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.