Wawel and the royal castle
Sore feet and muscles testify that we walked far too much yesterday. We knew it, but were carried away.
The weather is grey and windy as we climb the hill to the royal castle Wawel and the cathedral, where the previous pope was once bishop. We admire the buildings from the outside, but do not buy tickets to get inside. From the parapet there is a nice view over the city and the river Wisla.
King Boleslaw fortified the hill around year 1000 and also built the first cathedral. It was the Polish kings' preferred residence until the 17th century. Architects from Florence had a say, when the castle got its present renaissance-look from 1501-1548.
Click to enlarge
Today the wind is strong on this hilltop, and it is difficult to stand still and keep the camera steady. There is a lot of restoration work going on. It says on a poster that restoration began a hundred years ago. When the Austrians ruled they transformed the hill to a military garrison and left the old buildings in a deplorable condition.
As we pass the cathedral on our way down, soldiers in ironed uniforms with creases as sharp as their swords prepare for a memorial service. In the back of their car polished horns are waiting in a brass heap.
Ulica Kanonicza leads from the castle mound to the city centre. The houses are old and pretty. There is a museum in number 19 and 21, where Karol Wojtula lived from 1951 to 1963 before he was elected pope.
Click to enlarge
There is a café on the corner where ul. Kanonicza ends. Our feet need rest. The coffee could be better, but the uninvited apple cake is good, says Helle. It is a cosy place with thick brick walls, arches, terracotta coloured walls, wicker chairs and lots of green plastic plants.
The door to archaeological museum is closed. A sign says closed Saturdays. Well, then we can visit the small supermarket in ul. Grodzka - I am short of matches. I cannot find any, so I show a box and a match to the uniformed guard and ask: "matches?" A woman passing with breads in her arms says something with "kassa", so we go to the checkout.
I show the box and the match once more. The lady conjures a package from a secret compartment below the cash register and opens it. I show 3 fingers and get 3 boxes. Expecting hidden matches to be expensive I put two zloty on the counter. She smiles, takes one and gives me the change.
It has started to rain, so we seek shelter in the cosy café Zakatek we found yesterday. The rain increases the turnover, because soon the place is crowded with people seeking shelter. We walk home in the rain. The umbrellas are in the room, but the rain is a convenient excuse for an early siesta. Oh, the walking muscles are sore!
Restless in the rain
At 3 it is still raining. From the window I can see droplets disturb a puddle, but it cannot be much because the cars' windscreen wipers are not moving. I have finished the novel and get impatient instantly. Of course Helle has read the signs long ago and suggests a walk.
The rain has stopped temporarily. Things are lively at the Irish pub. It is St. Patrick's Day, and many are dressed in green and have painted their faces. We pass through the market hall and watch the shops.
There are many people and it is difficult to advance. Outside carriages wait for customers. The horses have got blankets on their backs and the carriages hoods. Our legs steer towards the café with the white eagle.
There are many customers and the young waitresses are busy. Two constables are having a softdrink and a break by the bar. A vamp with black nails and black hair to the shoulders enters. She is bit plump and dressed in a short cream-coloured leather jacket, black pants and knee-high boots.
She lets her eyes sweep the room, then glides to the smoking constable and pouts with a cigarette. The uniform reacts as expected and lights the cigarette. The vamp stretches five fingers in a salute and flows out again. The waitresses gawk and then giggle. It is a touristy place, but cosy. The music is very low and there is a buzz of conversation.
The rain has started again. I unfold the umbrella, but the wind is too strong, and the umbrella is soon destroyed. I bought it on Madeira 2003 and after loyal service in several countries it is put to rest in a Polish wastebasket. Most shops are closed now, so we return home. Soon after it rains heavily.
It is still raining heavily at half past six, so we run around the corner to restaurant Paese.
"Do you have a table for two?" The lady answers by asking if we have made a reservation, and when I say no, she makes a show of studying the two entries in her order book before she takes us to the first floor despite the restaurant being almost empty.
It is quite nice here. Candles are lit; there are small flower decorations on the tables, an artificial ceiling and bric-a-brac artefacts on the walls - a nice atmosphere.
The menu and the wine list are not quite as long as the novel I finished earlier today, but none the less we get a glass of white wine for our studies. Fish soup for starters sounds nice - it is soup weather. For main course Helle orders filet mignon in Roquefort sauce and I leg of lamb with garlic and spices.
Everything - even bread - must be ordered, and we share a portion of oven-baked potatoes and a mixed salad. Of course the wine should be Corsican, and a carafe of the Corsican red it is. Once again we experience that water with gas is decanted. The water is tepid and the reason for driving out the carbon dioxide is a mystery to us.
The fish soup is superb with a rich taste of fish, vegetables and spices. There are lots of firm pieces of fish and mussels, and the portion is big. Super!
The main course is good too. The tender lamb has been cut into bite-sized pieces that swim in a tasty sauce, and Helle's steak is rare as ordered. However it is a bit annoying that there is neither spoon nor fork for the potatoes and the salad.
The salad is cabbage with caraway seeds and grated carrots and celery in a creamy dressing - much like the Polish salad we had the first evening. It is totally out of tune with the meal - we had imagined something with tomatoes and olives that put the taste buds into Mediterranean mode.
The red wine is a humble country wine. It is okay, but compared to the excellent wine we had at Aqua e Vino for almost the same price it is too expensive: 1 PLN per centilitre. When out to smoke in the gateway I see that the wine list has many really expensive wines.
For instance there is an underage Brunello from 1998 at 420 PLN. There are even more expensive French wines, and if you want bubbly you can have a Dom Perignon for 800 PLN. I have a hunch that a Dom will not be decanted for de-gasification.
As we eat more guests arrive, and they are all Poles. We have no room for dessert and settle for coffee of a disappointing quality. The bill says 235 PLN. The food was good, but it is expensive (for Poland) and you get better quality for money at Aqua e Vino.
ul. Poselska 24, Krakow
Tel. (012) 421 62 73
Corsican restaurant. The food was good and the fish soup excellent.
However we were annoyed that everything - even bread - must be ordered in every detail. We forgot to order spoons and forks for the potatoes and the salad and got none. The 'Mixed Salad' was way out of tune with the Mediterranean meal.
The tepid degasified water in a carafe and the (considering quality) expensive wine do not earn points either. Last but not least we did not feel welcome when we arrived to the almost empty restaurant, and the waitress put on her 'oh, you have no reservation' show.
Price level: expensive (for Krakow).
The rain is having a break and we retire early.