Yesterday I found myself visiting the Salt Mine at Wieliczka, approximately 15 km southeast of Krakow. I say “found myself visiting” because it wasn’t entirely planned. I was planning on going to see the dragon, as I said before – but after I spoke to the front desk at the hotel, my plans changed slightly.
“When do you want to leave?”
“Wednesday would be great.”
“Wednesday would be better.”
“They won’t be going tomorrow.” Said front-desk dude.
“How about Thursday?”
The receptionist spoke a little more to what I was convinced at this point was the talking clock, before putting the phone down.
“She says they won’t leave tomorrow, and after that, she doesn’t know. It’s too early to tell.” That’s Poland for you.
And so I found myself all booked up for 2pm just like the God’s, fate, the travel organisers and the receptionist had wanted me to. But more about that in the next post 😉 Meanwhile, this extra time gave me a great opportunity to spend the morning figuring out where the hell my hotel is in relation to everything else.
On my first trip into the great unknown of Krakow I’d forgotten to take both my trackstick and guide book with me. The trackstick probably wouldn’t have been a whole lot of use. As I’m sure you remember from my blog posts from Croatia (you do remember, right?) the trackstick has no visual display other than a blinking LED that can be either red (no signal) or green (good signal). This is generally only helpful if you’re trying to figured out whether you’re indoors or outside and even then it might not be the easiest way to reach a conclusion. The guide book on the other hand, that one. has maps.
So on my first trip into Krakow on Monday, I learnt that the centre is a really long way away. I now know it’s about 5km. But there are also other things around my hotel like a hypermarket, a cinema, roadside out-of-town shopping centre, a campsite, a whole lot of residential housing, and an incredibly large amount of green. Just down the road a couple of minutes is a huge sky-piercing “if communism were a religion”-looking church. Sanktuarium Bozego Milosierdzia (Sanctuary of God’s Mercy) is actually much newer than that, completed in 2000 but it still reminds me more of a stadium from the communist era, or as Rough Guides say “a beached ocean liner”. Beautiful.
Towards the campsite area is a large woodland area with scattered paths seemingly leading nowhere, but lined with benches dotted about regular intervals. These benches are constantly filled with groups of Poles meeting and walking dogs. I’ll say this for Krakow, the canine culture is one filled with dogs that I want to steal. There are very few “cutesy” dogs in this area. You won’t see Paris Hilton fleeing the law to Poland and walking down the road with a chihuhua under her arm. That’s because the real dogs, the gorgeous looking Alaskan Huskies will kill both her rat as well as her. We hope.
That’s where I am, anyway – in case you were wondering. I sure as hell was. I’m a little dissapointed to learn that I did take the most direct route into the center on my first day, and it is indeed 5km. But on the other hand, knowing where I am is very helpful in learning that the number eight (of a possible 75 that I’ve seen so far) will take me unimaginable distances at the speed of a tram. It’s also nice to be a little way out of the centre when you’re visiting a place. You’ll always make an effort to go and see the centre – but if you’re already there, that’s kind of it. I certainly wouldn’t have read the guide book and thought “oh really. Looks like a beached ocean liner, you say? Well I can’t miss that.” Having seen it, I’ve become a much better person, I think