Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Crock-OOF Uncovered

So we spent three days in Krakow (who's actual phonetic pronunciation has been the strangest thing I've learned so far on the trip) with one of those days being a trip out to Auschwitz/Berkenau. Given the fact that Becca and I are still letting that sit in we'll stick with Krakow proper for the time being.

Krakow is a very cool city; at about 800,000 the downtown has a relaxed and very walkable center. After getting into town, we stumbled our way to our hostel. Of course, once we got there we found out that our hostel had two locations and we were at the wrong one. And that the one we needed to go to was across the city. Thankfully the lovely hostel goddess Ania called a cab and trucked across across town to our hostel. Needless to say we're not terribly sad about the fact that in Budapest (our next locale) the person is picking us up at the train station.

We spent our two and a half day just really exploring Krakow. The first evening we mostly spent walking around the enormous town square and just soaking in the ambiance. Our second day was spent between the Kazimerz district, which was once the thriving Jewish quarter of Warsaw and doing the first half of the Royal Walk (which goes from the main entrance of the old town to Wawel Castle). Kazimerz is now almost completely devoid of Jews (only 600 or so still live in the city) but the history of the area and the synagogues, etc. are still there. For those of you who have seen it, this is also where parts of Shindler's List was filmed. For dinner that night we dined at the Ariel restaurant as Becca wanted to get a klezmer music experience while we were here. The entertainment was quite good (in fact Becca got suckered into buying a CD); too bad the food wasn't (except for the matzoh ball soup that is). All in all though an entertaining evening, especially when the Polish man leading the Italian tour group in front of us described Matzoh as "traditional Jewish bread" ie what is eaten daily as bread by the Jewish population. I know I'm only a honorary MOT (Member of the Tribe) but even I know how off he was...

Our final day here in Krakow has been a relaxing one. We got a late start, got organized and then headed out to explore Wawel Castle. The castle has been around since the beginning of recorded history and because of that, is quite a mishmash of different architectural styles. This is the most visited tourist attraction in Poland (and it showed with the large number of chotschke stands around the castle) and Becca and I joined the crowd to take a look at the castle and the church (where all the Polish royalty is buried).

The cool fact that the folks at Wawel don't want you to know though is that Wawel Hill is one of the seven focal points of Chakra in the world. No, I'm not making this up. So when you walk into the courtyard, you go to the left and in the corner are typically a group of people trying to take advantage of the mongo Chakra. Yes, both Becca and I figured it wouldn't hurt the ol' general karmic levels so we went over for a few minutes, much to the chagrin of the local workers (evidently they're banned from discussing it if a tourist asks; we didn't).

I'd have to say our highlight of Krakow proper though was spending the afternoon here. A great bookstore with a tea, coffee and "american pastries" selection. For the record, evidently "amercian pastries" equals tasty looking cake (too bad we'd just had a lunch of periogies). Gave us a great place to chill out, enjoy the shelves and shelves of books (mostly in english actually) and find ourselves some good reading for the trip to Budapest.

And with that, we're off to a night train to Hungary... Who says travel isn't sexy?


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