Monday, June 28, 2004

Łódź, Poland--Krakow, Poland—Day 149

Today we left Łódź and headed to Krakow for a few days before we go to Katowice to see the hippos there. Our train left at the bright and sunny time of 7:05am, so we were up and at the train station by 6:30. Since nothing was open, breakfast consisted of a candy bar and for Sarah, a bottle of diet coke. Yum.

The train slowly filled up as we made our way to Krakow. By the time that we were almost there, the train was so full that there were people packed in the aisles. Luckily Sarah and I had seats next to the windows and had all of our luggage safely stored overhead.

We made it into Krakow around 10:30am and opted to take a taxi to the hostel where we had arranged to stay for the two nights. We got there and were a little shocked to see that it was more like a compound-like place rather than a nice and cozy hostel. We dropped off our stuff and since the boss wasn’t it, we couldn’t pay the girl who was working at the desk, so we agreed to pay for our room later. The room itself wasn’t too bad—if you don’t mind a sinking foam mattress and itchy sheets. We weren’t about to complain.

We started complaining however, when we figured out that we had to take the bus into town. We were about 2 kilometers from the center, so we waited with a large group of people at the bus stop to catch our designated bus. Surely all of these people couldn’t’ be waiting for the same bus…right?

Nope. Once the bus showed up practically everyone at the stop got on. Now we’re talking sardines here. The bus was so packed that you couldn’t even IMAGINE anyone else getting on, and then they did. We made several stops along the way where you would think that the bus driver wouldn’t even dare to stop and pick up more people because there was no room. But every time he would pull over and more people would squish on. Then it became a fiasco when someone (that lone person standing in the middle of the mob) had to get off. Pushing and pulling and smashing their way out of the bus. It was bad—but so funny and Sarah and I were just laughing out of shock. Luckily we had our tickets (we bought them as soon as we got on this time) and so even if a ticket collector attempted to get on the bus, we would be safe…in that department at least.

We got off at the last stop which happened to be at the main bus station. We walked and soon found the walkway to the main center of town. We also spotted a hotel suggested by one of the guidebooks that we had and found ourselves envious of its prime location. We decided after eating lunch that we would most definitely change hotels to this new, closer one and pay the whole 30 zloty more for a better room.

So we walked back to the second hotel and booked a room for the next two nights and were told to come back at 2 o’clock to check in. So to pass the time we walked all around the center of Krakow, visiting the Church of St. Mary, which has the oldest gothic altar in the world. Pretty fantastic if you ask me.

We then walked around until we found ourselves at the bottom of the hill next to Wawel, which is a castle and just so happens to be the most visited tourist spot in the country. We thought that we would save our visit to Wawel for later on in the day and hopped in a taxi to go get our stuff and change hostels.

We got back to the first hostel and tried to sneak in and get our stuff. We were trying to make a quick getaway without having to explain too much that we were changing places. This is hard though when you have to hand back your key and face the owner. But while I put my bags in the taxi, Sarah quickly told them why we were leaving and we hopped into the taxi which would take us to our new hotel. We felt bad but then again didn’t. Now we were so close to town and didn’t have to brave the bus again to get back and forth.

So we got dropped off near our new hotel and checked in. Turns out that our cheaper room that we book is in fact next door to the hotel and is undergoing restoration at the moment. No worries, we just had to avoid hitting our heads on the scaffolding. We have a really neat set up—its like we’re living in an apartment for a few days. We have our own room and share a bathroom with several other rooms. The building is old and the rooms are fun—they have a lot more personally than the room we saw at the first hostel.

We then went back into town and after checking our email, we headed to Wawel which we walked around for quite a bit, taking in the huge and beautiful cathedral as well as its grounds. The current Pope used to live in Krakow and was the Bishop at the cathedral here before becoming Pope.

Afterwards we walked around Krakow some more and then found a great vegetarian restaurant for dinner. Back at the hotel (or apartment rather) we decided to have a quiet night. So there I was, working on my presentation for the hippo conference, when all of a sudden, right outside the window, a cable car went by. Now you would think this was just a normal thing—there are cable cars all over Krakow and so it wouldn’t be a big deal to see one go by. However this time when the car passed by there was this huge white electrical spark that shot out of the wires from the cable car as it passed. I jumped a little, feeling shocked by the spark and then I realized that no, I had been in fact actually shocked. By my computer. From the cable car. It went straight into my computer and out into me! I couldn’t believe it. So I shut my computer down and decided to call it a night and finish my work when I wasn’t so close to a power line!! Yikes!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.