Thursday, March 26, 2009

Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland turned out to be quite a place. The weather when we arrived was blue sky beautiful. So while Connor and I got settled we sent Kirk out to explore and get his bearings. He took lots of photos since we were pretty sure the weather would turn soon.

Indeed it was colder and cloudier the next day. But we enjoyed the spacious Market Square. It is enormous. We don't have anything quite like this anywhere in the USA. Imagine what was going on there years ago. Simultaneous markets of every kind and type, I bet. The place to see and be seen!
The Cloth Market smack in the middle of the Market Square was a fun row of vendors of "all things touristy" - we refrained from buying anything but there was gorgeous amber jewelry all around. I bet it was pretty cheap too! In hindsight I probably should have looked more seriously for a necklace or something. If our fancy 3 course meals cost a total of $28 then I bet the jewels were a steal also!
This Krakow may seem like a place you don't know anything about - but you know more than you think. Krakow's university graduates include Pope John Paul II and Copernicus. It was a colorful, very pretty city despite the grey day.

I especially liked Wawel Hill. It is a "historic hilltop with views, castle, cathedral, courtyard with chakras, and a passel of museums" (Rick Steve's). All the history and facts aside, we had a blast running all over the inner courtyard. Connor's shrieks echoed around the walls causing her to laugh even harder.

We saw a fire-breathing dragon at the "Dragon Gate." And though we were a world away there were still Coke ads!
We walked to the Jewish neighborhood called Kazimierz. Can you imagine that before WWII 65,000 Jews lived in Krakow (in this small neighborhood), but today there are only 200 Jewish residents in all of Krakow? Talk about change. The Jewish stories are still there nonetheless. Historic cemeteries, synagogues, and shops. When we were there there was a very strange "Used Clothing Market" going on. I weaved in and around the stalls and was perplexed by the used shoes and shirts all around. I guess this is Krakow's answer to consignment clothes shopping, but it was odd being all outside and didn't seem to have a rhyme or reason as to who sold what where.

On Sunday afternoon Kirk was interested in seeing the Wieliczka Salt Mines. They came touted in books and by a travel agent so we decided it would be helpful to cross off our list of Krakow highlights. It was clear it was not a place for Connor with the shafts and mines so Kirk set out solo. Plus we were happy to poke around aimlessly. Kirk returned nearly 6 hours later exasperated from his salt mine attempts. He had a bus nightmare with missing the stop and having to ride to the end of the line to return. Then when he was finally at the mine he said it was the epitome of a tourist trap. Ranked right up there with Gatlinburg and Dollywood. In looking at his photos, I have to admit I agree. The salt carvings do seem pretty impressive, but also pretty artificial and contrived to rake in the tourist dollar. The salt chapel looked to be the best spot.

At our Hotel Grodek, Connor found a special niche in the closet to use as her "house" - which kept us in stitches the entire trip. She would climb in and slide the mirrored door back and forth and call out "house, house, house." I was surprised she wasn't fearful of the complete darkness with the door closed. And she only pinched her fingers twice, so the cozy enclosed spot was her special space. It reminded me of the linen closet I would nap in at my Meme's house!
Kirk also had fun "flying" with Connor on the bed. Amazing how much fun just being together in a hotel can be!
So all in all it was another fulfilling European adventure. Another spot that was unfamiliar and unknown, now discovered. Connor just loved playing everywhere. Even in the airport where they had a ball pit! Good thing since we had to get up at 2:45 AM to make our 6 AM flight that day! Budget airlines do have their pros and cons!!! But we had to get Kirk back in time for work.

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