Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Day in Kraków

                                                       Hero's Square, Kraków   


A random assortment of consonants making for similar looking street names, a stubborn refusal to wear glasses while reading a street map, and a phone nearly dead since my outlet adaptor was on the blink led to this very tired traveller getting somewhat lost for a while today and walking around what seemed like most of Kraków. I actually wasn't quite that lost, and with the aid of a few locals finally found my destination.

I started my morning out early with a trip down the street to find a store to buy a new adaptor but it wasn't quite open so I headed to the Old Town to join a Free Walking Tour. I love how cities all have an old town...maybe in a couple of hundred years my city of Hamilton will even have one! Free walking tours are a great way to make your money stretch in just about any city you visit in Europe and they are usually very good I find since the guide is relying on tips. I was lucky enough to join Calen, a Kraków native and history grad from the local university. As we walked along the Royal Route from Florianska Gate to Market Square to Wasal castle he kept us captivated with interesting historical narratives and a few of his own personal stories. We even made a stop at the former residence of Krakow's pride, Pope John Paul II.

                                                   Calen from the Free Walking Tour
At the end of the tour I headed back to find a charger and since my SIM card, which I was told by the woman in Prague would work anywhere in Europe, wasn't doing its SIMy thing at all I also bought a 2 gig card for Poland for 7 Zloty ($2.26 Canadian - crazy, isn't it! - yes we do pay ridiculous amounts for phones!) Next I headed off to a little Perogi shop that Calen had told me about and I knew I was in for a treat since it was definitely off the beaten track and there were only locals confidently ordering. Seven zloty later and I was tucking into a plateful of mixed little polish dumplings filled with a variety of tasty things. The only perogies I've had that were possibly comparable were made by the mother of my Polish friend back home! 


I next headed for Schindler's factory, got lost along the way, faced a two hour line up so left to join Calen for a tour of the Jewish District, got lost again, and finally rewarded myself with a nice cold beer while I waited for the tour to begin. Once again Calen with the Free Walking Tour was outstanding. He guided us through the Jewish district where some 60,000 Individuals resided prior to WW II. After deportation to various Nazi camps some 16 000 were moved to the Jewish ghetto across the river in 1941 and by the end of 1943 all but 6000 of the Jewish population of Kraków had been murdered. 


I met  a brother and sister from Turkey on the tour, Nur and Kasat, and I had a great time chatting with them. We ended up walking back to the Market square in the Jewish District to end the day with a zapiekanki - a street food that is popular in Kraków among the younger folk and is usually eaten after leaving the bars in the early hours of the morning. Our hot dog carts could have some competition. Finally, I said goodbye to my new companions and headed back to my hotel to get some well needed rest before heading to Auschwitz tomorrow!



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