Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wawel Castle and Zakopane

Wawel Castle
Woke up early again, checked out and walked to the same bakery as yesterday. We ran into a trio of Americans that we shared the train ride to Krakow with a few days before. Not the fun ones... bummer.

Wawel Castle
Walked over to Wawel Castle where we visited the Royal Apartments, State Rooms and Dragon's Lair. The grounds were beautiful, though not nearly as large as those at Prague Castle. The crowds were also, thankfully, much smaller. This made our visit much more enjoyable than it was in Prague. After walking down to the Wawel Dragon's Lair we walked along the Vistula River and back toward Rynek Glowny, the main square. We searched out a "milk bar" that the Americans we saw earlier in the day recommended to us.

We walked right past it.

Wawel Castle
As we headed back in the other direction, who do we see? The exact same trio of Americans! They pointed us in the right direction, we missed it by a block. Popped in for some borscht with lima beans, pierogies and a cabbage salad. The food was very tasty and extremely cheap!

Wawel Castle
Back to Hotel Polonia and then the bus station to go to Zakopane, a resort town in the Tatra Mountains south of Krakow, on the border with Slovakia. The bus ride took about 2 hours, through some beautiful countryside. It was amazing to climb through the foothills and gaze out across the valleys to the little settlements dotting the verdant green hillsides. We both passed out on the bus for part of the journey. When we arrived in Zakopane we were assaulted by people trying to sell us a room. Instead, we pressed on toward the heart of town to find someplace to stay. We wound up at small hotel, nothing special and overpriced, but it was right on the main street and just for one night.

Wawel Castle

After dropping our bags off at the hotel we walked down ul Krupowki, the main pedestrian street, checking out the shops and wandering aimlessly. We decided to buy a roll from a street vendor since we were hungry for a snack. Somehow the roll was more than $2 and weighed at least a pound! Feeling a bit ripped off, we walked down the steet and broke open the roll... it wasn't a roll at all! It was the local smoked sheep milk cheese, oscypek! We had heard about this, but didn't recognize it when we stumbled across it. It was smokey, salty and firm. I wish I could bring some home with me.

Wawel Castle

Stopped at a bar (big surprise!) for a drink and some people watching from the balcony over ul Krupowki. The menu had a beer that I didn't recognize, the waitress said it was served warm. What the hell, give me one! I wound up with a Zywiec that had been mulled with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, served with a straw! It was good, definitely interesting on a cool evening but not something I'd want all the time. Figuring this was our last night in Poland I had to have some local vodka as well.

Wawel Castle
While people watching, we made our plans for tomorrow. We're headed to the top of Mt. Ksprowy Wierch via the cable car. The peak is about 6500' and sits right on the Slovak border. We're going to take pictures doing the hokey pokey on the border... its times like these I need a video camera! Then we're off to Levoca, Slovakia.

Wawel Dragon
Went out for the worst dinner we've had in Europe, yuck. Expensive too! Time to sample the local nightlife — too bad there is none! The town shuts down around 8 P.M., so we were the only people out and about. I guess we're headed to bed early tonight.


Mulled beer, YUM!


Down the hatch!

Smoked Sheep Cheese

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