2005-08-16: In the homeland of Edyta
Today we made the journey that Edyta has been most excited about - the return to Poland. The day started early, but then that is the way travel starts. I lugged our suitcase and this increasingly heavy laptop down to the Tube. From there we rode to Heathrow, only having to change the train once (which made it easy to not get lost, I love the Tube). At Heathrow we found our airline easily enough (although it was a little disturbing to see the company shared a check-in counter with Helios Airline ). After showing our passport all over the place we were inside the depature lounge.
We then jumped onto an Airbus for Vienna. At Vienna I discovered that the old Adelaide airport (it will be new by the time I get back) was not all that pokey an airport for requiring people to walk. At Vienna we parked a huge distance from the airport and had to take a bus back to the terminal. We rushed to our next plane because the first was 30 minutes late. This involved another bus trip. There we got on a smaller plane (still about 30 people). Edyta was listening to the Polish speakers who were saying this was the smallest aeroplane they'd ever been on. I think she should have told them about the little bug smashers you can fly with Rex air to Kingscote or Mildura. At Krakow airport we had to catch another bus back to the terminal where an unsmiling customs officer stamped my passport. At least at Adelaide the airport is in walking distance.
We changed our British Pounds in Polish Zloty (translates as gold). I felt like a real tourist at that stage, fishing around under my shirt to drag out a money belt and then stuffing the money back in there. Edyta tells us this is a required precaution, because there are thieves lurking everywhere here.
Our drive to the hotel was through picturesque country side, all green and rolling (and full of corn for some reason). The houses they build are massive; however Edyta says you can expect to find 2 or 3 generations living in the one house. The place looks greener than England. Our hotel was buried down some backstreets in what appears to be a new suburb for the rich people of Krakow. The houses are extra massive and probably built for a single family. The houses are also surrounded by tall, sharp fences, large barking dogs and motion activated sensor lights, and an invisible security monitoring system. But they are all in their own little mini forest.
In our room Edyta got to hear Polish on every TV channel! Not just a half-an-hour broadcast on Sunday mornings, but non-stop Polishness.
We found a bus stop to ride into town. I kept looking the wrong way (to my right) for the bus. The first taxi ride we had was a little shocking for me the first time we pulled into traffic because I felt the driver was going the wrong way. But the concerns quickly abated. We didn't pay for the bus ride in. Edyta went to ask the driver about tickets but he just ignord her. We didn't see other people paying so we just kept going to the last stop and then jumped off.
Krakow is one of those old towns that hasn't had the city centre rebuilt in the last several centuries. There are old castle walls, big trees in green parks, streets with old cobblestones and buildings towering on either side of the road. There is also the sign of Communist neglect and poverty, the buildings are dirty, there is no maintenace on the sidewalks and you step off the main street into each courtyard that the people live in and you see a depressing little quadrangle with dirt, weeds and drab bricks.
But we weren't here to look at buildings. We were here to eat! We had a plate of pierogi with strawberry juice. Then we had to have some cakes and a strawberry smoothie type drink. I was taking photos of Edyta with everything she was eating. Later I had a Chocolate Sunday from McDonalds. I ordered this myself, figuring that McDonalds train their staff world-wide to recognize the English pronounciations of their food. I was right, although the look on the woman serving me dropped from a smile to almost a disgusted look when I asked.
By this time it was dark and the rain had come in. All the locals somehow had umbrellas stashed on them, but not Edyta and myself. So we dashed across open plazaz in the rain to the market halls. I've discovered that markets all around the world all sell the same cheap tourist stuff (although the type of tourist stuff changes with each country). Poland focuses on amber, wooden boxes, chess sets and replica medieval swords (post note, the stuff isn't cheap quality, just in price after currency conversion).
We caught the bus back that night. This time the driver was at least willing to sell us a ticket, though we had to figure out how to validate it ourselves. It doesn't help when most the bus users don't. I guess we won't bother soon enough too. Back into our tiny little room and I was exhausted and collapsed (on the somewhat hard bed with an oversized pillow). Edyta had been going on adrenalin all day and it finally caught up with here too.
Hotel Daisy, our fine residence
Houses on our street