Sunday, August 3, 2008

Krakow's Krazy Kool (Relatively Speaking)

God it's good to be in a city. Once I snatched that first glimpse of Krakow from the road music rose in my chest. I sang (well, rapped profanely), I darted, I shot over tram rails, I pedaled the hardest I've pedaled yet. Finally, a destination, a glittering goal. Culture, music, energy, the English language. We roared into town in decidedly terrific moods.

Krakow's the first place I've visited on this trip that feels like Europe. The city is jammed with delightful cafes, the old town is charming and quaint, the city is ringed with luscious, aromatic parks. There are even a few sites of (minor) historical importance which we visited yesterday, including the Wawel complex and the Wieliczka salt mine (say that five times fast), a UNESCO site. There are street musicians and hustlers and huge Gothic churches. Cafes are open late; all sorts of languages are spoken. Despite what I consider to be a limited range of attractions - what are YOU dying to see in Krakow? - the tourists are out in force.

The picture above is of Polish army forces (no pun intended) celebrating the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, when the Poles of Warsaw fought back against the Germans under the false assumption that the Soviets on the outskirts of town would rush in to save the day. Instead, wise old Uncle Joe let the Poles and Germans kill each other for a few months, then moved in to take the depleted city for Mother Russia. It's a sad story of an uprising, but overall I've not been impressed with the Polish approach to fighting the Germans. There was no guerilla warfare; there was no steady disruption of German forces; instead they waited until they thought victory was assured. The Vietcong and Iraqis have wreaked havoc with ongoing insurgencies; something like that in Poland (and other occupied nations - hello France!) could have have a real impact on the war. Though it's easy enough to say that when you're not lodging German soldiers in your home.

Our most classically Polish experience was getting to the salt mine, which was on the outskirts of town and required a minibus ride. As we left the city, it began raining in huge gushing sheets - the spray along the side of the minibus covered all the windows. Through the melee, we couldn't read the signs, and an hour later, when we asked where we were, the driver told us he forgot our stop. We wound up going to the end of the line out in podunkville and circling back - the whole shebang took about two hours. What bothered me the most was being back on those nutty Polish country roads - I'll take my urban days when I can get them, thanks.

Here's a whipcrack accordion trio performing in the Rynek Glowny -- they were incredible, but shamefully outdrawn by the neighboring puppeteer performing Elvis songs.

And a shot of dad punishing the Polish countryside for daring to get in his way:

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1 comment:

Joe Manekin said...

Odessa or Bust in CYRILLIC?

Come on now, dudes....

Oh, Otis is doing great, lots of bathroom going and a good time had at the Alemany flee market.