The overnight train on the Czech rail line wasn't as new and upscale as the German Bahn train I took into Prague, but it was fine. Unfortunately, I had the top bunk this time, which is somewhat akin to sleeping in the overhead luggage compartment on a bus. It was small and cramped and there was no air circulation up there. A little claustrophobic! I was also in the 1st car right behind the engine, so it was a bit a noisy. It seemed as if every time I did manage to fall asleep, we would stop somewhere and the screeching of the brakes would wake me back up. But, I arrived at my destination safe and sound, so I can't complain too much.
I had a compartment-mate for the entire trip this time; Melissa, a teacher from Ohio who is currently living and teaching in Tanzania. She is on holiday for a little over 2 weeks and had also been to Amsterdam, Prague, and was, obviously, heading to Krakow. She is doing a tour of Jewish sites in central and eastern Europe. She's spending 2 days in Krakow and then heading back to Amsterdam where her parents are flying in to visit her. Her dad has never been out of the states, so she is anxious to show him the beauty of Amsterdam. I was telling her how much I loved it there...the canals, the architecture...and she said I will just freak out in Venice. She said it is the most beautiful place she's ever been...and she is the third well-traveled person to tell me that since I've been on this trip, so I'm anxious to get there. I'll be there Sunday...I think.
It was so nice to finally have someone to talk to in English. You guys know how I love to talk! And that hasn't been easy lately. Tanya was with me for the first week, so I had someone to talk to then...and Skype has helped keep me from getting too homesick since I talk to Tanya and Keyonna (and tonight, Betsy) via that service. But in my day-to-day interactions, having conversations has been a crap shoot. In Stockholm people seemed busy and didn't want to chat, even if they did speak English. In Amsterdam, almost everyone spoke English and they were friendly and talkative...which, of course, only added to my love of the city. But in Prague, almost no one spoke English and people weren't very friendly even if they did. In fact, in many cases, they were rude. I hate to say that, but it's kinda true. Maybe it's a cultural difference, but they aren't very willing to help you find anything or even have a short conversation on the tram when they aren't otherwise engaged. Maybe they are just sick of tourists...it was awfully crowded there and most of us are a bit idiotic, wandering about with no clue where we're going or how to get there, getting in the way of people who are trying to get things done. Of all the places I've been, Dublin takes the prize for the gift of gab. There are no short conversations in Ireland. Stop to ask directions and you will be standing for at least the next half hour chatting. My kind of place!
Poland already seems friendlier to me that the Czech Republic. Although no one at the Central Station spoke English, they all seemed to sincerely want to help me. At one point, there were 4 people all standing around me trying to figure out what I needed. Finally, after a brief round of charades, they realized I needed a tram ticket and pointed me in the right direction with smiles all around. Perhaps the best example of Polish hospitality is my host at this apartment, Joanna Sarwicka. Knowing that my train was arriving very early, she not only let me into the apartment a full 6 hours before check-in time, but had cereal, milk, yogurt, tea, and coffee waiting for me since I was getting here before the market in the building opened. So kind and gracious! She also gave me a map, helped me understand the tram system (which ones go where), and left me a guide to the city in English. She lives in the same building and gave me both her phone number and apartment number in case I need anything else. I've only been here a few hours and already I feel welcome and well cared for.
The apartment is lovely. It's just outside the city center in a high-rise apartment building. I hate to use that term because I know the picture in your head goes to steel and glass monstrosities with no character. This is a large, 7-story building with a stucco façade and a Spanish-tiled roof. Outside, it fits into the Polish landscape ; inside, it's modern and sleek with elevators, an electronic keypad entry system, flat screen TV, and high-speed wireless internet. I'm on the sixth floor on the back (away from traffic noise) with a balcony. The apartment is just across the river from the city center, and only 2 tram stops from all the major attractions. And, the tram stops directly across the street from the apt. Ideal! Joanna's family owns 9 apartments in this building and uses them to host tourists from all over the world.
Here are some pics of my apt in Krakow. I'll post more pics of sights in town when I get out and about (it's snowing right now and I'm still a little groggy from lack of sleep).
The main room looking towards the kitchenette from the balcony.
Same room, looking back towards the balcony
Ah...a nice big tub with beautiful tile and a towel warmer. The glass partition just covers the shower part of the tub.
I love these doors to the bedroom and bathroom.
And, finally. this kitty perched perilously on the balcony one floor below me. It's stalking a bird, although it has very little chance of winning that battle from up here.