Cześć from Kraków (and the end of a Very Long Day)
Poland Day 1. Day 1 basically involved getting here and dipping my toes in the water – which in reality took two days given 26 hours flying time plus all the transiting. But I’m here now and loving my first few hours in the Old Town of Poland’s second largest city.
Things got off to a dicey start at home just as Mike was about to take me to the airport. I’d given my pack a quick weigh and I was happy to see it was 10+kg lighter than what I humped around in North America in 2004. Still, best get Mike to weigh them as well.
Both were well over weight limits. Nooo! I was stunned. It didn’t make sense but a mad flap duly ensued with contents spewing onto the floor. What on earth could I leave behind? Surely not my extensive arsenal of supplements? And all my toiletries are essential! Then Mike twigged. The scales had somehow reset themselves to pounds. Massive relief.
Five weeks is a long time to be gone and as Mike drove away I questioned not for the first time whether I was doing the right thing. Solo adventures may not be everyone’s cup of tea but in order to see and do the things you want, sometimes you have to put yourself out there. And when you do put yourself out of your travel comfort zone it’s usually far more rewarding than just having seen and done those things that triggered it.
The flights to Hong Kong and Germany were an ordeal with very little sleep but I enjoyed the few hours I had to kill in Munich Airport. The Lufthansa plane to Kraków was like going back in time, a theme that continued when I arrived to find the whole baggage claim and customs areas in one big shed with a marquee extension and asphalt flooring. (I later realised this was their second and primarily domestic terminal.)
In contrast to the careful scrutiny at passport control in Munich, there was nothing of the sort here so happily reunited with my bag I just wandered through and outside.
I was going to bus into town but while waiting I was approached by a guy offering a cheap taxi fare which I declined. He later returned having rounded up three other clients with a revised offer of 5 Euros to shuttle us into town. I weighed it up: more expensive but still good value, gets me there quicker, safety in numbers. It also gave me a front seat experience of driving; not too bad generally though his skills were appalling.
We were deposited at the central bus station. I navigated through the large adjacent shopping centre following the signs to Stare Miasto / Old Town.
More on the Old Town another time but it is massively historical and interesting and where I’ll be based for the first few days. I wandered around the Planty, the park that borders the Old Town where medieval city walls once stood, to locate my hotel.
It was only about 2.30pm by this stage so a few hours to start investigating on what was a fairly dull weather sort of day. I trotted back to the main galleria to find a SIM card. Mucked that purchase up (nano SIM Hayley, not micro SIM) but made the gleeful discovery that you can cut SIM cards down and they still work :).
I wandered in search of the Rynek Główny, the main square. It is big, some say the largest medieval square in Europe, its size obscured by the Cloth Hall plopped in the centre.
I steered myself to the square’s massive Gothic landmark, St Mary’s Basilica, paying an extra 5PLN to be able to take photos. It is absolutely stunning.
I continued meandering, and later returned to have dinner at one of the many many many eateries lining the square.
By 9pm I was barely able to function so I surrendered to jet lag, though waking at about 3am (dammit!!!) has enabled me to write this up before commencing day 2.