Krakow Trip Report
Today is our final day in lovely Krakow. It has been a great trip and I have really enjoyed chronicling it. This morning was wet, cold and gloomy. Just as the same weather that greeted us-so it only seemed fitting to send us off with the same conditions. We went for a walk along Wawel Hill as the early morning dew settled on jagged rocks. Wanting to make the most of our last day here- rain was no deterrent. Frank made spontaneous plans for a tour called Communism Tours http://www.crazyguides.com/krakow_tours/communism_tour_of_nowa_huta_district
Our “crazy guide” named Peter picked us up, and loaded us in his Vintage Trabant car (aka- “the soap box”) – for our deluxe communism tour- a 4 hr. tour complete with lunch at an authentic “commie” restaurant. A bright orange “Mr. Bean-esque” automobile was waiting for us. It was entirely made of plastic with an engine of a fancy lawnmower that requires a cocktail of oil and gas to run it, that continually stalled and required at times prayer and finger crossing to restart (and some Polish swearing). As he drove, with me in the front seat and Frank crammed into the back seat, he told us of the communist history and the community which was the main subject of the tour- Nowa Huta.
Our first stop was at the only restaurant that existed during communism. We had some hot beverages and Peter described what it was like to live life as a communist. Although, he was only in his late 20’s his parents lived through communism and spoke of the struggles of the Polish people during this time.
The next stop was at the Steel Factory that was the main work source for the community. He told us stories with passion and gave us his spin, living life in Poland during communism. After the factory, he took us to an apartment (“museum”) that showed what it was like to live in a communist residence. He showed us a short movie that illustrated the propaganda that was fed to the Polish people. He served us several different flavors of vodka. Between the scratchy fabric couch, the entertaining film and the alcohol, I was thoroughly brainwashed and ready to sign up! (jk) It was very interesting and even more so persuasive. Of course, we all know how this story ends, with the fall of communism in 1989. (Mr. Gorbechev- tear down this wall!”)
Our last stop was at a government owned restaurant- to get an authentic feel for a “no frills” kind of meal. http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/easterneuropeanfoods/a/Milk-Bars-Bar-Mleczny.htm The restaurant is called a “milk bar”. It is homemade, nothing fancy, but wholesome food. There is no bathroom, no waitress, limited selection-but again- good wholesome CHEAP food. I wish we had found this day 1! Peter ordered us all potato pancakes in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with sauerkraut, beets and carrots. We had some “compote”- juice with it. All three of us ate for less than the equivalent of $7!!!!!
The tour was a fun filled 4 hrs. Peter dropped us off at the Galleria Mall/Train station where we did some light shopping. Frank had his first Starbucks coffee in 7 days. The cost of the coffee was half the price of our whole meal for 3 of us combined!
We walked back to our hotel, with a pit stop in the main square for some more shopping. We bought a beautiful, luxurious Polish linen tablecloth with colorful flowers embroidered and some souvenirs for the “peeps” back home.
I am ending the blog a little early as we will be calling it an early night for a 6am flight tomorrow back home. Krakow has been like finding a pearl in an oyster. Having been all over Europe, I had never considered Krakow. But, spending 1 week here, I have grown to love the spirit of the Poles. They are a feisty bunch, that have been on the fighting (and losing) end of many battles. Their history is vast; they are proud, strong, and independent. They are not Russia, they are not Germany- they are distinct in their culture and have strong traditions. The Jews live in solidarity with the Catholics, both so individual-but both have strong faith-faith that had been challenged them time and time again. For all these reasons, I leave Krakow with a renewed love and spirit for all beings. I will fight a little bit harder and practice a bit more tenacity- all in the spirit of Poland.
Krakow TOP 10:
10. Wawel Hill
9. Hotel Senaki and the wonderful reception desk!
8. Masses first night & Sunday AM @ St. Mary’s Basilica
7. Jewish Quarter Tour/ City Center Tour
6. Klezmer concert in Kazimierz
5. Symphony at Philharmonic
4. Schindler Museum
3. Communism Tour with Crazy Guides
2. Queen concert at Philharmonic
1. Horse and carriage ride through Main square
Love and all glorious Polish things….
P.S. See you in the fall-maybe Lisbon?