We arrived at our Krakow destination on dusk and our gracious host, a young guy named Michael, who worked with his father running a Bed and Breakfast (again like our first night in Poland, we just parked our camper by their house) welcomed us with a hot cup of Borscht (beet soup), info on Krakow and news that Poland was playing Australia in Krakow tonight! Well, it was news to us footy fanatics *cough*. He exclaimed Polska would kick our arse and I suggested it might happen, but in the end it was 2:1 and I watched it in the guest room while his father watched it downstairs. I thanked the old gentleman for letting us use his telly and kept all temptation to yell ‘In ya face!’
The next morning we headed into Krakow without my green and gold scarf. Krakow eluded us, kinda. We’d heard much good things about the city and foolishly went in without much research. As a result we found ourselves aimlessly walking around town (a pretty town though it is) filling our time either eating or drinking between eating. The old town is very beautiful. Turns out, behind the tough iron curtain the Commies erected, was a gay architect from Miami with a penchant for pastels, lathering every old ornate building in a different colour. Likewise churches were decorated splendidly by pikeys with Jesus and his boys adorned in gold.
We ate pierogis for lunch washed down with Polish beer in the main old square, followed by sipping coffee at a busy artsy café before finding a quiet smokey bar named Nowa Prowincja for a beer. For dinner, after struggling to get into a number of places that were fully booked we actually dined at a Georgian restaurant, the idea seemed exotic but between the pork schnitzel, potatoes and goulash it was all fairly beige in both colour and flavour. The Georgian wine was nice, however.
The following morning we left our lovely B & B and headed for the UNESCO World Heritage Listed The Wieliczka Salt Mine which has been in operation since the 13th century. You felt your arteries clog up on entrance as the the salt is all around you, not just little deposits of it amongst large clumps of dirt like a gold mine might. Once down some three hundred steps we followed a trail of about 2 km winding through small passageways and tunnels now a meandering historical museum about the mine. In the 2km we only covered about two percent of the trails. It’s a real maze down there. Amongst a bunch of interesting facts, displaying how the folks did it back in the day are some hokey animatronics, but there’s also impressive statues and carvings made from the salt, hollowed from the existing cave walls and pillars. Famous Polish figures who’d visited the mine over the centuries garner salty likenesses tastier than a wax museum include a prime minister, a patron saint of the mine, Pope John Paul II and even Nicolaus Copernicus whose baby toe I chopped off and ate with a few slices of tomato and cracker*. Sporadically Liz and I would lick the shiny walls too**.
Because it was a functioning salt mine from the God-fearing 13th century and until the God-fearing 20th century, and due to its dangerous nature, there are three churches below the surface, all hollowed out, two of which are all hallowed out, but one, the large cathedral still has mass every Sunday and is available for weddings, parties, anything. It is quite impressive with religious carvings around the walls and alter carved by three men over sixty years, all volunteering – thou twas their salineous passion for the passion.
We exited through the gift shop and we bought some rock salt on the way.
Off to Slovakia