a military strike with the aim of liberating Warsaw and installing an independent government.

At 17:00, August 1, 1944, General Tadeusz Komorowski signalled the order for Polish troops to launch attacks on German held positions. In spite of being disastrously ill equipped (only around 10% of the 40,000 strong force in his command were properly armed), the sheer ferocity of the attack, as well as the element of surprise, caught the German forces off guard. Within days vast swathes of Warsaw had been captured by insurgents and for the first time in five years the Polish flag flew defiantly over the city. The initial success of the uprising was short lived. News of the rebellion had infuriated the German high command. Himmler immediately issued orders to recapture Warsaw, and with key strategic targets such as landing strips and bridges firmly under Nazi control it wasn’t long before reinforcements of crack German and Ukrainian military units started pouring in to crush the revolt.

The beleaguered Home Army, already stretched to the limit, had no option but to hold fast and wait for help from the outside world. The Red Army, whose forces had reached the environs of the Praga side of Warsaw, promptly halted their steady advance and essentially did nothing while the battle for Warsaw raged on the other side of the Wis?a river. If the Poles thought things couldn’t get any worse then they hadn’t gambled on Stalin sticking his oar in. In move that effectively sealed the fate of the uprising, Uncle Joe refused to grant permission for the Western Allies to use Soviet air fields in a bid to relieve the Home Army. The embargo was eventually lifted on September 10, but by this time Warsaw was in a critical condition. On the occasions that relief drops did make it thought the anti-aircraft fire, they often caused more harm than good. On September 18, 100 Flying Fortress’ dropped thousands of food and munitions parcels. Only 20% reached the desired target. Not for the first time in history, Poland had been let down by its closest allies.Throughout this time, Nazi forces continued to pound the Polish forces, and the battle descended into a street for street, hand to hand bloodbath. Sewers and other escape routes were gassed, civilians butchered, children used as human shields, prisoners of war murdered; the list of atrocities knew no bounds.

Mid-September saw numerous attempts by other Polish battalions to smash through German lines that had by now encircled the Home Army into small pockets of resistance. Token victories failed to compensate for the catastrophic casualty list that was now mounting. With the advent of October the Poles found themselves in an increasingly impossible situation. On October 2, 1944, with no hope in sight, General Komorowski signed a capitulation document in O?ar?w Mazowiecki. The battle had cost the lives of over 20,000 troops and some 150,000 civilians. With the uprising defeated, Hitler ordered all remaining civilians to be expelled, and surviving buildings to be numbered in their order of importance to Polish culture and systematically dynamited. The darkest chapter of Warsaw’s history had been written.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Old Town – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

I ate a pizza and headed back to the hostel around 6.00pm where I didn?t move from until I went to bed around 10.00pm.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Warsaw uprising monument – Warsaw – Poland (08-04-2004)

Friday, April 9th, 2004

I had to leave the hostel by 10.00am. It was still raining. Two days of rain. I was sick of the place. No offense as I hadn’t gone out here but it was dark and miserable place and the population of the city seems to suit the miserable and dour buildings. I don?t think I saw anybody smile yesterday. My flight to Frankfurt wasn?t until 7.00pm but I had no motivation to walk around this place. I took a tram to the main station and went on the net for two hours (6 Z per hour). I then took the 175 bus to the airport 10km away. It only took about 20 minutes.

It?s a small dinky airport – even smaller then Shannon. Now that they are becoming part of Europe, small low cost carriers are opening routes there come May 1st. There is a small separate domestic terminal with about 10 chairs and a kiosk. In another terminal there is access for low costs carriers like Air polonia and Air Wings. It is a very, very small place with little to entertain the waiting passenger. I decided to stay around the airport all day instead sightseeing in Warsaw. Its just goes to show what I think of Warsaw.

My flight to Frankfurt Hahn was supposed to leave at 7.00pm but didn?t leave until 8.00pm. The price was 50.26 Euro including all charges. They were frantically cleaning and refueling the plane as we approached. So much so, a cleaning lady fell down the steps from the plane door to the tarmac spilling bags of rubbish all over the place. She was OK. The flight was pretty full and at 10.05pm we arrived in Frankfurt.

There wasn?t any bus going to the city until 11.15pm. I was trying to remember whether the curfew at the hostel was at 12.00 midnight or 2.00am. It was 12 euro to the city. The bus makes one stop at the main airport before heading to the city centre 25 minutes away. We stopped there at 12.30am and I decided to get out. I was of two minds all the way from Hahn. Should I stay on, get to the railway station at 1.00am and get a taxi to the hostel (maybe 10 Euro). A bed in the hostel was 23 Euro. My second choice was to sleep at the International Airport (where I worked for three summers) and head into town to sightsee tomorrow.

I decided to stay at the airport, as I didn?t know whether I would make it to the hostel for 2.00am and anyway I would have only about 6 hours sleep there. It?s the only hostel in town and they wake you about 8.20am in the morning for breakfast.

I know the airport very well having worked in restaurants here for two summers. I even know a lot of the secure areas like the basement tunnels etc. I knew there are some comfy seats in the waiting area for the internal tram that takes you from terminal one to two. I went up there and spread out on three seats.

I got little sleep as I would wake up every 30 minutes or so to listen to announcements or calls for passengers.

The thriving industrial metropolis of Frankfurt, Germany’s fifth-largest city and Goethe’s hometown may well be your first glimpse of Germany. Most international flights land here at Frankfurt’s huge airport, and its massive 19th-century railway station is the busiest in Europe. Frankfurt is a heavily industrial city, with more than 2,450 factories operating around the ford (Furt) on the Main River, where the Frankish tribes once settled. As the home of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, Frankfurt is also the country’s financial center. It’s been a major banking city ever since the Rothschilds opened their first bank here in 1798. Frankfurt also has a leading stock exchange. If all roads used to lead to Rome, today they seem to converge on Frankfurt, making it the hub of a great network of European traffic routes. Frankfurt today is both a much visited business center and a worthy tourist destination with a distinct personality.

Monday, April 5th, 2004 to Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

Monday, April 5th, 2004

I was tired. Because I was booking my bed from day to day, I had to move to another 4-bed dorm with three dour German girls, only one was speaking to me. I slept until 11.00am. After that I headed down town and visited some of the many churches and cathedrals and basilica.

Church of St. Mary’s

Building of this imposing church began in 1355 and was completed in the 16th century. The architecture is a mix from Gothic to Art Nouveau. The inside of the church is beautifully decorated with all styles of artwork.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Krakow – Poland (5-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Krakow – Poland (5-04-2004)

Florian Gate

The Florian Gate was completed in 1307 and is one of the few surviving parts of the ancient defenses that once surrounded the old town. The gate marks the main entrance into the city, and was where all visiting nobility would enter on their way to Wawel Castle.

I went on the NET again and did very little. I had only a little to eat, as I felt sick most of the day. I decided to book my flights home as I had only purchased one-way tickets to Krakow. All the flights via Brussels had gone up in price. Either I could take a train to Prague and fly home via Stanstead or take a train to Warsaw, get a flight to Frankfurt and go home to Shannon via there. It was long-winded but the cheapest option so I booked it. I should had booked my flights together instead of one way but when I left Ireland, I didn?t know whether it would be for one week or one month.

As soon as I booked it, I walked to the railway station and bought a ticket to Warsaw from a cranky old woman. She wouldn’t sell me tickets for any of the earlier trains so I purchased a 66 Z ticket for the 1.35 train. I also went online later on to book hostels in Frankfurt (one night) and Warsaw (2 nights).

Tuesday, April 6th, 2004

I stayed in bed until noon. Lazy me. A choir had booked in the previous night (Polish) and had stated playing contemporary songs on guitar until 6.00am. They were pretty good and there must have been about 20 of them but hell, no sleep.

I felt a lot better today and headed to the castle for about three hours.

Wawel Castle

Perched on the top of a 50 meter high hill, is a 10th Century royal castle done in Medieval, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque styles. This grand castle was the seat of kings for over 500 years. Free-entry days are Wednesday (June to Sept.) and Sunday (remaining months). Visit the historical Dragon’s Den, descending 135 spiraling steps down into the cave.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Specifically I went to the Armory and private Suites. They were 12 Z each to get to. There is a lot of history that Irish people have no idea of. I learned about the “battle of grunweld (1410)” and how the Polish state evolved. They had a tougher time than we did as they were squeezed from all directions. The Germans were to the West, the Swedes to the North and the Russians to the East. Hard times for the Poles.

Grunwald is a village in northern Poland, 30 km south from Olzstyn. In its nearness there was one of the biggest and most important European battles of the Middle Ages. Two allied forces both Polish and Lithuanian of about 50 000 men led by the Polish king Vladislav and the Lithuanian prince Vitold fought against The Order of German Knights of about 40 000 men which was led by its Grand master Ulrich von Juningen.

The battle ended up by crushing defeat of the Order of German Knights.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Castle – Battle of Grunwald – Krakow – Poland (06-04-2004)

Treasury & Armoury

The Treasury and Armoury showcases the coronation sword of Polish kings and royal insignias, some of the few original Polish artefacts remaining. Plus precious jewels and an impressive collection of knights’ armour including several examples of the hussars’ fantastic winged armour.

After that I walked to a Polish Milk Bar. I had soup and two main courses for 16 Z. Good stuff, its basic but good. For example, my second main course was mash, a big heap of black (blood) pudding and Sauer kraut. It all came to 16 Z.

I went on the NET to find no room at the hostels in Warsaw were available and I had no guide book but did not do anything about it. I met up with the Aussie, Norwegian and the two English girls for dinner at 7.30am. After a nice Dinner with beer (25 Z) we headed to the cellar bar we were in a few days ago. Beers and some shorts. We then got a taxi to a club called ?Carpe Diem?.

Carpe Diem Pub

This bar has everything a bar should have: beer, tables, and lots of people. Fair enough. We would, however, appreciate any interpretations of the fishing net/motorcycle combo in the d?cor.

It was Ok but things get quieter as Easter approaches. We had some beer, a few vodkas and a laugh. We headed back around 3.00am. I was pretty drunk and decided to relieve myself down an alley only to be spotted by a policeman. After a cheesy smile he called me a “fucking European” with a smile and told me to head home. He had asked me for a passport which I don?t carry around but was Ok to let me pass.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

I slept until 11.30am and went on the net for a while until I caught my 1.35pm train to Warsaw. It was a packed train but miserable as the weather was so bad today. The first day of rain I have experienced since I arrived in Poland. I arrived in at 4.25pm, although I was not sure, as there were no signs of the platforms saying it was Warsaw Central. The train was carrying on to some other stations in the city. It was a maze of tunnels going in every direction. There weren?t any signs in English so it was impossible to know where one was going. I reached street level and looked for the main street level entrance. Once found, there was a tourist information point inside. I got a map, details of hostels and a guide to Warsaw. I could go for a 35 Z dorm with an 11.00pm curfew or a single room for 65 Z. I decided for the peace and quiet of a single. I was tired of the late nights. They directed me to a tram stop. I purchased two tickets (one for my bag as well as its a well known inspector trap) and traveled 4 stops towards the river towards my chosen hostel.

Many of the hostels (and none of their reputations are great) have curfews. I decided to go to a hostel with single rooms for 65 Z. It took 4 stops but it was still pissing rain. When I got to the deserted riverbank, I knew that the hostel was a boat… and there it was a few hundred feet away in the now swollen river.

I felt tired and wasted. I as meant to contact the Aussie who was arriving in Warsaw as well but I was wrecked. I had a real early night and it was great to get it. I slept like a log as it rained all night

I was thinking about my impressions of Krakow. I really liked it. The old town has a certain charm and it’s a real lively spot having the most important university in Poland. There are 500 (yes, five hundred) pubs within 10 minutes walk of the hostel and many are packed seven days a week. While you may get a bit bored of visiting so many churches etc. you will never get bored at night and the beer is good and inexpensive.

I found the people nice and helpful (except the old woman at the train station) and I would recommend the city to anyone. It’s a pity there are no direct flights from Ireland. Aer Lingus are to offer flights to Warsaw during the summer. I would come back here for the city as well for the fact it?s a central travel hub to other parts of Eastern Europe like Romania and the Ukraine.

I should mention I got a guide from the hostel called the ?In your Pocket? guide to Krakow and it was invaluable. The hostel was great. No curfew and the staff were young and helpful. They wanted to chat and have a good time. They will even come on the beer with you.

Sunday, April 4th, 2004

Sunday, April 4th, 2004

Today was another day that my body was to suffer. I shouldn’t complain, as it was my own fault. For the same reason, I promised to give my liver a rest for 24 hours. I felt bad but wanted to go to Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Birkenau. It was here that the Nazis established their largest concentration and extermination camp. I persuaded the two very hung over English girls to go as well. We passed a Palm Sunday procession as we walked up down. Most of the population are ardent and strict Catholics and most people in town had palms to bless.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Palm Sunday – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

We walked to the bus station and purchased tickets for the 12.20pm bus to Oswiecim, which is about one hour and thirty minutes away. We all slept on and off in the bus. It was 8 Z each.

The bus driver was cool and shouted to us that we were passing the entrance. It was free in and we went to see a 15-minute film (3 Z), which was poor and didn’t explain much. It was 1.30pm or so when we got there and it was closing at 5.00pm. As it was afternoon all the tour buses had now left.

We walked from room to room examining the pictures, maps, stats and photographs. I have been in a concentration camp before, about 10 years ago in Dachau near Munich. It was a similar somber tone.

Auschwitz is a massive graveyard from where no visitor can leave unmoved. Auschwitz I opened in June 1940, and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) opened March 1941 3km away. Gas chambers worked ceaselessly, bodies incinerated in crematoriums, horrible medical experiments and prisoners dying of starvation and filth – that is the horrific image.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Entrance (Arbeit macht frei – Works brings Freedom) – Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Personal belongings – Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Auschwitz (Oswiecim) – Krakow – Poland (04-04-2004)

We got the 5.20pm bus back to town and from there walked back to the hostel. It was now around 8.00pm and I wasn’t feeling good. I went on the Net for a while in a nearby Internet Cafe (3 Z per hour). After I went back to the hostel, I picked a book by Colin Dexter called ?Inspector Morse – The Daughters of Cain ?and read it until midnight. No beer today. Well, I had a can. I had seen the televised version of this book with Dexter in it and thought Hmm, it must be a good read, but the book is quite slim and uncomplicated.

An early night: thank God.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004

I was told about my nocturnal activities by and sundry all the next morning but it was all in good jest. Anyway the Jewish girl was heading to Warsaw that morning and then onto Tel Aviv.

I was feeling brutal and didn’t feel with having company. All the others were back in bed so I decided to make my way to the Salt Mines in Wieliczka. I walked to the bus station. In front of the main entrance small mini buses take you to the Salt mine for 2 Z. I didn?t eat breakfast and felt like the living dead. Three nights on the beer were taking their toll. I was there at 11.30am but had to wait until 12.30 until an English tour would be setting off. It was 45 Z for the tour. You cant wander around my yourself.

The mine is only a 30-minute bus ride away and Wieliczka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a definite must-see. The tour takes you through chambers full of carvings, statues, and chapels, completely made of salt. There are salt lakes, and the largest of the chapels performs concerts, balls and even weddings. The end of the tour takes you to a restaurant and shops, and then it’s up to the top in the elevator.

At about 12.30, about 20 of us were led (walking) down to the 3rd level of the mine. I was not in the mood but I took interest in the many chapels that talented miners sculptured over the years. There was one amazing chapel, which two miners had built over 30 years of their lives. It took about two hours for the tour to visit the various cambers, lakes and chapels.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Salt Mines in Wieliczka – Krakow – Poland (03-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Salt Mines in Wieliczka – Krakow – Poland (03-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Salt Mines in Wieliczka – Krakow – Poland (03-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Salt Mines in Wieliczka – Krakow – Poland (03-04-2004)

Once we completed the tour we had to wait 30 minutes for a real mine lift to take us to the surface. There are three levels on the lift (about 8 people per space) and we were left in the dark as we waited for the other two compartments to fill up beneath us. It was pitch dark all the way up as well.

Once up there I took a mini bus back to down and headed back to the hostel for a nap. I got up around six and met with the others. We then headed back out. There was the Norwegian, the Australian; the two English girls and the English guy and wishy-washy American girl who had got here last night. For some reason she dressed as if she was in LA. Her attire included high heels, beret and long cashmere coat. High heels on cobbled streets. No very bright idea.

We decided to head for dinner and found a restaurant in the former Jewish district. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and did not find the fish I ordered very appealing. After dinner we headed to a real nice cellar pub with was just lit by candles. The beer was good (5 Z) and we had a good time.

Alchemia

Lurking in the blackness you’ll find everything from drama students studying by candlelight to advertising sorts swallowing shots of vodka. Full of steps and wobbles, scabby rugs and fading photographs, Alchemia is classic Kazimierz at its best. Staff though appear to have trouble spotting anyone through the fog.

After that all went home (about 1.00am) while the English guy, the two English girls and myself headed off to a nearby club called opium. Eureka, four rounds of Tequila. Nasty and was again blind drunk (but not as bad as the three others) and I remember walking home with them around 6.00am. We had difficulty getting the English guy to sleep in his bed and not the kitchen floor.

Opium

Dark and atmospheric, Opium comes bathed in erotic red hues and moody tunes. Attracting a trendy crowd of thin girls and media twits the latest “bar of the hour” has low sofas and a splendid courtyard and rooftop terrace. Drink cocktails and effect a look of studied indifference, and bingo, you’ll fit right in.

Friday, April 2nd, 2004

Friday, April 2nd, 2004

I was very hung over and minus a jacket. At about 1.00pm we all had breakfast at a restaurant. I had some nice veal goulash and a side plate of Sauer Kraut. I was suffering but agreed to go with the Jewish girl, the two Americans and the Norwegian to visit the Jewish District about 20 minutes walk away.

We went to a former ghetto, a concentration camp, a famous Pharmacy, a plaque connected with the small girl in red form Schneider’s list and various other Jewish related sites. Synagogs did not interest me. We did a hell of a lot of walking. I see how much Krakow means to Jewish people. Poland was home to the majority of Europe’s Jews and Krakow was an important Jewish centre of population with dozens o synagogs et. Now, they are museums to a former existence. They are the missing part of Poland’s history. Still, I mind it hard to feel it as there isn’t a Jewish population in Ireland and we were neutral during the war. It doesn?t figure prominently in our education.

Pharmacy Under the Eagles

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Pharmacy Under the Eagles – Krakow – Poland (02-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Pharmacy Under the Eagles – Krakow – Poland (02-04-2004)

Podgrze disctrict became the new Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation. The pharmacy’s owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, decided to stay on in Podgrze and do all he could for the thousands of not yet captured Jews living at this last stop on the genocide route. The pharmacy is now open as a museum, which heartrenderingly portrays life in the ghetto.

Kazimierz is the Old Jewish District that housed Krakow’s Jews for 500 years. It is now being re-discovered and the culture is being re-introduced.

Visitors can meander the streets full of great bars and cafes. Make sure to grab a map of all the Synagogues and historic buildings.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kazimierz – Krakow – Poland (02-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kazimierz – Krakow – Poland (02-04-2004)

We headed back by bus at 5.00pm but took the wrong direction so we headed to the last stop, got off and had to get back on the same bus to get us back into the centre of town. The bus left about our Norwegian friend who had wandered off to a shop to buy crisps. He took another bus and he returned about an hour after us.

We all headed off again about 7.00pm to a Pizza place, as we could not find another place that had enough tables /room amongst all these small restaurants they have here. Eating out in popular here so it had to make do. The two American girls were taking a 9.00pm train to Berlin so we went back to the hostel to say bye. At the hostel we had a couple of cans of beer each before the remaining four of us headed down town. There are also two extra girls in the dorm from England (lecister) who are traveling around Europe for six weeks. We went to a place called the “Black Gallery Pub”. Another basement place but contrary to opinions in the guides it was poor and very quiet.

Black Gallery

A dive bar that has embedded itself in student folklore. Everyone from backpackers to local Satanists (no joke) throng this basic, industrial cellar. Not for the faint-hearted, fit in by swearing like a sailor and downing vodka shots in one. The courtyard garden offers a more serene atmosphere and no sticky floors.

We were pretty down after the big night last night so decided to go for rounds of Tequila. I hate mixing my drinks. I am a beer man and proud of it. If I mix beer with wine or shorts its downhill from there but once the first round of shots is done the other three of us were required buyers. After that we headed to a very popular place called Prozak. It took us 15 minutes to persuade the bouncer to let us it. Lots of face control here. I was a funny place with lots of little rooms and nowhere to sit. We had said to the English girls where we were going and we met up with them. I was blind drunk and I was told it was another 6.00am end to the night.

Prozak

Descend the steps by the kebab shop, ring the buzzer, and then do your best to get past the gorilla on the door. This is the best club in town, and as such you either dress up or find somewhere else to go. You’ll find dancing going off in every conceivable corner, a range of low-slung sofas occupied by media darlings and a clientele with a hardcore commitment to hedonism. Excellent.

I haven’t got a blackout for 10 years or so (not remembering how I got home). Tonight I got one. I do remember how I got home. It seems I walked home with the two English girls. I hate getting a blackout. Some people believe its the sign of a good night and have no problems with them, but I like to be in control and remember my words and actions. It seems I was the perfect gentleman UNTIL I got home.

When I hit the bed, it seems I started shoring. There were an additional two people now in the room. An English guy called Andy and his friend; an American living in Prague called Sheena Murphy (from West Cork extraction, but now LA cool). It seems for the first time in my life (must have been the way I was lying), I started snoring. She woke up and wasn?t happy. She asked the Aussie to wake me and then he in turn asked me to turn (meaning to my side) but I turned around 180 degrees in bed. I then got off my top bunk and started climbing into the top bunk of one of the English girls (??) but the Aussie gave a shout and I headed back. It seems it was a scene of great hilarity that I did this and the English girl didn’t wake (thank God). I don’t remember any of it.

Thursday, April 1st, 2004

Thursday, April 1st, 2004

Ouch, hungover, headache and tired. I caught the 8.40am plane from Brussels S. Charleroi to Katowice. Katowice is a very small airport and I soon got my passport stamped and my baggage retrieved. There was only one other tourist on the plane. All the others (the plane was only 50% full) were Polish. I slept on and off on the plane.

There is no tourist information at the airport. After I got Polish currency out of the ATM I went outside where a mini bus was located. The driver had no English but the driver but he was a friendly chap full of smiles. He said he was going to Katowice town and the fare was 20 Z. As I thought it was a short journey I said fine. The other tourist (a Spaniard) turned up and he was all travel nerves. It took me a while to persuade him to get on. The journey took longer than I expected. It took 1 hour. The scenery was pretty grim with just some isolated farmhouses to look at. I saw few people or traffic. Once we arrived at the town bus station, the driver pointed at a bus and said “KRAKOW, YES”. I checked the times on the board and saw the next bus was at 12.50pm.

I was feeling like crap and headed into the train station opposite to get a drink (non-alcoholic). I was parched. I also went on the NET for 10 minutes to tell the family I had arrived. I headed back to get the Spanish guy as a train was heading to Krakow at 12.20pm. Katowice town station is a hub and there were trains heading to all over Europe. We waited around and had a simple conversation. The train would arrive in Krakow at 1.45pm. The price was 19 Z. The trains in central Europe are fine. The trains have 6 seat compartments, which are relatively comfortable. Again the scenery wasn?t spectacular. I had noticed a lot of open cast mines blighting the land as we flew into Katowice this morning.

Anyway once I arrived in Krakow, I said good luck to the Spaniard. I had made an email booking with Nathan’s Villa Hostel in the centre of town.

It was 50 Z for a bed in an eight-person dorm. It took about 5 minutes to walk from the station to the tram stop. I purchased two tram tickets. One ticket was for me and the other was for my bag. It’s an old trap in Eastern Europe for inspectors to ask for the bag ticket. I was caught once in Slovakia and asked many times since while in Eastern Europe. In Slovakia, it was a sham and we had to bride them and there were a lot of threats about police stations. Anyway here in Poland, normal priced tram tickets were 2.40 each and were only 4 stops to Stradom on the number 10 tram. From there I got a little lost so it took me 20 minutes to find the hostel.

I booked into this small but very popular hostel. It has only one floor and about 7 rooms and a small kitchen and common area. It has 4 clean bathrooms as well. Its very popular as it’s so central so there?s no need for transport to the pub and clubs. It also doesn’t have lockouts or curfews. I was there 5 minutes when an American girl came in. American but very Israeli outlook in life and she works there half the year. He kind of wore her Jewishness on her sleeve.

She said she was there for 2 nights and offered to show me around. I have met a lot of Israeli girls (especially in Peru and Argentina) and they are pretty hot. They usually have darkish skin and dark hair. Anyway, it was YES.

It took only 5/6 minutes to walk from the hostel to the Main Square. I got a nice feeling about the place. There were lots of students walking and loitering about. I got a funny feeling about some of the treatment the girl I was with got from the locals. There is no way easy of saying this. She looks Jewish (more in dress than appearance). Krakow is a kind of pilgrimage spot for Jewish people and they are the biggest visitors after Americans/Europeans. A lot of older guys were pointing at her nose while looking at her and silly stuff like that.



Krakow Attracted 5.5 Million Visitors in 2003
: Some 1.8 million tourists visited Krakow last summer, and roughly 240,000 of them came from abroad. In the whole year 2003 about 5.5 million visitors are estimated to have shown up in the city that is Poland?s top tourist destination, and more than million to have stayed overnight. Among the foreigners the largest contingent, 12.1 percent, form Germans followed by Americans (10.5 percent), Britons (9.7 percent), Frenchmen (8.1 percent) and Italians (8.1 percent), Israelis (8 percent), and Norwegians (6.5 percent). The busiest months are June and August, while the quietest prove January and February. An average tourist spends some $55 while in Krakow (a foreigner, $255 or so) and the windfall for the city totals roughly $450 million a year.

Anyway, we walked around the old town area.

Krakow’s main market square is the largest medieval square in all of Poland. Packed with restaurants, cafes, museums, galleries, shops and much more. The central building “Cloth Hall” (Sukiennice), was the first shopping center built in Poland (14th Century). The upper floor is a branch of Krakow’s National Museum, housing 19th Century Polish paintings.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Krakow – Poland (01-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Saint Mary’s Bastilica – Main Square -Krakow – Poland (01-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Main Square- Krakow – Poland (01-04-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Main Square- Krakow – Poland (01-04-2004)

Amway we got lunch in a Polish Milk Bar called “U Stasi”. I love this kind of place, full of locals eating hearty but unimaginative food. It opens at 12.30pm and basically you need to queue to get a chair at a bench (so you share the table with maybe four others). I had two large pork sausages, mash, gravy and horseradish. It was nice. The girl I was with had Dumplings filled with sugar, plums and strawberries. Weird combination. The bill came to about 10 Z each. Bargain.

We headed back to the hostel after getting lost and met the four others in the dorm. There were 2 American girls who had met up a few weeks ago. They were so different from each other that a big bust one was approaching like a train wreck. One girl who?s Nickname was “Morning Star” was studying German in Germany and saw herself as a politically motivated Communist. The other girl was what we Europeans would describe as the atypical “Ugly American”. She was uninteresting, lethargic, and plain ugly (no offense). There were two guys also. One was Norwegian who was hanging out here for two weeks already. He was 26 and pretty funny as most continental Europeans speaking English are. His first question to everyone he met for the first time was “What are your stereotypes of Norway”. He asked his as an opening and a chat up line. He was in to the same film, music as myself (even at my age) so we got on fine. The fact he was offering me beer and vodka five minutes after I met him helped as well.

The other guy was a 27-year-old Australian, a risk analyst who takes two months off each year to travel. He was very (too) smooth and a bit camp but intelligent and confident.

Anyway we headed off to dinner (six of us) and after based on the recommendation of the Norwegian we went to the Jazz Rock Cafe. No Jazz played in this basement pub. We were there until about 5 in the morning. This was the type of club where the alterative students hung out and they played an eccentric mix of music. You could play requests and I got them to paly “Killing in the name of..” and the crowd went pretty wild. I had a lot of beer (about 6 Z each) – yeah, I had a shit load.

Jazz Rock Cafe

An industrial-style pub replete with metal walls and floors. There is nothing remotely jazzy about this place, it’s where beer monster students convene to get smashed on cheap beer. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll have a cracking time.

There are coat checks in all the pubs and clubs here but I was too lazy to put in mine. Big mistake. I threw it into a pile of others close our table. At whatever time we were leaving it was nowhere to be found. Seems the clientele here wouldn?t be the cream of Krakow and are not known of their honesty. I spoke to the manager and he said most of the people in the club were “scumbags” and he had his own jacket stolen here two years ago. The jacket I lost was one of my fake North Face jackets I purchased in Beijing. If it were the real thing I would be pissed but as it was a 12 Euro fake, I wasn?t so bad but it’s was cold enough as I was in shirt only. One of the American girls gave me a jacket (it was tiny) and we had a good laugh going home.

After we got back we all decided to talk away for another hour even though a girl had moved into the dorm. Nothing would do until we woke her (around 6.00am) and had her join our conversation.