Tuesday, July 21, 2009

grrrrr..... grounded!

i thought it only happens in india - mysterious flight delays, silly explanations, and hours stuck in a biz lounge wondering what to do!! but here i am, still in Krakow... the lufthansa flight to frankfurt is still to arrive, and the announcements are in czech. i could be here forever and ever!!
but first the good news. i leave krakow with heavy heart. it has been a revelation. krakow came as a pleasant surprise, possibly because i came here expecting nothing. i remembered all those jokes about Poles and was sure i'd meet some exceptionally dumb locals! instead i met polite, cheerful and helpful people at every level.... and they were clever!
Our idea to take a slow train from prague was a bad one. the scenery was monotonous and journey far too long ( eight hours). but we did eat some wonderful potato soup on the train and drank Polish white wine which was so good we promptly bought 5 more bottles! now here comes a really major tip : we desis don't know the meaning of travelling light. it is time we taught ourselves to travel like the rest of the world with one smallish suitcase that can be rolled along with ease. there are no porters these days, and believe me, getting 3 jumbo suitcases on and off a train is not fun!
but our hotel made up for it, and the taxi driver was kind enough to help. i always judge a destination by its cabbies and public loos. czech cabbies were rude and unhelpful. The Poles were consistently obliging.Hotel Stary ( strange name) is new, hip, stylish and excellently located just off the main square ( the largest medieval market square in europe). this is good and bad. bad only because, krakow being a student town with over 400 pubs, rowdy, noisy kids keep you awake till dawn with their exhuberant shouting matches in the square. liquor stores never shut in krakow -Alkohole signs at every corner let you know booze is but a few short steps away 24x7. Polish vodka has its fans, and my husband is one of them. the Poles drink it neat in tiny glasses. We went to a charming 18th century restaurant called Redolfie close to the hotel and once again discovered the soft spoken, well mannered nature of the local people, who genuinely want to make you feel welcome.
I guess i must have been tired for i told my husband grumpily that after a point ALL european cities look alike, smell alike , are alike. there is a cobbled square at the centre with cafes all around, horse drawn carriages, countless churches, one castle on the hill and the smell of smoked pork in the air. I wasn't too off the mark. However, krakow's history and its terrific people made up for all the other 'me too' aspects! i am glad we took a conducted walking tour with a super chap called Thomas, who really made the city come alive. i now know more about Polish kings , Queens, bishops and of course, the world's best loved Pope, thanks to Thomas. The story i most enjoyed was about the queen ( canonised and now a saint), who donated all her wealth, jewels and precious gems to save the university which was about to shut down due to a shortage of funds!! We walked around the castle, and walked into a spectacular church ( Mary's Ascencion) right by the market square, and were drawn into another era. The altar here is so dramatic, no wonder the Nazis were after it. The nazis were after EVERYTHING , of course. As we walked through the Jewish quarter and went past Schindler's factory ( now a museum), I had tears in my eyes. i saw 36 chair sculptures in a large square and was told each chair represented a 1000 jews who were exterminated there. i remembered another poignant memorial we'd seen on the edge of the river in Buda- Pest. a local sculptor had installed countless bronze shoes by the river bank. These represented the shoes of Jews shot there and thrown into the river after being asked to step out of their shoes. i couldn't and didn't visit Auschwitz - what for?? to feel sadder still???
there were many such deeply, deeply moving moments. surprisingly enough, there are very few jewish families left in krakow, which is the second largest city in Poland after Warsaw, and if you don't count Chicago!!
aaah.... the khaana peena. If you are planning to have just one meal in a great restaurant, I strongly recommend WIERZYNEK established in 1364. Yup. You read that right!! Legend has it a wealthy merchant opened it over 600 years ago with a party to beat all parties. He invited monarchs from across europe and served them out of solid gold plates. They partied non-stop for 21 days and nights. and when the guests finally left, they were asked to take the plates with them!!
you tell me - why can't more people party like that??

20 comments:

kala said...

Interesting. My interest in Europe has already waned. The uniformity is quite boring.Hotel Stary! It is scary.

kala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kala said...

Our ex President Kalam was frisked. And they lodged an FIR. Is it not a bit of over reaction? I respect and admire our ex president but I am glad Continental Airlines frisked him like they do to us ordinary people. We talk of equality, democracy, public servants etc. but why do they shout when equality is practised. Why not frisk Hillary as well?

Jogeshwar said...

now why don't you start with it, I guess you can afford to party like that and invite your blogdosts to it :D, may be then people will follow the suit.

Riaz-NJ said...

Were you FRISKED ??

narendra shenoy said...

Q. Why is a Polish real estate agent like a drug dealer?
A: He makes his money selling Krakow.

obssesor said...

yea and invite us to it!

cmpershad said...

...as the adage goes- LESS LUGGAGE MORE COMFORT.... Bureaucracy is same everywhere, so no need of abusing Indian lethargy:) A good travelogue. Thanks.

AnjuGandhi said...

I also experienced a similar incidence. in NY i had to wait for my connecting flight for more than 6 hours. for one reason or other it was getting delayed and it was almost midnight. and when i asked the concerned department what are we supposed to do if the flight doesnt come ( and in NY they dont fly after midnight)will they provide accomodation and food to all the pessengers? I was shocked when they refused to provide any facility. atleast in India if something like this happens, most of the time they provide food and if necessary acomodation too. MERA BHARAT MAHAN

Nandinikakoti said...

Back comes the idea of smoked pork....lolz!

Indeed the sacrifice of the Jews saddens as much as the the hardships and sacrifices of our freedom fighters.
And that 21 days party... which part u liked most? the wining and dining or the giving away of the Gold plates.....!!!!!! (Wink!)

milind said...

Hi there,

You written it in such a simple language. I could imagine every thing you narrated in the blog.

Late flights are very frustrating and boring as well. The most boring time is when i am at airport 3 hours before check in. And on top of that if the flight is delayed..Gosh ..dont want to imagine that. I was always fascinated by Vienna, wanted to got there with wife, but after reading your blog i have to change me plans.

Love and regards.

ms said...

please return Mz De! and write about indian calamities (uproar over the frisking of an ex prez, and we are a democracy where everyone is equal!) and "miscarriage" of justice (when the SC decided that a mentally retarded woman is fit to bear children but cannot vote). Pls return, we need your comments on the troubles that have befallen your countrymen/women in your absence. Europe has always been beautiful and clean and will remain so (unless they change their immigration rules and accept more of us!!)till your next holiday!
regards
ms

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

why can't more people party like that??
And how many of us are Old ???
Old is Gold - They say.
I salute !!!

*Aham* said...

@kala kalam. i believe dint have an issue being frisked. but wow! it is a great political opportunity. and our smarties as usual are ready steady to exploit.

de, its my dream to visit auschwitz, these nazi era movies have had a very deep impact on me. Its a gush of energy that flows in me. Like it would anybody. But that, i cant go back in time... i shall use the energy to do all that i can, for the today that is, If not the tomorrow that will be.

5 bottles of wine??? poora pee liya...??? Hope you arnt singing.. "Main Talli Ho gayee" ... and raise an alarm in the flight saying that the "train is shaking... bridge ke upar hai kya" lol

MOHAMMED FARHAN KHAN said...

I hope u are in Frankfurt now, Thank God delay flight culture is not in India only ...hehe
well u rightly said, judging a state through its cabbies and public loos....in India both things are horrible ...

wishes for ur better journey ...hope to chat with u soon ...

numerounity said...

Lolz.. I generally go out with filled suitcases and come back empty and then some time did vice versa.

Retail therapy is the biggest therapy!

life said...

Why celina lashed out at you in the recent interview???She called you an opportunist who tries to keep everyone happy....any takes???

Theyoginme said...

If Lufthansa continues its current course, it will be gobbled up by some other crappy European airline or just go bankrupt. They just cancelled a direct flight from Portland to Fkft starting Sept, so my trip late Aug will be the final one and will add many crappy hours of wait like you in the future.

Polish people are not only nice, they are very hard working and enterprising as well. I agree with the desi luggage dilemma - I think its in our genes. I remember as a kid going on trips to visit family in distant cities for a few weeks, my mother would literally pack a household, bags, suitcases, including our own bedding in those green canvas bags all rolled up and a couple of coolies balancing the whole boria-bistar on their heads, arms and shoulders, shoving through the crowds to find your train compartment. The same was true on the return journey, except this time grandma had backed groceries, fruits, meals, and god knows what, as if we were starving back home. I miss all that dearly and so wish my kids could experience all that chaos and love!

PS. Our paths almost crossed as I was originally booked to fly to Mumbai through Fkft on July 21 now pushed to Aug 21.

MOHAMMED FARHAN KHAN said...

Life - wat does If I say celina is an opportunist....she is a victim of its own circumstances ....wat else she can do if there is no movies ...oooppss...lols

P said...

Flight delays are a most frequent occurrence in the US! mostly due to weather (thats when they refuse to pay for accommodation as the laws allows them too...!)
I remember my first visit here.. AIR INDIA (HATE HATE HATE IT) was 5 hours late... dunno why! and it took us almost 24 hours to reach NYC! We had a 6 hour journey before us.. but mercifully we missed the flight and spent the night in the Big Apple!

Phew! inspite of being in the most exciting city with the love of my Life... I slept for 8 hours straight and some how made it to the next flight on time! No sight seeing that time.. :(