A Travellerspoint blog

A capital city of the past

A glimpse at Krakow's past and a look at today.

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Spending the remainder of our day exploring Krakow was the plan for Tuesday and we hit the city shortly after checking in at Atlantis. We began our journey by walking to the Old Town and Main Market Square, areas filled with vibrance and colors. The Square is just a small portion of the Old Town that houses numerous cafes, market stalls, and plenty of dive bombing pigeons to keep you on your toes. A small price to pay for the sites and sounds that fill the senses.

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After a quick lunch just off the square at Chimera, a small cafe that provides traditional dumplings as well as an assortment of locally sourced fresh salads, we were ready to conquer the sites. The contrast between the city and Old Town is not as drastic in Krakow as it is in Warsaw. Krakow has a much older look over all and the character of the city is evident in many areas. It is said that Krakow was Hitler's favorite city in Poland and thus had the least damage during World War II.

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The area was crowded with school children celebrating the last week of school with field trips, tourist, and locals enjoying the afternoon. Among the attractions are numerous churches, a cloth market that now sells trinkets and amber jewels, and buskers vying for tourist' coins.

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After several hours in the Old Town, we crossed over to the Jewish quarter and made our way to the "lovers bridge." The bridge is filled with locks that couples have placed on the bridge and thown away the key into the river below in a testament of their neverending love. The bridge was featured in a challenge on the Amazing Race recently and the detail of the locks, many engraved with couples names and dates provides plenty to see and ponder the fate of these couples today.

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After a dinner in the Jewish quarter it was time to head back to the hostel in preparation for a huge day on Wednesday with trips planned to Auschwitz and the Salt Mine in Wieliczka.

Posted by darrenesl 00:04 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Ready for Krakow

Bathroom sharing for the masses

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We rose early this morning, which is easy to do as the sun sets at about 9:30 p.m. and rises at 4:00 a.m. It was a brisk morning and we were excited to get our day going. We had a beautiful walk through the park as we headed to the metro. Our choice of Caribee luggage was a wise choice as there are many steps to climb coming and going to the many trains, subways, trams, and busses. The ability to carry this luggage as a backpack, or roll along on the ground is very helpful. With our early start, we missed the morning's heavy commuter crowds hitting the metro at about 7:00 a.m., just before the big rush.

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Once on our 8:00 a.m. train to head to Krakow, we began our media updates which had a few glitches, providing us with our first issue on the trip. When transfering our photos from our camera to tablet, the tablet said damaged memory card, but it had no problems in the camera, the next thing we knew, our pictures on the camera were all erased. Oh ....(insert your favorite expletive here)! It is a blessing that we will visit Warsaw one more time and have the chance to relive some of our memories.

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Our train-ride was filled with hillsides of lush greens sprinkled with various trees and wildflowers ~ a perfect morning commute and great way to see some of the countryside while catching-up on our writing.

Once we arrived in Krakow we found our way to the Atlantis Hostel, our home base until Thursday night. Here we have our four person shared room. That's right, we will be having two people we don't know sharing a room with us. We checked in and discovered our room would be on the 3rd floor here, 4th floor for those in the US., as the numbering starts with one being the first level up. We also discovered our co-ed bathrooms with two toilets and two showeras side-by-side, just a little odd.

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Anyway, we are off to see the Market Square and will share more later.

Posted by darrenesl 21:14 Archived in Poland Tagged travel train square atlantis fun hostel krakow marketplace pierogis Comments (0)

Do Widzenia

A trip to the Milk Bar ends with good bye

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The first full day in Poland has been incredible so far. The day started with a 5 am jet lag induced wake up at our hostel? Why 5 am? Probably because we laid down to read and write last night and promptly fell asleep. So when the sun started peeking through the windows of our room and curtains, we found ourselves ready to begin the day.

Starting off after breakfast we rode the rush hour packed metro to Centrum again. The Warsaw metro during ruch hour could possibly rival the Washington D.C. during their commuter hours. Packed in with no room to move, the trip provided for some prime people watching. Upon arriving at Centrum stattion, we made our way to the TI for some needed maps and to find out about any special events going on.

With the news that free tours were offered in old town, we decided to continue with our plan of taking the Royal Way to old town Warsaw and the square. Turning on to Nowy Swiat, we ventured down it until we came upon A. Blikle pastry shop. Blikle is known for their paczki (rose flavored jelly doughnuts) that are famous inthe area and were seen on the Amazing Race.

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After a doughnut with rose jelly filling the world certainly looks like a brighter place. Or perhaps it was just the extra-strong espresso like coffee that is called Americano Kawa. We headed off to see several magnificent buildings, monuments, and unique sights. One of these is the Church of the Holy Cross where composer Ffryderyk Chopin's heart is inside one of the pillars in the church. Also in this building is a memorial to Poland's 22,000 POW's massacred by Soviet soldiers in 1940 near, Katyn, now a village in today's Russia.

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After a couple of more sights, we meandered over to Pilsudski Square. Once home to a torn down Russian Orthodox church, later named Adolf Hitler Platz, here now there is a stark reminder of Poland past and present. A plaque commorates the place in the square where in 1979 Pope John Paul II returned to Poland and spoke to the people. Also here is where the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is in Poland. In 1981 under the communists, when martial law was imposed, the citizens silently protested here by filling the square with a giant cross made of flowers. Today a cross is still here with the words, "Let thy spirit decend, let thy spirit descend, and renew the face of the earth -- this earth." This was one of Pope John Paul II's favorite sayings and a subtle dig against the communist regime during his visit.

Capping off our Royal Way journey was a hike up 150 steps to the top of St. Anne's Church. The sweeping views from the top of this tower give a birds-eye view of downtown Warsaw and beyond. It provides a stark contrast between the old and new city and the changes that have occured.

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For lunch we ventured into a local establishment translated into English as a Milk Bar. A milk bar is a government subsidized cafeteria filled with locals seeking a cheap meal. A true cultural artifact and an experience we will never forget.

We chose Bar Mleczny Familijny. The menu, completely in polish was posted on the wall. None of the titles appeared in our guidebook, and no WiFi connection was available. We were unable to find a friendly local that could speak English to help these tourists out, and the little window you ordered from looked like a small confessional window with no hope of pointing to the dish we wanted.

As we turned to leave and look for another milk bar an elderly lady with two canes entered and we held the door open for her. She said thanks in English and that provided the chance. This kind elderly Pole helped us find a chicken dish on the menu, as well as boiled potatoes and a cooked beet dish that was out of this world. All this totaling 25 Zloty for two or about 8 USD. She explained to us that she had been coming to this milk bar since she was in college and it was still the same. The place was extremely clean and efficient, with some solid Polish cuisine. She told us that it invoked memories of her past and held a special place in her heart. Our encounter with her was too brief as we longed to hear more from her and learn what it had been like during communism. As she left she made us repeat after her: Do Widzenia or as she taught us Good-bye.

A fitting way to end our first experience with Warsaw, and its charming scenes. After this encounter, we are ready to speand more time exploring the city.

Posted by darrenesl 09:29 Archived in Poland Tagged warsaw way holy cross bar milk royal kawa paczki mlechzny Comments (0)

Sunset to Sunrise - Travel Days Merge

Traveling from Los Angeles to Warsaw via stop in Frankfurt

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The time has finally come to depart on our adventure. The day began with the trip to LAX from San Diego being uneventful. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a dilemma. Luftansa was looking for people to give up their seats and leave on Sunday in exchange for $800 per person. A very tempting offer, but we have activities planned for Monday in Warsaw befor departing Tuesday morning for Krakow. So, we declined the $1600 USD deciding to go for the adventure instead.

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Luftansa is great as always with two warm meals and personal inflight entertainment. As the sky turned to dusk, moments later we were greeted with a gleaming orange sunrise before night could come. Looking down we could see brilliant white polar ice fields. The views as we continued on were incredible flying over Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands and more we watched a beautiful multi-shaded green patch work quilt below us until we spotted the Rhine river and followed it towards Frankfurt.

Now we sit here in Frankfurt awaiting our final 1 hour 20 minute leg to Warsaw. The excitement has definitely helped us overcome our five hours of airline sleep.

Cheers,
Darren and Terri

Posted by darrenesl 03:47 Archived in Germany Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises air europe airlines darrenesl tljohnson darren_johnson terri_johnson Comments (0)

3 Days and Counting

Time is near, how's that packing list coming?

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Suddenly we look up and the calendar says its the middle of June. Oh my, where has time gone? As we finish the preparations for our European journey, it is time to make the final reservations on airbnb, check all of our needs, and start pulling the traveling pack together.

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Yes, we have the hybrid Caribee Skymaster 70. The exact pack, filled with 30+ lbs., that we have been walking about two miles a day with to prepare for the upcoming adventure. As we talked about before, the pack offers the best of both worlds with a combination backpack and rolling bag. Sure, we most likely will not be having to carry it on our back for 2 miles, but taking a line from the Boy Scouts, we are going to "be prepared."

Along with the whole travel planning that has been going on since last year, plans for some special happenings on this trip have been in the works as well. Celebrating ten years of marriage, Terri and I have a couples massage booked in the Hungarian baths, a dinner on-top of the tower in Vienna, and a night on a private boat in Croatia. Part of the fun of this adventure has been finding some things to do that would not be on our regular list of activities here at home.

We also have several cathedrals on the list. For anyone going to Europe and wanting to let the imagination soar ahead of time, I highly recommend reading Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.
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The book shares some of the design elements used to build these magnificent structures, with a thrilling storyline that will capture the mind of the reader.
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Many more thrilling items fill our agenda, as well as plenty of time to explore areas and get to know the locals as well. How's that packing coming you ask? Well the bags are full and we are under our 44lbs. limit. Have we forgot anything, hopefully not, thanks to the travellerspoint.com packing list. Yes, it is extensive, but it is good.

We have been months in the planning stages and now the trip is upon us, we look forward to sharing our journey with you over the next couple of weeks. Keep watching here for our story and pictures and we will try to update it regularly. Please leave us your feedback and comments, we want to hear from you!

Signing off until we hop on board that plane,

~Terri and Darren

Posted by darrenesl 18:47 Archived in USA Tagged boats budapest prague vienna eastern austria warsaw poland fun air hungary croatia europe czech travels split republic krakow airlines darrenesl Comments (0)

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