The latest instalment comes to you from mid-air on board a flight to St. Petersburg via Munich. Put simply, Krakow was wonderful.
The digs were much more like I would expect from a hostel – the ones in Berlin paled in comparison. The place was setup very well, with good kitchen and common room facilities [which we rarely used], free coffee, reasonable shared bathrooms – all perfectly adequate.
Where we’ve yet to connect – at a hostel at least – is with any fellow travellers.This irks me a little. In fairness Berlins’ digs were a filing cabinet with almost no practical opportunity for social interaction [sure, there was a common room, but it was desolate and comical] and we’d determined by the end of our stay in Krakow that the vast majority of its inhabitants were local school kids on some sort of trip. The “rabbit-in-the-headlights” look received in response to any attempt at a greeting combined with the need to run around frantically between rooms till the early hours giggling… – time-out a second here; I’m not too bothered by the latter, and it’s well known to those who know it well that I’d be more than happy to do the same given enough beer and the inclination, but it’s just a pain in the backside that we’ve not connected with any other mad sociable animals as yet! I think perhaps it’s just early days – if we manage to pass through SE Asia without making any connections then I’ll likely be consumed by delirious paranoia.
Outside, our time in Poland was great. A favourable exchange rate meant we dined really well and drank spectacular beer at rock-bottom prices. We elected to blast through the major excursions at the start of our time in the country, so we rolled out to the Salt Mines at Wieliczka in our first full day. It wasn’t what I expected, to put it kindly. There’s clearly immense skill and craftsmanship, and as one of the worlds oldest commercial enterprises there’s also scale and heritage, but the tour itself was very much Disneyland in Salt… I think I would have been blown away by a mix of natural formations and surreal / modern / contemporary sculptures but the artisans have instead elected for a combination of religious facsimiles and pop-culture – Snow Whites’ Seven Dwarves make an appearance. In fairness the chandeliers were incredible and many of the caverns / rooms were amazing, but the mannequins in “traditional garb” placed periodically to “illustrate the history of life in the mine” didn’t do it for me – each to their own!
Our second full day began at 5am as we elected to shun the package tours [as we had successfully the day before] and make our own way, via train, to Osweicim and the museums of Auschwitz I & II [Birkenau].
I’m not sure that there is a great deal that can be said about such a place. Hopefully the selected of images we captured will provide a more fitting overview of the day. The impact felt when visiting two of the most significant sites in what is arguably the greatest atrocity committed by the human race in recent times can’t truly be conveyed by one to another I don’t think – it has to be experienced first-hand and that experience will be unique to the individual.
It wasn’t until the third day that we finally set out to explore Krakow itself. We’d dined each night [first night blowout on a chef’s special selection of traditionally cooked meats, second night Italian, third night snacking] but we’d not really wandered that far from the hostel.
To make up for this we elected to take advantage of a free walking tour, having enjoyed an excellent one in Berlin. The Krakow tour proved to be equally as good – interesting and entertaining.
Having gained our bearings the remainder of our time in Krakow was spent wandering and snapping photos while trying to find the very thing this article was drafted in – a journal. Locals seemed bewildered by the concept – a million options on the 2012 diary front, but not a single journal. Eventually I found something that looks like it was made from dried-out human skin [worry not, it’s some sort of recycled cloth…possibly cloth made from dried out human skin].
As I sit finishing this article in Munich airport waiting at the gate for our connecting flight to St. Petersburg I can frustratingly inform you that Flughafen Muenchen has a vast selection of Journals for every occasion in an array of high quality attractive designs! Oh well, at least it’s unlikely that anyone will seek to half-inch my raggedy flesh pad.
Next stop – Russia and the city of St. Petersburg.