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Getting around

Part 2: Jawor, Wroclaw, Krakow

28.5: Dresden ->Jawor -> Wroclaw -> Krakow
29.5: Krakow
30.5: Krakow -> Wieliczka Salt Mine -> Kalwaria Zebrzydowska -> Krakow
31.5: Krakow -> Auschwitz (Oswiecim) -> Krakow
1.6: Krakow

28.5: Dresden -> Jawor -> Wroclaw -> Krakow
Aparthotel Pergamin, Krakow. 319.50 zloty for an elegant room with four beds, attached toilet+shower. Good location close to the old town. No own parking (you have to leave the car in one of the city parkings (we found one where we pay 150 zloty for 5 days). High quality elegant furniture, modern, A/C, nicely decorated. phone, TC, fridge, free WLAN in the rooms. Only problem is that the room is facing a busy road with trams passing by, although the window provides a certain noise insulation. Window can't be darkened properly (only a curtain). Room is not really adequate for four people: only one cupboard, with just 3 coat hangers. A/C does not seem to be working. No double door to provide noise insulation to the corridor. 25 zloty for the breakfast (Alissia would have to pay). Overall not terribly good value.
Weather: a mix of sunshine and clouds the whole day. It has rained during the night in Dresden, then it rains very slightly again in the afternoon in Poland. Fresh, probably around 17-20C, although when the sun shines it gets hot.

We manage to leave for Poland around 9:30am, planning to do the first stop in Jawor (Poland) to visit the Church of Peace. The motorway trip proceeds surprisingly smooth, with very little traffic on the motorway. No border control when we enter Poland.

On the Polish side the motorway is in a very good shape (two lanes only, however with service lane). Speed limit at 140km, quite reasonable and higher than in many other European countries except Germany.

After a while the service lane disappears and the speed limit drops to 110km/h. Almost empty motorway, we are able to quickly proceed towards Jawor. The final 12km before Jawor are on countryside roads, which are mostly in a good shape. Heavy traffic however, making it almost impossible to overtake (we are stuck behind a bus). 

We reach Jawor at 11:45am and are inside the church of Peace a few minutes later (ticket is 8 zloty/person). Quite cool old building, completely built out of wood. Like in a theater people can site on balconies/balustrades to attend mass. Paintings everywhere. Groups of tourists coming every now and then, but overall not so many tourists.

We are at the church until 12:30pm and could actually have stayed even longer because the park around it is nice and invites to relax and the kids to play. But we have to go to the next place (Wroclaw) where we'll have lunch, so we continue driving.

We decide to skip the church in Swidnica, because it is 35km from here and we won't make it before 1pm (church closes at 1pm according to the Rough Guide). We should perhaps have left Dresden earlier. So we continue driving.

Beautiful countryside here in Poland. It's more wild and original than in Germany, where everything looks very civilised. Here in Poland the countryside is more original and has some kind of magic. I guess the fact that the population density is lower plays a role, since not every square metre of land has to be cultivated.

It's almost 2pm when we finally are in Wroclaw on the Rynek (the main square). The motorway part of the trip was fast, what took time was the access roads to the motorway from Jawor and when we got out of the motorway in Wroclaw. Especially in Wroclaw it takes way too much time to get into town when you leave the motorway. The roads are in a decent condition however.

People here have western level cars, no small cheap cars, mostly mid size good quality cars. The buildings and houses however are overall in a poor state which shows that Poles prefer to invest first in a car and only after that think about renovating buildings. By the way, there are no poor people or beggars on the streets.

We leave the car in a side square of the Rynek, in a free parking. Seems a bit strange that there is a free parking so close to the Rynek, but then I can't see any street sign telling it's forbidden to park here and the car doesn't get fined.

The Rynek square is a hive of activity. They are building something, probably a huge screen on which to show the football matches of the European championship. Lots of people everywhere. We have lunch in a Pizza Hut restaurant.

After lunch we still spend some time on the Rynek. Very nice, although also here most of the buildings have been rebuilt after WW II and some of them look a bit artificial.

At 3:30pm we start driving to the next place, the centennial hall in Wroclaw, another UNESCO world heritage site. It's just 4km from the Rynek, but it takes us almost 15 minutes until we are there due to heavy traffic.

The Centennial hall is a yellow circular building with sort of a spiral shape. Nice building, but a bit hard to understand why it was selected as a UNESCO world heritage site, because, well, it is not that impressive. Soon after we arrive the sun disappears, making it a challenge to get a good shot. There is a park adjacent to the hall with a big pool and several fountains. Music is playing and the fountains are synchronised with the music.

At 4:50pm we start driving to Krakow and are in the hotel three hours later at 7:50pm. There is no way to stop the car in front of the hotel and I almost leave it on the tramway tracks in front of the hotel because I need to unload the luggage. Luckily somebody drives away in front of us and I can park the car on the pavement. "Luckily" because minutes later a tram passes by and would have been blocked by our car. We settle down in the hotel and shortly after 8:30pm take the car into town, close to the Stare Miasto, the main square.

The Stare Miasto is the highlight of Krakow, where the famous asymmetric church and other buildings are located. Lots of people and street artists around. Many horse carriages waiting for customers. After the heavy Pizza Hut lunch we are not in the mood to eat a lot so have a small snack in a snack restaurant. It's almost 10pm when we head back to the hotel.

We drive to the parking in Ulica Dluga 72 where parking is less expensive than elsewhere in Krakow (we pay 150 zloty for five days). On the way back to the hotel we buy some drinks and cookies in a drinks store. When Shirley asks for a plastic bag where to put the stuff we just bought, the girl at the counter makes an angry and pissed off face, then throws a thin and tiny, essentially unusable, plastic bag on the table. Shirley is horrified and I ask myself if all Poles are unfriendly like that. Or perhaps the girl in this shop does not like Asians.

29.5: Krakow
Aparthotel Pergamin, Krakow. In the morning we check the breakfast and it is not really good, so we decide not to have it.
Weather: mostly sunny blue sky with a few clouds in the morning. In the evening spotless blue sky, with a thin clouds layer. Temperatures climb to 23C.

We leave the hotel shortly after 11am and walk towards the old town. On the way we stop at a couple of places where the kids eat small things and we have a sandwich (Subway). We're at Stare Miasto square around 12pm. I climb on the clock tower (7 zloty) hoping to get some good views of Krakow. Well, the view from the top is far from impressive, because you can't walk outside and have to look through small glass windows.

I'm down by 12:30pm where I join Shirley again. We explore a bit the main square which today looks less impressive than yesterday evening. Some shopping in the souvenir shops area in the building at the centre of the mall. We then walk to the St Mary church. Entry ticket is 6 zloty + 5 zloty if you want to take pictures (flash and tripod not allowed). Shirley doesn't want to get in, so I walk in alone.

The interior of St Mary's church is simply stunning. Highly impressive decorations and artwork everywhere. A big, big WOW, even from somebody like me who has seen countless churches already. I spend 40 minutes inside, then at 1:15pm walk out again.

Outside there is a big problem with Natasha. Shirley bought a tamagochi toy for Alissia, but not for Natasha. Apparently this toy is too expensive, so we can only buy one. Big, big mistake. For the next 30-40 minutes we'll be struggling with the small one, who complains, cries and fights, to also have a tamagochi toy. In the end I hear that the thing costs only 10 zloty and I explain Shirley that she made a mistake converting the zloty into Euro.

Immediately we rush back to the stall and buy a second tamagochi toy for Natasha. Now the next problem starts. The two girls get so completely immersed into these tamagochi toys, that they start ignoring us and it gets difficult to move them around. After some discussion about what to do we head towards the shopping mall near the train station (Galeria Krakowska), where we arrive shortly after 2:30pm after stopping at a KFC restaurant for some food.

Galeria Krakowska is a bigger than I would have imagined mall, considering that it is so close to the old town and usually big malls are built out of town where space is plentiful. Very nice modern mall, spotlessly clean, with everything you might be looking for. Food court on the upper level, electronics shops on level -1. This mall is more modern and elegant than shopping malls in Munich.

We spend quite some time in this place, actually almost two hours. We could even have spent more time here, given that there are so many interesting shops. Anyway, at 4:30pm I escort Shirley back to the hotel, then I walk into town again. This time I'm back on the clock tower of Stare Miasto, for some shots in this different sunlight. Then I walk slowly towards the Wawel hill.

On the way I run into lots of churches, really impressive. Why does Krakow need so many churches in the city centre. Some of the churches have a very cool architecture.

At 5:45pm I'm finally at the entrance to Wawel hill, just in time to climb on the tower (they close at 6pm, ticket is 4 zloty). Nice views of the Wawel hill and the western part of Krakow from here. However all views are through glass windows, i.e. you can't go outside.

The Wawel hill area is nice and scenic and comprises essentially one castle and a big church. I spend about 45 minutes in and around Wawel hill; much more time is not necessary. given that the castle is closed (it opens earlier in the day).

At 6:30pm I start walking back towards Stare Miasto, then meet Shirley at 7:20pm in the hotel. Apparently the kids didn't take a nap. We go to a nearby Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant for a light dinner (food is surprisingly good, despite the humble appearance of the place). After dinner we head into town for an ice-cream (scoop is 2.50 zloty), then walk back to the hotel.

Copyright 2012 Alfred Molon