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Aleksandra and me at the top of Sania Skala 

 

Poland is a lot more beautiful than you would think! And in some areas a hell of a lot more ugly, too. On the one hand there is Krakow: this city sits on the banks of the Wisla river, with over 1,000 years of history collected in its churches, castles, parks, and squares. Krakow is inspiring and very beautiful. KarkowZakopane_07
   
KarkowZakopane_02 On the other hand there is Warsaw. It was destroyed during WW II by a little angry German man with a small moustache, and in the following years it was rebuilt by a Russian man with a much larger moustache, in the prevailing style of that era: concrete, in various shades of gray. Warsaw is really ugly. Seriously.
   
Luckily Aleksandra and me spent most of our time in Krakow, and a few days in Zakopane: a village at the foot of the Tatra mountains, with great views of the snow-capped mountaintops in High Tatra. We went for walks in the valleys and climbed a few mountaintops, ate highland food (very salty and fat), drank hot beer, and took lots of pictures. KarkowZakopane_19

Yes, that’s right. Hot beer. I had no idea this custom existed in the universe, but apparently the Polish have been heating up their beers all along! There’s special herb-mixes you can buy in the shops to add to your beer as you cook it, and they make the beer taste darker and more like autumn or winter. I tried a few beers like this, but it isn’t my cup of tea. I did bring some of those herb-mixtures with me, but I’ll save it for special occasions. I like my beer cold.

KarkowZakopane_04 On my first day in Krakow, Aleksandra had to work but she prepared an entire program for me! First she arranged for me to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines in the morning, then in the afternoon she planned a walk in Krakow with little assignments and questions in 10 envelopes.
   
I saw the Main Square with the Market Hall and the famous St. Mary’s Church, the Barbican Theatre, the Wawel Castle on the banks of the Wisla river, and some places where the late Pope John Paul II stayed (the Polish are very proud of him and commemorate him in many different places around the city). She also guided me to some of her favourite places in the city. KarkowZakopane_08
   

Other fun things that we did were:

  • taking a trip to Zakopane by bus;
  • walking through the Koscieliska, Strazyska and Bialego valleys;
  • visiting the Jaskinia Mrozna cave (even though Aleksandra suffers from claustrophobia!);
  • climbing Sania Skala (+1372m);
  • riding the very steep train to Gubalowka;
  • walking the banks of the Wisla river at night;
  • walking through the Jewish Quarter of Krakow;
  • taking some night-pictures in Zakopane.

Aleksandra is coming to Holland in October, for 5 days, to stay with me. I think I will go back to Krakow in the near future to see her, and there are many places I still want to visit (Auschwitz, for example). The story will continue.

Here are some of the pictures I took. There are none of Aleksandra (except the one above) as she prefers not to be on display on the Internet.

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Me at one end of the Koscieliska valley

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Interior of a cafe in the Jewish Quarter in Krakow

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Wisla river by night

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Part of fence in the Jewish Quarter in Krakow

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Courtyard of the Wawel Castle 

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The sink full of bubbles from the Jacuzzi, in our hotel room, Zakopane. 

Album “Krakow en Zakopane
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