My dad and I at Brussels Airport. Our flight is on the schedule board. Can you find it ;)
It is early morning when we carry our bags to my uncle's car. He will drive us to Brussels Airport, from were our flight leaves at 9:25 am. I really don't know what to expect from this trip to Poland. I don't know how to picture the country, the people, the food,... I don't know much about it, except for a brief introduction to the culture and history that I've looked up while preparing this holiday. It was my mother who chose this years travel destination, and I can't say I'm all convinced about it. Yet today we're all ready to go and so I can only be glad to leave Belgium for a while.
Everything goes smooth and so we land at Krakow
Balice airport, somewhat 12 kilometers outside the center, perfectly on time. Here we withdraw some zloty's from the ATM machine and catch a shuttle bus
to the small train station, which is only a short walk of.
First taste of Polish beer. My dad never likes foreign beers. He always says they taste like water... But he does always order the half liter pints though :)
But just like last year, my parents carry large trolly's and so they aren't as mobile as they could be. Anyway, the bus is free, so it doesn't really matter. The station however is tiny. Actually it isn't much of a shelter (like the ones at bus stops) and one railroad. There are no destinations to choose from. The only train riding here shuttles between Krakow Glowny and the airport. For Polish standards, so I later found out, it is though a luxurious train. Tickets cost 6 PLN per person, you can buy them on the train. Try to pay with small money if you can. The very friendly conductors *euhm* don't like handing out change to 100 zloty billets. Yet for us, as just arrived, that is all we have to pay with.
We have booked an hostel called Cybulskiego Guest Rooms
, somewhat west of the old center of Krakow.
The walk there shouldn't take more than a small 30 minutes, but again the trolly's come in to play, and after a good 5 minutes of walking my father decides to take a cab. I don't really mind as I'm not the one paying for it, but I still think it was an unnecessary thing to do. I like to mind the budget when I travel and taking a cab for such a small walk through the park at broad daylight just seems silly. Yet the ride passes swift and we get dropped of at the hostel for some 10 PLN. Check in passes smooth and the room is very much ok. Seems like a very nice start of our holiday.
After getting our stuff settled we decide to go for a first walk through the city. After a small 10 minutes we arrive at the main square of Krakow, called Rynek Glówny
. The weather isn't that great yet sunny, so we decide to sit down on a terrace, eat some Obwarzanki
, and take in some first impressions.
The Rynek Glowny with a view over the vendors, the Maria Basilica on the left and the chapel on the right.
I'll probably sound very spoiled when saying that I am not so much impressed by this square, of which each and every tourist guide will be roaming with compliments. Yet this is the truth. You might say I am a symmetry freak, 'cause I am, but except from the fact that it is a perfect rectangle, this square lacks every bit of organization. In the middle there is this large hall, called Sukiennice
, and somewhat aside of it at it's far end stands it's tower. Than in one corner of the square there is the Bazylika Mariacka
, but it doesn't stand parallel with the square, yet slightly twisted so it faces the Sukiennice in the middle. On the other end you'll find the Saint Adalbert's church
, a very small church or chapel, also positioned far from parallel with the squares borders.
The rest of the open space is dotted with vendors, statues, benches and often stages on which talented and less talented people perform acts for the tourists. All the buildings themselves are really beautiful. It isn't my favorite genre of architecture but one can't deny they aren't just beautiful. It is only the way they are positioned that I find disturbing.
Apart of the symmetry issue, this place is SO crowded with people! The square is full of them, tourists and locals, and sometimes it feels like the entrance of a shop on the first day of sales. Not to mention the invasion of pigeons. There are hundreds! You won't even find this many of them in Paris. They are everywhere and it makes you wonder how come the Rynek Glówny isn't covered with shit.
Anyway, we're just here so we decide to get our first bit of culture and visit the buildings surrounding us.
The two different towers of Maria Basilica
The little white chapel is closed though, and so is the Sukiennice museum (due to maintenance works lasting 'till 2010). The gallery below the halls are open though, and full of shops selling jewelery and souvenirs. I must say I find it all a bit kitsch though, so I am not tempted to buy anything. Then my father and I climb the tower
. The entrance costs 6 zloty and is so not worth it. Honestly, it isn't. The tower is nice from the outside but climbing it is tiring and the view isn't at all rewarding. The "goal" is a small wooden room, very hot in summer, with four small windows. These are covered with plastic glass that tends to be dirty or fogged up, and makes it hard to look through. And on top of that, Krakow from the sky is nothing compared to e.g. a view over Paris or Madrid. So better save the money of going up and just watch the building from downstairs.
Mon and dad reading the travel preparations I wrote.
Because it really is a nice tower.
Highlight of the day is however the Bazylika Mariacka. You can read more about this basilica in my review. I really liked this church because it is so authentic. The paintings inside are simply marvelous. All churches (at least the Belgian ones) used to be painted like this in the old days, but today hardly any of them are still decorated. Many of the colorful artwork has been simply covered with plaster or just whitened, which is a shame. It was the first time in my life I saw such beautiful original decorations of a church, and I find it breathtaking.
At diner time we go to one of the restaurants our hostel recommended, called Dynia
. It was just very close by and so we decided to give it a try. The dishes were good and cheap, yet after we decide to have another stroll through the streets surrounding the hostel.
Hancock is in Krakow :D
Just when we walk out the restaurant it starts to rain like mad, so we have to ran into the first bar we come across. This is a vegetarian one just next to the Dynia restaurant, where we sit down only to discover that they don't serve any alcohol. Duh? There is no meat in alcohol, so I don't get the point. We return to Dynia just after it stopped raining to have a good glass of wine, then went to bed early. It was a nice but calm start of our holiday. We all hope the clouds will be gone tomorrow, so we can have a stroll through the city's center.