Time hath no power over me..
…or so I thought. I learned the full force of Polish steely determination when I cycled out to visit the Oskar Schindler Enamel Factory, about 3km out of the centre of Krakow. It was a free entry day and it closed at 16.00. As I negotiated a very tricky route I found a road closure, which sent me on a longish detour. I arrived at precisely 14.35, only to be told the last entry was at 14.30 (because, apparently, you absolutely need 90 minutes to see the permanent exhibition).
“But….but…..but I’ve cycled here, and been delayed by a road closure, and the website said nothing of the last entry at 14.30…..can’t you make just this one exception?”
I won’t bore you with the detail, but I tried various ploys to blag my way in…..I even tried walking past the entrance staff to see if they would notice….even if I’d been Pope Francis himself, they would have barred my way through. So just being any old ‘Francis’ wasn’t going to cut it either….. I’ve now learned the hard way…. don’t mess with Polish museum staff.
But I do love browsing museums, learning about the history of places and their principal characters and, of course, every city will highlight its own positives:
Had there not been a Rome in Italy, Krakow itself would have been Rome.
Wawel Castle, on the top of the hill, is the most beautiful in the country..
But Krakow, like the rest of Poland, suffered disastrously at the hands of, first the Gestapo, then the Soviet KGB….go to the Terror of Krakow exhibition and you’ll need a strong coffee afterwards to calm your nerves.
But then spend an hour in the National Museum to discover Polish works of art of the 19th century, and you’ll come across jewels like this by Jacek Malczewski…
If Gothic and Baroque is your thing, there are more visitable churches than you can shake a stick at. If you need to help purge the demons of the holocaust, go to Auschwitz, or dally in the Jewish quarter of the city and visit the old Synagogue.
Tomorrow I resume my battle with the headwind in search of the foothills of the Tatra mountains, the most westerly peaks of the Carpathian mountain chain. After some 1800km on this journey, the legs will get their first stretch in hill climbing, to give me my first elevated views of landscape.
Two Krakow encounters..
Tent dried from the overnight dew and packed up, I headed for breakfast in a nearby café, and just about managed to eat one of their small Polish-style hotdogs, but then in came this ‘Uber-Eats’ delivery guy, and he gave me a quick lesson on how to eat two giant-sized ones in quick succession…..and in less than two minutes!
Then later in the day, as I took shelter from the rain, Peter Lee (his English name of course) from Nanjing in China, struck up conversation in almost flawless English, and ended up showing me some of his superb photography shot on his most recent trip to Tibet. He then told me of his upcoming trip back to Tibet, and the 6 week 20,000km journey he will do with a friend in his car, and I ask him: ‘what has happened to the bicycle in China?’.
He looks at me and gives me one of those inscrutable Asian smiles, and proudly says: ‘Ah yes, the bicycle….China has changed a lot….we now have real traffic jams…’
Beaten into submission..
It had to happen. A day of reckoning was due. I thought I’d made a canny move changing my final destination to Bratislava from Prague, and for two days I had cause for celebration. I couldn’t boast having a tailwind, but a crosswind is always going to be a better option than a full-on headwind. However, today the pact with the weather gods has been rescinded and, according to the forecast, I will be paying my dues for the next couple of days. The wind is coming from the south, and staying from the south…..and I am going south. After a reasonable day’s quota of 83km against this 15mph headwind, I arrived at the unpronounceable town of Jedrzejow, discovered its most attractive feature was its railway station, checked on the internet and found there was a train to Krakow in 30 minutes…..it was a no-brainer….a one hour train journey into Krakow and I would be heading to a campsite by the River Vistula (the very same river that runs through Warsaw)…..it was two fingers to the weather gods.Krakow is a place Jenny and I have already visited in winter time, when the Christmas market was in full swing, and the air was filled with the aroma of mulled wine. I’ve already had a kind Warmshowers invitation to stay a further two nights here, so let’s see how the city compares in September. It is universally regarded as the jewel in the crown of Poland.