Thursday, September 16, 2010
Krakow, good to be back.
My long awaited week’s holiday to Krakow with Agnes began with a very unsocial 0330 bus to Stansted from Rayleigh. What should have been a chance for a doze on the hours ride to the airport was rudely interrupted along the A120 as we were approaching Stansted by a driver of a car who had been flashing his lights and shouting at the driver to stop. I had been vaguely aware of the flashing was tried to ignore them in order to grab some sleep; I assumed with the flashing lights it was just a boy racer trying to pass but when the driver of our bus starting shouting back my interest was aroused. I heard the driver of the adjacent car shout that the bus’ luggage compartment was wide open as we were going down the dual carriageway. I watched the driver go visibly white and pulled the coach over to inspect it. Initially he thought he had got away with it but then a middle aged couple got out and realised that their large suitcase containing everything for a three week holiday to Spain had fallen out. Cue hysterical woman, shouting, accusations and general chaos at the side of a busy road at 0415. Poor sods, I had to feel for them.
On to Krakow, I found our apartment that Agnes had booked and waited outside as arranged for Pawel (Paul), the Italian owner’s Polish representative. Clutching an email that clearly said:”wait outside Radziwillowska Street, no 7 for the keys between 11 and 12” I waited, and waited some more. When it got to 1230 I finally called Pawel who said I should’ve called him on arrival! Sometimes even being organised and punctual isn’t enough.
Agnes wasn’t due to arrive until 1815 from Katowice so after a short nap on the sofa I went off for a short walk around the Main Square of Krakow, the Rynek, which I was looking forward to immensely. I hadn’t been to Krakow for seven years and it was one the highlights of a two month trek around Europe in 2003. Approaching the square along Mikolajowska Street to the Rynek several things became obvious that Krakow has changed a lot in seven years. Firstly the number of English voices I heard and the second, the commercialisation that has occurred. I felt back in 2003 that I was at the beginning of that era; now it’s firmly arrived. Signs in English advertising cheap beer, happy hours, and Premier League football were a sad indication that Krakow is no longer a mysterious well kept secret of Central Europe but a major and successful tourist hub. It is no less beautiful but when I first came here people came here for Krakow, its art, its history and architecture, now the majority of people come here for the cheap bear, lap dancing and nightlife.
When I turned the corner past Mariacki Church the memories of this amazing square came flooding back, the stunning medieval trading market Cloth Hall right in the middle, the Town Hall Tower just behind and the differently coloured facades of the building lining the square made me feel like I’d been here yesterday. I didn’t remember quite so many horse drawn carriages touting for business or numerous tourists reps accosting me selling tours but for the rest it was amazing to be back. I couldn’t resist a walk through Cloth Hall and a walk around the square before a text from Agnes told me that she’d be an hour earlier than planned, so I made my way to the bus station to wait for her.
She arrived sat in the front seat. Apparently the bus driver took quite a liking to her and Agnes quite cleverly used this to her advantage to secure the front passenger seat of the bus to avoid the motion sickness she suffers from. We just walked back to the apartment and our week’s holiday that we had been planning for quite some time had begun.