Rock has a new face, and it’s wielding an accordion. Today was the first of two days celebrating all things that are Krakow in the market square. Actually I don’t have a clue of what it is, other than there’s a really big stage in the centre of the square. Despite humble beginnings of local school performances that manage to raise a chuckle, but not much else – this evenings was everything you could possibly hope for in a clichÃƒÂ©d Polish rock band. From the baggy trousers, past the accordion-wielding mad man, all the way to the equally impressive bald goatee-sporting front man with his tin whistle. Rock on.
Yesterday, I stumbled across the scariest statue I’ve ever seen and will continue to haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. A dog looks mournful, with large human-looking eyes staring up at you while two large spidery hands appear to slowly close around it. Wanting to turn and run, but not being able to break away from “those eyes”, I had to draw nearer and see what was written on the plaque – forever fearful that upon stepping closer to the demonesque-statue, the ground would open up beneath it. I would be left falling into the depths of wherever it had come from while the dog howled its delight into the night.
Instead, the story of Dzok the Dog made me go “awwwwww” and whilst still a little sad, “that’s really nice”. The plaque reads “The most faithful canine friend ever. Epitomising a dogs boundless devotion to his master. Throughout the entire year 1990-1991 Dzok was seen waiting in vain at the Rondo Grunzwaldzkie roundabout to be fetched back by his master, who had passed away at the very site”.
All of which I found rather touching. Not least because a statue had been erected to commemorate the fact.
Just two minutes walk away lies the dragons cave where Kraak is said to have killed off the mighty beast by feeding it McDonald’s, or some such. So I couldn’t miss the opportunity to go see THAT. I can’t help but feel I might have built it up too much… There’s a machine out the front where you pay for your ticket which looks not too dissimilar to ones you’d find at a railway station, but instead leads you to see the scariest of scary caves. Once paying, the dot matrix printer spends a good half hour printing out a ticket with a picture of a dragon on it, just to get you really excited. Two steps to your right, and you hand the ticket over to the man behind the desk and are directed to the spiral staircase. About halfway down the staircase, meet a large group of seven thousand schoolchildren and walk very slowly behind them as the echo of every single one of them floats up the staircase and through you, threatening to tear your organs into tiny tiny shreds. The cave is all very well, but it’s really just a cave. There are no dragon bones, smells of things burning, rotting or dying, not even any “uhoh, look what we missed” dragon eggs carelessly hidden off to one side. In fact if I hadn’t read the legend already, I’d be very much left with a feeling of “oh”, by now.
But, once you’ve squeezed past all of the schoolchildren because their teacher’s telling some story in a language you don’t understand, and frankly – they’re taking their time… In the open air outside the cave is quite a large metallic dragon sculpture art form thingy. It’s a little bit modern art, but it’s still pretty cool – at least it’s a dragon, which is more than the caves had. I also learnt this evening that every now and then it breathes fire from the top in short bursts. Which is extremely entertaining to watch while the kids are climbing around on it, so they can get the perfect picture taken.
So what else have I been up to? Well, I beat up an old lady – which was fun. I’ve talked about people on the streets begging for money before, in Prague. There, they had a massive sense of servitude about them. Laying as flat on the ground as they can possibly be, arms stretched out in total silence with their face pointed directly at the ground, begging in total silence for money. In London, the story is quite different – one man, a dog, a blanket and looking very unshaven “spare some chaaaaenge?” … “Well F*** off then!”
Then there’s other more inventive kind. Again, Prague … “Excuse me, some banditos have stolen my wallet”. Banditos. How I laughed at the time. Or London…. “Hi, so, uhhh, I had this car, right. But it blew up. And now I need to raise enough money to buy a train ticket to Waterloo, so I can start a new business selling cups of coffee on a farm, to afford a new car and go and save my sister who has cancer. Did I not tell you about my sister? Well anyway, can you spare us 20p mate?”.
Now in Poland. They’ve only tried it once, but they won’t try again – I can assure you. Walking back towards my hotel, an old woman dressed entirely in black came running at me, “Please”, she sobbed, with her arm outstretched and cup full of money in her hand. “Please”, with tears streaming down her face. Damn, she was good. I don’t know what she needed the money for, but I suspect for some more onions to chop. I’m all heart, me. “No, I’m sorry”, I replied as I carried on walking. Well, she wasn’t having any of that. As she held out the cup even further, and her arm extended to twice its original size, I still carried on walking, right into said cup. The cup went flying, of course – scattering money all across the street. Convinced that if I helped her collect her change, she’d throw off her old woman disguise and steal all my things, I carried on walking while she foraged on the ground for what little money she’d collected. Street smarts. That’s me.
Determined not to feel bad about scattering the old woman’s livelihood across the busiest area of Krakow, I decided to hang around. What the hell, I’m a tourist – and frankly, I didn’t have anything better to do. So, I did. And sure enough, it didn’t take her long to have the cup outstretched to some other poor sod who again, sent the thing flying. Hag. I resisted the urge to go and kick her in the kidneys while she was collecting the change again, but instead wandered off chuckling to myself.
I’ll finish off with one last thing before I post. I’ve now left the Hotel City SM (I never did discover what SM stands for, but I’m pleased to report it’s not Sado-Massichist). Whenever I holiday, I generally stay in hotels, which whilst giving me all the creature comforts I could possibly desire – as a lone traveller it can prove rather expensive. So, it’s long overdue to have tried out this hostel malarkey and with the help of hostels.com I managed to book one for my last 3 days in Krakow. Not really knowing what to look for, I’ve gone for one with high ratings on the site, good security and a name that could also be used for a South Yorkshire pub. It’s a similar kind of approach I take to betting on dogs / horses and it’s never done me wrong before. So tonight is the first night at the Elephant on the Moon hostel. At £10 a night, I shouldn’t have bothered with the expensive hotel at all. I’ll write more about that tomorrow, once / if I’ve survived the night. Don’t want to count my chickens, and all that. But so far, it’s looking good 🙂