First-ever visit to Poland – First day:-)

I have no idea why we never came here while I was growing up just an hour away from the border but I never made it to Poland. Considering also that Poland was part of the Eastern Block and as East Germans, we were allowed to travel here – though I guess it was not as easy as it is now – literally just driving over the border and the sign said “Welcome to the Republic of Poland” with the European Flag all around it. You, my UK friends and readers will perhaps lose this lovely feeling of just driving over a European border and feeling welcome right away… Sorry, the thought crossed my mind as I crossed into Poland…

For a start, I had to find a rental car company that allowed me to take the car into Poland, most either forbid it or one has to pay extra or cant take all car categories. I went with Sixt as they had the clearest information on their Website right from the start. They are not the cheapest Rental car company out there though. I am allowed to take the Car into virtually all Western European countries (Zone1) AND Poland and the Czech Republic but NOT (interestingly) into Slowakia – despite the fact that they are also part of the EU – let alone to any of the Baltic countries. I am not sure why that is but for my purposes, I am glad I can take the car into Poland as otherwise, it would have been a bit more difficult to get here with all my weaving materials for later in the week (more to come on that one).

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the things one sees in Poland…

The drive from the German Town of Görlitz to Krakow (Krakau in German) is fairly unremarkable if not boring. It is a 2 lane motorway and the speed limit varies from 110kmph to 120kmh to a maximum speed of 140kmh but they do reduce it to 80kmh on most bridges due to some damage. However – the one thing that did stand out was the amount of Wildlife Bridges – especially early on. Literally every 3-5 km. Impressive!

 

The other thing one needs to be aware (I did check beforehand) are Toll Booths. They have two different systems on this particular route. The first one is Distance-based. Just out of the lovely (yet to visit) city of Wrocław (Breslau in German) the first toll gate appears along the A4 – one drives in and collects a ticket – like when driving onto a car park in some places. Then I noticed that each and every exit had another toll booth where then the payment was collected, based on the distance travelled. The other system came just about 100km before Krakow – a flat fee of 10złoty (about $4 NZ) and that gets collected manually). Both systems allow for Credit Card payments and Cash payments but not coins other than złoty (but they do accept EUR).

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Toll Booth

I came across one bad accident on my side (with traffic jam) – a car transporter in the ditch (including some new looking cars…) and one on the other side that looked pretty bad and the traffic jam there stretched for 30km no less…

At about 30km before Krakow, the landscape changes ever so slightly. Before it is mostly agriculture and just flat with the odd small village or mining town (with the big mining towers) but now one can see Castles and old Churches on the hillsides and now I also learned that there is a so-called Ring of Castles here – I keep that in mind for a future visit.

Thanks to the built-in Navigation system the way to my hotel was fairly easy to follow and I must say, Polish drivers are very, very friendly and courteous, so when I happened to be in the wrong lane it was no problem to change. I do not trust Google Maps or App Connect for that, as even at home in NZ the GPS signal keeps dropping.. not a good thing to happen when one drives in a city with a different language for the signs… though it did get it wrong once, when it told me to turn right, the wrong way into a one way street…. user beware:-)

I am staying at a Mercure Hotel right in the centre of town and in walking distance to all the sights here – though I already discovered there is so much more to see and do that I will have to come back. They even have historic references in the Car Park, the Elevator Lobby and the Rooms. Impressed!

English is generally no problem and is spoken widely, both here at the Hotel as well as in most shops and on the street. This is, after all, a Tourist town. The whole Historic Town Center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I am impressed how much of it still survives.

After checking in, and getting an upgrade to a top floor room with balcony (not much of a view I am afraid), I hit the pavement and started exploring. It was 32degreesC yesterday here and the town is buzzing with visitors. The first stop was the Barbican, or what remains of it (which is a lot). It was already closed but maybe I make it today for a visit. Now, for those of you who do not know what a Barbican in a Castle is there is a lovely Wikipedia article about it here.

From there I walked along the pedestrian zone all the way up to the Market Square and the Cloth Hall. It is one of the main places for people to meet, take a ride in one of the many horse-drawn carriages (I felt for the horses in that heat, having to stand in the blistering sun on the hot paving stones) or feed the pidgins (not so happy about that either). Also at this Square is the Cloth Hall, a wonderful Renaissance building with arcades both on the outside and the inside with stalls for souvenirs and restaurants.

Past all of the many places to eat and shop I followed the many other people to the magnificent Wawel Castle. I have been to many castles over the years but this one is most likely the biggest I have ever seen or been to. It is positively HUGE. Also at the Castle is Wawel Cathedral were the later Pope John Paul II. offered his first Mass in 1946. They also have a lovely statue of him outside the cathedral. Again, I hope to visit today but there are only so many hours in a day…

I only took my mobile phone yesterday to take some snapshots of my walk so excuse the photo quality but I thought better some photos than none…

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Kia Ora,
    When you get back contact me about a large source of muka flax planted over 20 years ago by my partner’s mother when she was learning to weave – it came from western end of Lake Omapere originally. You might find it a useful supply for your Piupiu.
    Nga Manaaki,
    Debbie Stone
    Kaitaia/Mangawhai

    1. Kia Ora Debbie, oh really? That would be super great. Probably to much for myself to handle then but that would be so great. We are having issues with our paa in Auckland now and Mandy has issues with one of hers in Whangarei too (not getting the muka we need). I am back in early October and get in touch then – if you do not hear from me – remind me please …:-) My head is all over the place usually…

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