Kraków 

Ahhh — flat land, sort of.  For people who have spent 20+ years on the Canadian prairies, the flatness of Kraków was welcomed.  Many people ride Dutch-style bikes and beach cruisers, and other interesting rides.

  
Although the architecture was beautiful and ornate, more brick was exposed, giving it a different vibe from Prague.  Also, the people definitely smiled more.  Kraków is a very easy city to navigate compared to Prague. I don’t know why I couldn’t get oriented in Prague.  I tried!  

   
        We arrived in the evening, so we set out to enjoy the nightlife.  The street musicians/buskers were phenomenal!  One trio played classical music on 3 accordions.  Another played a variety of music, including the Benny Hill race song using mostly traditional instruments.  We were filled with wonder!  It’s refreshing to see young people playing stand-up bass, violin, accordion etc.

Communism

On the second day, we had a local guide.  Poland has only been democratic for about 18 years, so communism is still fresh in their minds.  Some people long for the old days, as is to be expected.  Everyone was guaranteed a job, housing, and food, and they could eventually buy a car, though the waiting list was long.  They were all equally poor in equally small apartments, so it was ok.  They only had to work 7-8 hours per day, but they mostly visited with their friends on their jobs.  She said, “We pretended to work, while the communists pretended to pay us.”  I love that line!

Anyway, one throw back to communism is “milk bars”.  They are cheap luncheon eateries, sort of like cafeterias, but you order from a menu on a wall.  Cheap cheap, and what a feast!  We paid about $18 CAD for this:
   
  

 

Of course, we like to have a full cultural experience, so we also tried a vodka bar. The one we chose had great communist decor, and it was covered with newspapers from the communist era.

   
 Polish TV

You can find many American TV shows and movies.  However, instead of subtitles or voice-overs for each character, there will be one boring male voice dubbing ALL of the roles.  It’s so entertaining!  Better yet is the sign-language.  Do you remember the little old man from Benny Hill?  Well, he works in Poland doing sign language now!  Kidding!  So, during a movie, there will be lots of dialogue, and his little image will be in the corner, but he won’t be signing.  Then, he’ll sign about 5 words for 5 minutes of dialogue!  Is he summarizing?   We saw him again and again!

Harvest Festival

We were fortunate to arrive during the harvest or wheat festival.  It was like being at a Folkfest pavilion in Saskatoon, only better!  There was a stage with live singling, dancing, and music, not to mention the STREET FOOD!  We tried smoked sheep’s cheese that was wrapped in bacon and barbecued.  Just imagine that for a moment.  Are you imagining?  Remember, sheep’s cheese squeaks when you chew it.  NIRVANA!

   
    We wandered around for a bit and came across a potter.  We each bought items from her.  Of course, we can’t fit much in our Airstream, but we wanted a little memento of our time in Kraków.  I bought a raven, and Paul bought a little pot to use as a shot glass.

   
  

Dinner:  Street food again!  Spicy pork, sautéed mushrooms, and pierogies.  Is it wrong to have pierogies twice in one day?  Then, we met some people from our group who told us we had to go to a certain restaurant for apple pancakes.  We were full, but we will never miss an opportunity to taste more culture!  They were divine!

  
OK, not all of our travel is food-related.  We did visit some historical sites, such as this church with Art Nouveau stained-glass windows.  I thought they were so lovely.  Also, all the walls are painted with Art Nouveau floral motifs.

   
    

Creation of earth:  

Ceiling:

  

Even dandilions look heavenly: 

Kraków has several universities.  I believe our guide said this one was established in the 1200 or 1300s:  

   

Thoughts on Prague

Czech people are very funny and they don’t take themselves seriously.  I wish I could remember the exact words from our local guide, Jana, but she said something to the effect that Czechs are really good at being second best.  They have very dry humour, even though they don’t smile much.  

Here is a statue at Prague castle.  Yes, many bronze statues get rubbed for certain reasons, like luck.  No one knows why this one get rubbed:

 
Prague Castle also had torture chambers.  Some instruments of torture are downright gruesome.  Here is a mild one:

   

The people of Prague are so industrious.  They were constantly repairing cobblestone roads and sidewalks.  There are also young apprentices learning the trade.

There are many dogs, large and small.  Many walk beside their humans without leashes!

Locals haven’t discovered Lululemon and the horror of wearing yoga pants as pants.  So refreshing!

Street food rocks!  Raclette, sausage, crepes, trdlo.  The list goes on and on.

 
Raclette:  melted cheese on boiled potatoes, with cocktail onions and baby gherkins.  Yes!  You’ll want to bathe in it.  Of course, this is a Swiss treat, but it’s perfect street food.