Poland Day 7 – Krakow

A day without motorbike travel! What luxury! I woke up a bit later than usual but still ended up having breakfast and being on time for the walking tour in the main square just in front of St Mary’s church. In fact, I was quite a bit too early but had a good chat with a chap called Majic, who runs the walking tour in spanish.

Eventually the english tour guide turned up, a guy called Jacek, whom Pip had highly recommended. He did turn out to be quite funny, and gave a very good tour of the Stare Miasto, or Old Town, and Wawel Castle. In fact, the tour ended outside the walls of the castle on the shore of the river near the Dragon’s Cave (a cheesy tourist spot, currently overrun by groups of polish school kids).

From there I climbed back up into the castle and, spotting a restaurant at the top of the stairs with a great view over the outer castle courtyard and the basilica, decided it was time for lunch. It was an absolute scorcher of a day again and I was regretting having taken my leather jacket with me on the tour and was dying for an ice cold beer, something which the Europeans have yet to master. Nevertheless the location was superb and the prices not too bad, although the actual portions were a bit smaller than I was used to in Poland. Still, a rather nice goulash with dumplings and a local beer left me satisfied, not even having room to try the pancakes afterwards which looked a lot like the palacinka from Czech Republic.

After lunch I wanted to look at the castle armoury and treasury as Jacek had said these were the best exhibitions, and one has to pay for each exhibition in Wawel Castle separately. Unfortunately it turned out that the castle was pretty much closed today. Bummer. Instead I went into the Wawel Cathedral and a couple of tombs which were again overrun by school groups before heading back into Old Town where I went into St. Mary’s Cathedral. This was absolutely spectacular with a riot of colours. Unfortunately the cathedral tower was not open to the public today either, but the old Town Hall tower (the only part of the old Town Hall still standing) was open, so up up up I went and got a couple of nice photos out of the windows. It turns out that if you ask nicely, it may be possible to sign a waiver and be allowed out on the balconies; but I didn’t find this out until I was nearly at the bottom again, and couldn’t be bothered to climb all the way up again.

After the hot climb I had a slow wander through the cool interior of the old Cloth Hall which now contains mainly shops selling tourist trinkets and amber jewellery. Refreshed I went and had another look at St Adalbert’s church, the oldest building in the Square, and Jacek had pointed out how it was actually several meters below street level. Apparently people just kept building up as mud and debris accumulated in the city, and archaeologists had actually discovered the original church entrance during excavations as well as lower level to the church which now contains a small, free, exhibition well worth having a quick look at.

By now I had walked around for quite long enough and, grabbing an ice-cream, relaxed for a bit in the Market Square people watching from a sunny perch on the fountain. But my relaxation was short-lived as I had a dinner-date with Pip and wanted to freshen up first. So back to the hostel, a shower and change of clothes, and then I went off to find Pip’s hostel to pick her up for dinner. Turns out that the best dinner recommendation was in the former jewish quarter, which was only a few minutes away from MY hostel. Oh well.
Dinner was rather nice and we had a great chat about our respective adventures since meeting in Warsaw a few days earlier before I had to dash off to join the evening walking tour, to which Pip didn’t want to go as it was all about ghosts and whatnot..

I made the Macabre Krakow walking tour just in the nick of time, having missed the introductory Spiel. Jacek was our guide again and showed us the locations of some of the sinister goings-on in Krakow over the centuries, having wonderful tales for each one. Of course it was me who had to demonstrate the iron collar outside the church doors (there to publicly humiliate adulterers; his and hers either side of the door). Luckily someone decided to take a picture, whom I then got chatting to and extracted a promise to get said picture sent over.

The girl, Kasia, turned out to be quite nice and was going for drinks after the tour to which she invited me. Funnily enough, she was going with Majic, the tour guide I had talked to early in the morning, and on the way we picked up a guy from Holland as well. Our first stop was a sort of beer hall, where we each had a big beer and the others had dinner, me still being full from my earlier dinner. From there we headed to a vodka bar and tried various different types of vodka.

Eventually we called it a night and I wandered off in search of my hostel. On the way I bumped into a group of guys from America who were heading off to the local nightclubs, so in my slightly inebriated state I decided it was a great idea to join them instead and headed off clubbing for a few more hours. Bed followed at some point..