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Blog 37 - Kraków

The scarf is modest, but the memories outstanding. First, to describe the scarf..... lightweight silk in sweet pea colours, an Art Deco hand painted design, bought from one of the many artisans selling beautiful crafts in the street markets of Kraków.

The trip to Poland was a birthday jolly with a daughter. A flight from Bournemouth and another AirB&B adventure, not knowing exactly what we would find on arrival. The apartment was on the second floor, above an Italian pizza restaurant right in the middle of the old quarter. Access was through the restaurant, then up a steep winding stone staircase with impressive wrought ironwork. No obvious instructions about entry from absent owner.....nor from the restauranteur who was also a tenant. The door to our flat was unlocked. We walked in and surveyed our home for the next week, little knowing at night we would lock ourselves in and be the only residents in a large building centuries old with cellar and four floors. Yes, we had hand painted frescos on the walls, the biggest tv I have ever seen, and a huge shower compartment which had a hand held remote control like one for the tv....never fathomed whether we got music, fancy lighting or an electric shock! The washbasin was so badly positioned one could not turn on the cold tap. Difficult to clean teeth with hot water. Within minutes, we had broken the toilet and the door handle to the bathroom fell off. We opened the huge wardrobe more suited to a baronial rail and not a coat hanger in sight. Lived out of suitcases all week, not bothering to cook for ourselves, out for breakfast unlocking the huge front door of this ghostlike building past the quiet pizza restaurant, not returning until after each full day’s walking, sightseeing the castle, churches, museums......grim Schindler and ghetto memories interspersed with so much wonderful stained glass and art......lucky enough to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.....more beautiful for me than the Mona Lisa. After yet another great dinner costing very little, back to our solitary flat, clothes strewn over dining chairs, a quick brushing of teeth with lukewarm water and slept like babies.

The flat was a couple of minutes from the Mariacka Cathedral with its tall tower where every hour the bugler played his soulful music from each of the four aspects. The music was cut off mid bar, as it had been in the 13th century when the watchman was reputedly shot by a Tartar enemy with an arrow to the throat whilst performing his duty looking for fire or enemies. This task is still carried out by firemen who climb 239 stairs every hour to carry out this duty. (I wonder if this is being done today if they have shutdown there?) The midday bugle music has always been broadcast by national radio throughout Poland. A Kracovian fireman is indeed unique requiring musical ability, strong legs, lungs and a head for heights. Being so close to the church, this was our wake up call each morning. The church was closed to tourists for repairs during our visit but on Sunday was open for services. We thought we would sneak in before the Mass began. Too late! Sitting in a pew near the front to offer a silent prayer, suddenly we were hemmed in by other worshippers and there was no escape.  It was a long full service in Polish, with the christening of about eight babies followed by communion. We didn’t participate in communion or a blessing, but shook hands with our fellow Polish parishioners, with lots of smiles and nodding of heads. Wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

The photo shows me in the Silkience Hall, which you could say is one of the world’s oldest ‘shopping malls’ with its individual booths. This 13th century cloth hall was a treasure trove for amber as you can see. Of course, we bought some! I did tell you this was a birthday treat....not realising on my very birthday we would be entertained to a free open air, nationally televised concert in the enormous square around the ancient trading hall to commemorate Pope Paul’s election in October forty years previously. Kraków was his home town. An outstanding memory of a Polish tenor belting out Hallelujah, not quite Leonard Cohen, but heart rending, as we had my birthday dinner in a restaurant on the square in the crisp night air, with the warm smell of horses waiting patiently with carriages, blankets provided by the restaurant around our legs and us singing along at the tops of our voices. Down to earth at the end of our trip, money running out, we had a spot fine by two menacing men in black leather on the bus returning from the Wieliczka Salt Mines for not having bought a ticket in advance. I was not fined, being an old person who travelled free, but daughter had to cough up her last 240 zlottes. What a trip!  

We never saw the invisible flat owner.......I hope he was a DIY handyman to sort that bathroom and screw in a few coat hooks at least.

Busy Bee, Scarf Face!

Blog 37.

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