MISJA 21: Podróż dookoła Polski w 21 dni Euro

Nasi wysłannicy z Londynu i Łodzi - Petter Larsson z City University i Maciej Stańczyk z Gazety Wyborczej - przemierzają kraj w poszukiwaniu największego sukcesu i porażki Mistrzostw Europy w Piłce Nożnej UEFA - Euro 2012.

Kraków - Mark Silberstein

  • piątek, 24 czerwca 2011
    • Cycle Crazy Krakow

      Today I went with my shadow to look at the sites that Krakow has to offer. I got my bicycle from Rent a Bike just off the main square, with good prices and a friendly atmosphere. 

      Since being in Krakow I have noticed that no one really rides on the road here and ride on the pavements unlike in London where it is illegal. The bike lanes that run along the pavement in Krakow are allocated for a short while with the white bicycle symbol and then they are no longer there, so it is sometimes not easy to know where the bike lane continues.

      Cycling is a good way to get around the city and there are quite a few cyclists in Krakow, but by God are they crazy. London has a kind of cycling code. Here it is really funny and a little surprising that people on bicycles ride a hairs breath away from each other at fast speeds attempting to get through small gaps but never hit each other. All these confident Evel Knievel stunts abilities are attempted without helmets, now that takes skill.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 20:53
    • Seeing and Avoiding

      A  list was compiled and I had to review what was worth seeing and what was worth avoiding. Well they really went all out with the extremes. Here is my viewpoint based my experiences on these places and things in Krakow.

       Worth Seeing:

      1 .Wieliczka Salt Mine:  It is a very popular place mentioned by friends as a must see. It was mined for salt in the 13th Century but now it is a museum with exquisite statues carved out of salt by the miners. The journey is easy on the 304 bus but there is absolutely no signage, although a small list of directions is handed out at the information centres. The staff are friendly and informative and everything is organised. Funniest story, although the miners were extremely Catholic they believed that dwarves lived underground and carried on working when they went home. It was a pleasure to be there and a fascinating experience.

       2. St Mary’s Church; this Polish gothic style building dates as far back as 13th century. Originally I was supposed to go up to the tower to see the view of Market Square from it but unbeknownst to me it was closed. I did not see any signage stating this fact and I did not see any information stating that you have to buy two tickets one for the cathedral and one to go up to the tower. Still the inside of the cathedral is so exquisite, so peaceful and full of calm that you forget any problems that you might have had prior to going inside. Krakow is so breathtaking from any level.

       3.The Rynek Underground (Podziemia Rynku) I had to wait outside for about twenty minutes before  a group of us were let in. I believe this is because they only take a certain amount of people at a time due to limited space inside. Booking a ticket online allows you to go ahead of the queue to make sure that you get in on a busy day. The only problem with the website was that when you clicked on the payment page it was no longer in English but in Polish which kind of defeats the object for people who want to pay but only speak English. The museum portrays the historical life in Krakow from as far back as10th century when salt was the currency. The exhibition is a remarkable mix of animatronics and visual technology, side by side with the original archaeological remnants of the city.

       4. A cycle by the riverside from Wawel Castle to the Bernatek Footbridge: The bike ride was along the Wisla river towards the Bernatek Footbridge adorned with its love locks, locks that have been attached to the railings with names of lovers on them. The bridge is a newly designed and has a bicycle and footpath and the view of the river is beautiful. Then another famous attraction that friends mentioned to me so see: the cathedral and castle on Wawel Hill that was built in 14th century and is  perfectly preserved, probably due to being a part of UNESCO. I admired the breathtaking view of the city from the ramparts

       5. Plac Nowy by night: The second night that I arrived I went to meet my shadow, babysitter/ taskmaster from Gazeta, in a bar called Alchemia in the Kazimierz area. She was there with one of her colleagues from the paper. They were sitting outside on a small table with an outdoor café feel. I hadn’t eaten yet so I dropped my bag off and crossed the street to the square where Zapiekanki is sold, traditional food in Poland, but in Krakow it is renowned. It is basically half a baguette with different toppings from meat to vegetarian. I chose the latter with Mexican dressing, messy, greasy but tasty and filling, definitely a take-away type of food. When I finally finished the massive meal my stomach was perfectly lined for a good night of drinking. Since those early experiences I have been to Plac Nowy quite frequently during my stay, it is always busy with young people, good places to eat and bars to hang out in and my favourite place to socalise in Krakow.

       Worth Avoiding:

       1. Train Station and the area around it: I passed through this area quickly when I arrived and was only too glad that I had someone to guide me through the maze of the area. It is not easy to navigate through the labyrinth and when you leave the train station you end up in a big mall. This obviously has no comparison to the beauty of the historical buildings and places that people come to Krakow to see.

       2. Horse Driven cabs and Melex cars on the Market Square: Every city in the world has its tacky tourist transportation. In London it is the tour buses and cycle rickshaws and in Krakow it is the horse driven cabs and Melex cars. Horse drawn carriages and Melex have so many typical tourists in them, the ones who go to other countries and never go beyond what the guidebook says.

       3. Going to Ruczaj by bus: It is hard to get there due to the tram construction being built. It has a massive university campus and people whom live there generally come to Krakow, there is no real reason to go there…

       4. Saturday/Friday night fever on Szewska Street: Uuuuuuugh…. once again every city has its commercial, trendy place where tourists and locals just interested in getting wasted and stumbling in the street go to have a good time. Reminds me of particular pubs in London that I avoid like the plague…enough said!

       5. Monuments by Czeslaw Dzwigaj: To be honest I did not think that the statues were that bad. Certainly not worth listing anywhere to go see but as unimpressive as a lot of statues of religious figures and politicians generally are. London is full of such statues, perhaps I have become desensitised to them, as I neither like nor dislike them I just don’t notice them.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 20:50
    • A Cat Breeding Dentist from Crakow

      Dental tourism, and a bad tooth neglected for too long was why I went to get it sorted here in Crakow.

      I had heard that dentists were cheaper in Poland than in London, half price, and I had been putting off getting it fixed due to this. I got used to eating on the one side of my mouth and before I left London I took painkillers to numb the pain. Sounds mad but poor students can’t afford to spend the extortionist rate of £100 for one tooth.

      I went and asked the lady at the hostel reception, where I am staying, if she knew of any dentists in the area. She told me that she didn’t and after an Internet search found one on the same street. She said that she hoped that he would be good and that you can sometimes take quite a chance as there are a few dodgy dentists around. I decided that she should just do it, so she called him up for me and booked an appointment this was at about 5 pm and the appointment was for 6:45. Only in Crakow could you book an appointment at that time…amazing.

      I killed my time before trying not to think about the worst-case scenario. What if it was an extracted tooth, a hole in my mouth that would make me look like white trash and I would not have enough money to get a false tooth, not to mention the pain.

      The time came and I walked down the street and found it easily pushed the buzzer and walked upstairs knocked on the door and hoped for the best. A friendly nurse opened the door and I saw that the place was professional inside like any other dentist’s office except that this one was inside a residential block of flats.

      I met the dentist who apologised for his broken English. After the x-ray he explained that I had to have a root canal…at least it wasn’t a tooth extraction, I was relieved but fearful. He injected me with a massively strong anaesthetic and got to work. He told me that he bred cats and that he had learnt English because he sold cats to Czechs and Slovaks and the easiest way was to use English in the e-mails. Although he said that when he read their e-mails he laughed at how bad some of them were including his. I laughed too but it was pretty hard with a suction pump in my mouth.

      He continued talking to me although I couldn’t reply I signalled to him for a pen and paper and I wrote that I am a student journalist working for Gazeta and that I wanted to write about this experience. He told me that he read some newspapers of course but had not owned a television in 30 years. I gave him thumbs up and wrote that Internet was better.

      He told me that he is the dentist that works the latest hours and then told me a joke about a firefly, fire butterfly as he called it. It flew in through the window and sat on the dentist bed that I was lying on and when he asked it why it had come there the firefly replied that it was because his light was always on the latest at night. In hindsight it doesn’t seem that funny now and perhaps it was the anaesthetic or the relief that I felt no pain whatsoever but I was in stitches laughing out loud with a suction pump in my mouth.

      I paid half price, of what I would have paid in London, and he told me to e-mail him if I had any problems. So far so good and one of the funniest, surreal experiences I have ever had at a dentist, if you are getting root canals come to Crakow.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 20:16
    • The Krakowian Character

      I have been interacting with the city’s citizens on so many levels everyday and I have started to get to know their character pretty well.

      The first time that I met a Krakowian I had a three-hour debate with him on a train from Warsaw speaking about history politics, and questioning the past and the present. Afterward he made sure that I had a ticket and got on the right tram. This was a great introduction to the spirit of this lovely city where people are happy to talk and happy to help.

      Examples are the only way to truly understand the Krakowian character: The ladies on a tram that asked around who could help me with directions in English. The lady in a shop who couldn’t help me to find the right product so she went to find her colleague to talk to me in English. Piotr who recognised me from the Misja 21 blog and showed up at my hostel and gave me a guided tour of the Jewish quarter. The people at the information places that go beyond their call of duty and are genuine and really want to help you. Adam at the bicycle shop who spoke to me for ages about the best way to see the city. The people at my hostel who do all that they can to make me feel so welcome and at home here. The brilliant and funny dentist that I went for a root canal today, where besides being in pain I was in stitches as he made me laugh so much with his jokes. Afterwards giving me his e-mail insisting that I write to him if there were any problems with the tooth. Malgorzata from Krakow in your Pocket, who tracked down my location to leave one of the guides for the city.

       Lastly the Gazeta team who are so supportive and helpful that I feel as if I am a permanent part of the paper not just a journalism student from London who is staying here for a week. My wonderful shadow Barbara who is always there to talk to give advice and most importantly kick my ass.

      Some comments on some pieces that were written about me that were negative were the only time I felt that I didn’t feel like I belonged here. But in the end those words pale in comparison to the warmth, craziness and friendliness of the Krakowian character.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 07:52
  • czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011
    • Traipsing Along the Tourist Trail

      It cannot be helped ­– when you see beautiful and historic sights in any city in the world you have to endure the eternal tourist. 

      We all know the type. Standing in the middle of anywhere, oblivious to anyone while trying to take a photo and get that “perfect shot” everyone else has taken already. The one where it looks like you are leaning against Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, The Leaning Tower of Pisa. The uniforms of cargo trousers and pulled up socks with trainers. Originally, I thought this male attire was exclusively for the American tourist – but it seems to be catching on.

      Well that was my day yesterday. Still it was a beautifully hot one, where I was surrounded by ancient castles and cathedrals of a rich Polish cultural heritage. I rented a bicycle at a really good price and friendly service at Rent-A-Bike just off Market Square. Cycling with my shadow around the city. The first stop was the Rynek underground cellars museum in Market Square, where, after waiting outside for about twenty minutes, a group of us were let in. I believe this is because they only take a certain amount of people at a time due to limited space inside.

      Booking a ticket online allows you to go ahead of the queue to make sure that you get in on a busy day. The only problem with the website was that when you clicked on the payment page – it was no longer in English but in Polish, which kind of defeats the object for people who want to pay but only speak English. The museum portrays the historical life in Krakow from as far back as the 10th century. I met a very nice couple from Australia while waiting in line, the lady born in Poland and of Jewish descent, and walked with them as they added their knowledge to the already bursting descriptions, in English and Polish, of life in Krakow when salt was the currency. The exhibition is a remarkable mix of animatronics and visual technology, side by side with the original archaeological remnants of the city.

      Next stop was St. Mary’s Church. This Polish Gothic style building dates back to the early 13th century. We originally wanted to climb up to the tower to see the view of Market Square from above, but unbeknownst to us it was closed. I did not see any signage stating this fact, or any information stating that you have to buy two tickets: one for the cathedral and one to go up to the tower. Still, the inside of the cathedral is so exquisite, so peaceful and full of calm that you forget any problems you might have had prior to going inside. Krakow is breathtaking from any level.

      On the way to the castle, I stopped at a small information centre to find out about the salt mines. I was already exhausted, and felt even worse after an excruciating ten minute wait in a queue behind a large American tourist, complete in uniform, standing next to his small wife with bleach blonde hair as they spoke about the sights they wanted to see. There is something so tacky and fake about this typical American tourist saying: “Yeaaaaaaah, WE WANT TO GO ON A TOUR TO AUSCHWITZ…”, as if it was some theme park like Disneyland or a food joint like McDonald’s. Saying these words exceptionally loud and looking around making sure anyone in immediate vicinity would realise that he was definitely American and that he was definitely here for culture… indeed!!

      Next was an enjoyable bike ride along the scenic Wisla River, where the Gazeta photographer took some photos of me on a bicycle. The Bernatek Footbridge was adorned with love locks, padlocks left locked to the railings with names of lovers on them. Then we went to look at the cathedral and castle on Wawel Hill that was built in 14th century and admired the breathtaking view of the city. We stopped for a pizza before going to interview Magdalena Sroka, the vice-president for culture in Krakow.

      Sroka has a very bubbly personality and it was very easy to talk to her.  I found the interview very informative and she answered every question that I put to her. My first questions were on the cultural portrayal of Krakowians from the controversial side, referring to the comments that were received on the pieces about me. Sroka gave me an explanation about how the Polish football clubs Crakowia and Wisla have a rivalry that sounds offensive but is done in good spirit. She said: “After so many years you just see the surrealistic point of view and you just have to laugh.” Something I will research more and get both sides on this cultural phenomenon – material for a future post. At the end of that line of questioning, Sroka told me, laughing, that these questions were: “A mix of anthropology and psychology.”

      About Krakow’s information services and whether she felt that they were good enough for next year, Sroka said: “I am very proud of information networks”, mentioning how many information points there are, where they are across the city and explaining the informative Krakow travel website. On there not being enough English signage for tourists, she said: “This is still a big problem. We have had a programme for a few years in this city to change all the information that is in Polish into pictograms.”

      I mentioned my bus ride to Nowa Huta to her, and how I asked a passenger to tell me when the bus stop came up because there was no information on the digital screen to let me know. She told me that the information should be there and that it also comes up on a speaker to let you know when you have reached your destination, much like in London transport. Unfortunately for the English-speaking tourist it is only in Polish. She finished off the interview by saying: “This is really informative for me, I will look into how information is presented in English in the trams and buses… these facts nobody has thought about.”

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 14:40
  • środa, 22 czerwca 2011
    • Eating, Drinking and Dreaming of Words

      The task was to get stuffed, be entertained have fun, enjoy the city and then write about it, not really a “task”.

       The second night that I arrived I went to meet my shadow, babysitter/ taskmaster from Gazeta, in a bar called Alchemia in the Kazimierz area. She was there with one of her colleagues from the paper. They were sitting outside on a small table with an outdoor café feel. I hadn’t eaten yet so I dropped my bag off and crossed the street to the square where Zapiekanki is sold, traditional food in Poland, but in Krakow it is renowned. It is basically half a baguette with different toppings from meat to vegetarian. I chose the latter with Mexican dressing, messy, greasy but tasty and filling, definitely a take away type of food. When I finally finished the massive meal my stomach was perfectly lined for a good night of drinking.

       Alchemia is quite a big bar with wooden tables and great environment to talk and debate, as the music is not so loud that you can’t hear yourself think, always a bonus. It was this perfect environment that launched three journos in a discussion of politics, journalism, the world and its ills. Much later and drunker we landed up in the smoking section of the bar talking about relationships. Afterwards staggering home for a few hours sleep before getting ready to tackle more words the following day.

      The second time that I ate traditional Polish food was in the town of Nowa Huta, the outskirts of Krakow, yesterday at a restaurant called Stylowa. The décor of the restaurant is very cheesy like the rest of the town it is in a time warp circa 70’s 80’s but that is what makes the charm that lost in time feel. Oh yeah and the Lenin statues that adorn the place. The camera crew watched my every move as I devoured my dumplings, like ravioli with a meat filling, washed down with good Polish beer. Tasty and filling and perfect for the hungry journalist being filmed as they are not messy and being bite sized you can look civilized while being a pig and wolfing them down.

      Today I went with my shadow to get a drink at a place called Piljania Wodki i Piwa in the old town. This café has amazing décor black and white photographs and old newspapers from the Communist era lining the walls. It is bright and spacious with a bar that serves small plates of food to eat, while drinking Polish vodka or beer. I had the herring with a roll, as my shadow and I spoke about the phenomenon that all tables in bars no matter where in the world seem to be rickety or require a folded up napkin under one leg. This table probably required several under all the legs.

      The final place that we ended up in was Klezmur Hois restaurant in the Jewish quarter; this restaurant is housed in a beautiful red painted building. The familiar strong smell of Jewish cooking hits you long before you enter the building. Inside the old building the walls are covered in black and white photos of Jewish life, from theatre productions to families. We sat out in the garden on round tables in the perfect sunshine, I ordered a beer and Tschorba a spicy soup that has meatballs in it. The taste reminded me of going to dinner at families houses during Jewish holidays when I was younger the simple, strong and familiar taste of nostalgia. My shadow and I spoke about the fact that when we look out into space and are quite no matter what we are doing we think about how we would write about the situation that we are in.

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 09:10
  • wtorek, 21 czerwca 2011
    • Lenin Lives in a Restaurant on the Outskirts of Krakow

      The mission yesterday was to get to a part of the city with only wits, words and determination as an English speaking person in Krakow.

      I was with my shadow and the photographer from Gazeta who were as tight-lipped as always and smiling at my choices. I don’t even try to ask for their help when mistakenly I have, the words “I don’t know, you must find out” have been engrained in my mind. But I will break them… No, just kidding.

      I was being documented at every step of the way. My first port of call was the information office, which I had found easily the other day, the one close to Gazeta HQ in the Old Town. When we arrived, the lady at the information counter was speaking in fluent German to some tourists but switched to English in the bat of an eye, when I turned up.

      She explained the best way to get to Nowa Huta by transport, the price of the fares and how to book tickets. in fact, anything that a wayfaring tourist could possibly want to know. It dawned on me then that unlike the very confusing train terminals where staff don't speak English - time, money and effort have been poured into making the information offices first class. Filled with approachable, friendly and patient staff passionate about information.

      Next stop: the tram terminal, where, after easily purchasing a ticket and waiting for ages, the tram eventually arrived, only to to be stalled in traffic. Passengers got off it a few minutes later and transferred to a bus which ws going to the same location. On the bus, I was surprised to see that there was no sign to tell you when your stop was coming up. So how would you know when to get off? This would not just be difficult for tourists, but for anybody else from another part of the country who doesn’t know the city. I did what I always do in these uncertain situations: I asked someone. The young man replied in limited English that he would let me know when the stop came up.

      After arriving in Nowa Huta, we met up with a film crew from Kracowska Telewizja Internetowa. They were so nice, friendly and funny that I had no problem being followed with a boom and TV camera in my face as I paced the streets, trying to find another information centre, if there was one?

      The reader might be interested in a bit of history of fascinating Nowa Huta, which means "New Steelwork". Built in 1949 as a model Socialist town and to accommodate workers from the nearby steel works, the town was designed in the style of Social Realist architecture, which is obviously still prevalent today. A big statue of Lenin used to reside in the town - but was destroyed when the Iron Curtain collapsed.

      After talking to some of the town’s inhabitants, I discovered that there was no information centre. I was interviewed by Krakowska, speaking about my experiences so far and my views on Poland, which, I said, were still being formed, based on whether what is said about the massive xenophobia in the country is a reality. A study which became even more interesting yesterday, when I read some extreme comments posted as a response to the pieces on me published in Gazeta - a debate that is still raging on the Misja21 Facebook page today, after I published the comments.

      Afterwards, we all went for lunch, followed by the camera crew. The restaurant was adorned with statues of Lenin, and as the owner happily posed by the statues for a photo opportunity, she told me in broken English: “I love Lenin!” After beer and pierogi, filmed the whole time, we headed back into town by bus as the camera crew riding next to us filmed me while I waved.

      Back in town, I went to the biggest information centre next to Krakow Cathedral on Wawel Hill. I spoke to a charming young lady about the Krakow that is off the beaten track, what is not in the guidebooks. She happily went off in detail, telling me about the best places to eat, listen to music, galleries, nightclubs and markets that only a real Krakowian would know. Once again, I was blown away by the helpfulness. Outside the camera crew wrapped up their final footage as the day came to an end.

       

       

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      wtorek, 21 czerwca 2011 12:02

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