European Vacation: Day 20 Guten Abend, Frankfurt

We flew in from Cracow this afternoon.  Rich is still having trouble with his back, but he is determined not to waste our last day in Germany.  I looked through the recommendations and find things in the Alte Frankfurt that I would like to see.  There appear to be a lot of restaurants there also.  We can have one last German meal before we leave tomorrow.

We stop by the front desk to ask some questions about the best way to do things.  The cheapest way is to take the shuttle back to the airport and get on the train going into town.  That’s what we do.  We purchase the return tokens from the desk and step outside to wait for the shuttle.  It is a beautiful day here.  There are clouds moving across the sky, but the sun is out and providing some warmth.

The shuttle arrives and there are six of us going to the airport.  It appears that only one of the people is actually catching a flight.  Like so many around us, he is sneezing and coughing.  I hope I get back home before any of that kicks in.  We hand our tokens to the driver as we climb into the minibus.

At the airport, we go in search of the bahnhof.  It is located down one level from the arrival deck.  We review the screens overhead for where we want to go and the number for that train.  The ticket machines are all automated and there is a long line.  As we get our turn at the machine and we are trying to make selections, a gentleman steps out from behind us to help.  We can get the machine to display in English, but the selections don’t match the screen we were reviewing.

The gentleman tries to help us.  Eventually, he hands us a group ticket for 5 and takes the money I would have put into the machine.  He even hands me change, though it is more than I would have gotten back from the machine.  Rich is very skeptical and thinks that we just got ripped off.  The group ticket would cover our trip and back from the center.  I tell him to go with it until we find out differently.

We go down one more level to the train tracks.  Our train is next and is there is about three minutes.  That timing worked out just fine.  The door to the train open and we step on.  No one has stopped us yet.  We find seats and start reviewing the screen for our stop.  A gentleman in the seat across from Rich confirms where we want to get off the train.

On the way, we decide to go to another stop that will put us a few blocks north of where we want to be.  Let’s hope the group ticket covers that.  This is the Hauptwach stop.  No one seems to be checking tickets.  I believe the system here uses the fact that everyone is honest and buys the correct ticket, if they buy at a ticket at all.  It looks like the group ticket works then.

We come out of the train station to the street above in a square.  This one is more modern than where we are headed.  There are some very old buildings surrounding the square though.  One of these looks like an older station that might have been used in earlier years.  St. Katherine Church is in the square.

We find the street that we need to get down to the Romer square and walk toward the river.  As we get to the cross streets, it is hard to see if that cross street leads you to the square.  It just appears to hit a dead end.  We decide to walk to the river and look around.  There is a very nice path and park along the river here.

This is the Main River that runs through Frankfurt.  There are barges and river cruise boats up and down at the stretch.  With the wind, it is very choppy today.  We start to walk in the direction of the old square.  I forgot about the aggressive nature of the bicyclists in Germany.  They whiz by so fast and I’m almost struck a couple of times.  They don’t seem to take tourists into account when they are flying down the path.

We cross the main street and can finally see the square.  There are a lot of old timber buildings along here.  I had read that the Romer was sold by the business family who owned it in 1406 to the city of Frankfurt for their rathaus (or town hall).  It is a very nice building.  I can see that many of the buildings around it are about the same age.  The square is large with a fountain in the center.

Today, there is a wooden framework on the ground with lots and lots of green figures all around the fountain.  The German signs don’t make sense to me.  I can’t figure out what is going on and what is being depicted here.  Rich can’t determine it either.

We go into the Information office on the square to get information in English.  It’s easier to determine what to make sure we see then.  The map costs us 50 cents.  Not too bad.  Out in the square again, we walk around the fountain so that we can go to St. Mary’s Cathedral in one of the streets behind the square.  We can see the beautiful tower of the church, so it’s not hard to find.

We look at the menus for a couple of the restaurants on the square.  One of them serves Weihenstephan and Rich decides this is the place.  We walk on around the square and down one of the side streets.  We head toward a museum and see a pile of dirt in the courtyard.  It is unexpected to see dirt like this, even though there is a lot of construction going on around us here.

The courtyard holds an exhibit called the Sonic Fountain.  This fountain is a large pool of water with microphones all along the bottom and sides.  There is an arrangement of spray nozzles up above the pool.  One nozzle begins to drip and you get an echoing tone.  Another nozzle begins to drip as the first nozzle increases its flow.  This happens with multiple nozzles.  The sound it creates is like a symphony orchestra as different instruments join.

We found a plaque on the wall about the exhibit and its artist.  The exhibit is to show the sounds related to rain and how it produces different sounds.  The nozzles overhead are programmed to simulate different types of rain to give different sounds.  It was a stunning idea and how the guy pulled it off was amazing.  It was so beautiful to hear.

We continue through the courtyard to St. Mary’s.  You can climb up the tower and look around the old city.  I don’t Rich’s back is up for that.  We wander around the streets surrounding the church.  The architecture is just amazing.  Most of the old city is from the late 1380s through the mid 1400s.  There has been reconstruction from to time, but you can still see many of the old architecture.  It is wonderful to look around see time through the centuries.

Now it is time for dinner.  We head back down one of the streets toward the old square.  When we get closer, I can see a beautiful structure I have to check out first.  It is the Ratskellar behind the town hall.  Across from it is St. Paul’s Church.  Just as in Poland, there is a church on every corner.  Rich wants a picture of the war memorial because the female figure on top is not fully dressed.  I complain to him about that and he points to a male figure on the side of the church that is totally nude.  He says there is equal opportunity nudity in this city.

We walk back to the square and to the restaurant he picked out earlier.  It’s a little windy and there is some rain trying to come down.  We decide to sit inside.  I pick a seat by the window.  These are benches so there is no back for Rich to rest again.  I insist so I can watch the square and the people walking by.

Our server gives us menus, which have English descriptions for the dishes.  We’ve already picked out what we want as our last meal in German.  We start out with liver dumpling soup for each of us.  I’m having Jagerschnitzel with spatzel.  Rich has schweinehaxen with potatoes.  We do plan to have a beer or two and even dessert with coffee at the end.  We have Euros to spend and memories to make.

Our beers arrive followed by the food.  It is all so wonderful.  The flavors are just what we wanted from our last meal here.  One thing we enjoy is German food.  It is hard to come by in the States just the way you can get it here.  We finish off the meal with coffee, apple strudel, and cheesecake.

I go to find the toiletten, which is down the winding staircase and in the basement.  It is very dark and nothing much there.  I’ve been seeing people coming and going this staircase.  There is no one down here.  I see a doorway that leads out.  There must be tunnels here to get around the old part of the city.  I find the Damen (Ladies) room and go back up the winding staircase.  It is pretty cool.

Time to head back to the train station and to the hotel.  We decide to walk the river for a while and then take one of the streets back up to the main train station.  We do fine until we get into a maze of traffic circles and trams.  We can see the station just ahead of us, but it is a circuitous route to get over to it.  We finally make it and inside.

Now the real fun begins.  There are local and long distance trains in here.  We have to figure out where to go and how to find the right train.  Rich is trying to read screens and boards.  I figure I’ll ask at the information desk.  I get into line and look around for Rich.  He is wandering off to the left of me.  He comes back and says the Information line is too long.  I look at the people in front of me and it doesn’t look too long.

A gentleman behind me says that I need to go to the back of the line.  I turn to look and him and ask him to repeat what he said.  He points behind him and the long line of people and says I need to move to the back of the line.  Apparently, there was only a break in the line and I didn’t see the long line behind.  I apologize and agree with Rich for once.  The line is too long to wait for.

We find a ticket machine that appears to work and we buy one-way tickets back to the airport.  Rich doesn’t trust the group ticket that we are holding.  Now we have to find the right platform for the train to the airport.  The screen says it is on 103.  We got down the escalator and try to stay out of the way of people using the left to keep walking.

Down on the platform, we are looking for the S8 train.  The S1 train shows up first.  People scramble to get on board.  A young man tries to catch the door to get inside, but the door continues to close.  The train sits for a minute before the doors reopen.  I guess they have that capability, but I don’t see how it knows.  There don’t appear to be any conductors that I can see to make that determination.

The train moves out and the S8 train is on its way in to the station in about 3 minutes.  When the train arrives, we step on board and find seats.  There are two older women and two younger women who sit near us.  They appear to be heading for the airport also.  From their discussion, I believe they are Spanish.  The younger girls talk to one of the locals about which stop they need.  I’m not sure they really understand.

We arrive at the airport and get back up to the arrival level so we can wait for the shuttle.  There are three men already standing there with cases.  I see the shuttle stop at the first stop, which is not its usual thing to do.  Someone flagged it down.  The shuttle finally moves on to us.  All of the men are waiting for the same shuttle.

I wait as the suitcases are loaded and people are getting on board.  There is only room for 8 and there are 9 of us.  The guys in the back row are nice enough to make room for me so I don’t get stuck at the airport.  We move on to the next stop even though we don’t have any more room.  Luckily, there is no one waiting there.  We get back to the hotel and start to pile out.

Back in our room, we get comfy and settle in for the evening.  This is our last night on the road.  That is if you don’t count the night that we spend chasing the sun across the sky.  It is a 9 hour flight.  Tomorrow night, we spend in our own beds, in our own house, and in our own town.

European Vacation: Day 19 Journey back to normal

That day finally came.  We had breakfast one last time in Zakopane and then packed up to return to Krakow.  I’m not ready to return to normal life yet.  Vacation has been exciting and wonderful.  I’ve seen so much.

We could see the front of the hotel from our windows.  So we sat in the living room reading until the van arrived to carry us north to the hotel by the airport.  I didn’t have any plans made for how we would spend the afternoon.  I just knew we would be near the airport for our early departure.

Our driver pulled into the driveway and got turned around before I knew he was there.  We gathered up our stuff and locked up the room.  Rich went on down to meet the guy.  I dropped off the key and to say good-bye.  I said, “Dziekuka,” which is thank you in Polish.

Outside, our driver, David, was putting the first of the suitcases into the van.  This is not the same David as our trip to Rudy Rysie.  My suitcase weighed a ton today.  I’m not sure why.  I only added a couple of things.  Of course, I had most of the dirty clothes in my bag.  He put it into the van without much trouble, so I didn’t have to be too embarrassed.

David explained that he was going to take the country roads back up to Krakow.  There was a lot of construction on the main road.  We weren’t in a big hurry so seeing more of the countryside was OK with us.  David lived on the southside of Krakow and said he usually did the run from Zakopane to Krakow.  He had a head start anyway by being on that side of town.

We went through some beautiful little villages.  David explained that one of the villages was probably the oldest in this area.  All of the homes were wood log structures.  You could easily see that the houses were much older than the ones around them.  The houses and the barns are one structure here as well.

We left the mountains for a valley for a bit before we started to climb back up the other side.  There were meadows with grazing cows.  Here the cows have a chain attached to their neck with a weight on the other end of the chain.  David said this was to discourage the cows from wandering away.  Cows tend to be lazy and I image pulling the weight would make them think twice about moving too much.

We made it into Krakow in good time.  It only took us an hour and 40 minutes from Zakopane.  I was worried about traffic and the horror stories of 6 hours traffic jams.  I guess I didn’t have to worry after all.  As we came up from the south and headed to the airport, we saw the monastery on the mountain.  We had seen this while touring Kosciuszko’s Mound earlier with Marcin and Aneta.  We had a good idea of where we were in relationship to downtown.

I had made reservations at the Hilton Garden Inn by the airport.  I didn’t realize it was directly across from the terminal building.  So much for having to figure out how to get there.  We could just walk across the street!  We said good-bye to David and went in to register.

This morning, Rich was starting to have some trouble with his back.  By the time we got to our hotel by the airport, he was really having trouble.  We got upstairs to our room and he sat down.  That was a mistake.  After a bit, he was able to get up and take Ibuprofen.  Then he crawled into bed to stretch out and wait for it to take effect.  While he slept, I got checked into our flight, boarding passes printed, and toured around the hotel a bit.  It’s a pretty basic hotel with few amenities.  It’s just for overnight and then we move on to Frankfurt.

Later, Rich got up and we walked along the road by the terminal to see where we go for departures in the morning.  We needed to be over at the terminal by 8:30 in the morning to check bags and figure out where our plane was.  That will seem pretty early for us after vacationing all this time.

Tomorrow, we fly into Frankfurt.  We’ll have the afternoon and evening to go downtown and look around.  I figure we’ll eat dinner down there and be back at the hotel to sleep.  Our flight leaves later in the day on Wednesday.  At least we won’t be rushing all over the place to catch planes and get through securit

European Vacation: Day 18 Last day in Zakopane

Sunday.  It’s our last full day in Zakopane.  The sun shines in the windows very bright.  It should be a great day to go out and enjoy the area.  We just haven’t decided what we want to do yet.  After breakfast, we sat down with the maps and Marcin’s recommendation for the overhead tram to the top of the mountains.  Our final decision was to hike in the Tatra National Park.

We gathered our stuff and made for the door.  Our walk would take down a side street and over to the main road that runs up to the park.  From there, we would hike one trail to the Strazyska Polana (or glade) and then take another trail up to a waterfall.  This would take us about 3 hours total.

We could tell we were heading up to the park.  The streets here were gradually inclined upwards.  There was a lot of tourist stuff back in through these streets.  We saw a lot of willas and pokoje (room) for rent signs.  Most of them were lovely wooden structures in the Highland style.  I recognized a lot of the names for my search for a place to stay.

Once we got to the entrance of the park, there were outdoor grills and places to eat.  We thought this would be a good spot for lunch after the hike.  There were lots of people milling about and moving to the gate.  We paid our entrance fee and moved up the trail.

Most of the trail was a gradual incline that kept rising upward.  We passed the Ranger’s house by the first creek.  Wouldn’t this be a lovely place to live?  Rich agreed, but one day that wooden bridge would fall.  It was in pretty bad shape right now.

As the trail climbed, it became more and more cobblestoned.  The rough rocks sticking up through the dirt were becoming more and more smoothed off by the feet kicking over them.  Halfway up the mountain, a small stream of water took over the path as it found the easiest way down to join the stream on one side of the path.  The water made the trail muddy in some places and a little bit slippery.

The last push up the mountain left us at the Polana.  It was a rest area where you could buy food and drinks.  Most everyone had packed their own items in and were stopping to enjoy them before moving on.

On the way up, we had seen some serious hikers with walking sticks, packs, and well made hiking shoes.  Then you had the casual hiker wearing sandals and shorts.  We fell more in the casual hikers because of our tennis shoes.  We had wanted to pack in our hiking equipment, but decided not to and save a little money.  It would have come in handy again today for this hike.

On the way up, we passed a young girl of about 4 or 5.  She is doing a good job of moving up the mountain with her hiking stick.  I remember when Rick was that age and you had to keep prodding him to hike a few more steps.  It’s funny, because this young girl is talking almost the entire way.  We see her at different points on the hike and she is still talking.  She’s going to be very tired by the end.

After resting up and catching our breath, we moved on up the mountain to find the trail going to the waterall.  Three trails split off at this point.  The east and west branches went along the valley floor just below the mountains.  The one going north headed to the waterfall.

We headed up the trail, which soon became just a cobblestoned path.  The stones became larger as we moved upward.  It was like marching up stairs at some points.  Where there was shade or a small stream, the stones were slippery.  This was a popular path and a lot of people where coming up behind us.

Since I was going slower, I let others pass me by.  Rich went on up the path to stay out of the way.  I continued on at my own comfortable pace.  When I reached the top, Rich was standing in front of a small trickle that came down the mountainside.  This was probably the end of the season and there was little water coming down the mountain.

It didn’t stop people from congregating in front of the small falls to have their picture taken.  Rich got a couple of shots showing the trickling water.  There was a small pool of water that had collected at the bottom of the wall.  It was nothing spectacular.

After resting up from the hiking up, we started our way back down the mountain.  Going down was a lot harder in some places than going up.  The uneven stones made it hard to get a foothold as you stepped from one level to another.  This slowed me down quite a bit.  We made it back to where the trails split and could see down to the Polana below us.

We didn’t stop for a break, but kept moving down the mountain.  At this point, it was mostly gravel on our side of the trail.  Here and there, it would turn to cobblestones and you had to pick your way carefully over them.

People would spread out across the trail in places and it was getting hard to pass.  I guess they don’t read the rules of the trail here.  We had stopped to read them in case there was information we needed to know.  First rule was to walk to the right and allow others to pass you as needed.

We made it down to the entrance of the park.  Now it was time for lunch.  We found a table at one of the outdoor grills and ordered kielbasa, cheese, and chleb with pork lard spread.  I know that sound gross, but it wasn’t.  The pork lard has cracklings and herbs mixed into it.  The bread used for this is course and grainy.  It is like eating a very tasty butter on the bread.  It’s another one of those things that Rich and I fell in love with.

We got our kielbasa with a rye bread.  You could make a sandwich or eat them separately.  The sausage was so tasty.  We never have anything like this at home.  The mountain cheese is a solid hunk that is heated from the grill, but not runny.  We had this served with cranberry jam.  I love this stuff.  Rich keeps asking how this could be bad.  With a side of beer, we had the best lunch ever.  I guess I keep saying that about all of these outdoor grills.

After lunch, we continued our walk down the mountain and back into town.  We passed a piekarina (bakery) where we could get coffee and cake.  First, I wanted to head back to the hotel.  Rich agreed and kept moving forward.

After resting a bit at the hotel, we headed back out to find that little bakery for our afternoon kawa and cake.  As we walked up the street, there was a young man walking his little puppy ahead of us.  The pup was maybe 8 to 10 weeks old.  The man was trying to train the puppy to walk along.  I’m afraid the puppy was getting distracted by everything she saw.

We walked up the street and around the corner.  There was the bakery.  It was perfect.  We could get coffee and something sweet.  There was outdoor seating so we could enjoy the moment and watch the people go by.  Inside, a couple of kids were racing around in front of the case trying to decide what to have.

I stepped up to the register to order my sweet roll and black cawa.  Rich got poppyseed cake and a white coffee.  Here, you order your coffee black or white.  Other types of coffee are available, but it takes a lot of explanation to get those.  I like to keep it simple.  We got our cakes and I went to the counter for our coffees.

Outside, we took chairs on the porch overlooking the street.  A lot of people were walking by either going to the park or coming back from the park.  You tell those coming back because they looked tired.  The coffee was dark and rich.  I’m going to miss this type of coffee when I’m back home.  I’ll have to look around for something similar so I can relive these moments.

Reluctantly, we walked back to the hotel.  We were tired from the hike, but energized by the coffee.  We walked by the house with the four Great Pyrenees dogs in the yard.  I almost missed them the first time.  They only really bark when another dog walks by, like the puppy, or someone gets too close to their fence.  Otherwise, they are lying the shadows trying to keep cool.

I’m taking this time to write up my blog for the day, even though we aren’t done.  Rich is reading his paper and getting caught up on the news.  It’s only 10:00 AM at home.  But here, our day is winding down.  Pretty soon, we’ll go off to have dinner at a traditional restaurant close to the hotel.  This will be our last meal in Zakopane.  Traditional still sounds like the best thing.

Giewont Mountain above the Polana.
Giewont Mountain above the Polana.
House where the four Great Pyrennes dogs live.
House where the four Great Pyrennes dogs live.
Starting up the trail in the Tatra National Park.
Starting up the trail in the Tatra National Park.
Rock structures that we normally call dells at home.
Rock structures that we normally call dells at home.
Rich going on up the trail to the falls.
Rich going on up the trail to the falls.
Rest stop at the Strazysk Polana.
Rest stop at the Strazysk Polana.
Looking up at Giewont Mountain.
Looking up at Giewont Mountain.
The waterfall that had little water in it.
The waterfall that had little water in it.
Waterfall that is almost dry.
Waterfall that is almost dry.
Rich digging into the lunch we are having today.
Rich digging into the lunch we are having today.
House that the road has to bend around.
House that the road has to bend around.
Kawa and cake in the afternoon at the bakery.
Kawa and cake in the afternoon at the bakery.

European Vacation: Day 17 Heaven in Zakopane

I opened my eyes this morning and concentrated on the ceiling.  What room was I in?  I didn’t recognize the one above.  I turned over and there was Rich still sleeping.  That was better.  At least we were in the same place.

Then I remembered we were in Zakopane.  This was the beginning of the countdown on vacation.  I had no real plan for what we would do today.  Rich said he would be just as happy sitting around doing nothing.  He was tired from all of the walking and looking.

After breakfast, we dressed for the cool weather and headed to the tram station to take us to the top of the mountains on the left side of the valley here.  This side was the shorter of the two ridges.  We could walk to the station on this side.  The other station required a bus ride and I hadn’t figured that one out yet.

We purchased tickets and walked into the station just as one of the trams came in.  This tram runs on a cable system through the ground.  There is one tram on each end and they pass in a roundabout in the middle.  There were only a few people waiting to get on when we arrived.  Parents and grandparents were waiting with smaller children to get the very front or very back of the tram.

We settled for the middle car, but had to stand since the one seat was taken up quickly.  As we started off, the bell rang like a trolley car.  A trail ran along one side of the track where you could hike up to the top.  I think the book said it would take a couple of hours for that hike.  The tram would work just fine for me.

At the top, we stepped out and down the steps to the doorway at the bottom of the station.  From there, we could see a platform where you could view the mountains.  A set of stairs took you down to a sandpit with deck chairs.  Most of these were already filled with people.  The sun wasn’t strong and it was a little chilly since it was early in the morning.  It was probably on quarter after 10.

We walked up to the road that appeared to run the length of the ridge here.  This road was lined with little huts and trailers for food and shops.  We walked down to the end where a communications tower was sitting.  This tower had all sorts of antennas on it.  Since we work in the Comm world, we kind of geek out over this type of stuff.

As the road curved down the backside of the mountain, we walked by the area that is the bunny hill when this is a ski resort.  We saw only houses this way.  A few cars were coming up the road from this direction.  It must be the main road leading up from town.

We turned around and headed in the other direction.  We walked past little shops selling shoes, scarves, hiking sticks, gloves, leather goods, and on and on.  I would stop to look at something now and then.  For the most part, we kept walking.

We walked by a large grill where a man was getting food prepared for the crowd today.  The grill was huge and down with firewood.  There were metal trays hanging down over the grill, but not into the flames.  I realized these were warming baskets where he would put meat that was ready for someone to buy.  A board in front of the grill listed all kinds of meats and sausages that you could buy.

We continued to walk in a southerly direction down the road.  We agreed to stop at a large structure before turning back.  This structure turned out to be where one of the many chairlifts ran up the side of the mountain.  Rich went off to find the toaletty or WC.  I watched people coming up the hill in wide, open baskets.

The toaletty ended up costing you 2 zloty to use.  In most of Europe, it costs money to use the bathrooms.  This is one way for them to maintain the property.  Rich said this one should definitely been free.  We walked back down the road with an eye for someplace to eat.  One of the open grills looked promising, but he didn’t sell piwo (beer).  We decided to go back to the largest grill thinking we could get a good assortment to choose from.

We went into the building, which was full of people.  Service was very slow.  We tried to ask for food, but the girl behind the counter was so busy that she didn’t have time to help.  Rich took his beer out to the patio where we discussed what to do next.  We watched the food being prepared and tried to figure out how to buy some.

In the end, we gave up on the idea of eating here.  As Rich was finishing his beer, four guys came in and started setting up to play music.  There were two violins, a bass violin, and an accordion player.  They were playing mountain music, which would be like bluegrass and country music here.  We listened for a bit before hunger drove off to look for real food.

We walked a few steps down the road when I saw a large deck with a beautiful view.  There was a small grill and Rich noticed they sold beer.  We got in line for the grill and gave the man our order.  He told is it would be about 5 more minutes and to come back.  Rich went to get beer and I went off to claim a table with a view.

We had gotten settled when I heard someone yell.  The grill man was telling us things were ready.  Rich went up to pick up the food.  We got kielbasa and kishka with grilled cheese.  The plates came with bread and mustard.  The cheese isn’t like you think.  The cheese here is a hunky of cow or sheep cheese that has been smoked.  The grill only warms it up.  We settled in to eat and found the tastes almost heavenly.  We shared the food between us with chunks of the cheese.

No one chases you away from the tables here.  We had lunch and just sat to watch the clouds gather around the mountaintops across the way.  Then the clouds would push on leaving the tops exposed.  We sat there for a couple of hours watching the people and talking.  The temperatures had warmed up when we first arrived.  About 1:30, we could tell they were dropping a little bit with the clouds coming in.

Rich had gotten a second beer and brought me a beer with raspberry syrup added.  We had seen several people with this and I decided to try it.  It was a strong raspberry flavor.  You almost forgot it was in beer.  I really liked the flavor a lot.  I need to figure out how to duplicate it at home.  I just didn’t know if I could get raspberry syrup this strong in the States.

However, the clouds receded and the sun was getting through again.  We could feel the temps getting back up to good warmth.  We noticed that some of our neighbors were starting to move on.  We had not been the only ones to hang out on the deck for a while.  We finished up our drinks and decided to head back down the mountain.

We started up the road before we realized we went the wrong way for the tram station.  We backtracked a bit before we realized we had been sitting right next to the station all along.  A tram was already there and unloading when we arrived.  This time, we were able to get a seat.  With the drinking, this was probably a good thing.

At the bottom of the mountain, we got out and started to wonder through the market.  I had deiced I wanted a pair of house slippers, but not the goat’s wool ones.  They would be too warm.  I found a pair with the traditional materials and a lesser pile inside.  They were only 20 zloty (about $5).  They young man helped me get a size for my feet.

We wondered back under the street and up the other side.  I wanted to go to the drug store to find a couple of items.  Rich used the opportunity to get kawa and watch the crowds.  I didn’t find one of my items though.  I collected Rich from the coffee shop and stopped by the Apteka to ask for tape.  One of my fingers was giving me a lot of trouble from ligament problems.  I wanted to strap it so that it wouldn’t bend.  The young lady behind the counter was able to help me.

We headed back toward the hotel.  We were walking behind several groups where the women had purchased scarves.  They were all the same color.  It looked like a band of gypsies moving down the street.  Rich made the comment that it was a good way to tell your group by the scarf they all wore.

I had almost forgotten about needing batteries for my camera when we got back to the hotel.  We crossed the street to see if the market had any.  We didn’t see any there.  There was a small shop next door that said paper products.  I tried to ask the lady there for batteries, but she didn’t understand me.  Luckily, Rich saw them on the wall and I pointed them out to her. She said, “oh, batteries.”  Isn’t that what I said?  We found that the accent on a word sometimes makes what you say mean nothing.  I guess we have the same problem at home.

We got into our room and collapsed.  We were hot and tired.  First things first, I got started with pictures and posting to Facebook.  It was after 9:00 AM at home and we were well into the afternoon here.  We got our cheeses and tasted what we had purchased.  They were awesome.  Being tired, Rich went off to nap while I started this blog.  The air grew chilly, so I closed up windows.

Now it is dinner time.  I work up Rich to start the process of choosing a place.  I think we are going with Marcin’s suggestion tonight for a traditional place.  It is called Gazdowo Kuznia.  I’ll let you know how it turned out.

Back after dinner.  The place was packed, which is always a good sign.  Rich got the potato pancake with goulash.  I opted for spinach and goat cheese raviolis.  First, we had their version of Zurek soup.  It was very tasty.  We don’t think you can get bad Zurek soup.  After dinner, Rich had to try the baked apple with blueberries.  I was too full to try any of it, but it did look good.

There was a band playing when we came in.  It sounded pretty traditional.  The four guys came out and sat near us to get their dinner.  They were dressed in traditional outfits.  Pretty soon, they were heading back inside to take up instruments and play music again.

During dinner, we watched people come and go.  All of the tables would be full and they would slowly empty out.  The next run would start for diners looking for tables.  I assume this is a popular place with the tourists and maybe with the locals as well.

We walked back to the hotel.  It had gotten chilly when the sun went down.  I thought I had read that it was 40s in the evenings.  It is in the mountains as well so the temp should be a little cooler.  We saw some stars as we walked back.  If it weren’t for the light pollution, it would be a gorgeous night.

ADDENDUM:  Rich wants everyone to know the true price of drinking beer in Zakopane.  It is 8 zloty for the piwo and 2 zloty for thr the toalety which equals 10 zloty per piwo.

 

View from the deck chairs
View from the deck chairs
Comm tower on the mountain, which we realized we see from our hotel.
Comm tower on the mountain, which we realized we see from our hotel.
Comm tower on the mountain, which we realized we see from our hotel.
Comm tower on the mountain, which we realized we see from our hotel.
People hanging out to enjoy the Tatra Mountains.
People hanging out to enjoy the Tatra Mountains.
Little hut says Bacowka, which is the restaurant in Schaumburg.
Little hut says Bacowka, which is the restaurant in Schaumburg.
Large outdoor grill where we tried to eat.
Large outdoor grill where we tried to eat.
Dining area for one of the little food shacks.
Dining area for one of the little food shacks.
Clouds hanging over the mountain tops.
Clouds hanging over the mountain tops.
Grill on the deck where we ate and where we could get beers.
Grill on the deck where we ate and where we could get beers.
Rich enjoying his beer and his view.
Rich enjoying his beer and his view.
Our lunch from the grill.
Our lunch from the grill.
Joy with her raspberry beer.
Joy with her raspberry beer.
View from our table on th deck.
View from our table on th deck.
Clouds hanging over the mountain tops.
Clouds hanging over the mountain tops.

 

European Vacation: Day 16 Welcome to Zakopane

I woke up to the sound of things being rattled.  Rich was already up and showered.  Somehow, I had slept through him getting up and taking his shower.  I must have been tired last night.  I drug myself out of bed and starting getting things together while he finished up in the bathroom.  Today, we leave Cracow for Zakopane.  This would be our last destination before we start for home.

We went down for breakfast and then came back up to pack up our stuff.  After 10 minutes before our pick-up time, we got our stuff downstairs.  We picked up our important papers and additional papers from the lockbox in the hotel safe.  Since it’s not a good idea to carry your passport, we put these into the hotel safe.  We also added our additional credit cards and Euros.

It wasn’t too long before our driver came in the door and announced he was looking for us.  We went out to the car and stowed the luggage.  Time to make the 2 hour drive south to Zakopane.  There wasn’t a lot of small talk as we watched the hills grow into mountains and the valleys with their picturesque villages getting fewer and fewer.

Once we got closer to Zakopane, the traffic began to grow.  By the time we were about 10 clicks outside of town, we were crawling forward.  Our driver said this was typical.  During holidays, it would be much worse.  We moved forward by feet and not very fast.

We got through the middle of town and started out the other side of town.  We went right by the hotel at first.  The driver was able to make a quick U turn in the bus stop area to get back around and into the driveway.  I’m looking at the quirkiest little place with eyebrow windows and lots of wrought iron.  It was adorable.

We got our luggage and said good-bye to the driver.  Unfortunately, neither Rich nor I got his name.  He said he might see us on Monday if he was the one assigned to pick us up.  That might be the case since he knew where he left us.  We went up the stairs to the reception area to sign in.

The lady who owned the hotel didn’t speak a lot of English.  She had enough to understand how to help us sign in and get us up to our room.  The room was amazing.  It was more of a suite with a living room and separate bedroom.  It was decorated in traditional Highland style with blond wood furnishings.  We were in a room that had one of the eyebrow windows on the front of the hotel.  There were small side windows as well.  This was going to be a great location.

We had a safe in the room, but it was locked and we couldn’t get it open.  I asked the lady if she could open it for us.  She came up with a key and unlocked the safe and reset it.  Then she left.  Rich played with the safe, but got it locked up without getting our stuff inside of it first.  Well, we’d have to ask her to come back up later to open it again.

We decided to walk down to Kupowki Street and see what the tourist side was like.  We walked up a ways before we found a promising restaurant for lunch.  I ordered traditional Highland soup and Rich had a traditional mushroom soup.  We got nalesniki and pierogi as well.  That should take care of us for the rest of the day.

We continued up the street looking at the shops and watching the people.  At the top of Kupowki, the row of hotels and shops continued on.  We turned back to head over to the local market side of the road.  We stopped in to a couple of restaurants to check out menus for dinner later on in the day.  One promising place was devoted to fish.  That would be different from the past couple of weeks.

We had to go downstairs to find the tunnel going under the roadway to get over to where the local market is and the tram going to the top of one mountain.  The local market is full of cheeses, leather goods, scarves, jewelry and other items made and sold by the locals.  It was very colorful over there.

We stopped into a couple of stands and watched people buying some of the different cheeses.  The smells were very nice.  We walked to the tram station and determined the timetable for getting a tram to the mountain top.  If the weather was good tomorrow, we might wait until Sunday to do the tram.  At least we knew what times the tram ran up the mountain.

As we walked back, I was leading us up and down the aisles.  I decided I wanted a scarf.  Then we decided to buy a scarf for Busia as well.  Rich picked out a beautiful blue scarf for Busia while I found a nice red and bright one for myself.  We purchased them from different vendors, so the prices were a bit different.  Neither of the ladies at the booths spoke English, but they spoke money.  They knew what it cost and they knew when I gave them the right amount.  I was happy with my purchases and I think they were happy to sell me something.

We wandered back down the aisles.  I wanted to look at the leather goods, but knew I didn’t really have a way to get anything home with me.  It was enough to look.  Rich wanted to try the cheese, but I couldn’t get him to stop.  Maybe tomorrow, he can stop and try some of it as we walk to the tram station.  It all looks so good.

Up the street, we had noticed an old wooden church.  I wanted to check it out.  Inside, it was all wood with even the decorations in wood.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Some people came in to prayer and we left.  I started to enter the cemetery behind the church, but a man wanted money for you to walk in.  I didn’t want to see it that badly.  According to Rich, I was supposed to put money into a box to go into the church also.  I didn’t see that.  Stupid tourist.

At lunch, I had been looking at the tour book I picked up at the hotel.  There was a Stanislaw Witkewiecz who had designed a home in Zakopane that came to define the style for the area.  Witkewiecz was his maternal grandfather’s last night.  Now I know how it was spelled in Polish and not Lithuanian.  We decided to stop by the house and have a look at the design.  It was on the way back to our hotel.

The house is pretty typical for what we are seeing as older homes in Zakopane.  They are wooden structures that appear more like cottages in shape.  Some of these have been rather large homes.  These are probably the summer homes for people who live in cities, like Cracow.

We walked back to the hotel to rest up.  We are still logging a lot of steps on Rich’s app.  The other day, we had roughly 15,000 steps.  Today, we probably don’t have that many since we spent two hours riding in a car to get down to Zakopane.  I’m sure we’ll make up for it tomorrow as we walk from place to place.

I got another blog updated and posted with pictures to the Zurekbrau site.  I’m running about even now.  If I can get this one posted, I’ll be all caught up again.  It was getting toward dinner time and Rich wanted to head down to look for a place to eat.  I recommended the place with all of the fish dishes.  He was alright with that.  So we got on our shoes and coats.  A chill had come on since we came in.  We layered it on a bit to protect ourselves on the walk.  We made it down the street without injury.  Sometimes, the cars here seem to go pretty fast and we have a couple of crosswalks to negotiate as we head toward the center of town.  That’s the Centrum in Polish.

We got into the restaurant just fine.  Downstairs was busy, so we went upstairs and found a table.  The waitress dropped off menus as she was making the rounds.  The menus were attached to children’s walking sticks.  Marcin says that most children in Poland have had one of these sticks at one time or another.

Rich wanted a beer being advertised on the table, but it wasn’t on the beer karte (list).  The waitress came by speaking Polish and I let her know we didn’t speak Polish.  She quickly changed gears and spoke in English.  Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t carry the beer Rich wanted.  We ordered a couple of Pilsner Urquels.  She came back for our food order and brought our beers.

Rich went with the trout with grilled potato and veggie.  I had the halibut with grilled potato and veggie.  The grilled potato turned out to be two baked potatoes each.  The fish was grilled in foil with butter and topped with the sauces we ordered.  It was all so wonderful.  Since we had no room for dessert, we convinced her to give us our bill.

We walked out to the street and stood for a minute.  There were still a lot of people walking around. Stores were still open as well.  This place isn’t like Cracow and some of the other places that closed up at 5:00.  We headed back to our hotel and collapsed on the couch.  It is good to be on vacation.

Right after I finish posting this and getting the pictures up on the blog, I’m going to bed.  Good night to all.

Courtyard from our window in Cracow.
Courtyard from our window in Cracow.

Our hotel in Zakopane

Living room in our hotel room in Zakopane
Living room in our hotel room in Zakopane
View from our hotel to the mountains above Zakopane.
View from our hotel to the mountains above Zakopane.
Couple of hotels on our street in Zakopane.
Couple of hotels on our street in Zakopane.
Rich having lunch in Zakopane.
Rich having lunch in Zakopane.
Local market where you buy the good stuff in Zakopane.
Local market where you buy the good stuff in Zakopane.
St Mary's Church in Zakopane
St Mary’s Church in Zakopane
Witkewiecz house in Zakopane
Witkewiecz house in Zakopane
Sign for Stanislaw Witkewiecz
Sign for Stanislaw Witkewiecz
Some of the older style homes in Zakopane.
Some of the older style homes in Zakopane.

European Vacation: Day 15 In search of Zurek roots

Our trip has finally come to the day I had planned around for many months.  We were meeting our driver and going outside of Krakow to Rudy Rysie.  Josef Zurek had left his home and village of Rudy Rysie in probably late 1912 or early 1913 to make the journey to America.

The family stories are that he was poaching deer in the local woods.  He wasn’t caught red-handed, but they knew it was him.  He had made a gun illegally and was hunting.  Joe told his mother good-bye and left the village for Krakow.  From there, he made his way to Bergen, Germany and boarded a boat for New York.  He arrived in New York in August of 1913.  His final destination was Chicago where he made his life.  He died in 1949.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve collected information for Joe Zurek through my efforts to map out Rich’s family.  I had several pieces of information showing his home village as Rudy Rysie.  This location matched up with the family stories.  When I had this information confirmed, I asked Rich if it was time to go and see this village.  This year’s Zurek Family Vacation was planned for Germany and Poland.

Today, we made the journey out to Rudy Rysie.  We came down to breakfast to find one of the drivers waiting for us.  We had not expected him until 10:00 and it was only 9:00.  He explained he was having car trouble anyway and would have another driver pick us up for the trip.

At 10:00, David met us outside of the hotel.  He was a young student working his way through college.  We walked around the corner to the van he was driving.  We talked about Krakow, our purpose for the trip today, and how college was different in Poland from the U.S.  David is completing his last year at the university for a Master’s in Finance.

I don’t think he was too sure about what we had planned for our journey.  I explained how I saw the village on Google maps.  I planned to go out to the cemetery at the end of the village first to look for the Zurek name and just to walk around.  Then I wanted to go by the church in case there was someone there we could talk to about the village.

The trip was only 45 minutes outside of Krakow to the west.  It went by pretty quickly.  There was construction as we entered the town and couldn’t stop for the sign to get our picture.  I directed David to the cemetery first.  He was a little worried about walking around and finding anything.

We started sweeping the grounds and found 5 or 6 Zureks buried there.  Most of them were of Joe’s generation or later.  Rich did find a grave for Marjanna Zurek who died on 22 Jan 1922.  The age would possibly be correct for our Marjanna.  We took pictures and David translated the grave stone to read Rest in Peace.  It was amazing that there would even be a stone here for her.  We wondered if Joe knew she had died and managed to pay for a simple marker.

David drove us out of town to the north where we found one of the other town signs.  We got out and took our pictures under it.  This was just to prove we had been there.  I felt like we were putting our feet on the same ground that Joe and his mother had walked in the village.

We drove back to the church and parked in front of a wooden structure.  David translated the sign for us.  This was the site of the original wooden church that had been constructed in the 1600s, but had burnt down in 1978 after being struck by lightning.  This answered one of my questions then.  I wondered where the original church had stood.  This gave us another location where we could stand and know Joe had probably been.

No one was at the church and it was locked.  David looked up the number for the rectory, but the phone only rang and rang.  After some discussion of what to ask, David knocked on the rectory door.  An older lady came to the door and talked with David.  She was the current priest’s mother.  She helped around the rectory.  Unfortunately, the priest was at the school teaching and would not be back until after 3:00.

David had asked her if there were any other Zureks in town.  She only knew of a lady in her 70s.  I assume Zurek was her married name and she probably didn’t have much history for her husband’s family.  We had seen a Josef Zurek in the graveyard that would fit the age group and was probably the lady’s husband.  The mother was not from the town and didn’t know much of its history.

The priest’s mother attempted to talk to Rich in Polish, but Rich didn’t understand her.  David explained that we didn’t speak Polish.  She seemed a little sad about that.  David thanked her for all of the information and we went back to the van.

At that point, there wasn’t much left to see in town.  The corner store was closed or I would stopped to talk to someone about the town.  I wanted to drive by the fish ponds on the edge of town just to see them.  It turned out to be private property and set up high so you could see them easily.

With that, we decided our visit was over.  It was time to head back to Krakow.  David was a wonderful translator and helped us by providing details that he knew on small town life and Polish habits.  It was the type of help I had hoped for from the car service.

Back in Krakow, the traffic was pretty heavy and it took a bit to get back to the hotel.  Once there, I got my picture taken with David so I’d have a record of the young man who helped us on this leg of our journey.  I think he was a little bit shy about doing that.  I tipped him for helping and I think he was happy with that.

Now that we were in town, it was time to eat lunch.  It was 1:00 and I hadn’t eaten since 9:00.  We wondered down St Florian Street looking at the menus for each restaurant.  The first one was too American for what we wanted.  Finally, we talked to one of the barkers dressed in a military outfit and viewed the menu.  It had Zurek soup and pierogi, which is what we wanted.  He led us into an alley and down a flight of stairs to a vault under the street.  This was beginning to be very familiar.

Once inside, a waiter led us to a table.  The place was small with brick walls as part of a vault.  Once we ordered, the waiter explained that we were sitting in what was once the stable for the horses of the guard at the Florian Gate.  The level of the street at that time was down this far.  He took us into another room further back in the restaurant.  This room was directly under the current street and would have the street level in 980 AD.  How cool is that?

We got our soup, which was so delicious.  We shared a plate of mixed pierogi, which were boiled and then butter with bacon had been drizzled over the top of them.  It was the best way to serve the pierogis.  I’m not going to fry mine anymore.  This was so delicious.

The waiter talked to us about our journey out to Rudy Rysie.  He explained that he had a couple from Chicago in earlier in the day.  The man’s father had come from the same village as the waiter’s grandfather.  The waiter had called his grandfather, who remembered the man in question.  It is a small world sometimes.

We finished our lunch and we headed back up to the street to explore the town some more.  We went out the Florian Gate and paste the Barbican with is moat clearly marked.  Across the busy street, there was a monument for the Battle of Grunewald in 1410.  This commemorated the battle between the joint Polish and Lithuanian armies and the German Teutonic knights.  It was massive.

There was a model showing where the statue was in relationship to other structures in the local streets.  We saw that another market existed on the next street over.  We decided to explore that market and see how it differed from the main square.  It was simply amazing.

From the outside, it appeared to be a set of poor shacks.  Once inside, you were in a maze of color and smells. There were butchers, grocers, and lots of produce of all kinds.  It was an open air market under one big tent.  We walked up and down the aisles looking and smelling.  It was so amazing.

We were so tired at this point.  The decision was that we were low on caffeine and we headed to a little coffee shop we saw in the Planty.  It was sitting out in the path.  We went in and sat down.  The lady running the shop came out and took our order.  She asked if we wanted black or white.  That’s with or without cream.  The kawa came out and it was delicious.  We watched people with their dogs.  There was a beagle with a large flag.  A small Yorkie came into the area and I was allowed to pet it.

The path on the Planty is always full.  There are students who seem to be hurrying off to classes.  We see several of them with instrument cases strapped to their backs.  We assume they are headed to a music class or rehearsal.  There are people on bicycles or roller blades, people pushing baby carriages or strollers, and even people pushing suitcases leaving or heading to a hotel within the old city.

After sitting and talking for a while, we decide to walk back to the hotel.  We find the lady and pay our bill.  As we walk back through the Florian Gate, Rich tells me to get a picture of the three men in traditional Polish dress and playing music inside the gate  As I do that,  Rich drops money into their basket.  There is a trumpet, accordion, and a percussion player.

We walk past the hotel and around the corner.  We decide to look for the restaurant that Pawel was telling us about with the traditional Highlander foods.  We know that it is down St. Thomas Street, but it looks like it is in an alley.  When we get to the spot where the map says to turn, we discover we are in another smaller square.

We find Morskie Oko on the square.  There are some huge metal sculptures of clowns on wheels in the square along with a very nice fountain that uses colored lights.  We find out later this is St. Stephan’s Square.  We walk back up to the main square and wind our way back to the hotel.

I’m tired and think about taking a nap.  But if I lay down now, I might just sleep through the evening.  Marcin contacts us about dinner.  We agree to meet at Morskie Oko at 6:00 for dinner that evening.  Rich and I can walk there.  Hopefully, Marcin and Aneta can find a parking space.  Cracow is always so busy down here.

At 5:30, we leave to walk to the hotel.  It really only takes 5 minutes to get back to the square.  We sit outside to wait for time to get closer.  Everyone around us is eating ice cream, or lody.  I have to say that ice cream is a really big thing with the Cracovians.  There are two or three places on each block to buy lody.

About 5 minutes until 6, we go into the restaurant to get a table.  To sit inside we have to walk all the way up to the top floor.  The rest of the restaurant has been reserved.  Up here, there are three tables available.  We pick out one table and wait for them to arrive.  Rich gets a text from Marcin that traffic is bad and they will be about 15 minutes late.  About 20 minutes later, Aneta appears to let us know that they are having trouble finding a place to park.  Because we are so high up, we see a little yellow convertible go by on the street.  Rich guesses that Marcin drop his latest toy today.

About 10 minutes later, they are back and join us for dinner.  Most of us order potato pancakes and goulash.  Rich has veal medallions with mushrooms.  Rich also has to try their version of Zurek soup served in a rye bread bowl.  He says it’s not the best he’s had on this trip, but he would still eat it.

We talk and work our way through dinner.  Marcin starts bringing up pictures of places and things on his phone to show us what to expect in Zakopane.  He talks about the cheese ladies and all the wonderful things in the local market.  He tells us about walking in the tunnel under the road to get to the local market and not just the tourist shopping streets.  We continue to talk about what to do and see when we are in Zakopane.  It’s nice to have some idea of what we should do before we get there.

Pretty soon, it’s time to leave the restaurant and find out that it has rained since we entered.  We turn to go back toward the main square when Marcin stops and goes into the Alkohole store.  This is the name of the liquor store.  He is trying to make sure if he can buy a specific liquor before he comes back to the States in October.

We head down St. Thomas to one of the cross streets and make our way to the main square.  We walk around the square as Marcin and Aneta tell us things we didn’t know.  We walk down Grodeska so that we can go over to the street where John Paul II stayed in Krakow.  There is a picture in the window where he would say good night to the crowds.  He would joke with them that he was old and needed to sleep, but he would continue to talk to the crowd.

We walked back toward Grodeska and beyond to a smaller church that was open.  There was a youth mass in progress.  We went in to look at the beautiful sanctuary.  Back out on the street, we went by the American embassy, restaurants, and a smaller local market.  Near the corner, there was a pub with a sign over the door that literally said, “Pub on this street on the left side”.  That was the name of the pub.  I thought it was kind of catchy.

We walked on around until we got to the place where Marcin had parked his little yellow toy of a convertible.  It was really nice looking.  The lines were very clean.  I was kidding with Aneta about driving the car.  She had driven it and said it was a lot of fun.

We walked back to our hotel to show Aneta and Marcin where we had been staying.  The room was small, but we really only needed it for sleeping.  It served us well for the price and location.  Downstairs, I said good-bye to them.  Marcin would be in Schaumburg in October.  I really hoped Aneta would be able to join him there also.

Boy, was I tired.  I still had blogs and pictures to post.  I worked on this until about 11:30 when I just couldn’t take anymore.  Time to call it quits and hit the pillowcase.

David and Rich standing outside of the cemetery.
David and Rich standing outside of the cemetery.
First two Zureks we found.
First two Zureks we found.
Another Zurek headstone we found
Another Zurek headstone we found
One of the Zurek headstones in the cemetery
One of the Zurek headstones in the cemetery
Faceplate on Marjanna Zurek's gravestone
Faceplate on Marjanna Zurek’s gravestone
Joy and David walking around the Rudy Rysie cemetery
Joy and David walking around the Rudy Rysie cemetery
Good Shepherd Catholic Church in town.
Good Shepherd Catholic Church in town.
Site of original church before 1978.
Site of original church before 1978.
Pope John Paul II statue at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in town.
Pope John Paul II statue at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in town.
Farmland around the cemetery
Farmland around the cemetery
Rich with the Rudy Rysie sign
Rich with the Rudy Rysie sign
Rich and Joy with Rudy Rysie sign.
Rich and Joy with Rudy Rysie sign.
Joy with our driver, David, back at the hotel.
Joy with our driver, David, back at the hotel.
Relief on the Florian Gate
Relief on the Florian Gate
Where the moat was back in the day when the Barbican was the entrance
Where the moat was back in the day when the Barbican was the entrance
Model of old Cracow.  The Barbican is on this end and that's where our hotel is.
Model of old Cracow. The Barbican is on this end and that’s where our hotel is.
Looking around the local market square we found.
Looking around the local market square we found.
Clown sculpture in St. Stephan's Square
Clown sculpture in St. Stephan’s Square
Dinner at Moskie Oko on St. Stephan's Square.
Dinner at Moskie Oko on St. Stephan’s Square.

 

European Vacation: Day 14 Day Underground

The first of our tours begins today.  I had made arrangements with a car service for transportation to the different locations I expected to go while in the Cracow area.  One of these was to join an English speaking tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines just outside of Cracow.

This is one of those tourist things that everyone tells you is a must for any vacation.  I’ve been in a salt mine before so the idea wasn’t new to me.  This is supposed to be one of the largest mines.  It is one the UNESCO Heritage list.  Busia told us we had to do this tour and we almost always listen to Busia.

Martin, the driver, picked us up at 10:00 in the morning outside of the hotel.  This time it was a larger van with a handful of people already on board.  There would be 12 of us going out to the mine this morning with the company.  We found seats and enjoyed the ride out of town.

Driving is Cracow is very fast-paced.  There does seem to be order to it, but you have to react very quickly.  It reminds me of a road race and everyone running to the finish at the same time.  So far, we haven’t seen any accidents.  I don’t know if they don’t stop and just keep going or it happens less here than in the states.

We picked up all the people going on the tour and made it to the mines.  Martin led us to the entrance and gave us over to the safekeeping of Sebastian, our tour guide for the trip.  Apparently, the only way to really get into the mine is to have a tour already set up.  Individuals can wait almost all day for a tour in their requested language.  Sebastian spoke wonderful English.

With 30 people on the tour, I figured Sebastian was going to have his hands full today.  We didn’t have that many incidents, so it was a good day for a tour.

We received headset devices so we could hear Sebastian in the mines.  Once we were all on the same frequency, the devices worked well.  No one had to have a new device or headset, yet.  Sebastian began the tour by telling us what to expect and how we would work our way through the mine.  First order of business was the descent into the mines.  This was using approximately 300 wooden steps down.

I admired the craftsmanship of the stairs.  They were beautiful and using a design I hadn’t seen before.  I did notice the dark spots all over the stairs.  Sebastian says this is chewing gum over the many years.  I’m not sure it was all gum, but I bet they were stains of all kinds.  Most are probably from peoples’ shoes.  People can do some disgusting things from time to time though.

We made it to the bottom without incident and started the tour in the Nicholas Copernicus chamber.  This is a good example of a chamber that was hollowed out and then a salt sculpture created for the room.  Most of the chambers are dedicated to people who visited them or to royalty or deities.  It was amazing to get the details of the sculptures and hear about the different kinds of salts in the mine.  Even the floors had been carved into tiles in most of the chambers.

The mines are no longer actively worked.  The last of the large salt deposit had been removed.  Now it is too expensive and dangerous to continue for what deposits are left.  For one, there is a town directly overhead of the mines and blasting is out of the question.  Mining by hand is too expensive.  There are open pit mines in other locations that can produce more salt.

The mining here is just to preserve the current structures.  The mines are accumulating ground water that has to be pumped out.  That water is salty and has to be desalinated before they can get rid of the water.  This produces some salt, but not a large quantity.  There are structural engineers and miners who work in the mines to do this preservation, so it is still an active mine in that sense.

Displays through the mines show how the miners worked.  Even horses were brought down to do some of the heavy lifting.  Most of the horses were brought down as colts and lived their entire lives down there.  They apparently were well cared for by the miners.  One of the last horses had been lifted out of the mine and was living a retired life in the fields these days at 29 years of age.

We made it to the main chapel that was carved out of the very large rooms.  There are reliefs on the wall of biblical scenes.  There are large salt statues around the room.  It is amazing to see the work that had been done here by the miners themselves.  It is very impressive.  We had time to look around and get up close with a lot of the sculptures.

Before going into the chapel, Sebastian pointed out the bathrooms and told us they were largest underground pit toilets.  I had to go and check it out, of course.  Very nice.  By the way, the Polish word for toilet is toalety.  That word was very easy to learn and very quick to find around town.

We were making our way around on the tour when the first incident occurred.  A British lady had trouble coming down one of the sets of stairs.  I didn’t see it, but I understand that she tripped and caught herself.  She did need a new headset as she mangled the one she had on.  We found a seat for her to rest as we looked at one of the exhibits showing how the salt was transported underground using a Hungarian dog.  This is a cart developed in the Hungarian mines.  They were called dogs because they sounded like dogs whimpering when they moved.

We continued to move further down in the mines.  I think at one point I had a sign that said 1300 meters down.  We finally reached the lowest point that we would go in one of the ballrooms and then we began to start the journey back up.

The last stage of the journey to the surface was in a miners’ cage that held 8 people.  Rich had to duck to stand inside.  We were cramped in really good.  The system consisted of 2 cages with one on top of another.  We were loaded into the bottom cage.

A pair of Swedish ladies from Canada was on the tour with us.  I noticed that one of them got away and was somehow with another tour.  I explained this to Sebastian and he went out to wrangle her back in.  He said he had never lost anyone before.  This might have been the first time.

Back on the surface, you had to wind your way through three or four different gift shops before you could make a break for the door.  I believe they were trying to tell me I had to buy something.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the need to have a souvenir from the mines.

I do have to tell you about the four young British kids on the tour.  They looked to be early 20s at most.  I believe we joined them with Sebastian’s group when Martin dropped us off.  I noticed that they were carrying bags of chips, drinks, and candy with them.  All along the tour, they were eating constantly.  It was amazing to watch them as they walked the tunnels and even climbing the stairs.  So that was two and a half hours of eating!

One thing to note is that you could see the salt crystals in the air around us when I took a picture.  At first, I thought my camera lens was dirty.  Then I realized that the crystals in the air were reflecting the flash.  It gave a strange quality to the pictures.  Also, I then began to think about breathing in those crystals.  That probably why my sinuses started running a bit.  It was like drinking in saltwater!

Back up top, we were instructed to go back to the bus and meet Martin there.  Rich and I headed back to the parking lot and found Martin with the bus.  I noticed the pair of Swedish ladies had followed us.  It took a while for the others to come along.  I assume the gift shops snagged them until they ran out of money.

Back on the road again, Martin went by Schindler’s Factory to drop off a few people who had paid for that tour also.  The Swedish ladies got off and asked to do that tour, even though they hadn’t paid for it.  Martin was patient and took them to the window to see if he could get them included.  He came back on his own, so I assume he was successful.

Martin dropped the remainder of us close to the main square.  Since we were in the square, we decided to get coffee and cake before looking at the underground displays for St Adalbert’s and the main square.  Rich wanted nalesniki, but we couldn’t find the sweet version.  As we walked by one of the outdoor cafés, a waitress enticed us with cheesecake.  We went into the area and sat down.  The coffee was good and the cake would tide us over until the evening meal since we missed lunch.

At St. Adalbert’s Church, we walked down the stairs to the lower level.  The steps into the exhibit were wide and very uneven.  Once inside, the exhibit had a display for a 10th century wooden church on the lowest level.  Above that level, a 12th century Roman church had been built.  The church above us had been built later in the 14th century.  A cut away section showed all of the different levels that they found starting in the 900s through the current day.

We walked over to the Cloth Hall to find the office where you purchase tickets for the Rynek Underground.  The Rynek Glowny is the Polish name for the main square.  With tickets in hand, we went into the entrance and proceeded to make our way day the ramp to the start of the exhibits.  The entire set of exhibits was provided in a number of languages.  We always selected the English version to see the details.

The exhibit takes you from the early roads and square that began in this area in about 980 AD.  You can see the road they have preserved and how it was built.  The exhibit then continues through time to the 1200s when the last layer in the exhibit is explained.

The original stalls for the Cloth Hall, or Rich Stalls it was called, are still here under the city.  They use the stalls to show you how the wares were displayed by the merchants.  There are even storage areas for inventory.  Once you see upstairs on the surface and then see the elaborate stalls and massive size of the original hall, it is impressive.

There is one hallway that has portraits of some of the kings and queens from this time period.  Once the kings, Casimir III, looks just like Rich!  It was a little spooky and I had to show him.  They have the same features and even the moustache is the same.  The cool thing is that the portraits are electronic and move.  Some nod to you, wink, or even brush away a bee.  It’s almost like the portraits in the Harry Potter movies.

So we finished up the exhibit and I was exhausted.  I convinced Rich to go back to the hotel for a bit.  Once we rested and determined we were on our own, we were trying to decide where to go and eat.  We stopped at the front desk to ask for a recommendation.  The receptionist gave a card for a restaurant just down the street from the hotel.

Restauracja Galicyjska was in the wine vault of one of the large homes at the end of the street.  We walked down a few flights of stones steps and out into a lovely vaulted area.  We were seated in the corner of one vault.  It was a fancier restaurant than we had expected, but it was vacation.  We ordered wine and Rich got a beer.  With the card we got from the hotel, we received a complimentary cider, which was excellent.

Rich ordered filet of boar and I ordered the fish in lemon sauce.  It was all to die for.  We even ordered Zurek soup to start.  It might have been the best so far.  Rich has lots of ideas for improving on his Zurek soup.  We ended with coffee (cawa cznerzia) and raspberry sorbet with cheesecake.  At the very end, the waiter brought complimentary honey liquor as the after dinner.  Rich never turns that down.

We wandered back down the street to our hotel.  It was time to relax and enough the food coma.  I’ve eaten so much food and I think I’ve still lost weight.  My jeans are loose!  Well, time to write a blog and post a few pictures.

ADDENDUM:   Rich reminded me that he had kawa krakowkau at the Galcian restaurant.  This coffee with Polish vodka.  I don’t really like vodka, but this was good stuff.

 

Rich heading into the mine to go down the over 300 steps.
Rich heading into the mine to go down the over 300 steps.
Spots on the stairs are supposed chewing gum over the years.
Spots on the stairs are supposed chewing gum over the years.
Copernicus status in the first chamber we saw.
Copernicus status in the first chamber we saw.
Sign for the Nicholas Copernicus Chamber since Rich has been looking for everything that pertains to him.
Sign for the Nicholas Copernicus Chamber since Rich has been looking for everything that pertains to him.
Holy Cross Chapel
Holy Cross Chapel
The sign says we are 130 meters underground at this point.
The sign says we are 130 meters underground at this point.
Sebastian, our guide, talking about the Hungarian princess who came to Poland for a marriage.
Sebastian, our guide, talking about the Hungarian princess who came to Poland for a marriage.
Salt growing on the ceiling by seepage through the walls.
Salt growing on the ceiling by seepage through the walls.
Floor is carved out of salt to look like tiles.
Floor is carved out of salt to look like tiles.
Main chapel in the salt mine.
Main chapel in the salt mine.
Salt crystal chandelier in the main chapel.
Salt crystal chandelier in the main chapel.
Stairs going down to another level and the support system around the walls.
Stairs going down to another level and the support system around the walls.
Cake and coffee break in the main square before we do the Rynek Underground.
Cake and coffee break in the main square before we do the Rynek Underground.
Model of old Cracow with the Barbican on the end.  This is close to our hotel location.
Model of old Cracow with the Barbican on the end. This is close to our hotel location.

 

European Vacation: Day 13 Visit to Motorola Krakow

It was a big day today.  I could hardly sleep last night.  We were being picked up at 8:30 and taken to the Motorola Krakow office.  Since I was going to be in town, I really wanted to stop in the office and try to meet some people that I’ve been working with for a while.

Aneta helped me arrange a conference room where I could meet with people.  I sent out emails last week to let them know I would be in the office today.  I had gotten a few responses.  There were a lot of people I should have told, but I couldn’t think of everyone.

Our driver picked us up at the hotel and drove us out to the office.  He was giving us all kinds of facts about the city and the population here.  It was amazing to see some of the things he was telling us about.  The drive is only about 15 minutes or so out there.  Marcin had taken us by there the night before we were buzzing around town.

I had trouble with my badge getting into the building.  The young lady at the front desk fixed the issues for me.  We went upstairs, but couldn’t get into the office area.  A very nice young man let us in.  We found our conference room and then realized it was the wrong one!  Oops!  We went down the hall a couple of more rooms and found Mississippi.

After Rich got his computer up and running, we sent out emails to let people know where were in.  Rich had a meeting scheduled with a couple of developers working on a tool that could interface with his tool set.  I figured I would meet with some of the developers I work with and go down to the meeting with them.

Pawel and Mikolaj from one of the teams showed up.  I was glad to see them.  Pawel has worked with us for a while now.  Jacek with whom we have met a few times came by as well.  After talking for a bit, Pawel (No, Rich’s Pawel) came by to pick him.  We packed up and walked down to another building for their meeting.

I got my email running and answered people and made comments back to my team.  I had a meeting with another team at 12:30 for a few minute.  I gathered up my stuff and walked back to the original conference room.  I was running late, but caught them before they left.  We grabbed a small breakout room and talked for a bit.  I realized we were having a shared experience and offered them some additional information help.  In the end, this should help my team as well.  It was good meeting.

I walked down to Building A to try and catch up with Rich and his development contacts.  I met them along with Marcin and Aneta.  That was great.  We all went to lunch in the cafeteria.  This was an experience.  The plates are weighed and you pay by weight.  The food was really good compared to other cafeterias I’ve been in.

After lunch, Marcin gave us a tour of the labs in the development building.  It was pretty and clean.  The older side of the lab was a little more of a tangle, but still pretty nice.  We walked through the SIT testing lab and looked at their environment.  It is similar to what we have in Schaumburg.

We made arrangements with Marcin to meet at the hotel and go up to the Kosciuszko’s Mound before heading to dinner.  It was a plan.  We met our driver back at Building C and headed back to the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel to find our room being cleaned.  We dropped our stuff and went down to get coffee and go sit in the Planty or park just outside the old wall.  We watched the students walking by.  A lot of business people seemed to be out for a stroll or getting somewhere quick.  A bicycle came zooming by and almost took out Rich’s foot.  Good thing he was quick.

We went back to our room and gathered our laundry.  Time to do one more load that would get us through the rest of trip.  I unloaded my suitcase and we placed all of the laundry in it with the detergent I had bought in Germany.  Outside the hotel, we headed out the Florian Gate and into the Planty.  Rich had mapped out a way to the Laundromat that the front desk had marked for us.  It was only a couple of blocks away.

We got in the vicinity of where we thought it should be.  No Laundromat though.  I went into a shop to ask about the Laundromat, but the lady didn’t speak English.  I went over to the next shop where a nice older gentleman spoke great English and came out into the street to show where it was.

In the Laundromat, we now had to figure out the machines and how to pay for it.  I separated the load and got it into the machine.  Rich had some money to feed the washers, but needed more for the dryers.  You put money into a cashpoint on the wall and selected the machine you wanted.  Pretty cool.

We got the washers going and Rich went out in search of change.  Pretty soon, he was back with no luck for getting the 50 zloty bill changed.  He set off in the other directions.  I looked up and Rich was back with bottles of water and orange candied pacnzkis.  He had successfully gotten change for the 50 and something good to show for it!

We ate the delicious doughtnuts and found orange filling inside.  This was a good day.  The washers completed and I moved everything over to the dryers.  It took a couple of cycles to get things most of the way dry so we could pack them up.

While we were waiting for the dryers, young man came in with two rather large IKEA bags full of laundry.  It was apparent very quickly that he had never done laundry before.  From his speech, I believe he was French.  I assumed he was a student in the area.

Rich walked him through getting the washers to run by putting money into the cashpoint.  Unfortunately, he stuffed everything into the washer today.  Then he didn’t even add soap!  He left the washer to run without waiting around for it.  His clothes might be somewhat clean, but not really.

A couple of British young ladies came in and started a machine.  It seemed that they had done this before.  Of course, they didn’t stay around either.  From what they said, they already knew about the bakery down the street and were determined to go and find something sweet.  I don’t blame them.

Our dryers finished and we folded up the clothes.  After loading them back into the suitcase in an orderly manner, we were back on the street and heading for the hotel.  We just backtracked exactly as we came in and were in our room in no time.

Then at 6:00, we were downstairs to meet Marcin and Aneta for a tour of the Kosciuszko’s Mound.  Traffic was absolutely horrible. It took a good while to get around the city and find out what out to the mound.  Marcin drove right up a hill to the fort that surrounded the mound.  At the gate, the man said he would only take cash.  Rich handed over the money and got the family deal since there were four of us.

We climbed the stairs to the roof and walked out on the first level of the mound.  There was a paved path that wound all around the mound.  This path used switchbacks to get us to the top.  From up there, the entire city and surrounding countryside was laid out before us.  Aneta pointed out the Tatra Mountains to the southwest.  This is where we are headed on Friday to Zakopane.

We could see the St Mary’s Basilica which indicated where the main square was.  We could see the entire town on the eastern side of the mound.  Aneta had explained about a monastery on the mountain opposite of the mound where friars lived in silence tending their gardens.  The sunset was showing off in that direction so I took a picture with the monastery displayed on the mountain.

We walked back down the mound and wandered over to the fort.  Most of this area was undergoing renovations.  It was must since the area was deteriorating.  We checked out a cannon on the roof, which looked pretty decorative and not for real use.

Inside the building where we entered, there were maps showing the battlefields that contributed dirt, including those in the U.S.  Containers for ceremonial use were displayed in a case.  There was a chapel for the general in there also.

We decided to head off for dinner.  Marcin decided to show us how American grill food was done in Poland.  We went to the mall and Jeff’s Grill.  You would have thought you had entered a Tex Mex place.  We ordered drinks and found out after the fact that it was Happy Hour with 2 for 1.  I really only needed one beer.  Aneta got two Tequila Sunrises.

We ordered up burgers, which was a little bit different than normal.  The waitress wasn’t really fluent in English, but Marcin helped out.  We got our burgers, which were huge.  They were good considering where we were at and not in the States.

We ate and pretty soon were talking about working and how things happened to developers.  We laughed and exchanged stories.  It was so much fun.  We really do have some common experiences no matter where we live.  It nice to know it’s in Krakow as much as in Schaumburg.

We tried to pay the bill with a credit card, but the machine would stay connected.  We scrambled for the cash, which meant we needed to find an ATM soon.  On the way to the car, we found an ATM and got enough cash to help us for a few more days.

Marcin drove back to the hotel and dropped us off for the evening.  Thanks again to Marcin and Aneta for making our stay so nice.  We love spending time with you.

Coffee with a view in the Planty
Coffee with a view in the Planty
Kosciuszko's Mound from the fort below.
Kosciuszko’s Mound from the fort below.
Rich, Aneta, and Marcin at the top of the mound.
Rich, Aneta, and Marcin at the top of the mound.
Rich and Joy at Kosciuszko's Mound.
Rich and Joy at Kosciuszko’s Mound.
View looking out toward St Mary's Basilica and the square in the old town.
View looking out toward St Mary’s Basilica and the square in the old town.
Those are the Tatra Mountains way off in the distance.  There's snow up there.
Those are the Tatra Mountains way off in the distance. There’s snow up there.
Sunset and the monastery on the mountain next door.
Sunset and the monastery on the mountain next door.
Looking down on the fort below the mound.
Looking down on the fort below the mound.
Cannon down on the fort.
Cannon down on the fort.

 

European Vacation:  Day 12 Old Cracow

We woke up in Krakow this morning.  Wait, everything I see pretty much says Cracow.

We got up with sunshine and headed upstairs to breakfast.  The breakfast was big, bright, and radiant with sunshine.  It also contained some pretty darn tasty looking food.  We went around the buffet and picked up the things that looked good to us.  It was all wonderful.

Back in our room, we prepared for the day.  We’d need warmer coats since the temp was lower and the wind was blowing pretty well.  Once we exited the front door, we were headed to the Florian Gate that is one of the entrances in the old city wall.  Old Cracow is a walled city as well.  This wall is from the 1200s when the city was fortified against the Mongol hordes sweeping through this part of the world.

We continued down the street to the main square.  On the way down, I saw a sign for pacnkzis.  I knew I’d have to try that.  At the end of the street, the square opened up into a wide area lined with buildings of different time periods, colors, and purposes.  St Mary’s Basilica was right in front of us.  We walked around the square to get an idea of what things were like.

The streets are cobblestones and uneven.  It is definitely old world here.  The Cloth Hall, which was one of the first shopping malls in the world, was in the middle of the square.  This is where the guilds would have a stall to come and sell their wares to the public.  Around the square are stands that sell flowers, souvenirs, and other items.

We walked around the perimeter of the square to see what was there.  There were tours of all kinds going on.  The free walking tours are gathering people in different languages to start out.  Barkers are stopping you at every corner to purchase a tour of the city from them or to join some group for a tour at a cost.  We just keep saying no.

Once we get around all four sides, we went into the Cloth Hall to look at the different stalls.  There are woodcarvings, glass items, textiles, pottery, and lots and lots of amber.  This is a big amber producing part of the world.  I see all kinds of shapes and colors.  At one booth, I stop to ask the difference.  It’s all amber.  However, it depends on long it was in the ground and what kind of impurities are in it.  Rich sees a shot glass he wants for his collection.  It looks like stained glass, which was once a big product here

We come back out of the hall without buying anything yet.  As we leave the hall, the trumpeter on the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica started to play the anthem for opening and closing the gates.  Every hour on the hour, a trumpeter plays out of the window on one side.  He gets to a certain point in the song and stops.  He then moves to another side of the tower and repeats this for each side.

The story is that the trumpeter was playing on the tower during a siege by the Mongols.  An arrow struck the trumpeter in the throat and he halted his song at a certain point.  This is the point where the song gets interrupted today.

We walk over to St. Mary’s Basilica, but the visitor’s entrance is closed.  We decided to walk around the entire square and look at the buildings and businesses.  This is one of the largest squares in Europe.  I believe only Red Square in Moscow is bigger.

After this tour, we headed down the street toward Wawel Castle.  Rich was looking for the Nicholas Copernicus statue and thought it was down this way.  We stopped at the St. Peter and Paul Church.  The oldest church in Cracow is St. Andrew’s right next door.

Since we were at Wawel Castle, we decided to walk about the grounds and have a look.  We walked the outer wall that overlooked the Vistula River.  It is a beautiful river valley here.  We could see a mound off to the far right and wondered what it was.  Rich made a note to ask Marcin about it.

We walked on around the castle.  At the opposite side, you could walk by the Wawel Chapel.  A status of Pope John Paul II was standing nearby.  John Paul was assigned to Krakow and was a cardinal here.  The chapel has a beautiful golden dome on the front.  We decided not to pay the money to go inside and tour.

We made our way back down the hill from the castle and took one of the side streets.  This went by the house where John Paul lived when he was cardinal here.  It was right across the street from the Hotel Copernicus.  But no status of Copernicus was around there.

We got back to Grodzka Street and started walking back toward the square.  We saw a Ukrainian restaurant and Rich checked for borscht.  It was time for lunch.  This worked out perfectly because they also had Zurek soup.  The soups were wonderful.  That would be enough to hold us for dinner time.

Outside of the restaurant, we found the Information Booth.  It was time to ask the experts where the Copernicus status was at.  Rich really stumped the poor girl though.  She had to go to the computer to find the information and then identify it on the map for Rich.  A British lady had come in while the girl was looking up the info.  She was practically hanging all over Rich while his map was being marked.  She wanted the info also!

Back on the street, we headed toward the Jagiellonian University to find the status.  This is one of the many local universities in town and probably the largest one that had its start back in 1364.  We went through one of the many parks in the area to get to where we needed to be.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The statue was covered by netting as workers were cleaning it up.  They kind of stared at us funny for wanting pictures.

We walked through campus to get back to the square and came out on the opposite side from our hotel.  Since we were at the square, we decided to get coffee and try to find something sweet.  We walked to several of the restaurants without finding anything.  We backtracked a bit and a found small place in a hallway leading into one of the restaurants.

Rich ordered coffee and tried to ask for some of the poppy seed cake on display.  I went into the adjacent room to point to the cake.  The lady didn’t speak English, but she got the gist and shook her head now.  She came up with an alternative and offered us poppy seed pastry.  That would work also.  After paying, she delivered our coffee and pastry to the table for us.  The pastry was sweet and tender.  The taste was wonderful.  We enjoyed our coffee and talked about our day.

After finishing up, we headed back out to the square to wander some more.  We walked over to St. Mary’s Basilica to see if the visitor’s entrance was open yet.  It was, but you had to purchase tickets across the street from the church.  Having done this, we made our way into the church.

You had to step down a few steps to enter.  The original church is at one of the lower levels from a few centuries back.  The church was beautiful.  The ceiling is an amazing blue that has gold stars painted throughout.

The cathedral was decorated with beautiful statues and pieces of art.  The alcoves and chapels were filled with monuments and crypts for local saints and dignitaries.  I was in total awe of the colors and art around me.  I did attempt one photo, but it was hard to get anything without a flash.  It was church and they posted a sign for no pictures at all.

We eventually let go of looking at the church and headed back out to the square.  We made one more trip around the square before going in the direction of our hotel.  Marcin and Aneta were meeting at for dinner.  Marcin had a plan to whisk us away to somewhere for good Polish food.

At 7:00 PM, we met them at the front door of the hotel.  Once in the car, Marcin drove out toward the salt mine to a little place with a big reputation.  It was a little cool to sit outside, so we went in and found that Marcin had called ahead with a reservation.  Rich ordered the mushroom soup in a bread bowl.  It was like having beef barley soup without the barley.  It was definitely tasty.

Everyone ordered and I apparently didn’t listen to directions.  My dinner came out on a trencher like in past centuries.  The pork schnitzel was about 12 inches wide and maybe 14 inches long.  It was huge!  I cut off a third of it and almost managed to finish it.  What was I thinking?  I saw other people order it, but they were sharing with those around them.

We got our bill and paid up with the waitress.  Back on the road, Marcin took us on another whirlwind tour of town.  Rich had asked about the mound we had seen earlier from the wall around Wawel Castle.  Marcin said it was Kosciuszko’s Mound.  It was a memorial to the general and you could walk up the mound to the top with a view of the city.  There are apparently seven such mounds in the area.  There were also defensive points to see attacks on the city.

We saw the field where Pope John Paul II had held mass when in Cracow for the large number of people who showed up.  Marcin said it was like 200,000 people.  The field is huge and I can image it holding that number of people to see one of the greatest figures of our era.

Finally back at the hotel, we said good-night.  Tomorrow, we go to the Motorola office to try and meet some of the people that we work with.  Rich has a meeting scheduled with a team working on a tool that would work with his tool set.  For tonight though, I’m full and tired.

Rich outside of our hotel at the Florian Gate.
Rich outside of our hotel at the Florian Gate.
Across the square from St. Mary's Basilica.
Across the square from St. Mary’s Basilica.
St Mary's Basilica on the square.
St Mary’s Basilica on the square.
St Adalbert's Church in the main square.
St Adalbert’s Church in the main square.
Cloth Hall in the main square was first mall in the world.
Cloth Hall in the main square was first mall in the world.
Inside the Cloth Hall .
Inside the Cloth Hall .
St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral
DNA project to identify victims of Communist regime
DNA project to identify victims of Communist regime
Vistula River from the city wall at Wawel Castle.
Vistula River from the city wall at Wawel Castle.
Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Cathedral
House where Pope John Paul lived when he was cardinal.
House where Pope John Paul lived when he was cardinal.
Copernicus status getting a good cleaning.
Copernicus status getting a good cleaning.
Rich digging into his borscht.
Rich digging into his borscht.
Zurek soup for lunch. Yummy!
Zurek soup for lunch. Yummy!
Rich outside of the Ukrainian restaurant after lunch.
Rich outside of the Ukrainian restaurant after lunch.
Inside the cathedral of St. Mary's Basilica.
Inside the cathedral of St. Mary’s Basilica.
Cawa and poppy seed roll for afternoon pick me up.
Cawa and poppy seed roll for afternoon pick me up.

European Vacation: Day 11 Arriving in Krakow

Our last morning in Germany came without event.  We woke up to bright sunshine.  This was a sad day for us.  We had enjoyed our time in Germany so much.  As I knew would happen, I wouldn’t want to leave.

We went down for breakfast and then let them know we would be leaving soon so they could bring the car up to the hotel.  All too soon, we had packed the car and pulled out of Rothenburg through the old gate.  We were headed back to Frankfurt and the airport.

I had allowed time for construction and other obstacles to delay us.  We didn’t really the time after all.  I would like to have looked around Rothenburg more, but we had really seen most of it the day before.

We managed to find the car rental return without the help of the navi.  She wanted to take us way out of our way instead of right down into the airport.  We found her and won.  The Sixt rental place was well marked.  We got the OK to leave the car and gathered our cases to head up to the terminal.

We crowded onto the elevator to leave the garage and go up to the terminal floor.  As the elevator rocked a bit, Rich said, “It’s not an Otis.”  One of the girls laughed and repeated him.  Otis is a German name for the guy in New York who stated the company.

In the terminal, we recognized where we had gone to pick up the car.  We walked to Terminal 1 to find out gate.  At the security point, we had to do the normal checks.  We put the computers into their own bins and took off all the necessary stuff.  It’s amazing how different each airport is.  Rich had to take off his hat and hand it to the inspector to pass through.  That didn’t happen in the U.S.

I had forgotten about water bottles in my carry on from our road trip.  I had to go with an inspector to one of the stations to review what these were.  I let him take the bottles rather than complain.  There was no point in being a problem child about it.

We got through security and put our stuff back together.  Then we wandered down to the gate for our flight.  After a bit, we got hungry and went off to look for food.  This included the last beer we would have on this leg of the journey.  After lunch, we went through one of the Duty Free Shops looking for chocolate.  I bought a bag of Toblerone minis.  I love this brand of chocolate.

Back at the gate, we had a couple of hours.  People started to come into the area and wait also.  Finally, the flight was being called and we went up to pass through the gate.  We had walk down a set of stairs and found a bus waiting for us.  It was pretty confusing.  Hope they weren’t driving us to Krakow.

We circled around the tarmac and drove up to a plane.  We were going to have to get off the bus and walk up a staircase!  I haven’t had to do that in years.  Both doors of the plane were open and people were filing in both ways.

We got on board and found our seats.  There was a young girl sitting in the window seat.  Luckily, the seats were comfy with lots of room.  I sat in the middle and Rich was on the aisle.  The only issue was that we were delayed in taking off.  We sat on the tarmac waiting for word that we could leave.

Finally, we took off into the blue skies.  The attendants came around with kuchen in a bag and offered us drinks.  We had water from the airport with us so we weren’t took thirsty.  Rich was able to have his afternoon coffee on the plane.

The flight didn’t seem to take that long.  Pretty soon, we were circling Krakow for a landing.  The skies were gray and there was raining coming down.  Again, we got onto a bus and driven to the terminal.  Turns out, they were renovating the terminals and we were taken to a temporary place to pick up our bags.

When we came through the arrival gate, Marcin and Aneta were standing in the hallway.  It was a great surprise to see them there.  We hugged and talked for a minute.  I could see our driver with a sign showing my name.  We promised to meet up for dinner at our hotel.

We met with our driver, Pawel, and he took us out to the van.  After loading the luggage and getting settled, Pawel zoomed off.  They drive really fast in Krakow.  I was highly impressed and it takes a lot to do that with me.  I was watching the scenery fly by and trying to take in all I could see.  It didn’t look that much different from Germany.

Pawel maneuvered all around the small cars.  I was amazed at how he negotiated into tight spots.  Finally, we pulled through the old wall and up to the front door of our hotel.  We thanked him for the ride and confirmed our next trip on Tuesday morning.  Inside, the front desk got our room keys and explained the status for breakfast.

We rode the tiny elevator up to the second floor, which is technically the third floor if you are in the U.S.  We found our room and went in.  I had expected the room to be small, but it was really small.  Oh well, we just need a place to sleep.  We don’t really need to live in the room.

Marcin had said he had a reservation at the restaurant he wanted to go to for 8:00.  About 7:30, we went down to talk to the front desk about some details.  Marcin and Aneta showed up.  We went out to the car and started out for the old Jewish section.  This section was becoming converted to restaurants and entertainment.  The place Marcin had picked out was called Dawno Ne Tatum Ne Kazimeriz, or Once Upon a Time in Kazimeriz.

It was originally four tiny shops in the Jewish community for the butcher, tailor, woodworking, and grocer.  The walls had been knocked down for the restaurant.  They had left the inside pretty much as it was to give it character.  It was very nice and very cute.  The food was excellent.  Rich had lamb shank, Marcin had fish, Aneta had Jewish stew, and I just had pierogi.

We talked and talked about work, what’s happening with us, about Rick, and a lot of other things.  Rich tried Buffalo Grass liquor, which apparently tastes bad and requires apple juice.  I had warm honey beer, which came with whipped crème and cinnamon.  It was very tasty.

Time to leave and Marcin drove around the city for a bit to show us some of the sites.  In the dark, you couldn’t see much and it was confusing to drive around with the one-way streets.  There are street cars that still go up and down.  We talked about how to drive around with these in the way.  It is a bit tricky.

Finally back at our hotel, we said good-bye and went up to bed.  I posted a few pictures to Facebook, but was so tired.  Time to drift off to sleep yet another night.  Welcome to Krakow.

Double decker plane at the gate next to us in Frankfurt.
Double decker plane at the gate next to us in Frankfurt.
Rich walking up the stairs to board the plane to Krakow.
Rich walking up the stairs to board the plane to Krakow.
Marcin and Aneta at dinner
Marcin and Aneta at dinner
Joy and Rich at dinner
Joy and Rich at dinner
Aneta and Joy at dinner
Aneta and Joy at dinner