Wot?

Wot? Or even, "What?", either would be the right exclamation, believe me! We went to Krakow, primarily in order to view the terrible place of unimaginable horrors which is the former Auschwitz concentration camp.

But we didn't get there! 


Honestly, Freda had researched the whole programme for the week, down to the last detail (well, perhaps not quite!) and we had planned to use the public transport system to get to the camp. In the event, it turned out that the twenty minute 'bus service changed to an hourly one at lunchtime. But we didn't find this out until twenty minutes before the last ten minute service left from behind the railway station, which we couldn't possibly get to in time!!!! A bit of a blow, was that. I priced a taxi, but that was prohibitive. There was nothing for it but to admit that we just wouldn't get, on this visit anyway. So, we determined to enjoy something else whilst we had the opportunity.

When we did the golf cart tour we went around the old Jewish Quarter. (Some streets were inaccessible due to a festival.) Before the Nazis turned up there were something like 80,000 Jewish people in Krakow, when they left, only about 1000 were still there. The ghetto pictures were heartbreaking, where 3000 people had lived, the Nazis crammed in 17,000 Jews; they had two square metres each, and 250 calories a day to survive on!

Obviously, these poor unfortunates are well represented in among the various types of souvenirs. There were genuine Star of David patches from the ghetto, and ornate Hebrew prayer wheels. Then there were modern representations of ghetto Jews:

These two little groups are typical, there were a great many similar.

I couldn't help but notice that the accordion players invariably had what is currently known as a "Melodeon face", Being a player, and interested, I see the same expression on YouTube over and over again! Here's a closer shot:

Please don't complain (or even think) that I'm making light of the suffering of these musicians, I'm certainly not! This is just an illustration of a phenomenon which is recognised in the weird world of melodeons.

Back to the present day in Krakow; We did a lot of walking (ooooh, the knees!) and the "Planty" was lovely. The Planty being the area which was originally the walls of the old city, now long gone and replaced with a green belt right around the inner city (2 and a half miles) of trees and bushes of many varieties, lots of grass with well kept tarmac footpaths and lots of seating. On one venture through the Planty, I caught a glimpse of what I took to be a legless bloke, until I got around the corner and past the people in front:

It really was a lovely place to wander, very few dogs, thankfully, and no mess or litter. In fact, when we went to the Wawel Castle, I was so shocked to see an empty beer bottle that I felt compelled to pick it up and find a bin! ("A bit different to Luxor, then." I can hear you saying, Dear Reader! And it certainly was.)

Mentioning the Castle, we had a nice wander around there too. It's only about 10 to 15 minutes from the Square, through the Planty. Not to waste time or megabites, here's a couple of pictures which give a good idea of the layout:


There's no fooling you is there, yes it's a model! It's made of metal, so it's a bit hot to touch, which is a slight problem as all the information which is on the model, in Polish and English, is also in Braille!

I could go on all day about Krakow and its characters, but I've got to stop somewhere, obviously. How about this bloke?

He's real, honestly!

Or this one?

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I think that's enough of Krakow now, unless, Dear Reader, you really want some more pictures?

We've been home a while now, with not very much to report. But I caught this man the other morning at 06.45 training for the "Great North Run". Is he crackers, or "wot"?

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Yes, that's a real fridge!

Tarra!

Busy, busy, busy!

Hello Playmates, I apologise for keeping you waiting to see the rest of the pics from Krakow. I have been busy though, honestly!

Our back yard door has needed replacing for the past two or three years, and Freda found one on Freecycle, last time we were home. Obviously, she was sick of seeing it propping up the wall, its time had come! Of course, it ended up needing the whole frame replacing, as well, and me not being a joiner managed to make mistakes when sizing it all up etc etc etc etc! It's done now though, thankfully. Actually, I'm rather pleased with the way it turned out.

Then; there was my favourite melodeon to see to. Being like me, but probably about 40 years older, it is failing in body! Well, bellows actually. They're only made of cardboard, you know, covered with a bit of cloth and bits of very thin metal here and there, but not everywhere. A nasty split appeared in the bellows fold next to where one end attaches to the wooden frame. I've glued it up, and I've prepared some strong-ish linen to cover and strengthen the joint. We'll see how it goes shortly, as I miss playing it.

Talking of melodeons; I "accidentally" bought another one a few weeks ago, via German eBay! I won't bore you with the story, but it's a lovely thing! A Hohner Club Model 11, here's a quick pic, just to get it off my chest!

Isn't it a beauty? It's quite different to play properly, and at the moment I'm only playing on the outside row of buttons, which is the same as playing a 1-row, it'll take time for me to get anywhere near the hang of the new (to me) system.

Now then, where were we? Ah, Krakow!

Perhaps we should start with a look at our next hotel, The Wentzl?

It's situated on the main square, and doesn't really look all that impressive on the outside. What do you think, Dear Reader?

This was taken at the night-time, and the main entrance isn't, as you would imagine, behind the third parasol from the right. No, it's directly behind the first parasol. The fancy stonework is around the entrance to the restaurant. Our room (better than the standard room, of course!) is the unlit one above the hotel entrance, it's a treat! Let's have a look at that, eh?

A view from inside the doorway.

Just look at those fabulous beams!

The room had everything you could want: a lovely bed, a comfortable sitting area with a coffee table, a desk and chairs with free WiFi (and wired Internet access) a coffee machine, kettle, free mineral water, a packed mini-bar plus re-stocked consumables (including hot chocolate!) The view was always fascinating; the ever-changing Square!

The bathroom was very flash, but awkward to get a decent picture of, sorry. I wish the water-flow of the shower at either of our homes was anywhere near as good as it was here!  

Enough of indoors, 

Krakow is a beautiful place, and I want you to see just how much there was to be enjoyed.

We took a city tour on a golf cart! It was really good, quiet, smooth and the driver was a very pleasant young chap, with reasonable English. The guide commentary wasn't via earphones but speakers strategically placed around the vehicle, and they were always audible without being too loud. The vehicles were just waiting around all over the place, some had 4 passenger seats and others 6. We also saw a fancy tuc-tuc:

The tuc-tuc didn't seem to move, it was advertising a restaurant which it stood outside of. We noticed at least one golf cart with P45 mirrors on it, that was a surprise, I can tell you! (Colloquialism: P45 mirrors = rear view mirrors, the type of which began to appear on expensive coaches in the UK in the late 1980's, and were so expensive to replace that drivers were afraid of being sacked if they broke one, hence the P45 reference, a P45 being an income tax form which an employer would give to an employee when his employment was terminated.)

Poland, in general being a big Catholic country, has a church on every corner, rather like mosques in Luxor, but they certainly differ in the style and quality of the architecture! The one's we dipped into were fabulous. Here's a few shots:





Whilst I can appreciate the beauty of these buildings, and the lifetime commitment of the builders and craftsmen; being a Protestant non-conformist I cannot reconcile the opulence with the relative poverty of the congregation which would have gathered there when they were newly constructed, or, indeed, the example which our Saviour set! Never mind, I'm not going to have my prejudices spoil the moment. 

The city is buzzing with both tourists and locals. One very popular form of tourist transport is the "Segways", I'd have loved to have a go, but Freda wouldn't hear of it. They were everywhere!

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For the more timid, there were these three-wheeled things as well:

For the even-more-timid, there were these beautiful carriages:

That's the Cloth Hall in the background, it's full of small tourist-style shops, and has an excellent and well worthwhile museum underneath it! (There's one part of the Museum where a fountain in the Square above constitutes the ceiling, and you can see people dabbling their feet in the water, or even paddling. Very strange!) The horses hooves are shod with high healed shoes! If you don't believe me, then take a look at this:

And, no they weren't orthopaedic shoes especially for this horse, they ALL wore them. I've never seen the like! Whilst the carriages are standing, they're all "manned" by trendy looking young(ish) ladies, with top hats and all the gear. But when they are ready to go, up pops some rough and ready bloke to do the actual driving, well, in the main, anyway. They go on till very late in the evening, and I never sawany of them being driven at more than a snail's pace. Also, I didn't yet see any horse muck......anywhere. (Or smell horse pee, as we do in Luxor! What a clean place this is.) 
That's enough for just now, I'll get around to doing some more on another day; promise!

Not exactly Luxor!

I'm not sure whether I told you about Freda spending my pension money, did I?  You know how much of a "forward planner" she can be (had to have been, really!) Well, not wanting us to just fade away in our armchairs, she decided that we should travel in Europe, only from Newcastle Airport, while we are still relatively mobile and she has my pension to play with!

The first destination was to be Krakow, to facilitate a visit to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum, which lies not far from that city. The flights were booked on the strength of me not snuffing it before my 65th birthday in April. Luckily enough, I did last out and off we went last Monday, Jet2 kindly laying on a flight from Newcastle for our convenience. I couldn't believe my ears when the pilot announced that we'd be landing in 10 minutes, it was impossibly quick! For a budget airline, I must commend them, the flight was quite comfortable, with plenty of legroom (actually bellyroom, for little fatties like me when the tray-table is down!). And the staff on the plane, and in the airports, were plentiful and helpful. 10 out of 10, I'd say.

Our first hotel, The Maltinski, sent a taxi to collect us from the airport. The driver was a big strapping lad, who looked to me as if he'd been in the Russian Army! (A perfect gentleman, though.) He told us that the hotel was very good. I thought that he was bound to say that, when they were giving him work, I mean, it's only a 3*!!! We'd only booked it so that we cold afford to spend two of our four nights at the beautiful Wentzl Hotel, right on the main town square.

In actual fact, the Maltinski was, indeed, a lovely hotel. Five minutes (literally) walk to the Square, and only 16 rooms which were (judging by ours) much more than adequate, with an enclosed outside sitting area. Seemingly no pool or bar, or restaurant (apart from the breakfast room) which would surely limit their star-rating, even though people like us would value the lack of those facilities quite highly, lol!

I'm hoping to do a couple of shortish (well, I'll try to keep them short!) blogs over the next few days, to tell you all about this lovely city. But for now, here are some pictures from the Maltinski Hotel, as a taster. Hope you like them.

Maltinski Hotel entrance, from road.

 The room.

 The room again.

 Bathroom.

 Bathroom other side.

Last view. 

The Parquet flooring, throughout, was beautiful!

Secluded outside seating and table.

Buffet Breakfast.

Musicians abound in the Square, "What country?" asked the old accordion player, in his National Dress. The reply was, of course, "England."


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That's enough for just now, look in in a couple of days, and I'll try to post some more interesting stuff.