Back in Kraków on the tracks of Bronislaw Chromy

I am still in Kraków and it is July 2017. Over the years, I had accomplished all Kraków excursions of my “Müller guidebook”, except number 12 “Las Wolski” (wolf forest). I try to do the excursion to the forest on a hot Thursday. But I do not get far, as I get stuck in the pavilion of Bronislaw Chromy – discovering him is too attractive.

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By bus to Park Diecjusza in Zwierzyniec (north of the city center)

I take bus 192 at the Cracovia Stadium. More Lajkoniki are welcoming me in the bus!

One of the bus stations on the way is called Lajkonika. Perhaps it was here that the Mongols had been defeated by the Krakówians in the 13th century?

I leave the bus at the station “Park Diecjusza”. I oscillate a bit to find the park that the bus station is named after. A friendly man explains the right way to me. I am so proud that I understand him (he spoke Polish).

In the park, I come across a lady that lies flat on the grass meditating while more ladies are thoughtfully grouped around her. Is this a place of strength? Oh, I understand, I have found the Willa Decjusza that now provides conference rooms. These ladies might be relaxing from a meeting. The Willa is a Renaissance building.

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Harmonic sculptures in the park made by Bronislaw Chromy

The Park Decjusza is wild and shady. Great for a hot day. Cyclists are passing by. In the middle of the park, I find this pavilion surrounded by sculptures that are beautifully embedded in nature.

It is the pavilion of Bronislaw Chromy.

It find it difficult to capture the sculptures with my camera. These are the cyclists on the Juniper bush. They are almost swallowed by the bush and the trees.

The hands holding a rounded stone show harmony. Mother Earth seems to give support .

Inside the pavilion, a friend of the family of Bronislaw Chromy serves coffee and self made cake. He gives me a book and, when reading it, I start to understand. Bronislaw Chromy, born in 1925, is a very well-known contemporary artist in Poland. His sculptures can be found all over in Kraków: He created the dragon (or smok) under the Wawel that spits fire (the dragon is loved by children from all over the world). He also created the monument for the dog Dzok that after the death of his master kept on waiting for him. And he is also the artist that made the impressive Christ in Nowa Huta – the Christ that is being crucified while ascending to heaven at the same time.

Born in 1925, Bronislaw Chromy is an old man now. The family friend managing the pavilion talks with deep respect about the “professor”.

In the cellar I find charming paintings made by him such as these two birds – they may be about to attack one another.

The pavilion sells sculptures of Chromy such as this is peacock.

Back in Kraków I look for Chromy’s owls in the Planty near the Wawel castle. Here they are – a friendly mum with two cheerful young owls.

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Good-bye Kraków for now

From the owls, I walk around the corner to have a salad in the Bona in Ulica Kanonicza while thinking over my day. I am happy to have discovered Bronislaw Chromy who is a gifted sculptor. And I may have to finish the walk number 12 of “my Müller guidebook” when returning in December – to see the Las Wolski (or wolf forest).

Now it is time to say good-bye Krakow.

 

Back in Kraków on the tracks of Matejko and more

Another day in Kraków in July 2017. Today the weather is sweltering. Fortunately I have bought a linen summer dress at the Rynek that I am now wearing.

It is so hot and humid that it is a great day for museums. After some shopping, I visit two of them, and in between I meet more friends, for lunch and for an aperitif in the evening.

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The bookshop in Ulica Bracka with the great childrens books

Not far from my hotel Wawel in Poselska I get stuck in a cute bookshop in Ulica Bracka. It is called “De Revolutionibus”. They serve coffee and cake and have many nice books for children. I particularly like the book about cats and dogs. Look, how dogs resemble their masters.

Source: Antonio Fischetti and Sébastien Mourrain: “Psy i koty pod lupa naukowców”, Polarny Lis.

This is how the bookshop has set up the corner for children.

I buy “the wedding” written by Wyspiański. He was a painter AND an author. Agata tells me later that she read and analyzed this book at school.

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Frightening paintings in the museum of Wyspiański

Next Iook for information about Wyspiański. However, I cannot find an exhibition about this Krakówian multitalent in the museum named after him. Instead I find a special exhibition of paintings produced by prisoners in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Some were ordered by the SS to decorate houses or to illustrate orders to the prisoners. Others have been painted in secret showing the atrocities of the concentration camps. And some are memories of the life outside the camps – they were painted to give hope that one day, they might be free again. I am particularly impressed by the drawings of a formerly famous skier that had painted the mountains with and without skiers. I am suffering of what the Germans that I am sharing roots with have done… I always feel guilty and I am not able to take one photo.

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The house where Matejko lived: Ulica Florianska 41 

I had found out about Matejko, when visiting Nowa Huta and Krzeslawice. He had a cottage near the lake of Krzeslawice which is now a museum. He was born and lived most of his life in Florianska 41, not far from the Rynek. Florianska 41 is this neoclassical building that has been renovated by adding modern style elements.

Matejko was born in 1832 to become an important Polish painter of the 19th century. He engaged to remind the Polish of their identity and culture, when Poland was ruled by foreign forces after 1792. He was famous for painting historical scenes such as Sobieski vanquishing the Turks in Vienna in 1683.

It is said that his paintings helped the Polish to keep up their spirit of resistance. In addition he painted portraits and cartoons. He was a professor at the academy of arts. One of his pupils was Wyspiańsky.

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Two great places to relax: The Magia and the Bona

I go back to the shady courtyard of the Magia to have a fruit juice and meet Agata. Later I move to the Bona, a bar-bookshop in the Kanoniczka street and have a nice dry Muscat from Poland.

While I am reading, I am listening to a beautiful female voice singing opera arias in front of the twelve apostles of the Saint Peter and Paul church. This is what the place looks like later in the night.

Warm summer evenings in Kraków are a very relaxing experience! I return to the Rynek (Main Market Square) and listen to a violin player.

Look at the Sukiennice in the middle of the Rynek….

… and at Maria Church (Kosiól Mariacki) illuminated in the night.

I finish off my quiet evening with a Zubróvka (bison grass vodka) in my favorite coffee bar, the Magia, just behind Maria Church.

 

Back in Kraków discovering Nowa Huta

In July 2007, I spend a few days in Kraków attending a wedding, meeting friends, visiting places I like and seeing some new ones.

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Nowa Huta – shall I really go there?

One such new spot I visited is Nowa Huta. So far I have not been interested in socialist buildings made out of precast concrete slabs. “You have not been to Nowa Huta? Then you should go. There are a lot of green alleys and parks and much space between the houses”, Radek says proudly. Maybe you are right? As Fidel Castro ONLY visited Nowa Huta, when coming to Krakow, I could give it a try as well.

So – I went and liked this socialist invention. Wide alleys start from a large square named after Ronald Reagan. In addition to the socialist traces, I discover two gorgeous modern churches, a monastery and two wooden churches. My guide is the guidebook that Radek and Piotr had given to me some five years ago: Magdalena Niedzielska and Jan Szurmant, “Krakau”, Michael Müller Verlag 2011.

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Starting problems: Where is the station of tram no 4?

My guidebook and the Internet say that tram no 4 goes to Nowa Huta. I find a tram station in front of the main station and buy a ticket at the ticket machine. Then I wait. No trams here. Very suspicious. A family from Denmark also looks for that tram no 4. A young Krakowian tells me that the trams leave in the tunnel. Which tunnel? With the Danish family we start to look for that tunnel. After having oscillated around and after having asked again, we find a busy tunnel, two levels BELOW the main train station. Here we board on to tram no 4.

(Later I find out that I could have caught tram number 4 just on the east side of the Planty, much closer to my Hotel Wawel).

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Ahmore Lajkoniki making fun of the Mongols

We sit down in tram no 4. My neighbours leave the tram some stations later and what do I see? Two Lajkoniki. Looking at me from the seats.

And near the exit, there is another Lajkonik. They are all over in Kraków and you notice them, when you know the history: When attacking Kraków in the 13th century, the Mongols were defeated. The Krakówians put on the Mongolian cloth and celebrated their victory over the Mongols. They still do so today at Corpus Dei in June – and by placing small Lajkoniki all over in their city.

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The Poles are proud of Solidarnoscj and there IS a lot of green space in Nowa Huta

A lady in the tram proudly tells us: ” Yes, we have arrived in Nowa Huta. Look at the monument for Solidarnoscj.”

Yes, we have reached the central square named after Ronald Reagan. The square is spacious and surrounded by buildings that copy the pride of a classical antique style.

After a coffee and a delicious cernik (cheese cake), I follow John Paul II’s alley. Indeed, there is much green space between the mostly well renovated houses with passages leading to more gardens and more houses.

House no 14 (Ulica Mierzwy) was the first Nowa Huta building, as this plate proudly indicates.

If only my “Müller” would not have this habit of judging with his nose in the air… what I have seen from Nowa Huta, is by far not that bad!

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The wooden church from the 15th century and the monastery

There has been life in Nowa Huta before the socialist times, as the church of Saint Batholomeus from 15th century proves (Kośiól sw. Bartlomieja).

The door is open. Inside I find nice paintings – my “Müller” says that they are Rokoko.

The altar is a trompe-oeuil painted on to the wall.

Across the street I find the Monastery Opactwo Cystersów Mogíla. The church welcomes me with a baroque facade. The interior is gothic from 1477, with some frescos..

Mogíla – that sounds like “grave” to me. Yes, that is correct, as I learn later from Adam Bujak: “There is a burial mound named after Princess Wanda, who according to legend threw herself into the currents of the Vistula river to avoid marrying a German.”  (“The Cracow Millenium”, Bialy Krk 2014, p. 9). Her mound is just behind the monastery – I will look for it the next time.

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More beautiful churches, but modern this time

The socialist government had carefully planned Nowa Huta, but being atheists they had not foreseen to build churches. The Krakówians fought for their churches and the result are two beautiful modern churches.

The first one is called Mother God of Tschenstochau (Kościól Matki Boskiej Czestochowskiej), located where the army had practiced before.

The interior is  bright and makes me meditate.

A nice detail are the amber chains forming a boat

The second church is called Ark of the Lord (Kościól Arka Pana) or also Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, consecrated in 1977 (Karola Wojtyla was the Archbishop of Kraków at that time).

Inside I find two levels. Concentrated praying is going on on the ground floor. On the first floor the painted windows and the statue of Christ provide a mysterious atmosphere. Christ is almost flying away, as if Crucifixion and Ascension were to happen at the same time. Beautiful. It was Bronislaw Chromy who has created this sculpture, as I learn later, when visiting his exhibition and pavilion in the north of Kraków.

I think that this Christ is a symbol for the will to fight for freedom that the Poles have proven over and over again – and I hope they will prove it now and in future once more.

The crew of Apollo 11 gave a rutile cristall from the moon to this church. It is now in the tabernacle at the front.

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Along friendly alleys to the lake of Nowa Huta

In the distance I see some large houses probably from socialist times.

But most of the houses I come across are well renovated and, Radek was right, they are surrounded by green gardens.

When strolling along Fatimska and Bulwarowa street, I come across this happy dog that watches his territory.

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Around the lake of Krzeslawice

Finally I reach the small lake of Krzeslawce with childrens playgrounds. I walk around that lake and stop in front of the museum for the painter Matejko.

It is closed now, as it is one of those Mondays, where all museums are closed.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the corner, I take a picture of another wooden church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (św. Jana Chrzciciela). Unfortunately it is closed.

I walk back through this friendly area of Kraków to catch tram number 4 in Struga and to return to the city center.

I finish off my day with three friends on the roof top restaurant Malecon with the great view of the Wislaw or Vistula river.

 

 

 

Back in Kraków – discovering places in Kazimierz that are new for me

When returning to Kraków in July 2017, I attended a wedding, met friends and visited “old” and “new” places. Let me start with Kazimierz.

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A half hour boat ride on the Wisla

In winter I saw many wooden boats parked along the shore of Zwierzyniec. Now I can see, what they are for. They are waiting at the peer under the Wawel, until they have 12 passengers. Then they start for a half hour ride on the Wisla. Great, I start the day with a boat ride.

I enter the boat called Kościuszko – after the man that fought for freedom of Poland around 1800 and is now buried on a hill above Kraków. Two friendly ladies (probably my age) offer mint toffees to me.

Another boat is called “Lajkonik”. Yes, the horse riding men making fun of the Mongolians vanquished in the 13th century are omnipresent in Kraków.

From the boat ride, I take back this great view of the Wawel castle.

After my boat ride I follow the Wislaw and enter Kazimierz from the south.

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The church of Corpus Dei or Kościól Bozego Ciala in Kazimierz

Often I have walked by the church of Corpus Dei in Kazimierz. Now I enter it. The church is an example of brick gothics, built in the 14th century. I like the cross hanging in the nave.

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The high synagogue in Kazimierz (Synagoga Wysoka)

At Józefa street I find a cosy courtyard, where I eat a zurek (sour soup). Not far from here is the high synagogue or Synagoga Wysoka that I had never taken notice of before. The synagogue is called “high”, because the praying hall is on the first floor or “high” up. This synagogue has been built in the 16th century.

In the praying hall some of the former wall decoration is left.

There is an exhibition of photos that show the normal Jewish life in Kazimierz before World War II. I am suffering – why has all this happened?

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The museum of Ethnographics in the townhall of Kazimierz

It is hot today. I look for a chilly place and escape into the Ethnographics museum that is located in the former townhall of Kazimierz. The museum has only few English explanations, but the exhibits are pretty straightforward – houses, barns and mills as well as photos and requisites that illustrate the life from craddle to grave in the 19th century. I understand that family and village life was important for the Polish that struggled to preserve their culture and language, while being ruled by Russia, Germany and Austria in the 18th and 19th century.

The top floor shows artifacts like this wonderfully carved Man of Sorrow from the 17th century.

I finish off the day in my favorite tea house of Kazimierz, the Czajownia. Then I meet Radek for dinner. We eat in the restaurant Trezo, where I have a delicious pike perch with a Riesling from Poland. Yes, Poland grows wine as well.

 

In Kraków – back again for a short visit and a Fondue with friends / II

At the start of December (2016), I was back in Kraków for a short visit. After my Friday sightseeing and Sushi with Radek, I now spend Saturday with some more sightseeing, some shopping and the Fondue evening with friends.

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Visiting the Muzeum Narodowe with an exhibition of Rodin and Dunikowski

I enter the National Museum in the Szołayski House to learn more about Wispiansky, the multitalent of Kraków in the beginning of the twentieth century. I am told that the exhibition is closed for renovation. Instead I see the juxtaposing of sculptures from Rodin and Dunikowski. The exhibition is called “visions of women”. I learn that Dunikowski admired Rodin, that he is one of the most renowned Polish artists of the 20th century and that he has survived Auschwitz. I like his powerful sculptures.

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The Szołayski House with its decorated walls is worth a visit in itself.

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Shopping at Tatuum

Tatuum is a small shop on the Rynek. I see a warm padded coat in blue color in the window, enter and leave the shop again with the padded coat, three sweaters, a pair of trousers and a knitted dress. I love to go shopping in Krakow – and it is less expensive than in Switzerland.

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Young choirs singing in the Peter and Paul Church

The Peter and Paul Church has always surprised me. Today I observe a group of girls singing and entering the church through the backdoor. Something must go on inside. I enter. The church is full. Entry is free. And one choir after the next is singing. It is the Advent and Christmas Choir Festival that lasts from December 2nd to 24th.

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I stay for a while and listen to the beautiful young voices.

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Taco: Mexican dishes prepared and served by Poles

Just next door to my hotel Wawel we have a late lunch in the Taco that serves Mexican food. I order an Aztec Soup (they call it “Taco soup” here) and a home made drink made from elder. Though the personnel is entirely Polish, my soup is pretty authentic and tasty.

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Dry wine needed – Wina Szlachetne

For the Fondue tonight, we need some more dry wine. The shop of Maryla Piskorska, Wina Szlachetne  or “Noble Wines” is always a great place for buying wine. We are in the “rue de la soif” (street of thirst), as the plate says.

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For our Fondue, we select a dry Sylvaner from Rheinhessen. Maryla Piskorska has started to offer wine from the Georgian republic made in amphores. I am curious about this wine, but I cannot take it from here in my hand luggage.

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The fondue evening – always a challenge and a great pleasure

At Dominik’s place I take a large saucepan to prepare the fondue (for lack of a caquelon). When my fondue is ready, Radek refuses to come, because he is playing football with the son of the house. I insist that the fondue has to be eaten immediately – everyone to the table, please. We dip our bread cubes. The stove we use to keep the fondue warm is designed for chocolate fondue and is to weak for cheese fondue. I have to heat up our cheese fondue several times, as it started to disintegrate. We had a great time, thank you Dominik for inviting us to your home. Back in Basel I bought a good cheese fondue stove that I will take with me in 2017 to ease fondue cooking and eating in Kraków.

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It is a sunny Sunday – and I say good-bye to Kraków

After having met some more friends on Sunday morning, I quickly visit the Rynek (market square) to say good-bye. The sky is deeply blue today and contrasts with the red bricks of St. Mary’s Church.

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With EasyJet the flight home to Basel takes something more than an hour. And already for dinner I find myself at the table of my neighbors enjoying a delicious Risotto.

 

In Kraków – back again for a short visit and a Fondue with friends

Also this year I am flying to Kraków, just for two days. I want to see my friends and share a cheese fondue with them. I also intend to visit some of my favorite places.

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Friday morning – 4 am – this IS early

The alarm clock wakes me up at 4am. This IS early. The taxi driver talks about the philosophy of the Dervishes and about how much he wished tolerance between religions in this world – he is from Konya. I agree with him.

Shortly after 9 am my plane lands in Kraków airport. The new airport is now in use – there is much space and all is modern. Perhaps Berlin should come and learn from the Krakówians, how to complete building an airport… An hour later I am already in the city center.

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The yoghurt with nuts and honey in the Magia Coffee Bar strengthens me

The Magia is one of my favorite coffee bars in Kraków. The internet welcomes me immediately. I am hungry and order the yoghurt with nuts and honey – delicious as always. I feel better after my early flight.

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The Christmas market on the Rynek

The Christmas market is busy. The Krakówians have set up a colorful Christmas tree in front of St. Mary’s cathedral.

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The weather must have been very windy – some of the angels are hanging heads down.

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I stroll amidst tourists. The dragon or smok of Kraków is omnipresent, in all colors. I did not know that dragons can be black and pink and even purple as well… are dragons not green “in reality”?

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It is chilly and I take a Zurek (a sour rye flour soup) to warm me up.

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Saying hello to some of my favorite places in Stare Miasto

I enter St. Mary’s Church for a short moment of reflection, slender through the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall from Renaissance times) and sadly look at the tower that remained from the old 14th century townhall (Ferdinand of Vienna and Habsburg, why did you destroy this town hall in 1820?). I move on to the old university of 1364 (Collegium Maius). Then I stop in the solemnity of the gothic Franciscan church and admire the gorgeous modern art window “Become” by Wyspianski.

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The baroque Peter and Paul Church is being renovated. There is a youth choir festival in Kraków and young groups are singing in this church.

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The romanesque Saint Andrews Church is next to St. Peter and Paul’s church.

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Continuing to Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter

Walking by the Wawel castle I enter Kazimierz, the former Jewish city. I reflect woefully what I had read in my faithful guide book, when eating my yoghurt with nuts this morning: Former Kraków was a tolerant city. Christians (from catholic and orthodox belief), Muslims and Jews lived together peacefully, and later, also protestants joined. Poland guaranteed the freedom of belief in 1573 (Source: M. Niedzielska and Jan Szurmant:”Krakau”, Michael Müller Verlag 2011). Then in 1697, a hundred years later, August the Strong from Saxony converted to catholism, when he was elected king of Poland. Today we perceive Poland as being a Roman catholic country. And here in Kazimierz I am reminded of what has happened to the Jewish community in the 1930s and 1940s. I always feel guilty for that.

Today, I discover Jewish life again: The Kupa Synagogue has been reopened, and visitors are invited. I have never been in a synagogue before and enter respectfully.

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This is the view from the second floor where the women pray.

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There is a photo exhibition here. I am impressd by this statement:

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I wish we would find back to tolerance –  as wished my taxi driver from Konya early this morning. Happily I say good-bye to this small synagogue that I hope will be another sustainable start for tolerance, not only in Poland, but also in this world. And I do hope that especially Poland might find back to its earlier roots, when people with various religions and from various countries lived together here. And when it was a center of European culture and education.

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Tea in the Czajowina and a walk along the Wisla

It is chilly and I need to warm up again. I have an Assam tea in the cosy Czajowina in Józefa street. There are so many cosy coffee and tea places in Kraków and this is one of my favorite.

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At four pm it is already dark. I walk down to the Wisla and follow it. The white Stanislaus church on the rock shines in the dark.

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I walk around the Wawel hill to catch up with Kanonicza street. This morning I had also learnt that the last years of the golden age of Kraków happened during Renaissance and that king Sigismund I had taken his wife from the Sforza family in Milano. She hired Italian architects and consequently the Kanonicza street with its Renaissance palaces could be located in Italy, but no, we are in Kraków right now.

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The history of towns is present in their architecture, and I always discover more of the history of Kraków, when I return.

With Radek, I close the day in the Sushi restaurant Zen near the Rynek. We have not seen one another for a year, there is a lot to chat. I look forward to another day in Kraków and our fondue evening.

 

 

On the road – a chilly November weekend in Kraków – the finale: Lufthansa on strike

All seems okay and I get ready to leave for Munich -on Monday  with Lufthansa…

On Sunday, I have received my boarding pass for my Monday flight.

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Around 9 pm on Sunday an email confirms my flight with Lufthansa.

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Then: Flight canceled

At 9:17 pm on Sunday I receive this SMS:

“We apologize that your flight LH623 KRK-MUC 01Dec 01:10 PM has been cancelled. Further information is available on https//m.lh.com/MjAzNTk3blFmMQ”.

Wonderful. What now? I find out that the pilots will be on strike from 12:00 PM on Monday until midnight on Tuesday. I also find a link that says “your flight has been rescheduled to 6:35 am.” Wonderful. I pay for my hotel room immediately and order a taxi for 4:30 in the  morning. This will be a morning without breakfast.

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On standby at the gate 7 on Kraków airport

On Monday 1st of December, shortly before five a.m., I stand in front of the Lufthansa check-in desk at the airport. “No,”, the lady at the counter says, “you are not on the list. Please go to the ticket office over there and stand in line to buy another ticket.” I refuse to stand in line and buy another ticket. She walks over angrily and comes back with a standby ticket. She tells me that the flight has been overbooked and my chances are not good to catch the flight, but I could give it a try. Wonderful.

I wait at the gate – I wait for an hour. At six, a friendly clergyman comes and he looks much more optimistic. A few minutes later, check-in has closed. I understand why he was more optimistic – he knew better. He gives me a boarding pass for business class, but without the right to have breakfast. We are about 4 passengers with such standby boarding cards for business class.

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Now in business class

The business class area is half empty – even with the standby passengers that are escaping the Lufthansa strike. The plane takes off. The stewardess serves breakfast. She passes me a tray. “No – thank you”, I say, “I am not allowed to have breakfast.” “Of course, you can have breakfast,” she says. The world brightens up and I enjoy my business class breakfast with a good cup of coffee.

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And then – recovering in Munich

At eight we land in  Munich. Around ten I have a second breakfast in the house of my friends… and then I go to sleep for another hour.

Why are these Lufthansa pilots constantly on strike? I later read in my newspaper NZZ that the business model of Lufthansa will change. They plan to have luxury services with the label “Lufthansa” and cheaper flights with the label “wings” (NZZ 4.12.2014, “Lufthansa setzt weiter auf Hochpreissegment”). I do hope that the label “Lufthansa” has not been damaged too much due to the repeated strikes. I fear that the brand “Lufthansa” does no longer stand for “very reliable” and no one wants to pay a luxury price for flying with them…

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Well, this was a happy end

Great, I have just managed to get to Munich before the great chaos. Kraków, no need to hold me back by asking the Lufthansa pilots to go on strike – I will come back for sure next year!