Sunday, December 02, 2007

Logbook: Krakow

Krakow1While there really isn't any such thing as a "usual" week on The Voyage, I'm comfortable in reporting that this week has been "unusual." It started out pretty normal as I arrived in Krakow last Sunday afternoon, made the ten minute walk to my hotel and did the routine of checking in, getting settled and taking it easy after a full day of travel, but from then on it was different. I woke up Monday morning to find a pretty good blizzard in progress outside my window, but since I'm not in the habit of letting the weather hinder my exploration I got suited up and went out to have a look around the area. The snow wasn't so bad, but the wind and freezing rain were kind of a bummer so I toughed it out for an hour or so then found a nice place for lunch and went back to my room to spend time online. As you know from the "Universal Health Care" posting below, the slightly stuffy head I went to bed with on Monday night was a raging cold on Tuesday so I declared my first "sick day" on The Voyage and spent it quietly indoors, bundled up and watching movies on my beloved Mac. At the time I decided it was almost just as well because the weather was still horrible. On Wednesday my head was a little less of a mess, but my cold had settled into my chest so I spent another day indoors, only venturing out to join my friends Elke and Gustavo for some spicy Indian food that was both therapeutic for my cold and a delicious alternative to the meat and potatoes Polish fare I've been living on for some time now. Again, the weather was really pretty awful, so I didn't feel like I missed much.

Krakow2On Thursday morning I was feeling better, not 100% but still much better by comparison. I met up with Elke and Gustavo again and we went to the famous salt mines just outside of town. The tour was pretty interesting, including a descent of almost 500 feet down into the mines and a lengthy route through a variety of small tunnels and huge caverns, with intricate carvings and statuary almost everywhere you look. Our guide was speaking in English, but her quiet, high pitched voice did not carry that well and her Polish accent made it a little hard to hear and understand. Elke is completely fluent in English but it is a second language for Gustavo so she and I had some fun acting as interpreters for him from time to time. I tried to take some pictures, but the ambient light was too low and the flash just washed everything out, so there's only this one marginal shot for you to see. All in all it was an interesting tour and I would recommend it if you're ever in Krakow. If nothing else, it was a chance to do something besides sit inside and wait for the weather to clear.

Krakow3I was feeling better still on Friday morning, but the weather was worse than ever, so I decided not to push it an just hung out. Saturday morning dawned a little better and I went across town to have breakfast with Elke and Gustavo in their truck which serves as both their home and headquarters for their global journey. As you can tell, I spent a lot of time with them this week and I really enjoyed their company. They are very bright, energetic and fun, and it was a nice change to be able to talk at length with a couple of fellow voyagers who really know what long-term, long-distance travel is all about. It was a fortunate coincidence that we happened to be in Krakow at the same time, and I look forward both to keeping in touch with them as we go our separate way and to the possibility of meeting up with them someplace else in the world. Good luck, my friends!

Krakow4This morning, finally, the weather had cleared and I was feeling pretty much back up to par. I headed out early and made the most of the mild, sunny day to walk for hours through the Old Town, past Wawel Castle, through the old Jewish Quarter and at length along the Wisla River. Krakow really is a lovely city and it is a delightful, easy place to be. If you want to visit Poland, Krakow is by far the best place to start your experience. The fresh air really did me good and by mid-afternoon I was feeling almost all better and happy about my brief but high quality exploration. So, to sum up, I have been in Krakow for a week but only really explored it for a day. I've had my first illness of The Voyage and I've spent far more time than normal with other people. It has been an "unusual" week. Early tomorrow morning I will conclude my exploration of Poland and catch a day-long train to Vienna. Usual or unusual, the next starts now or maybe sooner!

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