16 September 2009
We finished off the day in Prague yesterday with a river cruise, which afforded nice views and also FASCINATING insights from our guide, such as, “Ladies and gentlemen, over here you can see the Ministry of Public Transport…” No?! Fancy that!
After which we walked back to the Old Town Square and had cocktails as, from a distance, we watched a Czech talent show of different martial arts. Felt like we were mastering European café culture—just plonked ourselves down and waited to be served, after which the waiter told us “service is not included in the bill”, which makes things SO much simpler than going through the issue of to tip or not to tip. Had kebabs for dinner (Vienna ones are superior) then went back to the hostel for our things, walked to the train station (Hlavni Nadrazi), and eventually, exhausted, found our train.
We were on the 21.09 to Krakow Glowny, in a ladies’ sleeper shared by three—we had the top two bunks and a Czech lady had the bottom. We were told we MUST lock our doors or we would be robbed by gypsies, and it felt like a cross between “Murder on the Orient Express” and “The Elves and the Shoemaker”. I was on the top bunk, and had a ladder to climb up, and felt very comfortable, lying there on the top bunk being rocked to sleep.
Until… I must have dozed off, and then woken again in a sudden flash of panic. Don’t know why, but suddenly felt very shut in, unable to sit up, unable to just jump out of bed, imagining being enclosed in that space, and I knew that if I didn’t get out, I would start to hyperventilate or something. So I got up, went and washed my hands, paced the corridor for a while, said some prayers, then got into bed, intensely disliking the feeling. Eventually I must have got to sleep, and so the night passed, but I must say I was very relieved to get off that train, bright and early at 6.30am.
We wandered into Krakow, tried to get money out of an ATM but were thwarted by a beggar who wouldn’t back away so I could put my pin number in without him seeing; finally found ‘Coffee Heaven’ open so had a sort of breakfast; then left our bags at the hostel. We walked over to Wawel Castle and wandered the cathedral and grounds—very beautiful, and the royal apartments had an unexpected feel of Italy. However, I haven’t seen a ‘castle’ in Europe or Britain that seems at all how I imagined a castle. I wonder if such exist!
Now we are at the hostel, enjoying much appreciated showers and rest. Soon we will go into the Old Town again to get on a bus to go to Wieliczka Salt Mines—will update!
Well, the Salt Mine was amazing. A great tour guide who told us—actually—REALLY INTERESTING stuff about the mine and cracked some not-tired-sounding jokes. The mine itself was amazing. Statues, whole CHAPELS carved underground, it astounded and brought the whole thing beyond expectations.
And just for your information - that chandelier is made from salt!!!
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