Krakow is Poland’s second largest city and it’s top tourist attraction. Inevitably it’s very busy, so we parked on the outskirts. We had to get a tram into the centre but couldn’t work out what number we needed. A lady of about 60 saw us struggling and pointed to a tram schedule. She didn’t speak any English so I showed her my map and pointed to the old town. She smiled and pointed at her self and nodded, suggesting that she was going there too and to follow her. Then a 7ft beast of a man shadowed over us and politely asked if we needed any help.
We got on the tram and the giant helped Craig get a ticket. When our helpful lady saw we didn’t have enough change, she got up and asked the other passengers if they had any for us. She also nearly killed herself when Craig went to get the ticket punched and didn’t spot the closer machine, at which point she stood up to redirect him and was flying all over the place, I had to quickly grab her arm and sit her back down.
It was quite nice how she didn’t even speak polish to us, she just used signs, waving us along as we got off and hurrying us up as we ran for a bus. It took 2 trams and 1 bus to get to the city centre. As soon as we arrived she dispersed into the crowd and was gone, we hardly had a chance to thank her.
I must say the polish are very friendly and helpful, to actually come up to us and offer help is so kind. There has been a few grumpy people that scowl at us for not speaking Polish, they don’t have the time of day to try and explain anything, and give us the wrong flavour ice cream just to piss us off, but you get those people all over the world. Their called grumpy fuckers.
Krakow has the largest medieval town square in Europe, at 200m by 200m. It was huge, we didn’t know where to start. It was all very beautiful on a whole, but no buildings stood out alone. The buildings were very light colours, and not very exciting on the eye, but the people added the colour. The place was heaving, but in a good way. It had a really nice vibe, tourists filled the outside seating areas of restaurants and buskers added some humour. There was one style that I hadn’t seen before, it was a girl in a baggy orange jumpsuit, a mix between a prison outfit and a monks robes. She had her legs crossed and one hand on a thick stick, and was floating. Obviously she wasn’t, I mean, that’s impossible right. But it certainly left us pondering.
Much to our delight we found a Canadian joint for lunch and had my beloved soggy poutine with a burger called Manitoba, translated to heart attack, with a whole slab of Camembert!
We finished the day up at Wawel Hill, from where the beautiful Royal Castle sits atop. We found a lovely spot for a refreshing beer in the hot sunshine, and for only £1.50.
It’s incredibly cheap in Poland. A shop the other day where we bought 36 items including nice cheeses, fresh produce and lots of treats, only cost about £15. You couldn’t even buy 3 peppers in Norway for that…but hell, I’d prefer to pay more and be surrounded by jaw dropping views.
After Krakow we headed south, to the Carpathian Mountains, boy were we excited. It’s been flat land since Finland and we couldn’t wait to explore Tatra National Park. We headed to the main town of Zakopane, which was so stressful. The road was just clogged the whole way, it was a Saturday so maybe a lot of city folk visiting, but geez! The whole route seemed to have traffic lights so it was just like driving through one continuous town. We felt a bit disappointed, we thought we would be camping in wilderness surrounded by crisp, mountain views. But instead it was hazy and overcrowded.
We bought a map of the park and as we’d wasted most of the day driving, we picked a 3 hour walk. Although it was hot, the sky was caked in a thick haze that prevented us getting that perfect view of the mountains. You could see the potential, they were damn nice mountains, but just not when we saw them. It was good to stretch our legs at least.
The next day we woke early to hike to the largest mountain lake in the Tatras, Morskie Oko. And so did everyone else, the place was heaving like a bee hive. The carpark was almost full by 9am. So, off we went, with thousands of Polish people on a walking motorway. I expected a trail, but a road led the whole way up, bar a few short cuts up stone steps. Horse and carts pulled lazy tourists along while we slogged it up a very boring concrete road. We were surrounded by forest, so no views to keep our minds satisfied either. It took over 2 hours to make it to the lake. It was pretty impressive, a lovely emerald colour with huge mountains rising from its shores. The views would of been spectacular had it not been cloudy again. We decided to hike a further hour up to a higher lake at 1580m to get a grand view of the lake below.
The scenery was really beautiful, we were in a sort of bowl with the mountains towering above. But that hike was so boring! It took nearly 5 hours in total and after not doing a long hike in a while it felt like I had bricks strapped to my ankles. We rewarded ourselves with an ice cold shower (more of a necessity) and a good old cup of charlie.