Our first full day in Krakow started with a city tour bus. It might be the worse city tour that we have ever been on. The town looked quite dismal and run down which made Mike think that it would be a very short visit. I had been looking forward to Krakow for so long that I figured there had to be more to it. Once we got inside the city walls to the historic part of town it was lovely. This was one of the largest areas surrounded by city walls that we have seen. As usual the churches were great. We returned the next evening for a classical concert in the church in the picture. In Toronto we attend lots of theatre which we haven’t been able to do on this trip due to language issues. We have attended more classical music performances than normal as there is no language issue with a violin.
Driving around the city we saw numerous street cars or trams made by Bombardier which was interesting. Parking has been a bit of a problem. The parking meters don’t accept credit cards or bills, only coins. We checked and ensured that Sunday parking was free but still we returned to the picture below! There was a Polish gentleman sitting in the car next to us trying to figure out if he could park there or not. He spoke English fluently thanks to an ex-wife from Canada. He called the number on our ticket and found out what we had to do. He was told that we would simply get a warning and someone would be there to unlock us in about 20 minutes. It seems that the policeman who came to release us hadn’t heard the same conversation and he gave us a ticket for immediate payment with a receipt. Luckily the total amount was less than a day’s parking in Toronto, so we didn’t complain.
There is a large market square in the centre of town with an historic building called a “cloth market”. Today it is full of tourist type kiosks. There were a lot more people and a lot more open kiosks in town than we had seen for quite a while even though it was now November. We were told that we were really lucky when we had two days of brilliant sunshine and 45⁰F (??⁰C) weather. Pope John Paul II is very well represented in both Warsaw and Krakow. He was the Archbishop and Cardinal in Krakow.
Krakow has the nicest looking horses and carriages that we remember seeing anywhere. What I don’t understand is how come the streets were 100% clean and the horses weren’t wearing ugly diapers or anything like that.
One of the main attractions in town is the large Wawel castle and cathedral complex. We toured much of the complex. A lot, not all, of the entrance fees are waived for the month of November which was nice. I think that there may be one or two days a month that are free also during the year, which is good for the locals. The castle had different areas that you could tour. You were given various time slots when you picked up your free tickets. Some of the areas of the castle sold out first thing in the morning, we arrived after lunch ?. We still spent a few hours wandering around. There is a fire breathing (metal) dragon at the base of the castle. There are a lot of legends about the dragon.
We bought lunch one day from vendors in the market square. We sat at a picnic table to eat and ended up with a couple from London and a single man from Minneapolis. Both areas are quite familiar to us. The British couple thought that Brexit was a topic better avoided in general discussion, of course this was after I had brought it up. The American wanted to avoid talking about the mass shooting that had occurred in the US the day before. I couldn’t win in the conversation game. Actually, we did manage to have some nice conversation. Another couple that we met from London said that it was only a two hour flight so they had come over for just a few days. How nice it would be to be able to do that.
Although we haven’t seen Christmas lights actually turned on in town we have seen multiple towns where they were getting ready and installing large decorations on the streets. Some of these old towns would be lovely to see at Christmas time.
I had read about a salt mine that is a major tourist attraction near Krakow and Mike and I visited in on our last day in town. Our English speaking guide encouraged us to lick the walls of the mine to taste the salt. She said that the salt would kill any bacteria and germs left by previous people having licked the walls. It isn’t an operational salt mine anymore, it is for tourists and it is very well done. The main tour takes you to three different levels of the mine. You start by taking 400 steps down to level 1 (my poor thighs) and then you walk a 2.5 km route. You see sections of the mine from the 1500s up to the present day. Some of the equipment used in the appropriate time periods is well displayed. There are a lot of large carvings made out of rock salt. A few of them are over 100 years old. There were quite a few chapels underground in caverns dug out of the rock. In one particularly large one, there were lovely carvings and statues. That chapel is used for concerts and weddings. Most of the carvings there were done by three miners in their spare time and took decades to complete.
When we first arrived in Krakow Mike looked up Auschwitz. It was about 90 minutes away from where we were staying. There were three hour and six hour guided tours given in English (or in 17 additional languages by 300 tour guides). It turned out that the only available spot was a six hour tour starting at 9 AM Tuesday morning. As you know, I hadn’t really wanted to go in the first place and the thought of walking around the concentration camps for six hours was not going to happen. Mike went on his own. He left at 7 AM in the morning and didn’t return until almost 6 PM that evening. The words above the entrance to Auschwitz are in German and translate to “Work will set you free”.
We spent six nights in a large truck parking lot with 24-hour security. It was only 5 km from the centre of town and a block away from a very large mall. The location was great, we had water and a security guard and it cost us less than $100 Cdn for the whole week. We thought it was a good deal. We visited the mall briefly on our last evening in town. It had a large Home Depot equivalent right in the mall.
I am writing this as Mike is driving us from Poland to the Czech Republic. The speed limit is 140 km/hr for cars and 80 for trucks and RVs. The cars just go whizzing past us. Right now Mike is in a gas station trying to figure out how to return a transponder that we had to purchase when we arrived in Poland. Large trucks and vehicles require one. Apparently we get our purchase price back when we return it but finding out how to do that isn’t easy. In Norway we purchased two expensive ferry cards. Supposedly we can get our unused money back from them, but we haven’t yet figured out how to do it. It doesn’t look like you can apply on the internet. I don’t like the idea of throwing away money unnecessarily.
As expected we are now quite tight on time. We want to be in Budapest in about six days. This will give us a couple of days there to winterize the RV and get ready to leave it for a few months. The family of some friends of ours are willing to keep our RV in their backyard with their camper if it will fit. We don’t actually know how any of this is going to work out so the sooner we get there and get it straightened out the better. It is a very nice offer, especially since they can’t speak to us in English at all. We have nothing arranged yet to get from Budapest to Hamburg for our flight home. We don’t even know if we will need a hotel in Hamburg. At the moment we have no access to the internet as our Polish data ran out and we haven’t got to a town in Czechia to buy a new SIM card. As soon as we get proper data I will try and get this article uploaded. It is currently Friday afternoon. Everyone, have a good weekend wherever you are.