On February 18th i flew into Krakow, Poland after a sleepless night at standstead airport. I could waste ink and paper ranting about all that is wrong with budget airlines but when it comes that cheap it seems only a few of us can resist.
It was a stark sunny morning when we arrived and the glare from the train window on our overtired eyes was beutifully hostiles. The journey from airport to city displayed endless remote fields covered in white snow with small farmhouses and chimneys piping. We (i) thought it would be a rewarding experience to walk to our hostel, a good 1 hours walk away (excluding orientation faults). From the plump, romantic buildings fell large amounts of snow and we began to notice the practise of clearing you slanted roof over the stuff onto the roads. after a few dumps of snow we began to develop an awareness avalanche danger, and we now understood what the red tape indicated.
The city really did glisten that morning we arrived , however while we trundled through the wadges of snow and i pretended we were not lost we both needed more sleep to appreciate the surroundings. The walk to the hostel took a lot longer than Hannah and i expected (naturally) and just as rest became a matter of urgency for some i checked the map to discover it was round the corner.
Deco hostel was theme3d like a 1930’s boutique/ gentlemens club. We were told that our room had to be cleaned and we could just leave our bags but must return in a few hours. Once we finnally got in (1900 style keys delayed us) we dismisses their orders by having sex and going to sleep.
Once we woke we wonderd into town, chossing to eat coincidently at Krakow’s number one Pirogi house ‘Perogiona’. The menus were typed in airal black upon a4 paper and we hung on a washing line down the length of the restaurant. The mixed salad with vegetables was colour coded with grated carrot and orange segments, something that neither tasted or looked very good. As i slowly woke up i had to protect our meals from one of the few beggars that came in attempting to get a few odd pieces of pirogi or orange by slapping his hand. This didnt feel too good afterwards but at the time it was more instinct. I think we spent the rest of the day walking around town, its all very manage on foot however we did spend a while working out a tram home that wasnt really necessary.
I believe we started Friday by visiting the history of photography museum. It was mainly about Walery Kzewuski who helped design one of the first camera obscuras with Joseph Niepce in 1816. The exhibition displayed equipment from this time and archive photography of the period. Janusz Lesniak’s photos were in the gallery , clear defined environments with always his shadow looming in the foreground. In 1810 the first Camera obscura handbook/guide was published – ‘Historiques et desciption des procedes du Daguereotype et dorama, par daguere danguerestypes’ – or something like that. When looking through these massively big viewers it made me think about how we began to start seeing the world through a frame, and how vieing the everyday through a frame turns life into a performance. A trivial fact that i noted was that the Nautilus Pompilius cephalopod is the only living creature surviving today whose eyes use the camera obscura principle (no lense).
Still there was some war time veterans their for an opening and we began to feel that our presence was intruding onto the work and their buffet.
We somehow managed to walk west back into town through Piasek and decided to head towards one of the 3 black dots that i had marked before the trip. After going up and down Szczpanska more times than i care to remember we found one of my marked dots. The communist styled arts bunker that hosts the Ha!art publishing house , a big gallery that was in turnaround and therefore close however the bookshop was slightly open. They had a selection of art theory , critical and philosophy books among some lovely zines, graphics and typography prints.
A name i thought worth remembering was JAROSLAW KOZLOWSKI who had written and featured in alot of the books i looked at , especially ‘From monument to market’ which came with 2 discs of films of public performances and was limited to 500 copies, i regret not buying it but i couldn’t work out if it was for sale.
I can’t remember what else we did on friday except trudge around slowly snow avoiding avalanches from buildings around us. I think on Friday night we went to the cinema to see a screening of ‘Stranger than paradise’ 1984 as part of the Jim Jarmusch season. The cinema was as independent as you could get, the front of house staff had to dash between the desk and the projector as he changed reels!
on Saturday morning i think we went to the pharmaceutical museum on Floriaskska, exhibiting and replicating the objects and environments that were used during the early 1800s towards development of pharmaceuticals. I remember there being cabinets and cupboards full of labeled draws and containers for different chemicals and remedies. The cellar felt quite medieval with bottled snakes for venom extraction and fermation vases with long snout pourers alongside bats hanging from the ceiling. We then went on to find the Cricot (2) CRICOTEKA unfortunately on both visits the underground theater was shut however the photos of these life like puppets were really terrifying and i took some snaps.
We dedicated the rest of the afternoon routing through rags at Krakow’s many 2nd hand charity shops called ‘Tania’ something. From Tesco fleeces to classic tweed there is a fantastic vintage items to find. I ended up buying more ties than any man who cant even do i tie will ever need. It was perfect for stocking up on winter clothes, knitted fleeces and jumpers with funny patterns but we had to limit ourselves because we hadn’t paid for any luggage on our flights and i there was only so many items of clothing i could send hannah home wearing before she overheated.
We stayed local on Hannah’s last night (saturday night) partly because she had an early train to catch in the morning but mainly because her soaked shoes were no longer durable and the alteration of her tights had worn thin, essentially all her clothes were soaked through. We went to the closest place to eat, disconcertingly titled ‘PHUNG DONG’ which quickly became a nickname for funky genitalia. We were greeted to a very Polish looking waitress and began to feel concerned when there were no vegetarian spring rolls on the menu, or anything that vegetarian for that case, and we had done so well to that point! however we managed to get some massive portions of vege on egg fried rice for next to nothing. The food was admittedly not as greasy as the restaurant, it did take 4 liters of water to battle the dehydration caused by the salt. while drinking too much water Hannah finally beat me at our last game of chess, it must of been the water.
On Sunday morning i woke up early to see Hannah to the station, after doing platform farewells i puffed my chest out and stomped east to Grzegorzi for a renowned flea market. I took the wrong tram way too far out of the city and waited in the very distant suburbs to return to my starting position (the main train station). I was accompanied only by two men who were whispering and talking quite secretively. I got onto the tram with them and they both instantly turned into officials and at 8:36am i got fined for 72zloty for not getting a ticket. A ticket which was impossible for me to purchase because there was no machines of shops open at that time, however after pleading this i gave up realizing that no leniency is shown toward the British abroad. This wiped me off all cash and confidence however i continued to head towards the flea market in Grzegorzi that i had lost all reasonable purpose for, i doubted that they would take visa or debit cards…
The flea market did not exist anywhere near my black dot on the map and the atmosphere suggested also provided me with this conclusion. the only thing that contained a mass of people was a church service. I had a mini crisis, quickly decided that Poland is no place to depart with a loved one. icy cold climate and Soviet styled suburbs were not the sanctuary my broken heart and wallet needed.
I chained smoked way too many cigarettes for that time and decided that my solution will be thought of once i retreated to the hostel that i no longer had a room at. I got back, sorted my life out and got on my feet and spent the last day walking around, it was a lovely fresh sunny day, and all the snow began to melt and fall off the roofs again, just like the day we arrived.
Major things i learnt –
If you see red tape, look up to ensure that an avalanche does not crush you
Krakow is calm, quiet, small and relaxed.
There is no rush hour
Pleading like a stupid tourist does not work when you look German, British or a bit of both.
It is possible to fall asleep while eating
Next time i will say something when someone turns the lights out on me when i am sitting on the toilet and not be so polite, no one deserves to shit in the dark.