Krakow, Poland. September 3, 2006. 8:30 PM
We breezed through customs after collecting all our bags (yay!), exited the baggage claim area and found ourselves face to face with a gentleman holding a sign reading, “Jeanne Damoff.” Ha! My first name even. Sadly he was so close I didn’t have time to wave to my fans or pose for the paparazzi, but I still felt cool and important. 🙂
We withdrew 300 zl (Polish zloty: about $100) from an ATM and our friendly greeter led us to a car and driver waiting in the parking lot. The driver sped past a landscape revealing everything from old farm houses with chickens in the yard to newish condos. After about 20 minutes he turned into Old Town Krakow, and I was instantly enchanted. Shady walkways led toward a jewel of a city. Our hotel, the Floryan is located on a pedestrians-only street just a couple of blocks from the Market Square in central Old Town. Our room is spacious and comfy and overlooks the busy street. Restaurants, cafes, and shops beckon crowds to linger and buy. There’s a large, bricked archway into a walled area at the end of the street, just beyond our hotel. I don’t know what’s inside yet, but I plan to find out! All along the high brick wall artists display paintings for sale.
After settling into our room, George and I headed to the Square. What a place! The expansive cobbled plaza surrounds a central indoor market divided into booths–like an old European Pike Place Market, only 50 times as classy with its street lamps and carved wood. As it turned out Radio Krakow was sponsoring a concert in the square, so a stage had been erected in front of the clock tower, one of many architectural gems in this well-preserved city. Talented bands played 70s and 80s music–Prince, Phil Collins, “What a Feeling” from Flashdance–sometimes singing in English and sometimes in Polish. We were both amused and impressed. The music permeated the area providing dinner entertainment for dozens of restaurants flanking the outer perimeter, all with cozy outdoor seating. We strolled past flower vendors around to the opposite side of the plaza where a group of about ten teen-aged boys were setting up a drum kit. We waited to see what they were up to and found ourselves with front-row views of an awesome breakdance exhibition that quickly drew a sizable crowd. The kids flowed in and out of the performance area taking turns, occasionally dancing in pairs or groups, sometimes forming ranks and executing choreographed steps in unison. They were playful, funny, and extremely talented. Several boys took turns keeping beat on the drums so the previous drummer could jump into the dance. I took lots of pictures. What a fun introduction to this city!
After they took their bow we scoped restaurant options. Thankfully all the posted menus included English translations. We chose a place called Hawetka that offered traditional Polish cuisine. Our waitress was an adorable young woman who spoke perfect English. Per her recommendation we ordered dumplings filled with cottage cheese and potatoes (pierogi ruskie). They came topped with caramelized onions and herbs and were delicious! Food (and everything else) is inexpensive here. Our total for two entrees, two mineral waters, and one beer was 45 zl (or about $15). Polish musicians serenaded us while the sun set and the faces of magnificent buildings lit up with a golden glow. Gorgeous! I’m in love with this place.
After dinner we perused the stalls inside the market. A few had already closed, but enough were open for me to discover I’ll be buying some cool Christmas gifts here. Tomorrow marks the opening of ISEE8 for George and the further launching of Jeanne’s Polish Adventure. Until then . . .