Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kraków or bust...

A few weeks ago I made my first journey to Kraków...and loved it. Here is my story...

On Friday, September 2nd, I left my apartment at 7 am to catch the 7:12 bus to Katowice. I knew it was 5 złoty and would drop me off at the Katowice train station. The bus pulled up to the Żory Sąd (courthouse) bus stop right on time, but the bus was so crowded that I had to stand all the way to Katowice (about 45 minutes).

Once at the train station I saw a ticket booth and I bought my ticket to Kraków. I said, "bilet Kraków głowny" ("ticket Kraków main" - the train station was implied) and after handing the woman 18 złoty she handed me a ticket to Kraków. Here is where I made my first wrong assumption. I thought the train time and platform would be on the ticket. Like your boarding pass for a tells you what gate and what time the flight is...and what time you will board. Well, a Polish train ticket does not. In the main terminal there is a massive board with train times and platforms, but I could not figure out how to read it. I stood there for about 5 minutes and saw many different trains going to Kraków. I found someone who spoke English. She said I was on a regional train and that I was going from platform 4 at 8:40. I could see what she was reading and that there was a train to Kraków at 8:40 leaving from platform 4, but I still have no clue how she knew that was my train. By this time it is headed to the platform. A few minutes later a train pulled up and the sign on the platform said Kraków....I got on board. During the ride a man came to collect my ticket. I had no idea what he said to me, but I figured he was there for the ticket. I gave it to him, he punched, said
dziękuję, and handed the ticket back. I was on my way....

After two hours of riding through the Polish countryside I arrived in Kraków. The train station is attached to a massive mall, I guess I wasn't expecting that. I headed out onto the streets and started walking to the old town. I was surprised I found it so easily, I guess it was from the map of the city I studied on the way there. One thing I love about Europe is the architecture. Just walking from the train station to the old town was beautiful. I arrived at Florian Gate and headed down Ulica Floriańska to the main rynek.

Florian Gate - entrance to old town

View down Ulica Floriańska

I really can't believe how many pictures I took in the first 15-20 minutes of being in Kraków. It seemed like I was constantly seeing something I wanted to capture. When I first came out onto the rynek I actually had to catch my breath it was so beautiful. I had seen pictures of the rynek and of Cloth Hall, but something about seeing it for myself was different. I couldn't believe how massive it was.

My first view of the rynek and Cloth Hall. I can't even describe how big the rynek is....

I walked around the square for awhile....snapping pictures and taking it all in. I realized I still had my over night bag with me so headed to check in. I stayed at the Grand Hotel on Ulica Sławkowska....just steps away from the rynek. It was gorgeous and the service was outstanding. I dropped off my bag and headed out to enjoy the day and the city....

The rynek had so many restaurants and beer gardens....I picked a place for lunch because they had a Tyskie beer tent. I like it a bit better than Żywiec. After lunch I began exploring. I started with the sites in the rynek: the City Hall Tower, the Church of St. Mary, the Church of St. Wojciech, and Cloth Hall. Of course I did some shopping too. Poland is famous for amber jewelry. I bought myself a necklace and two rings....and I picked up a few gifts for friends and family too. Walking up and down all the streets of Kraków can really make you after a long day of walking around I stopped and had a beer to do some people watching.

When it started to get dark, I headed back to my hotel to change and find a place for dinner. I had a few places in mind when I headed out, but after reading the menus posted outside I decided on a Georgian restaurant. The restaurant was called Gruzińskie Chaczapuri. I started off with an appetizer of a typical cheese pie. I was actually very disappointed in this. It was more like a sauceless cheese pizza. I thought it would be more like a cheese tart. I had the spicy pork dumplings for my entree. These were delicious. I don't know what the spice was in them, but they were spicy. I had a honey "marlenka" cake for dessert.

The next morning I headed out early to go to Wawel Hill. Seeing the rynek was no people walking around was gorgeous. I couldn't believe I had it all to myself. On the way to the cathedral I passed the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the Church of St. Andrew. Of course, more pictures (all pictures are on Facebook). When I got to the Wawel, it was still pretty early. The entrance to the main cathedral wasn't open yet so I walked around the grounds. Like the rynek I had the castle courtyard all to myself. 

The grounds of Wawel Hill

the castle courtyard - early in the morning

As it got closer to the opening of the cathedral and the exhibits, it started getting more crowded. There were so many organized tours were arriving...I heard so many languages: English, Polish, Italian, German, and Japanese. I paid for the admission to go into the cathedral. The cathedral is the final resting place for all the former Polish nobility, among others important to Polish history.

After spending most of the morning walking around the cathedral, museums, and grounds I headed back to the hotel to check out....but decided on lunch first. I sat down at a Polish restaurant on the rynek and the waitress brought a menu promptly, but then never came back to take my order. So I left there and went to an Italian place...that was just average. But after I discovered Wedel Chocolate. Had an amazing dessert.

Finally checked out of my hotel and headed back to the train station. It was a little chaotic. I found a ticket booth that said regional, and figured since I took a regional train to Kraków that I would probably need a regional train back. The lady didn't understand me when I said I need to go to I wrote it down for her. Then she got it. She told me the train left at 14:15 (2:15 pm) from platform 2. Once again, it was not on the ticket. I really need to figure out how to read these boards.....

Got back to Katowice and needed to use the restroom. I walk in and this lady gives me a strange look. I didn't think much of it. As I am walking out she stops costs 2,50 złoty to use the restroom. Who knew? I was very surprised by was a public train station. Well, now I know. I caught the bus back to
Żory with no problems and was soon home.

Can't wait until my next adventure....which will be this weekend to Wrocław. And Vienna is coming up in November....stay tuned....

1 comment:

  1. funny about the fee to use the toilet...they do that in London as well...
    love your blog, Jana - and love what a great time you are so obviously having!!