Poland

5/9/01 - 9/9/01

I think Poland is a very nice country. In terms of the number of people and building density it reminded me of Melbourne, although the architecture of the buildings is obviously different. Polish people are fairly religous and churches are everywhere. And the churches are typically large and ornate - having often been built many hundreds of years before.

Poland, being one of the eastern european communist countries, was a 'poor' country. The buildings are mostly old, the cars are old and the accomodation is basic. On the plus side, prices are generally fairly cheap (although Warsaw is expensive - £200 for a room per night). But if you have a Polish speaking guide, they know what to do and say so you dont pay too much. For example, if you catch a taxi directly from the airport you will pay roughly 6-10 times the amount of money than if you ring a taxi. Some Polish people like to prey off the rich tourist, and im sure that we were overcharged a few times because I spoke a few words of english. As a rough guide, prices for things we bought were around 20% cheaper than the equivalent Australian price (except motorbikes - see below). But keep in mind that we were in all the tourist locations.

The figure of currency in Poland is the zloty. When I had to pay for things that were a small amount (less than 10 zloty) I would grab a handful of change and let the person pick the coins from my hand (it's easier than fumbling around). I was told the average wage in Krakow is around 1,000zl (AU$500) per month - I dont know if tax is taken out of that, but I presume it's net wage. I guess it makes you appreciate what you have when you hear figures like that.

Motorbikes over there are few and far between. I thought I would see heaps, but I only ended up seeing 2 goldwings and a trailbike on the road in 4 days. I also saw a Harley, but it was parked (so it dosent count!). I thought it would be a good way to get around the cities, until I saw some prices. Try 52,000zl (AUS$26,000) for a Super Blackbird, ZX-12, GSXR-1000, YZF-R1. How about 43,000zl (AU$21,500) for a CBR600, ZX6, YZF-R6?. With these sort of prices, no wonder there was nobody riding bikes. The ones I saw were probably tourists.

Everybody in Poland seemed to speed when driving. And nobody liked wearing seatbelts. I always tried to put mine on in taxis, but soon discovered that the part than you clip the belt into would be pushed down into the seat so you couldnt use it. I saw 1 speed trap in Zakopane, which consisted of a police car parked on the side of the road (with no other cars near it) and the police standing on the road pointing the gun at cars passing by. I doubt they would catch anyone. The law says if your int he front you must wear a seatbelt, but I dont recall anybody wearing one in any of the cars I was in.

When traveling overseas, it seems it's the little things that stand out the most. For example, in all the places I stayed I didnt get what I would call pillow. I got something that was flatter and about twice as large. No resturants had napkins. Instead, they had cooking paper type stuff that showed up grease. The toilet paper was John Wayne style everywhere. Although, the toilet flush system was good. It would keep flushing until you stopped pressing the button, rather than a full flush each time (ala England) or full/half (Aus).

Palac Kultury in Warsaw

Warsaw

I didnt spend much time in Warsaw, because I arrived late (around 9pm) in the day, went straight to the hotel and then caught the train to Krakow the next day. But it did seem busier than Krakow. One thing that did surprise me was that Poland has trams. The actual trams themselves are slighly different to melbourne ones, but all the cables and tracks look the same.

 

Street in Krakow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krakow

Krakow takes 2.5 hours to get to by train from Warsaw and costs around 20zl. Krakow is not as expensive as Warsaw, although I think that Tourists can still get taken for a ride if they arnt careful.

While in Krakow, I went to the city centre where they had a large open space(called Sukiennice I think). Lots of pidgeons gathered there.. and people were buying birdseed to feed them. You didnt actually need birdseed - I walked right into the centre of the birds and kneeled down, spreading my arms. In less than a minute, I had birds sitting on my arms, legs, shoulders and even head. It was a wierd experience for sure.... On one side of the big courtyard, there was a church that we visited (I dont know the name). The church apparently dated from around 1200, and had the largest stained glass windows of any chruch in Europe (and id believe it). The church also had some real catacombs!! It was interesting going down into them.

Next, we went to the castle that used to be owned by the king of Poland (Castel Wawel). Unfortunately, as is the case with most good attractions nowdays, you couldnt take photos inside. However it was worth going to see the collection of old weapons, armour and jewelry.

Zakopane Main Street

 

 

 

Zakopane

Zakopane is a mountain town that is 2 hours by bus from Krakow. It is popular in winter because of the ski slopes. Although we were there in late summer, it was still very cold. We saw some of the town while we were there and I ate the best ribs I have ever tasted... from a pizza place of all places. I have tried to capture the experience again since, but no ribs have come close to these babies.

We waited 2 hours in a long line to take a cable car up to the top of the mountain (which I think is the tallest point in Poland). The tempreture at the top was a nice, toasty 4 degrees. However, after getting to the top we found that the mountain was covered in cloud, so we couldnt see anything.