Chance encounter at Wawel
Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
100Trip End Sep 08, 2008
My host from the hospitality club, Aga, was working when I arrived at Krakow Glowny, so she sent her flatmate Kasia to meet me at the train station. My initial description that "I had a large and a small backpack" would have proven pretty pointless, as there were hundreds of backpackers at the train station. However, an additional sms informing her that I was wearing green trousers made me more identifiable.
It was a quiet first night in Krakow, and the girls I was staying with took me to the Jewish quarter of the city, Kazimierz, to have a zapiekanka for dinner
Aga had the following day off work, and she showed me around the city. It really is an amazing place, with beautiful architecture and an enormous rynek (town square), which is supposedly the largest in all of Europe. We had a look at a few different sites before heading to Krakow's most famous, Wawel Castle.
As we were walking up the hill, chatting about nothing in particular, I had one of the most chance encounters I have ever had in my life. Walking down the same road was a friend from high school and college who I hadn't seen for about three years! Cheerio D-Mac! After the initial astonishment of bumping into each other in southern Poland, we arranged to meet for dinner and beers later that evening.
Wawel Castle was a pretty impressive site, with a huge cathedral, underground crypts, and strangely enough, one of the seven centres of spiritual energy (chakra) in the world. Legend has it that the Lord Shiva threw seven magic stones to seven parts of the world, and one landed in Krakow
I spent the following morning wandering around Kazimierz, looking at the Jewish buildings and synagogues that had survived the horrors of the Second World War. I visited Krakow's largest synagogue, Isaac's Synagogue, where I saw a photo exhibition and learned a little about Krakow's Jewish ghetto during the war. It was quite disturbing. My knowledge of what happened in Poland during the war is quite poor compared to my knowledge of the history of other countries, so as with the Warsaw uprising museum it was good to learn a little more about what happened.
After bidding farewell to the girls the following morning I met up with D-Mac to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine. We joined a 2 hour tour of the site, which led us 135m underground through a number of chambers all carved out of salt. Some had been made into chapels, and one was particularly impressive. This was the Chapel of the Blessed Kinga, which was more a church than a chapel (measuring 54m by 17m and 12m high), and every single element, from chandeliers to altars was made from salt.
We returned to Krakow mid afternoon, and after a quick lunch with D-Mac, I said goodbye and went back to Aga's apartment to pick up my gear. From here it was a journey into the unknown. I'd contacted yet another hospitality club host, who lived in a small village about 3 hours from Krakow. My first two hosts, Kornelia and Aga were great people, and staying with them made my time in Warsaw and Krakow more enjoyable than it would have been had I stayed in a hostel. However, as much as I enjoyed my short stay in these cities, I was looking forward to exploring the countryside.