Dream trip Day 82 & 83 Raining in my heart

Damnation rain, why do I encounter you again? Hard rain, too, not the kind for strolling round the city.

At least I had access to a washer/dryer so I was able to wash literally everything I had in my bag.

After washing clothes, then my body in the shower, I hit the still wet streets in search of coffee.

I quickly located a tea room with fancy cookies, scones and cakes just as the rain fell hard once again.

For sure this was the fanciest cup of coffee I had on the trip. I mean the actual cup itself, very ornately decorated, gold inlay, that sort of thing.

The coffee itself wasn’t anything special, but I did enjoy a nice scone with my coffee.

No dunking of scones occurred on this visit nor any other coffee/scone snack experience because coffee isn’t for dunking.

I’d noticed pics of WWII from Poland’s perspective in a square across the street so I walked over to check it out.

Very sobering and informative installation. There were pics of destroyed buildings, people crowded in camps, and other images of life during wartime. ANd it all happened where I was staying, in Krakow!

Each image was presented with text written in several languages, including English.

Such horrors people dealt to others and for what? Why? War is dumb.

The clouds erupted in thunder, so my time outdoors was limited.

I crossed the busy street and into the grocery store. Figured I may as well cook and pick up some beers, especially if I was going to be shut in due to rain.

Got some items to make pasta, which I figured would go well with the gołąbki my friend let for me to try.

A light drizzle greeted me the whole walk back to my apartment.

I waved at the night clerk as I hit the elevator button.

I boiled some water and threw 1 of the gołąbki in it for a few minutes. Appetizer!

It was very good! Minced beef with rice and spices wrapped tight in cabbage. A Polish tamale I laughed to myself as I ate.

Pasta is always an easy go to on the road. Just get some pasta, sauce, maybe some sausage and for sure fresh cheese. 15 minutes and you have a delicious meal!

The rain pelted the windows as I ate.

I wound up having a few beers and watching videos late into the evening.

The next morning brought more rain so I dived further into the recesses of YouTube’s videos about WWII as well as deep ocean exploration.

Baffling to me that we know more about other planets than we do about what is in our planet’s oceans!

After a bit of calculation I Skyped my brother in St Louis once I knew what time it was there.

It was very cool to be there with him as he drove to church. We chatted about the places I saw as well as my frequent dilemma of visiting a real concentration camp.

Chillingly it seemed that there was a camp close by wherever I went. I elected not to go, I know it really happened.

The rain never let up so I wrote the days off as an occasion to save zloty aka €!

I will see more of you tomorrow Krakow!

Beer: Wojack

Song: Ballady I Romanse   Przyszlam Do Miasta

Dream trip Day 81 Stroll along the river, T.E.A. Time, Wawel Dragon

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain. The wind would whisper and I’d think of you…

Those are just Skid Row lyrics, but sort of true. It was still raining a bit and there was a lady I dreamed about far away, across the vast, lonely ocean.

Had a nice bowl of cereal with the last fruit pierogi for morning meal. What an awesome way to start the day!

I followed the street in front of the apartment, towards the river in hopes of finding a walking, biking path.

Of course there was one here, they do it right in the EU, making cities easily accessible for all, not just cars and trucks.

Lots of docked boats and the captain would bark all the info about his boat’s tour to anyone who passed by. I waved them off with a smile.

Unoccupied docks I came across usually contained some type of water fowl, ducks primarily but there were some other birds I’d never seen before.

I’d stay to watch one of these birds’ graceful takeoffs and landings.

Soon I heard a commotion and looked up to see a large group of people gathered.

To my surprise after I ascend the hill, I saw a huge metal dragon covered in small kids climbing all over it or parents would seat their kid to snap a quick pic.

A gasp escaped the crowd as the Wawel Dragon spewed fire from its mouth. Very cool statue to stumble on.

I continued on my walk past grand buildings, railway tracks and through amazingly long traffic.

To my surprise the traffic jam was due to 1 car waiting on another to pull out of a parking place. Likely 10-15 cars waiting, happy I was on foot and could pass them by.

Dark clouds appeared so I took a seat to figure out a enclosed option. A brewery was a few minutes away.

Ack so T.E.A Time means: Traditional English Ales, alas no Polish options here. I started with their most cleverly named option, Misty Mountain Hop, inspired no doubt by the Zeppelin song of the same name.

It began to rain so another pint. It was here I confirmed what I suspected about glass sizes in the EU vs UK.

Seems a lot of places will serve beer in ‘pint’ glasses which is an imperial pint in the UK= 20oz.

More commonly I was poured a US pint= 16oz, sometimes less depending on alcohol % or frankly how cheap the bar was about saving a few pennies.

In a better world, bars should have to post the size of their pint size so you know precisely what you are paying for.  It’s that or we all agree how many ounces are in a ‘pint’ glass.

The beer here was good and I was happy to avoid the rain, catch a bit of footy and have a couple pints.

Faced with the forecast for more rain, I decided to get a few items to cook dinner in the apartment.

There was a Carrefour store, a shop I’d seen in other countries on my route to the apartment.

I shopped at a pretty well stocked convenience store that wasn’t much larger than the US places I’d been except they had fresh pastas, milk, and cheese, not the typical roller dogs, chips and jerky.

I selected some pasta, sauce, cheese and chips, plus a sixer of Polish beer.

Back to the apartment I waved at the night door guy who was there after 6pm I think. Basically when the sun went down, they had someone to let you in, not that they spoke too much English other than Hello.

I cooked up one of the gołąbki along with some pasta in boiling water.

It was very tasty and made for a great dinner.

Due to rain and my exploits the previous night, I retired early.

Beer: Misty Mountain Hop  T.E.A. Time Brewery

Song: Behemoth  As Above So Below

 

20160813_152907.jpg

View from the mound

Dream trip day 80 Krakus Mound, taco Tuesday, late night

Woke up to a break in the rain which meant I could explore a bit during the day.

My friend had fresh pierogi he bought from a small shop nearby and encouraged me to eat them soon as they are fresh, no preservatives.

To heat them, drop in boiling water for a minute.

It was my first encounter with sweet pierogi, too. These had blueberries inside a wonderful doughy shell. Delicious!

Plus, these were much larger than I had seen before, probably close to fist sized dumplings so 2 was enough to get the day started.

He had also picked up gołąbki or cabbage rolls filled with minced pork and rice. All hand made in a small store a short walk away. I was going to eat like a local!

Once I was outside the apartment, I crossed the Vistula River via bridge which lead to a small business district that had  food options as well as a tailor shop.

There was definitely a lot more older professions like cobblers, tailors, woodworkers in this country than the US.

EU and UK seem much more attached to repairing worn out or older items vs US.

I soon entered a large forest, park area as I began to walk uphill.

Park was very lush, green and welcoming. It was very close to downtown too.

I wound my way through a residential area next to the park and heard car noises. A highway blocked my path.

I followed a very cool spray-painted wall until I arrived to the pedestrian bridge over the busy highway below.

Off in the distance, I saw tall smokestacks next to what I presumed were nuclear power coolers. Both billowed white smoke, I hoped it was steam.

 

20160813_152706.jpg

Further research revealed this was the Krakow CHP Coal Power Plant. It was disarmingly close to the city, I felt.

Such a juxtaposition: to the south, a beautiful park. To the east: a coal burning plant.

After the pedestrian bridge, I passed through a gravel road that surely homeless and teenagers drank at due to all the empties littering the ground. Very sad to see what could be a nice area destroyed by people.

I began to encounter a lot of other people so I knew the mound was near. After passing through a canopy of trees, the path opened up and I saw the tall, looming mound directly ahead of me.

The way up to the top of the mound was via a dirt path that wrapped around the mound slowly ascending up.

Once ascended to the top, there was a wonderful view of Krakow. 20160813_152714.jpg

 

To the south was an abandoned salt mine.

20160813_152841.jpg

I made my way back to the area around my friend’s apartment. It was Tuesday and to my surprise, Taco Tuesday is very much a thing in Poland!

My friend’s co-workers went out for tacos every week to a Mexican style restaurant a few blocks away in the Kazimierz district.

A short walk through shops and restaurants I arrived at the place. I knew it would be a good meal based on the large tequila selection behind the bar.

The table was full of people who made room for me across from the other person I knew there.

Beer, tacos and margaritas were soon ordered and conversation began.

I was seated next to a Spanish guy and Polish girl. We took turns asking about Spain, Poland and EU from each other, trying to learn about things to do and see.

My pastor tacos arrived and I was pleasantly surprised, they were very good. This coming from eating tacos since I was a kid.

The main difference is that these were ‘fancy’ tacos, not street tacos, so they had large chunks of avocado and sour cream.

Talk soon turned to a venue change. There was a Spanish match on so we followed our friends to a small pub that had wall sized screen.

My friend had to duck out early as he had an early flight to Paris, which is really the best excuse.

Friendly bets were made between co-workers over beers as the match began.

I chatted up a guy from the Netherlands as well as continuing to talk to the quiet Polish girl with short hair.

She slowly came out of her shell after each beer. I thought she was intriguing, meaning she may not be the first girl you’d notice in a place, but she was pretty and most importantly, interesting to talk to.

Soon cheers rang out and shots arrived. The loser wound up buying shots for everyone.

We continued our evening at a diner bar, Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa. I was convinced I’d see the Fonz or a couple slurping a milkshake with 2 straws here it was fairly authentic.

This place is more a shot bar, cheap too, maybe a dollar per shot.

Our group order a tray and then another. I opted for their only draft beer.

During the evening I found myself at the center of attention as my Dutch friend and Polish girl were on either side of me slowly stroking my beard.

Just ask if you can do that, don’t just put your fingers in someone’s beard or hair without permission, I was taken aback by the attention.

I soon realized that I’d have to find my way home and by the jolliness of my companions, they weren’t leaving anytime soon.

I bade goodbye to my new friends and began walking in the direction I thought my apartment would be in.

Luck was on my side as I found the road I knew just as it began to sprinkle rain.

It was full on rain as I turned the corner to my apartment after about a 20 minute walk.

Glad I decided to not have 1 more beer for many reasons.

Great night out in Krakow!

Beer: Warka

Song: Chopin  Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2

 

IMG_20170501_162719514.jpg

Dream trip day 79   Train to Kraków, catching up with friends, Polish food

No issues checking out, just drop your key in a box, doors lock behind you.

Hardly anyone walking around the streets early in the morning, quite a change from the crowds I’d usually seen gathered.

Soon I was at the Praha hlavní nádraží (man do I enjoy all the accent marks on these letters!)

Rail, bus stations are always active and usually crowded no matter the time of day.

I located my train to Ostrava, a small city close to the Polish border and where I was to hop a bus to take me the rest of the way to Kraków.

Ah sweet relief as I fell into my window seat and watched the city disappear into countryside.

I was soon asleep.

Woke up to very beautiful, green countryside that soon gave way to the city.

We stopped and I had maybe 15-20min to find my bus, a process that is always tense, but especially so when all the signs are in Czech.

Whoever decided to add images to signs will forever be my hero.

Fortunately this was a small depot and I quickly found the bus area.

I stood at where I thought my bus would arrive based on the sign only to see the Krakow bus pass by and stop further down the street.

Buses overseas usually don’t have their destinations lit up on top, but rather they hang a sign on the lower right corner of the windshield with the destination city.

Sometimes the bus made you stow backpacks and this was such an occasion. This is one of many reasons why you need a small bag or satchel on trips.

You can carry needed items like say a water bottle as well souvenirs, snacks, etc.

Not many people heading to Krakow this day so most everyone got seats to themselves.

Gorgeous views as we exited the city and soon we entered Poland!

After awhile we entered the city at a huge rail, bus depot that after walking awhile, I realized the depot was connected to a mall.

That is such a great idea, get off your bus or train to find food, clothes, most anything a person could need after or before a trip.

I ducked into a burrito joint, I know, why there right, but I didn’t see a kielbasas r us or a pierogis haus, nothing that was decidedly Polish.

Happy to report that the burrito I had was very fresh and tasty. I only wished this and other places that try to interpret Mexican food would ease up on the beans.

I ordered a chicken burrito, not a bean burrito with chicken, you know. Had to stop the lady from spooning yet another scoop of what appeared to be ranch style beans.

At least know that if you use beans, they need to be wet, in a liquid vs the pile of dry beans that was my option here.

I walked the mall afterwards and they are very similar to the US malls I’d grown up going to, sometimes willingly, most of the time clothes shopping or worse, for portrait pics.

Clothing stores pumped out modern dance music here, as did shoe stores. No arcade, but they probably don’t have any in the US anymore either.

On one end of the mall was a theater, cinema so that was a universal thing.

About the only thing that really stood out was the amount of coffee kiosks. For sure, there was no reason to wait in line for a coffee, just walk a bit further.

I stopped at one and was amazed at how many employees worked in such a small, not busy kiosk. Every girl did 1 job: take your money, make the coffee, or serve it to you. Plus another girl showed up to pick up the trash and was probably around to help if it got busy.

Made me think about the hectic US places where there was a long line and 1 person doing all the jobs.

Once outside the mall, I entered an enormous courtyard. At the far end was a salt mine tour.

For sure if you want to see an abandoned salt mine, Krakow has you covered. I saw many ads for this one as well as larger mines outside of town.

I located the main road to my friend’s apartment which lead under a bridge then opened into a wonderful park road.

It’s always a good thing to sit on a bench covered by trees to watch car traffic, walkers or in this case, a small girl trying to catch a squirrel.

She was not successful in her endeavor. Her mom chain-smoked on a nearby bench while loudly talking on her cell in Polish.

I followed the wonderful tree-lined road as long as I could before I had to cross the street.

I knew one of my days here would be spent walking the whole garden road, wherever it lead.

There were castles and fortresses on both sides of me on this part of the walk. More exploration options.

It was hot in Krakow, I was sweating. Make fun of me if you want, but I wore hiking pants that unzipped at the knee so I paused on a bench to removed my leggings.

My un-stylish pant option served me very well on this leg of the trip. It was August after all, it was supposed to be hot.

After passing over the tram lines, I was on a business lined street full of coffee shops, convenience stores and food options.

Soon I was at my friend’s apartment where I was buzzed in, took the lift to the 3rd floor and saw my friend.

Earlier in the year one of my former corporate work friend had messaged me about her new life in Poland. Come for a visit if you can she wrote. Haha little did she know 6 months after that invite I would be there.

She was traveling this week, but I knew her husband and he was cool.

We chatted and I filled him in on my trip. I was in a corporate supplied and furnished apartment.

It was super modern place, sleek, exposed pipes, dark hardwood floor. On one wall was old black and white photos artfully arranged into a unique, somehow still in a square pattern.

These photos were totally random shots of fashion models or movie stars. Seemed odd in a family residence, but they couldn’t change it.

They had another room for their son they let me sleep in, and I was super grateful for a bed, especially a bedroom with a door for privacy.

I had arrived around their daily call time so I was able to talk to my friend who was very excited I was there. She was in the US at the moment.

I soon learned they were going to meet up Paris in a few days. To my shock, she said I should just stay there in the apartment for the week. I could house sit.

The husband nodded approvingly, better to have someone here. They were so generous, I was flabbergasted and humbled.

Talk soon turned to food and off we went to a local spot the family frequented.

While tempted to order pierogi, I was assured those indeed were everywhere, including fresh ones sitting in the fridge in the apartment.

I opted for my first taste of white borscht, a soup that is very Polish as it also included kielbasa sausage. Most borscht was beet red outside of Poland.

My entree was pork served with potatoes or latke. A hearty gravy was poured over the dish along with cream. It was very good and rich.

Throughout the course of our dinner I discovered my friend’s family was of Polish decent, his grandparents immigrated to escape the Nazi’s and settled in Ohio.

He had grown up with many of the dishes he ate here regularly and even spoke Polish when he was little, but had forgotten it. He remembered enough to get by, but couldn’t hold a full conversation like he had growing up.

I was shocked when the check came in under 20$. That’s with 2 soups, entrees and beers for 2 people! Dang that’s affordable.

We stepped outside to light rain and I inquired about a neon sign I saw on a couple of apartments.

Turns out those were the massage parlors, aka prostitution rooms. Guys could pay for the company of women. It was not highly recommended for me to check them out.

We popped into a small convenience store and picked up some beer which we enjoyed on their balcony.

The balcony overlooked a courtyard with a couple of churches on either side.

My friend had an early morning at work so he soon retired, but not before inviting me to taco Tuesday with his co-workers the next evening.

I sipped a beer, watching the rain fall from the balcony before I retired for the evening.

Song: Władysław Szpilman   Little Overture

Beer:  Tyskie Gronie

20160813_141309.jpg