Easter weekend was finally upon us. This year I would be spending my Easter away from my family and in Krakow. The second largest city in Poland. I did not have an easy start in Poland. My first trouble was the bus was not running which means I had to catch the train. No big deal, I know how to adapt. So as directed by the airport transport security I went to floor two and a half to get to the platform. Yes, you read correctly, a half floor. I missed the train by seconds which resulted in waiting for an hour for the next one.
When the train finally arrived, I got on only to find out my ticket wasn’t even valid. This also happens to my new train friend, Sarah. But it was okay, no fine was given. The ticket inspector helped us out and was able to give us a valid ticket. If you’re ever in Krakow the train machines only accept the exact amount, in this case, 9 Zloty and reject’s cards apparently. This could have been an expensive start to Krakow.
When I finally arrived at the main station, I had my trusty google maps ready to go. The train I needed to get on ran on the red line. I looked for the line but unlike everywhere else I have been, the train lines are not colour coded, numbered, lettered or anything that would make their station less confusing. Off I went to the information centre where I was told there is no need to catch the train. She explained I could take tram 50 and I can find it down near the tunnel, all I had to do was turn left when I exited the station. Finally, outside the station, the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect, off to the tunnel I went.
Long story short, I spent the next two and a half hours trying to get to my hotel. Walking up and down roads trying to find where to get on this tram and no luck at finding WIFI to google directions. I looked all over, only to find out, there is no such thing as a tram 50. On top of this, the train I planned to catch, the one google maps mentioned, was leaving two platforms across from the airport train I had disembarked earlier.
Once I figured this out, I got a ticket from the ticket lady, a different lady to the one who told me about the tram. Still, she also gave me the wrong information. ARGH !! She told me a completely different platform to where the train left from. Luckily a lovely local helped me out. Doesn’t matter now, I boarded my train and it was one stop and I was at my hotel.
My apartment style hotel was amazing. A huge room, great location and so you know, I did not attempt to use the trains again in Krakow. When I arrived it was getting late so I decided to go for a quick walk around my area and to get some snacks and breakfast foods. I was across the river from the main town, a straight road away, 15-minute walk and I was there. Or a 5-minute tram ride; I could catch about six different trams on this line and none of which are tram 50.
As I was exploring the area on my first evening there was almost nobody around. Other than a few walking tours and a couple of families, this is the quietest I had seen any streets on my trip so far. Being that it was Easter Saturday, the traditions had started so I expected it to be quiet. Shops and restaurants closed, on the doors were signs that I am assuming said something like “Closed for Easter, sorry for the inconvenience”. I can’t be for sure; it was in German.
During the walk, I stopped by a smallish church, it was around the corner from my hotel. The Church was above ground level, was the focal point of the square and looked like a story book castle. I decided to take a break from walking to see the the inside. It wasn’t the fanciest of churches or the grandest, but it was welcoming and warm. Candles were lit and preparation was happening for Easter Sunday.
During my walk, I had already past many small express type stores, some closed and some open but almost empty. It wasn’t until I came across the bigger of the stores, still smaller than my hotel room and cramped with 20 people, that I finally found food. Not only did they have a great but minimal gluten free range, this was the only shelf in the store that was fully stocked.
Before returning to my room after a chaotic day, I decided to take the scenic route down by the water. Tour boats all docked and you could see over to the other side where it too seemed as quiet and calm. The walking continued and I passed two restaurants that were open and overflowing. Mostly I passed places that were shut, but my evening plans didn’t involve dining out. It was peanut butter on bread for me, in the warmth of my bed and then sleep.
Easter Sunday was here and very little was open, correction nothing was open, at least until 11:30 am. After 11:30 not all would be open, a few restaurants maybe, some shops and a couple of tourist attractions. The main event for the day, other than church services was the Krakow Easter Markets and this would be kicking off at 11:30 and onwards.
I decided to start my day in the Jewish Quarter. Since it was Sunday it was 10 am start for lots of place’s that decided to keep to usual business hours. I heard there would be a few attractions open in this area, but this was not true. Many restaurants were open and there were lots of walking tour groups around but few tourist attractions open. The Jewish Quarter was all cobblestone, like much of Krakow and the buildings old. Unlike the Krakow town centre, the buildings here were grey and dark in colour. Some almost looked as though they were falling apart. In some places, you could see the old star that the Jewish had to wear during the Nazi era. You must pay attention though as they are wearing away.
As it came closer to 11:30 I started to walk towards the main square leaving the Jewish Quarter behind. There weren’t many cars or people around and the people who were around, I am almost certain were tourists. Other than seeing a few walking tours, the streets felt abandoned. The only moving vehicles on the road were what look like golf buggies but are really tour group transportation. Going from Jewish Quarter to Krakow main centre there were no restaurants, no shops or attractions open. Not one. As I approached the town centre the more lively things got. Packs of people all walking in the same direction, to the same place.
Walking into the main square was a whole new atmosphere. People everywhere and coming from every direction. Shops and restaurants beginning to open their doors, only a few, and it is safe to say ice-cream shops were open. Every second person seemed to have the sweet and icy treat. You could also tell when the occasional express store was open. People would move faster to get inside and would be leaving with packets of chips, sandwiches, chocolates, biscuits and large drinks. It was mayhem inside such a small space.
The street to get to the main square is a place no car would dare travel. The street was a bit bigger than a one-way lane with footpaths either side. There was no care if we were walking on the road or footpath until you heard the feet of the horses coming your way. Everyone parted ways creating a clearing for the horse and carriage to pass through. The buildings on either side looked untouched and remained joined. As you peered down the road it seems like the buildings never stopped. Once you reached the end of the road, it opened to a huge clearing, the town centre and today, the Easter markets.
The place decorated with flowers, like many of the Easter Markets I have been to. The smell of food was floating through the air, there were many foods on offer, along with beautiful headpieces, painted Easter eggs, Polish chocolate and toys. Lots of toys and lots of food. The place buzzing, moving through I was shoulder to shoulder with people. Having to push and shove to make your way around. Everyone stopping and starting to see what each stall had. To buy or not buy? To eat or not to eat? Out of all the food there, my only option was a Polish classic, fried goats cheese with cranberry jam. Although not great for my lactose intolerance, a perfect choice for my gluten-free diet. It was so delicious and I’ll be honest, I had a few.
Most of the day in Krakow consisted of walking the streets. Most attractions closed and the ones that were open were far to busy. The line up would take up half my day so I decided to walk and explore uncharted lane ways. They are all so small and the buildings so tall and captivating in colour and detail. Once I left the main square the place became empty, if you wanted to film a dramatic movie scene in the streets, today would be the day. I was a little disappointed that the atmosphere that I usually enjoy of these busy little streets was not around. I didn’t get to enjoy the feeling of delight and surprise when stumbling into a quirky café or small unique store. Instead, I did find pleasure and delight in stillness and peace.
Day one in Krakow was low key and relaxed compared to many of the other days on my holiday so far. That was okay because I knew my second day would be one to prepare for; Emotionally and Mentally.
To read my post on day two, Click here: Auschwitz concentration camp.