Kazimierz, the Jewish district
Breakfast is fine. Helle says the milk tastes like cream and licks her whiskers. I am still able to defend myself and trust her word.
The old Jewish district, Kazimierz, lies south of Wawel. During the Second World War the Germans killed almost all citizens, and lately the neighbourhood has become known as the place where Spielberg shot Schindler's List.
It is rush hour. People hurry by, and with our holiday pace we often have to step aside. There are many shops on the way and many more useful than in the old town. Clothes are very cheap, and a store advertises with size XXXL. On street corners women sell bread from mobile glass cages and posters advertise concerts and other cultural events.
We reach the Jewish district, walk about and pass the cemetery where the wall on one side is a ramshackle wooden fence. There are many small shops, antique dealers, pubs and restaurants, but we have come so early that most are still closed.
There is a market in a square. Farmers (mostly women) bent from toil sell potatoes, vegetables, eggs and even fresh cheese in a cloth. The stuff is weighed on old-fashioned scales, and customers sort potatoes by hand. In the centre of the square is a pavilion where they sell cabbage soup - and there are many customers. A constable gets a sausage in a bread - or "HOD DOG" as it says on the sign.
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Back in Krakow's old town
We walk back to the old town and drop in at café Zakatek in ul. Grodzka 2 close to Rynek Glowny. It is through a deep gateway in a small courtyard, where you can also rent bikes or get a tattoo.
There are nice pictures on the walls, and some of the motifs could be Tuscan. There is also an old radio, a typewriter and an ancient sewing machine. The coffee is good and the waitresses smiling and efficient. A nice place.
Rested we continue the city walk until we find a bench in the park that encircles the old town, where the city wall once stood. Here you can sit and watch amorous pigeons. Two years ago I found a nice jeweller a bit outside the old town with lots of amber and kind service.
We agree to search for the shop and walk a long time and even pass Wawel, but do not find it. Back in Rynek Glowny we manage to find a dull toast for lunch and then go home for siesta.
After a much needed nap we go out again. With the city map and process of elimination I think I have located the street with the amber shop, and true enough - we find it in less than 15 minutes. There is almost too much to choose from, and it is hard for Helle to decide, but finally she chooses an amber pendant set in silver.
Rynek Glowny is almost crowded now. The sun has come out of hiding, enhances colours and makes the gold glow on the church towers.
Horse-drawn carriages drive tourists around, and passionate pigeons are oblivious to feet and hoofs. Strangely we haven't seen a single cat despite this feathery buffet.
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On our way we find the archaeological museum and ask about tours to the Wieliczka salt mine in a tourist office. There is a Corsican restaurant, 'Paese', just around the corner from the hotel, and the menu looks good. It is time for the second siesta.
This girl in ul. Grodzka sang like an angel.
Most street musicians in Krakow are exceptionally good and far surpass what I have heard elsewhere. I suspect they study at the city's academy of music, and then it is difficult for your ordinary fiddler to compete.
The hotel has an agreement with a tour company and they can arrange guided tours to e.g. the salt mine and Auschwitz/Birkenau. The prices are okay and you are picked up at the hotel. A tour to Auschwitz takes six hours. That is a bit too long, so we ask if there are tours to the salt mine Sunday. The receptionist says that usually there is a tour at 4 pm, but she will need to confirm this with the tour company.
Supper at restaurant Aqua e Vino
We made a reservation at Aqua e Vino yesterday, but that was unnecessary; there are only a few guests, and in the smoker's area we can pick and choose.
Krakow has many restaurants, and I picked this one because of the exceptionally good reviews on the Internet. It is particularly noticeable that even Italians praise the place - they are usually very low key when it comes to Italian restaurants outside Italy. One Italian said that his favourite dish was: "Tutti !" (all).
I immediately order prosecco for sipping while we study the menu. Before our studies the girl recites what they have today, which is not listed on the menu. They have carpaccio of octopus, spaghetti with mussels (vongole) and parpadelle with…and then she grinds to a halt and says she does not know the English word, but it is like a pig living in the forest. I suggest "wild boar", and she agrees happily.
We both select a steak with Parmesan gratin for main course (secondo). Pasta as primo would be too much, so Helle orders smoked scamorza cheese with ham, and I select the octopus carpaccio.
It is exceptionally good, and the Cabernet from Veneto is delicious. The thin slices of marinated octopus taste almost like salted tongue and are very good. The steaks are juicy and tender like butter. We were not asked how we wanted our steaks - there is only one way: the perfect. There are bits of cauliflower and broccoli and some potatoes that have soaked in a stock to become almost juicy before they got a tan in the oven.
The service is kind and attentive, and the owners, Roberto and Francesco, chat in Italian with a lone gentleman who is obviously a regular. Later an Italian company of four arrives, and they also seem to know the place.
Dessert is chocolate mousse with almonds for Helle and a mousse of forest berries for me - very delicious and artistically arranged. We feel so good that we finish off with espresso + Amaretto for Helle and a grappa for yours truly. The bill for this feast says 299 PLN. In Denmark a meal like this would cost a lot more.
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Aqua e Vino
ul. Wislna 5/10, Krakow
Tel. +48 12 421 25 67
Italian ristorante. Roberto and Francesco have created this Italian pearl in the heart of Krakow. They serve excellent food with fine wines and care for you in a relaxed atmosphere making you feel comfortable. Only a slight problem with information during our second visit (see later) prevents me from awarding 5 glasses.
Price level: semi-expensive in Poland, but considering quality you get full value for money, and compared to Danish prices it is quite cheap.
The Irish pub
It is amazing what a good meal can do to spirits and we drop in at the Irish pub some 50 metres from the hotel. There is a kebab joint between the pub and the hotel, and a sign on the pub's door says: "No Kebabs Allowed, Thank You".
The place is crammed, but we find room by a small shelf. There is soccer on a screen. Some men begin to play chess, and when seats next to them become vacant, I am attracted like a mosquito to bare skin.
They play like good club players. However at a point black moves a pawn exposing his king to an obscure bishop on A2. None of the players notice it is an illegal move, and I cannot restrain myself from reaching out and point at the diagonal.
White's other neighbour grins and teases the players in Polish. Black must find another move and looses. After the game white asks if I want to play. He quickly makes a well-known opening error, and I win a pawn and later the game. He plays okay, but does not know his openings well enough (neither do I against strong players, but that's another story).
(1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 Bf5? 5. cxd5 cxd5? 6. Qb3 e6 7. Qxb7 Nbd7 8. Bf4 Be7 9. Bc7 Qc8 10. Qxc8 Rxc8 11. Bf4 Bb4 12. Bd2 and I enjoyed my extra pawn.)
We leave the board to two of the mates, and later we have another game. With the black pieces I quickly get the upper hand, because he plays the opening badly. They are nice fellows and we have a good time.
When we get home the receptionist says that everything is okay with the salt mine tour on Sunday.