Heading out from Warsaw and on the way to Kraków, we stopped at a (I guess) famous monastery Częstochowa with the Black Madonna…Our Lady of Jasna Gora. Now I’ve seen a couple of Black Madonna’s in my lifetime (Bolivia…a small statue; Mexico City…a painting) and being curious had to figure out what the heck this was about. If you’re curious, check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Madonna Black Madonnas
What is really cool is that they have different outfits to fit over the painting every year or so. We toured the museum at the monastery and saw that she had 4 or 5 “outfits. Who knew? Uhhh…probably Catholics…which means everyone in Poland.
Arriving in Kraków, we were put up at a beautifully remodeled hotel (Hotel Copernicus) with a pool and spa downstairs from the lobby. The small number of rooms were build around an open atrium and, depending on which side of the hotel you were on you had to exit a different direction from the elevator. The rooms were all marble and beautifully furnished and serviced. Of course I had to schedule a massage and was rewarded by Monica, a talented masseuse. Heaven.
We were invited to a local house for dinner. It was a very modern home on the outskirts of Krakow hosted by Agnes (in a red tight dress with her hahas exposed. She had roped in her son and daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend to cook and serve. Perogi with 1) meat 2) cheese and potato 3) cabbage. A very nice evening was had by all.
Kraków was lovely…one Polish city that was not destroyed. We did a side trip to the salt mines (no longer used) where we had lunch down in the a huge cavern. Not claustrophobic at all. A long elevator ride down and a little “train” that took our lazy bones on a tour of the passages. And some very strange displays (a realistic flooding) and chapels where they still have services on certain holidays. Of course there’s still a lot of salt down there that one can lick off the side of the cavern.
Back at “headquarters” and the Copernicus we enjoyed a night on our own and the next day had a tour of the city.
I have to say I preferred Kraków to Warsaw…probably because of a more European ambiance. Also the fact that it wasn’t bombed and then restored by Russians…not a good look in my opinion. You decide:
Warsaw…OK, not a fair comparison but still…
Heading out to Auschwitz/Berkinau on a 1 hour bus trip to the area. I was able to see it in a more dispassionate way for some reason or other. It didn’t seem so much like a pilgrimage site but rather a remembrance and educational site.
Back to the hotel around 2pm; walked around the castle grounds and the cathedral which was quite impressive. Then had dinner at a little cafe (fried pork chop, sauerkraut and potatoes…oh yes, and wine. All of 10 bucks. Took a walk around the green park which surrounds the old town and then walked down the Main Street, bought a knit hat and some chocolate and went to bed.
In the early morning headed to Prague with a couple of stops along the way. Going through a Silesian coal mine area into the Czech Republic. A short stop at Olomoc – lunch on our own – ate solo at a restaurant where Mozart stayed (for one day, ha). Had Rabbit and bread and broccoli soup among the locals. Stopped by the ATM and retrieved $50. Walked around – got a mocha. Back on the bus.
An aside: Sandor is a very good guide. Funny little stories, great sense of humor, quick, attentive.
We arrived after a long day to Prague at the BoHo hotel. Very modern and sleek…a little concern with all the glass doors that slide open…I constantly had to put my hand out to make sure the door was open. Very easy check-in. Room was quite large and again, lots of glass. The bathroom and the sleeping area were separated with glass…including the toilet area and shower. It was darkened glass but one could see someone on the toilet from the bedroom. Sort of strange.
We had dinner at a hidden away restaurant that we took limos from the hotel to get to. Our driver got a bit lost and was concentrating on his google maps. The restaurant was down a pedestrian-only cobblestone walkway, so it wasn’t a simple location. We accidentally? left Patricia (our Newport Beach conservative) behind but she found a taxi and arrived at the same time. Dinner was excellent…no complaints about the food.
Back at the hotel and to bed.
Heading out for a walking tour of the Jewish quarter, cemetery, and temple. Again, a good local guide. The pace was a bit slow and there were crowds everywhere. I felt like I was in Times Square. The silver and gold spray-painted street artists? were out in good form. Some very clever get-ups…a genie coming out of a lamp, for example. There must have been 50 or so of these performers around the Old Square and Wenceslas Square.
Headed over to the Charles Bridge, which is only for pedestrians now. Again, totally crowded. It looked like the GG Bridge on the 50th anniversary…packed. There were also “Old Cars” that one could take a tour of the city in. The buildings are lovely and if it weren’t for the crowds, charming. I would come back but, if possible, in non-tourist time. There’s a lot to see. Enjoyed lunch at restaurant off-the-beaten-track, so that was nice.
Left on our own to either return to the hotel or look around. Of course, I chose to look around. Just wandered a bit and got back to the hotel around 3:30? I had intentions of going out but decided to order room service (soup and tuna salad)…very refreshing.
Up and off around 9am after breakfast at the hotel. Took “our” bus over to the other side of the river…to visit Prague Castle and the Cathedral. Lines, lines, lines. It was a bit rushed once you got inside and the crowds were pretty unbearable.
We had a quick snack (Irish coffee and soup) at a little cafe and then back on the bus and to the hotel. Final dinner tonight at a restaurant just a short walk away. Shrimp wrapped in cucumber…noodles with truffles, mushrooms and Parmesan…really yummy.
I met Patricia (my new “best” friend), whom I had agreed to accompany on my extra day, at 10am at breakfast and walked to the National Art museum where they had a fantastic impressionist exhibit. We broke for coffee. Then to the Warhol/Mucha/Dali museum which was also excellent. More memorabilia and history about them. Didn’t know that Warhol was originally Warhola and his parents came from an area that is now Slovakia. Museumed out, we walked back to the hotel. I sat at the bar and had a glass of rose and the tuna salad again.
Then met Rebecca and Pete for dinner at 7pm. They had reserved a strange little place, called Home. It was part of a hotel. Had beef goulash and dumplings. So-so. A little heavy. They expressed amazement that I had agreed to hang around with Patricia…they were from Santa Cruz, so you will probably get my drift. Back to the hotel and packed, showered and went to bed.
A 4:20 AM pick up. All went like clockwork and I’m now on the plane almost ready to land in Lisbon. I opted to bid for Premier on TAP and got my bid of $125 accepted. However there really isn’t a Premier on this trip. The seats are the same, the configuration the same but with less width of the seat. You do get a nice breakfast, however. Kind of an expensive breakfast, I have to say.
An avid traveler, trader and terpsichorian