Sunday, November 18, 2012

to lick or not to lick

To be fair - Krakow didn't have the sunshine I had in Wroclaw, but even so I have to say in my opinion it didn't quite live up to the latter.

I caught the early morning train to Krakow which meant a 20 minute walk to the station in very cold fog. My train was very comfortable and was the first 'dog-box' compartment I had been in for many years.

On arrival I followed 'Old Town' signs from the platform, which led me right into the middle of a huge shopping mall above the station. It was an identical mall to every single mall in every Western developed nation. Suddenly I was bedazzled by a myriad of mirrored and reflective surfaces and a swarm of milling pedestrians which had the effect of completely obscuring any way out.

I finally resorted to adopting the 'poor stupid lost tourist' look and asked a woman who was trying to spray unsuspecting customers with perfume.

"Where do you want to go?" she asked
"Anywhere that is outside" I replied.

shopping mall shipping container

I had another 20 minute walk to my hostel which was ideally located by the entrance to the Old Town.

As I approached my hostel I saw what appeared to be a very large hole cut into the grey twilit sky.

It tuned out to be a sightseeing balloon and as the sun was almost below the horizon it gave no reflection and thus appeared to have no volume.

up, up and away...

The next morning I took a local train for about 45 minutes to visit the wonderful salt mine at 'Wieliczka'

Having operated continuously since the 13th Century, what is remarkable is the way in which miners carved chapels, sculptural tableaux and even chandeliers out of rock salt and salt crystals. The visit took several hours and involved descending 135 metres and walking over 3.5 kms through tunnels carved out of solid rock salt. There is a great temptation to lick the walls to see if they really are salt.

Maybe I did....maybe I didn't.

(While well worth the $22 entry I didn't feel like paying extra to take a few snaps - so these salt mine pix are from the web!)

(photo courtesy:

(photo courtesy: www.

(photo courtesy: www.

During the mine tour I met Ben who is (amongst many other skills) currently an Alaskan fisherman. We ended up hanging out for the rest of the day, wandering through the (very) tiny town of Wieliczka, and caught up again on my last day to kill a bit of time in downtown Krakow!

At one stage we wandered into the Archaeology Museum to find it full of religiosity - a potpourri of popery if you like. Mystified, on exiting we looked closer at the sign and the Polish for Archaeology and Archdiocese look remarkably similar to the untrained eye and we had in fact just visited the Museum devoted to the first non Italian Pope for 455 years, former Krakow Archbishop Karol Wojtyła later Pope John Paul II.

krakow main square

street sculpture

castle through the mist

wawel cathedral

had to try the polish zapiekanka

ben and his zapiekanka

Some warmth to take away the chill of Krakow came from the friendliness and humour of my hostel receptionist whose name I have unfortunately forgotten (I'm sure it had at least three z's, a j or two and possibly a vowel...)

green hostel friendliness


Mike said...

Wow the prices must have jumped at the salt-mine, and we had no photography surcharge.

Re the perfume, I remember a gallery store in Warsaw where the owner must have spent an hour smoking the vilest cigarettes possible before opening up. I walked around for a while trying to breath through a cloth, but my eyes hurt so much and I just wanted to spit out what I'd inhaled.

Hannah said...

According to the Geologists I work with, the most accurate way to identify rocks is visual, feel AND TASTE - so lick away, apparently it is scientifically correct;-)