Monday, August 4, 2014

poland highlights - part three

The last part of our trip to Poland was spent in Krakow. It's a beautiful and vibrant city that feels like it's on the verge of a modern, cultural boom. It still has that old European city charm but it's a lot more progressive than I expected. I highly recommend visiting Krakow.

We took a bus from Chrzanow to Krakow arriving at the main train station late in the afternoon, much later then we planned due to some rain and traffic. The bus terminal is located behind the main train station which is attached to a gigantic shopping mall and is very confusing to navigate through for the first time. We had a heck of a time just getting out of the train station. To catch a taxi you have to go to the top level of the mall's parking garage. Weird, right? But since it was raining there was a line of people waiting and, of course, no taxis. So we decided to take a streetcar but we didn't know where to go to catch one. We walked around the mall with our guidebook but still had no idea where to go. We even went back to the train station to ask for directions at an information desk and still couldn't figure out where to go. It turns out that you have to walk all the way through the mall to get outside and then go under a pedestrian bridge to the streetcars. When we finally figured this out we still had no idea where to buy our tickets or how to get on the streetcars. They run in the middle of the road so you have to walk through a lane of traffic to get on. We decided not to risk this, which turned out to be a good thing because we realized later that had we taken the streetcar we would have taken one that was headed in the opposite direction of where we were staying.

When we finally jumped into a taxi we were over an hour late meeting the Airbnb hosts we were renting an apartment from. Ebert and I feel pretty confident about taking public transportation, living in Chicago we take public transit often, but in Krakow we definitely felt like stupid tourists. Typically we would not stress about any of this, we usually like the adventure of getting lost and turned around in a new city, but since we were keeping people waiting for us it made the experience less than enjoyable. Luckily they weren't too annoyed with our tardiness and recommended a great restaurant nearby.

The apartment was located right along the Wisla River in the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz. The neighborhood is becoming a trendy and hip part of Krakow with lots of great restaurants and bars. Our hosts told us to go to the Barka, an old Dutch cargo boat that is now a restaurant. Several other boats turned restaurants line the banks of the Wisla. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy so we couldn't dine on the deck.

After dinner we walked across the bridge and discovered that it was a lovers bridge.

Lovers will lock a lock to the bridge, then throw the key into the river forever locking their love together. It was quite romantic stumbling across this bridge at night with my own love. There was even a bride and groom taking pictures. I knew about this famous lovers bridge but had no idea there are hundreds of them worldwide. Here's an interesting article about how some Parisians feel about these love locks.

The next day while Ebert was at his conference I wondered the city streets- I had no plans this first day I just wanted to see what there was to discover.

I did quite a bit of walking this day and what I came to realize is that Krakow is a very easy city to navigate, once you get out of the train station that is. I would walk down one street and see something off in the distance so then I'd walk down another street and before I realized it I was back where I started. Once I figured out the lay of the city it was so fun and easy to get around.

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