Krakow and repairs

Our van is mended!!! Things all work as they should again, for a while at least. First stop was Elcamp – motorhome dealer just a few km away who stocked all the parts we needed – sadly just not in UK sizes :(.  Not to be thwarted by minor details the guy there gave Iain a steady supply of bits to try.  We parked in their forecourt and Iain spent an hour modifying parts – hey presto water now runs in the manner and the places it should.

We couldn’t get a new ignition for the oven – a lighter works anyway, but hotplates do ignite again. Loo door fixed – things that should be private can now be kept so. Lastly, the LED strip has a band-aid over the flashing bits – no more cab disco. Yes we know the power of sods law is something will fall off next week. But why carry a big box of tools if you aren’t going to use them? Iain is still glowing with his status as motorhome Super Hero and is available on all campsites for repairs (though not wearing his pants outside his trousers)!!

Krakow – holy moly we didn’t expect even half of that. We walked down to the tram (we love trams) cost £3 to ride all day. There isn’t just one type of tram there are loads – old fashioned, new, retro – its tram heaven. Our plan was to jump trams for the day, nothing organised like knowing where to go and get on and off – hence at the end of the day we found ourselves leaving the city in the wrong direction – just a good excuse for another tram ride.

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Our first Krakow tram

Once off the tram in the city we were approached by a milk float – trips around the city, old town, Jewish quarter, anything from 30 minutes to all day on a little electric buggy (they were swarming everywhere). We did the old town, just us for £7 each, the tour took in 40 historic buildings or monuments. Not sure I could, even if I wanted to, tell you all we saw. Our eyes were out on stalks and heads spinning trying to take everything in. Everywhere there were palaces, churches, mansions and theatres with incredible historic architecture. Loved the Archbishops palace with a permanent gigantic portrait of Pope John Paul II gazing down from a window to celebrate his time as Archbishop of Krakow, he is without doubt a much celebrated son of Krakow (even though he was born up the road at Wadowice!).

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Krakow old town

The medieval square, the largest in Europe, is without doubt dazzling. In every direction there were buildings that took our breathe away. Add to the whole mix a good touch of Polish early summer and just enough people  for atmosphere but not chaos and it was perfect for us. We loved St. Mary’s Basilica, where on the hour, every hour, a bugler plays a trumpet signal. The tune stops mid-stream, to commemorate a 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat sounding an alarm before a Mongol attack – over 800 years and still remembered every hour – that is some recognition of the original guy.

krakow (72)St Mary’s Basilica 

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An alternative to the electric milk floats

From the square there were horse and carriage rides around the city, street entertainers varied from lads doing street dancing, jugglers, clowns to the opposite end being a couple singing traditional Polish songs with an accordion who you could have your photo taken with for less than 50p (I so had mine done).  We loved the square, we had lunch there sitting in a pavement cafe watching Poland pass by, has to be one of our trip highlights.

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What a job!! loved them and was sure they wanted me to join 🙂

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We planned to walk down to the Jewish Quarter and find Oscar Schindler’s factory. What should have been a 15-20 minutes walk – took well over an hour. Krakow is good at many things, street signs are a bit rubbish though. A couple of lads came and asked us if we knew where to find the factory, as we were all at a blank they asked a taxi driver who waved in the general direction of over the river. We walked more, we turned left, right, back you name we couldn’t find it, we asked locals who stared blankly and had no idea what we were on about.

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Vistula river (wooden Polish flowers)

Whilst we were slightly lost we did however happen upon the fragment of the ghetto wall that is still in place in the Jewish Quarter. A small plague was placed there which reads

“Here they lived, suffered and died at the hands of the German torturers. From here they began their final journey to the death camps.”

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In the end I went into a printers where the owner kindly showed me on a computer then printed off a map. The factory has been restored as part of a city museum for arts and a history of Jewish life in Krakow, there is an inscription plague to Schindler and also many photos of many of the survivors who he helped to save. I was disappointed it didn’t have the factory sign. Another must visit but by then we had been on the go for seven hours and were shattered so we took a few photos and didn’t do the inside tour.

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Oscar Schindler’s Factory

Back at Kemping Smok (favourite campsite name to date) we have experienced a phenomena not witnessed for the last 4 months – other campers – motorhomes are turning up every day. We have a German couple one side and a Dutch couple the other and we have traded life histories between the six of us in 3 days. A young English couple also on site who have toured Europe for just under 2 years sleeping in the back on their jeep – more power to them.

For the last two days we have attempted to see as much as Krakow as we can from the cycle paths. Cycling and inline skating are both very popular around Krakow – there is a definite dress code probably more expected in the French Rivera than here – there are cycle paths everywhere. Yesterday we rode 20-ish miles along the superb River Vistula path out of town to Tyniec, a small village with a ginormous benedictine abbey and a river-side beach just right for a Pepsi stop. Coming back on the other side of the river was Kolna White Water Rafting Centre, only £2 a trial lesson – no way, we both wimped out and made do with spectating.

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Kolna – white water rafting

Today we rode into the city, paths along the river right through the centre and out to the shopping centres (needed a new camera as ours have both gone into meltdown). So many people, too many people, it was a gorgeous day sun blazing but way too busy for us.  The river has views of many of the buildings in the old city but that bit of distance that allows better perspective. We managed 20 miles around and about before collapsing in a heap back at the campsite this afternoon. Four days in Krakow and fairly sure we could have done another four days and not seen and experienced everything the city has to offer. We are confirmed non city folk but this place grabbed us both totally.

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Wawel Royal Castle