Also, don’t buy a machete on the first day of a 5 week trip.
When this was written I was living in Leeds, UK. This was part of my goodbye tour of Europe. Myself and 3 friends boarded a 6am flight in Leeds, UK bound for Krakow, Poland. Normally you might gawk at that departure time. Not us, as we were on the tail end of a huge night at Leeds Summer Ball (feat. Florence + the Machine), this was just the next place we had to be. We boarded the train in full formal attire. Well, as formal as you can with a £35 suit from Primark.
After a brief nap for the duration of the flight, we got settled at Bob and Tom’s Hostel (an excellent hostel if you want to party), and began to explore the town. Having done a bit of Eastern Europe prior to this trip I found that the architecture is a similar style to that of Prague, Bratislava and most likely other destinations of similar geography. We walked to the main square and found lunch. We had a traditional meal of (mine was) beetroot soup and dumplings. It was something completely different (but enjoyable) for me but that’s what being immersed in another culture is all about. Experiencing that which cannot be experienced in your own comfort zone.
While we were having lunch a parade came through the square with floating balloons of dragons and the like. A quick Google search (some years later) revealed that this is called ‘The Parade of Dragons’. Ingenious right? It celebrates the 753rd (in 2010) Anniversary of the city being incorporated by King Bolesław V the Chaste in 1257. We then walked over to, what I call “Wawel Castle”, which was right on the river. There too was a kind of markets/festival type thing. No idea what it was about but we suspect it had something to do with all the dragons and things that were parading through the main sqaure during lunch. Mitch, Evan and Steve all bought umbrella hats to wear as they were preparing to be all festival-y (at Southside Music Festival, Germany) and I got my brother this awesome machete for some reason, not thinking that in the next 5 weeks the amount of airport (and other) security checkpoints I’ll have to go through will be at a maximum. It was only a matter of time until it was taken from me ‘temporarily’ when I boarded a week long cruise (stay tuned). The sun was beaming down pretty hard and as we were still recovering from the night before we just sat on the bank of the dirty, dirty river for a while before retreating back for a quick bite before collapsing. We were dead to the world by 7:30.
On our second day we got up early for our tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp. There isn’t a lot to say about it, just that it was one of the biggest Nazi concentration camps of WWII. We saw the chambers in which many people slept and were killed/gassed and it was a pretty harrowing experience. It’s an experience that is difficult to describe because you don’t really “enjoy” the experience or the location. However it does give you a real and physical, if not distant appreciation of the horrors that went on during these times. If you are into history even in the slightest or would even like gain such an appreciation I highly recommending visiting.
That afternoon we found our markets and the river bank again and just explored the city some more. Below Wawel Hill we found some caves that took us down to the river bank. This is called the Dragon’s Lair and at the bottom of the caves there is a large, copper, fire-breathing dragon. I’m guessing that the dragon is not the the reason is it called that, but a result of some superstition the old timers had about dragons and their city. The caves led down to the river bank again. At which we found the dragon protecting the caves from intruders. We were aptly deterred. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was only a statue. Another mate, Cameron had warned us not to feed the dragon, so we left it alone and continued on our way. Soon after we caught an overnight train to Prague, which created more questions than it answered. The story won’t be interesting (or will it be?) but feel free to stick around to find out what actually went down.