Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Krakow Part Two

Everything I'd read prior to my arrival in Krakow led me to understand that the food was utterly foul. Maybe I was just lucky but I didn't eat a bad dinner or breakfast the whole time I was there. Lunch was taken on the move and was a bit more mediocre so I shall never mention it again.

For our first evening meal we ate at a wonderful Indian restaurant on Slawkovska. A channa pindi, a vegetable curry, a lentil Dal, two Soups, onion bhajis, three portions of rice, a portion of garlic nan to share and three pints of lager came to a total of £7:50. One can live like a king for next to nothing in Poland, though I'm sure that will change as the EU tightens it's grip. As an aside my late grandmother was convinced that 'common market' sent prices through the roof. I remain convinced it was the shock of that and then Thatcher being elected that killed her.

After dinner we took a stroll through town and had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a cat by the name of Mr Hippolyte. He was a rather distinguished black and white beastie who we found sitting at his own table outside a cafe. A man who seemed to be employed by Mr Hippolyte to lure tourists into their gallery invited us in as 'honoured Scottish guests'. I was quite touched, I am more used to people making bad jokes and calling you a drunk when they find out you're Scottish, though in fairness that does seem to be confined to the U.K. Anyway the man reckoned that the Polish people are in the debt of the Scots because our government is very good to them. I was too stunned to ask what on earth he was alluding to. Other than the occasional belly laugh I wasn't aware Scotland's rulers had done much for anyone.

Later that night I went to the hotel bar for a drink........

Krakow Part One

I have my shoes in one hand, my bag in the other and I'm sure that policeman is pointing that gun at me. If you've ever wondered whether or not airports could get any worse, the answer is a resounding yes. If anyone clever is reading would they mind awfully inventing a high speed boat or something so I could avoid the airport altogether.

However I won't dwell on the horror of Edinburgh airport any longer, it's just too upsetting. Fast forward a few hours and I am in Poland. I was horrified to find that the toilet paper dispensers in the airport appear to have been filled with a cross between recycled newspaper and tracing paper. Apparently they used to have the effrontery to charge you by the sheet for this rubbish but have since abandoned that scam. Progress of sorts.

We were collected at the airport by a quiet gentleman of suicidal appearance. My fears regarding his state of mind were not entirely unfounded it seems. The man drove like a drunk stuntman along a series of narrow roads and most hair raising of all, accross a railway track that some drawing board maniac had plonked in the middle of the road. I'm happy to say that our driver didn't take any risks with red lights though less so to report that there were in fact no travel signals in evidence at all. Mercifully the trains didn't seem to be running and we crossed the track unharmed.

After a few hours sleep we get up for breakfast only to be confronted with perhaps the most terrifying, old bag I've ever had the misfortune to meet in my life. I'm struggling how to describe her, the best I can come up with is angry Tory lady of a certain age. I could barely eat my breakfast for staring in total disbelief of this woman's constant complaints to the staff. She sent no less than six pots of tea back because she reckoned they weren't 'boiling hot'. The poor staff were baffled by her regular cry of boiling hot, possibly because she was bellowing at them in English rather than trying a bit of phrasebook Polish. Finally a 'boiling hot' pot of tea arrived only to be rejected because it wasn't 'English tea'. The pot was taken away, whether it was filled with English tea or just taken out and brought back in I cannot say. I must confess I became distracted as she started sending jugs of milk back for not being cold enough. At this point her friend, who looked embarrassed enough to crawl under a rabbit raised the possibility that the staff didn't understand her endless demands. This seemed to make the ridiculous old bag very angry indeed 'they understand all right' she replied, presumably in the belief that they all speak English really and just lay on the Polish for the tourists.

After breakfast I was writing my notes about the madwoman and smoking a fag outside the hotel when my blood froze in veins. She was right behind me, I don't mind admitting I was frightened. Fortunately for me she quickly found a Pole to shout at and demand that the souvenier shop be opened for her. Other than overhearing her later in the day telling the receptionist that she would have done well in the SS, I never saw the woman again and I hope I never shall.

More to follow...