Krakow, Poland

Krakow is a beautiful city, there is no doubt about that. However, after four days both my husband and I felt like we’d seen what there was to see. The city was affected by the massive amounts of tourists visiting, and though beautiful it seemed to lack some of its soul. I find a city a lot more interesting if you can blend in with the inhabitants and see the city as they do. This seemed difficult in Krakow, as tourists dominated the urban picture. The city centre appeared to be abandoned by its inhabitants. As we visited in July, we shouldn’t have expected anything else, still it’s sad to see the city not being used as anything but a giant museum.

Most shops in the city centre must owe their existence to tourists looking for cheap and inauthentic memorabilia. The book shops had a good selection of books in English and other foreign languages, and books about Poland and Krakow were on every shelf. We visited two of the three major shopping centres in the city, and were pleasantly surprised by the atmospheres there. This seemed to be where the locals went. Polish was spoken everywhere, and not everyone understood English. 

The shops varied from the typical brand stores; Puma, Nike, and the like, to similar shops with a lower price setting; the make-up store Inglot for example, seemed to compare well in quality to many of the high street brands in Sephora. Prices are ridiculous compared to prices in Norway, for most things, however, certain brands (again Puma and Nike) seem to have the same prices all over Europe. We did, however, find a few treasures hidden in the Jewish district.

We did try proper Polish cuisine, the restaurant could probably have been better though, though it seemed to be among the better at first sight. What we ordered sounded good, but looked worse, it was also very plain, both in taste, presentation and variation – Husband had a piece of meat and rice covered in gravy – with no salad, vegetables or anything to spice up the visuals or the taste. Food elsewhere was very good. Restaurants had varied menus, and the quality of even the cheapest locations seemed to be rather high.

Language was never a problem and most who were in contact with tourists spoke English quite well. I did however have an encounter with a shop assistant in a shop in one of the shopping centres. The assistant only spoke Polish, but pretended to understand everything I asked about. We actually held a long conversation, or it might be considered two monologues, between the two of us.

Near Krakow is Auschwitz Birkenau, a concentration camp from the second world war. We did not visit. Tour companies offer daily trips at quite a low cost from most hotels and also from the city centre. We visited the salt mines Wieliczka, which I have already talked about here.

I was a little disappointed by the city, but can only blame that on myself. We visited in July, when the city is crowded by tourists. I would have liked to go again, but then not in the worst tourist season. We walked and walked for hours every day, and even while moving away from the city centre, were unable to find the soul and spirit of the city, which I hope and believe would have been more easily found in October, rather than July.

Garden design

Interior design is popular these days, that much I have noticed. And especially in this area, the dominating style seems to be shabby chic, French country style, or something similar to a palette of white and pastels having exploded in a room, together with loads of lace and linen.

Now, I don’t mind the style, it’s just that too much of it makes me barf. I assume there’s absolutely no reason to, but I pity the kids I see dressed in pastels in order to match their parents’ (read: mother’s) interior design. I thought of doing the same to Son. Dressing him up in white, pale blue and light shades of grey. Shoot many photos, before taking him out in the forrest to pick blueberries. Now, that would be a sight!

I have posted about my kitchen earlier, and I probably will again soon (if Ikea will do as they’ve promised). And I have mentioned my bedroom, which I will probably also do again. But except for a few things every now and again, I promise I won’t turn this blog into an interior design blog. And especially lace will be a rare sight! However, there are a few things I would love for my garden. I have spotted a few things while out travelling, and I just have to share them. So instead of going all interior blog on you, I’ll go exterior blog on you! Because I think this would look brilliant in my garden:

Now, this isn’t all that unusual, and doesn’t really stand out (well, it would in my garden as it would cover the entire front lawn). But take a look at this peaceful lion’s wee brother:

Now, that would make a statement! Don’t you think?

This is to be found btw in the city centre of Cracow, Poland

Wieliczka Saltmines

A few kilometres outside of Cracow is a salt mine which has been excavated since the Middle Ages. Salt was a major income for Poland for many centuries. The mine is today a tourist trap, and a beautiful one as such. The numerous and long tunnels now have statues hidden around the odd corner, each statue carved from the salted rock. If you ever find yourself in Poland, I would absolutely recommend a visit to the Wieliczka salt mines.

We first found ourselves climbing down some 120 metres worth of stairs (follow that up with a walk around the city before ending the day in high heels at a fancy restaurant – and I can guarantee a pair of soar calves the following day – or three).

Beautifully carved ‘pictures’ decorated the walls.

Large structural beams support the ceiling.

A gigantic cathedral is also to be found, decorated solely with carvings from the mountains done by untrained masons.

Strolling through the park

How wonderful it is to stroll through a park, hold the hand of a certain someone, breath the (semi) fresh air, listen to the birds sing, and to simply enjoy every ounce of life.

We didn’t simply stroll. I was quite fascinated by the park, the large trees with their great trunks, and the green ceiling of leaves and branches. The benches were cute, the street lights were of the Narnia kind and even the garbage cans matched the rest. I took photos, both of the park itself, and the two of us together. Husband shook his head at me several times, but he did it while looking at me and smiling softly. I like to think that he finds my quirky little habits and childish enthusiasm charming.

Our little weekend getaway is something that will be done again, although the next trip will not be to Cracow. We have several other large cities waiting to be explored. Any many more parks to stroll through while holding hands and smiling at each other.

Finding a quiet moment

After walking around Cracow for a few hours we entered the Jewish district of the city, Kazimierz. The area didn’t look much different to the rest of the city, not at all as far as we could see, and we had to check our wee city map to make sure we had actually stumbled across the small town square we were looking for.

The reason for our confusion might be due to the many churches in the district, and some of those were massive. The few synagogues we found were not very prominent and we had to double check both signs and map before we were convinced the buildings were in fact synagogues.

There are few Jews in the area I’m from, and despite having done a fair bit of travelling I have never before seen a synagogue. I thus thought I’d be quite fascinated with these buildings, but what stands out in memory after that day was a brief visit to the Church of St Catherine.

Norway is mostly protestant and the churches are very different to catholic churches. The grandness of a huge and immensely decorated catholic church is thus quite captivating to me and I often seize the opportunity to have a look around when I find a church with an open door. I am not religious, but like to see churches as places where one can go to find peace of mind, peace of heart, and a place to leave your sorrows, even if you don’t share the religious view of the congregation. When we entered the Church of St Catherine, a small sign told us that mess was in progress and tourists were asked to wait to explore the premises. I have never been to mess before and always find buildings and places a lot more interesting when they mean something to someone, and seeing the place being used as it is meant to be used was even more interesting. I thus joined the worshippers on one of the benches furthest from the altar.

I straightened my back, relaxed my shoulders and took a deep breath. The monotonous voice of the priest (if that is his correct title) filled the large room (through speakers). I could not understand anything except the often repeated name Jesus. I sat and listened while pondering some of life’s many questions. I had no intention of offending anyone, neither did I feel like was doing anything anyone could have strong feelings against. I have great respect for churches because of the importance they play in people’s lives. While I sat there numerous tourists walked around taking pictures of the church, ignorant of or ignoring the sign on the entrance door. I sat until the end of the sermon. As people left the church I stayed behind and took a photo of the interior, no flash, only an inaudible wee click as the shutter was pressed. I then slowly walked out, turned towards the altar, where the worshippers had turned making the sign of the cross, bowed my head slightly before continuing outside.

Once outside again the sky seemed brighter, the grass seemed greener, people were friendlier and I felt a lot more relaxed than I was going in.

Farbenfroh

I hear colours are in this year. Now, I have absolutely no knowledge with which I can back up that statement, but I do think I might have seen a headline somewhere stating something along the lines of what I just said. Whether colours are in or not, and whether it is a mix of colours – what the Germans would call bunt (or that is at least what I was taught sometime last decade, no, century, wait, millennium, shite, all three fit, I’m getting old!) or just a single colour dominating the fashion world; I am completely oblivious!

I came across a rack of gloves in Cracow, and I’m even considering framing one of these photos. What would you call this? Street art? (it was placed in an alley, so close enough?) I loved it anyhow and I am now sharing it with you.

I didn’t buy a pair though. I decided straight away that I would just take a photo before moving on. As indecisive as I am I’d probably still be standing in front of the rack trying to decide on a colour, or two, or what Pooh would say: the lot!

Wawel Castle and Polish weather

I’m not at all generalising when I say that the sun doesn’t shine often in Cracow. I have been to Cracow once, I stayed for four days, and I, of course, thoroughly studied the weather while in the city. Just like in Switzerland, where I have been twice, and stayed for several hours each time, the sun never makes an appearance. At least not a proper appearance. The pictures taken from the balcony of our hotel room, showing Wawel Castle, show the variation we saw in the weather, and also the lack of sun. This is how it was when we first arrived.

Shortly after our arrival dark clouds rolled over the city, darkening the sky. The castle immediately took on a more somber expression:

There was lightning and thunder coming closer, rolling over the city before again disappearing into the horizon. Then the water sluiced from the following deep grey sky.

It didn’t rain much during our few days in the city, but the sun was timid and hid behind a clouded sky. The first of the photos here well represents the weather we saw.

On our last evening, after hearing about the horrible events in Norway, I took this picture of the castle. I was sitting in the window sill (nothing like this one) trying to sort out my thoughts, which of course was an impossible task at the time. However, after the sun set and it grew dark, the castle was lit up from all possible angles, and I was at least distracted from my thoughts long enough to get my camera out and take this splendid view home with me.