Monday, June 21, 2004

Who in their right mind would get on a sleeper? We're so cramped in the carriage. There are 3 bunks in our compartment. A third occupant would be too much!

And who would get on a train that rides the very tracks that took Jews to Auschwitz? The horrors of Auschwitz are infamous, and the name itself is a byword for all that is bestial in humankind. Deserted sidings freight wagons in the dim dawn - it's too upsetting to reflect on what happened here.

According to Lonely Planet, occupants of overnight trains out of the Czech Republic are occasionally gassed and robbed. This makes Matthew a little nervous and ever alert for hissing noises.

At 03:00 we are disturbed by passport control.
At 06:30 we are woken with "20 minutes everybody off!" This is supposed to be a holiday!


Kraków, Poland

Kids in Rain Coats

Tram from Hotel WindowThe first day of summer - damp and grey. We arrive at dawn and we're told to get off the train - no chance of  a sleep till a reasonable hour. The rail station at Kraków is a dump. Well, it appears that bad when you've had no sleep.

We find hotel over the road - I sleep for a couple of hours while Matthew explores the old town. I'm restored after a couple of hour's sleep.

Tour of University MuseumThe city is surrounded by green lawns and flower beds where the old moat used to be.

There's a buzz about the place. Kraków is a fine university town.

Matthew climbs up the Town Hall tower. He enjoys the heights and views while I buy a coat. That will learn me for going on holiday thinking it would be sunny all the time! With my coat I'm cold no longer. I don't care if it rains: I remain dry! "It's is a very nice coat!"

We take a tour of the University Museum, led by an enthusiastic academic. The hour tour lasts for and hour and a half. I'm not bored: the tour is fascinating, giving a background to Nicolas Copernicus as well as a fascinating insight into the life of a mediaeval academic.

Dragon lives hereCathedral and Castle We climb up to the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill.

Kraków Castle is the spiritual capital of Poland. Matthew visits the crypt, full of vast musty sarcophagi of Polish Kings and Heroes, and sees the vast Sigismund bell.

We didn't see any dragons.

DeathDon't leave the tourist trail

We wander of towards the Jewish district, Kazimierz, south of  the castle.
A dubious "gent" asks us the way to the centre, clutching a tatty map.
"Try that way..."

We're interrupted by an undercover "fed".
"Are you buying or selling? What are you carrying? What's in your pockets? Turn out your pockets; open your wallets!"
The fed stops short, with a "Mind how you go..."

Fire dancerCloth Hall
After a meal and several pints later - all is well.
Kosciol Mariacki - St Mary’s Church Wieza ratuszowa - Town Tower
The sun's setting and the moon's in the right place, where it should be, where we calculated it should be!

And it's got its phase right too!

(Blame the Astronomical Clock we saw in Prague for our sudden interest in such things.)


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