Saturday, June 23, 2007

Krakow




We took the train to Krakow on Thursday. Krakow is beautiful, there was not as much bombing there during WWII as the other cities. Although Agata told me that Warsaw was rebuilt by looking at old documents and photographs, quite an amazing feat.


We walked to the old Jewish quarter and back to the ventrqal marketplace, where most of the action is. It's very lively, surrounded by bars and restaurants with chairs outdoors, and you get offers to tour the city by horse and carriage, bicycle, tram, go-cart, or Segue. Young people thrust flyers in your hand every five meters. Agata bought us a delicious mountain cheese being hawked on the street that has a smoky, salty taste and crumbly texture and comes in a small mottled brown lump with intricate designs in the outside.


We saw the dragon outside the Wawel, I think the castle/palace during thle long period that Krakow was the capital of Poland. Legend is that a terrible dragon lived in the palace that demanded 12 youg girls (i.e. , virgins) each year from the villagers. A heroic shoemaker developed a plan to poison the dragon by somehow wrapping a sheep carcass around poisoned meat. The dragon ate it and his mouth burned so much as a result of the poison that before he died he drank most of teh surrounding waterways, so only one river remains.


The city is an odd mixture of old and new. A modern statue of the dragon sits at the base of the palace hill; a small bronze plaque tells you that if you send a text message to a certain address, the dragon will breathe fire for you (for PLN1). We decide it is worth the price and text the dragon. The dragon replies in a text, and we wait. We wait, and wait, and wait - and give up. Later, when we are up at the top of the palace grounds, we look down and see a tour group of cyclists looking expectantly at the dragon. We expect they, too, have been robbed of PLN1.


While Agata went to visit her great aunt, I went to the local Museum of Archaeology to learn something about prehistoric Poland - they have an exhibit about Poland from prehistory through 1200. It's quite interesting, expecially as I seem to know and think about Poland only from World War II onwards. Salt, amber, and flint were the main exports from Krakow through the 13th century. Now, Agata says, I have to fill the gap between 1200 and 1940.


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