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.