great travels

Road trip! Day 5: The Great Kraków Quest for Coffee


e wake not as early as we had hoped. We did not partake in the hotel offering of breakfast, which means that we need to get out into the city to find our breakfast. Our goal, last night, was to walk over to the tram station (Kraków does not have an underground) that is 7 minutes walk from the hotel. From there, we will make our way into the city for breakfast at "Big Hat of Coffee" and on the tram into the city. According to my (reliable) app with public transport, we should hop on the 3 and will make it within a few meters of the coffee shop. So are our plans. We enthusiastically head out to the tram stop to purchase our tickets - the acrid smell of burning coal strong in the air. And it is at that point, we have a problem - the first of many.

Our first issue is trying to purchase a 24 hour pass. Although we are near a major tram (and bus) stop, we are having problems finding a machine – oh there is one across the street! We cross the street and wait in line. We follow the instructions on the screen – or try to – there is not a translate button. Everything is in Polish. Olaf puts the credit card in and out pops a receipt (in Polish) and noting else. No tickets. Is this the ticket? for both of us? Or…not sure. After standing there for some minutes watching what the machine spits out for other persons, we determine that we, in fact, do not actually have tickets. We, again, stand in line at the machine and proceed through the same motions as last time. This time, we are rewarded with two tickets. Now, which tram do we take?

An app that I use often in times like these (the need to understand a foreign public transport system) has been very reliable. I open it and put our final destination – Tram 3, the app tell us, should bring us within 4 minutes walking of the café. We look to see if the 3 will stop here but see no sign that is does – and the app tells us to walk around the corner to a different stop. We start walking. Funny thing about corners – there are usually more than one and (in my opinion) it can be difficult to determine which corner to stand on and on which side when dealing with tram stops. Especially if the tram number is still not listed on the stop and you are unsure which direction to travel. It has now been about 30 minutes and we are not any closer to the coffee so urgently needed. We see a 3-tram on the other side – but where is the stop?

Twenty minutes later, we are finally closer to our destination. We debate whether the tram will turn or continue straight and we decide to stay on the tram – a wrong decision. The tram turns and travels some distance before we are able to get off at the next stop. Now we need to walk back to the stop From which we should have alighted and then some. Did I mention we have not yet had coffee?

Another 20 minute walk and we finally reach the coffee house. Although we pass several restaurants that serve breakfast, we are determined to make it to our original destination. It is a good choice, although there are only pastries offered to eat, the coffee is good and so is the croissant. After almost 2 since after we begin, we are able to continue exploration of the city. We want to visit the University Museum, which I noted on our walk to the coffee shop. We turn in the direction from whence we came. Along the way, we poke our heads in open buildings to see some beautiful art deco interiors.

Only we are walking in the wrong direction. After a block or two, we end up in at Wawel Palace – in the opposite direction from where we wanted to be. We abandon our plans and decided to explore the palace.

Wawel at the end 16th century

Situated on the bank of the Vistula river and surrounded by its waters and marshes, the Wawel hill had provided a safe haven for people since the Paleolithic Period. From the 7th century on, Slavic peoples inhabited the hill. Towards the end of the first millennium, Wawel began to be a center of political power and, by the 9th century, it was the principal fortified settlement. The first historical ruler of Poland chose Wawel Hill as one of his residences. Wawel Hill was the site of the first early-Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings, among them a stone cathedral, erected when the bishopric of Kracow was established in the year 1000. During the early 16th century the castle was renovated as a splendid Renaissance palace. It soon became a paragon of stately residence in Central and Eastern Europe and served widely as a model throughout the region. Following the ravages of World War II, by the decree of the State National Council, Wawel Castle became a national museum.

Wawel Palace
Wawel Palace

We stop for a rest and a bite to eat before we head out towards the city center. The marketplace is huge – with many historical buildings see. We have decided to take in a tour of the Rynek Underground museum at 3:00 and we report to the appointed meeting spot at the appointed time.

The underground is extremely interesting. The market center has been used for centuries and, as many cities, has been continually build on. The underground square central museum of Kraków is situated below the market square of the city and has an area of over 6000 square meters. Work on the underground square first began in 2009 and opened in 2010. We both find the museum extremely interesting and well worth the time. After a day of walking – sometimes in the wrong direction – we are tired and hungry. We find a restaurant to plan the rest of our evening over dinner. Our hotel has a “rooftop” infinity pool but both of us forgot our swimsuits so we decide to walk to the mall, which is open late, to buy suits and head back to the hotel for a nice swim. Fast forward two hours, newly purchased swimsuits in hand, we stride into our hotel for our last relaxing night in Kraków.