Thursday 13th October 05

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There's only one good reason to be wide awake and out of bed at half past four in the morning and that's when you're going on holiday! Before a trip I always get that childlike 'night before Christmas' excitement. I just can't get to sleep.

So, the sequel to The Achtung Boyos has arrived finally a whole twelve months after Steve and I retuned from Berlin and immediately decide to visit Krakow in 2005. The Boyos have gone through a recruitment campaign this last year and our ranks have now swollen to a troop of five proud Welshmen!

Joining Steve and I on this trip are Garry, a good friend and husband of Julie's closest pal Sonya; and from within the family we have David, (Julie's brother), and Nathan, (Rachel's [Julie's niece] husband).

David had offered to drive us all down, and I had put myself forward as the co-driver but my pigeon-like skills weren't needed as he had one of those fancy Satellite Navigation Systems that led him all the way to Luton Airport. My Schumacher-like driving skills weren't called upon either as he was happy to drive all the way.

I must admit that following the Tom Tom GPS was amazing as it quite literally showed us and told us, in a softly spoken female voice, the way down without us once having to consult a road map; nor even a road sign! One failing of the system however was that it just couldn't direct us to an empty space in the long term car park!

We arrived at Luton Airport in plenty of time yet despite being 15 minutes early for the scheduled check-in our boarding passes still showed that there were 14 other passengers who were earlier than us. Steve "gotta get a window seat" Jones, didn't seem too concerned over this as he knew that he could push his way to the front at the gate!

In our eagerness to get here on time we hadn't stopped at all on the way down, not even for a piss stop! So by now we were a little hungry and a little thirsty!

Within a few minutes we had found a bar and enjoyed 3 pints (or 2½ for Nathan) of Staropramen beer and a few nibbles for breakfast.

We had to leave our cosy place in a bit of a hurry because we missed the 'gate opening' time of 12:25pm. Steve shot like a whippet down the corridors to get in the queue as soon as possible.

David, Garry and I followed at a more sedate pace whilst Nathan nonchalantly strolled in the opposite direction to buy a newspaper and to find the toilet!

He certainly had the right idea because we all ended up in the same place in the queue anyway!

Steve was resigned to not getting his front right window seat but as long as he got a window seat then he was OK.

We walked over the tarmac from the departure gate and onto the steps, unable to gain any further advantage.

Whilst we were queuing up the steps Nathan was drinking some water from a bottle with a sports cap. Then as calm as anything he turned to me and said

"Do you know what Col, I've always wanted to do this" and lowered the bottle, pointed it at my crotch, and squeezed. The water squirted out right in the place that made me look like I had just pissed myself. "Oh, you Bastard!"

I tried to carry out immediate retribution and we scuffled for control of the bottle. Two things happened as a result. We managed to squirt a woman who was standing in front of us and also Nathan's boarding pass was blown out of his hands!

Fortunately for us they still allowed us on board!

Steve was sitting by the window with Garry for company, the rest of us sat in the row in front.

As the plane was taxing towards the runway I heard Steve shout "What?!?!"

We all turned around to see Garry bent over in agony asking for an empty bottle to pee into!

"I need to piss or I'll pass out"

Nathan handed over his water bottle and as we were hurtling down the runway trying to get airborne Garry was relieving the pressure on his bladder and completely filled the bottle!

We couldn't believe it!!

The colour was a bizarre lime green which worried him a little but later it dawned on us that the bottle was tinted blue, which when mixed with yellow colour of piss made it lime green.

The flight took a little over two hours and was as smooth as any I have been on.

Easy Jet has always given good service in my experience.

Krakow's John Paul II airport at Balice was only small, so the luggage was out on the conveyor belt as soon as we had walked inside.

We were however one of the last to leave as David couldn't recognise his holdall!

Once outside we looked for the bus into the city, and whilst a large sign directly outside said that this was the stop to take you into Krakow there were two buses parked to the far right. Nathan went ahead to find out if these were going our way.

©Steve Jones

The number 208 bus or the 192 were listed in our guidebook as the ones to take you into the city but this one was the X08?

The driver however assured us by nodding and saying "Yes, Krakow central", so we got on. It cost 4PLN and the ticket issued seemed to confirm what the driver was saying.

On the way in Garry talked about a previous trip to East Europe, to Budapest (?) I think, where one night he ended up in this empty bar with only himself, and an off duty barman.  

©Steve Jones

The on duty barman came over and said in a rigid Ukrainian accent "Hello my friend, do you like porn?" and then flicked the TV channel over to some hardcore stuff. Steve found this so hilarious and it soon became his catchphrase for the rest of the trip!

Anyway, ... twenty five minutes after leaving the airport we caught a glimpse of the Wista River and the imposing Wawel Castle. It was an incredibly grey day which we all thought was quite apt for what we originally considered to be a grim Eastern bloc country. Our opinions on Poland however were to change over the next few days.

We came to a stop a little further past the Radisson Edwardian Hotel on the corner of Straszewskiego and Zwierzyniecka; just alongside a strip of park that circles the Old Town, called the Planty; Krakow central as promised.

Our apartment was at the opposite side of the old town but it wasn't too far to walk. We trundled our way up Franciszkanska where a massive collage of the old Pope John Paul II hung on one side of a building, opposite a Franciscan Church. It was made out of thousands of smaller photographs and looked amazing! It's really clever how they do that; make a large image using smaller images as pixels.

Up the cobbled Bracka street we walked with Steve's bag on wheels making an almighty racket.

This led us up to Rynek Glowny the enormous open square that is the heart of Krakow. At about 10 acres it's apparently the largest Medieval Square in Europe.

In its centre stood a very pretty renaissance style arcaded building called the Sukiennice or Cloth Hall which was once the main hub of the city's trade.

The entire eastern side of the square had been cordoned off as what looked like extensive archaeological work was being carried out.

Apparently they had discovered old foundations and cellars and are planning an underground museum and restaurant. It ruined the view but I guess it gives us a good enough reason to return!

Onwards we marched past the Basilica of the Virgin Mary on the north eastern corner of the Great Square, where Karol Wojtyla, a pope in waiting, once stood as the Archbishop of Krakow.

It's also from this Cathedral's tower that a bugler toots the Krakow signal on the hour every hour. There's an interesting tale about the tune played but I'll go into more detail later.

Not far now, only up the pedestrianised ul. Florianska towards the towers of the Florian Gate where many artists sold their works of art, and then right onto Pijlanska street.

Earlier on the X08 bus I had phoned a guy called Prezemek from to let him know that we were half an hour away and to my relief, [as arranged], someone was waiting for us outside number 21.


She let us into the apartment and gave us two sets of keys.

The apartment was perfect! It consisted of three spacious rooms. The first a bedroom with a double bed, which Steve immediately staked his claim!

The second room had twin beds, and the third was the largest with a double bed, a sofa, and a dining table with 4 chairs. It even had a decent television with a satellite receiver.

It was heated well with these interesting looking heaters. They were the size of a cupboard, and covered with ceramic tile. They had an oven style door, and probably were traditionally heated by a coal or wood fired stove.

We had a small kitchen and a bathroom with shower over the bath, a toilet and even a washer/dryer.

For €270 for 3 nights inclusive of electricity and heating it was good value for the five of us!

As we unpacked we discussed the sleeping arrangements and decided that whoever arrived back the drunkest would sleep on the sofa!

After a quick sprucing we went out in search of Pizza! Just off the main square there's a smaller square called Maly Rynek where the bright neon sign of the Pizza Club caught our attention.

We walked in to find a café that was far removed from the trendy modern sign outside. We were led through to a dour looking room in the back. It had a high ceiling with dark frescoes on the wall giving it a feel of a neglected Italian palazzo, which I suppose wasn't a bad thing for a pizzeria and at least it did have an authentic wood fired oven!

We sat down and finally got to taste our first Polish beers of our trip. The Tyskie beer tasted really good. So much so we quickly ordered another round!

We also learnt our first Polish word when we asked the waitress for the translation of 'Thank you' .

"Jenkoohyah" wasn't too difficult to pronounce; however Garry's first attempts were hilarious, as he kept on saying 'Dim Cwiars' which is Welsh for 'No Queers' !

The menu was quite extensive and to start we all went local choosing various soups. Mine was a Borsch with egg. I was expecting something similar to the Egg Drop soup you would have in a Chinese restaurant but I found a hard boiled egg lurking in its purple depths! The beetroot soup was really delicious though. Others had a Garlic Mushroom soup, or a Polish Sour Soup, or plain Borsch with a cabbage roll (with sausage meat).

Another round of Tyskie beer and a large pizza each quickly followed. They tasted fine but certainly not the best. The total cost was 270PLN for all of five of us which wasn't too expensive.

We left the Pizza Club and walked away from the main square down Mikolajska where I knew that Greenway, (a vegetarian restaurant), and Cyklops, (a highly recommended pizzeria were located).

Here we noticed an entrance to a bar alongside the veggie café, it was called the Czasem Trzeba Pub.

The low ceiling and steep steps that led down to the cellar bar were a challenge even after only a few pints. I certainly wouldn't want to attempt a descent on a full tank!

Steve got the round in and hit the jackpot when the Warka beer was only 4 zlotys a glass! Now that's a good price!

We were debating whether or not it was an authentic cellar or was it a mock rebuild with stone cladding! It certainly had a great feel to it, despite being comparatively quiet.

We imagined it having a cracking atmosphere when it fills up.


At the price of the beer we could have stayed here all night but after David opened the door of a communal toilet on a woman busy using it at the time, we decided to move on.

We returned to the main square, and on the south eastern corner went into Klub Pod Jaszczurami.It was very popular and quite laid back. There wasn't any loud music banging and most people seem to be sitting around tables having in depth conversations. It seemed a trendy intellectual student type of hangout. The price of beer sneaked up a little as well to 5.50 zlotys.

Each table had a flower in a vase. We had a red rose in ours and I retold the story of when Julie and I were at the Trevi Fountain. We had accumulated several roses and as we left we tried to give them away to a deserving couple but they actually recoiled in fear as we drunkenly approached them!

Anyway in homage to that incident I dared Nath to give a single red rose to someone as we left. Just hand it over, don't say anything, and then walk out. This we did, choosing someone who sat at the table nearest the door.

We expected the same "get lost you weirdo" reaction that I got in Rome but it was quite the opposite. Her face lit up as if she had just met her Prince Charming! It was such a nice reaction to a cheap joke!

Next we found Harris' Piano Jazz Bar on the west side of the square.

As we entered the cellar we could hear live music playing which is always a favourite of mine. Having played in a band I really appreciate the effort of a good performance. Plus they were pretty cool, playing bluesy instrumental numbers.

It was my turn to buy a round and of course the beer had now gone up to 6.40 zlotys! The most expensive yet!

Whilst at Harris' someone approached us and said "Hello" as if she knew us? Steve recognised her straight away. She was on the Easy Jet flight over this morning. What a coincidence!

In fact she was standing in front of Nathan and I on the steps to the plane. Yes, that's right, the one we doused with water! Ooops!

She introduced herself to us as Helen and introduced her husband who towered above everyone. I was so thankful that she was light hearted about her soaking!

We decided to move on when the band had finished their set.

As we were about to make a move David got his foot trapped in the rim of a beer barrel and his injured knee locked up!

Then on the way out Nathan posed for a great photo but my heart was in my mouth as he climbed onto this statue of a jazz trombonist. What can't be seen is the 3 metre drop to his right!

We left the Jazz bar in search of cheaper beer and another neon Jazz Bar sign down ul. Szewska caught our attention. We somehow however missed the entrance to it and ended up walking down into a cellar called the Rece i Nogi Club. It was very dark, very loud, and very empty!

It also had a bizarre display of prosthetic limbs above the bar? I'm not too sure what was their message? Do the drinkers get so drunk they become legless?


Anyway, there was a small dance floor in a back room where some drum and bass was beating a funky tune. We went to have a look but there was hardly any one there. We sat down nonetheless to a round of beer and nodded our heads to the beat.

Another round of drinks followed in quick succession, but this time I opted out of the gaseous Zyweicz beer.

Although instead of being virtuous and abstaining from anymore alcohol I enjoyed a very smooth shot of vodka!

After a while the place was starting to fill up. I suppose it was a more popular place towards the end of an evening. We decided to leave however to find a quieter bar that would be more conducive to conversation!

As we stepped out, back onto ul. Szewska, we saw a sign for Pub Goraczka and thought that sounds more like it. So down some more steps we clambered.

It had a long, well-lit bar which wasn't too busy. It did have a jam packed dance floor through in another room but the noise was well contained. Perfect! We stood near the bar drinking the night away.

We noticed that David had struck up a conversation with a young woman and we gravitated towards him. When we got within earshot we were surprised to hear them discussing the European Common Agricultural Policy! David is a farmer, and so it was a topic close to his heart but it turned out that she was an Agrotourism student!

"A French farmer can make a living from only two cows, yet in the UK we have to have two hundred to receive the same amount of money!" he complained!!

When David went to the bar she began talking to me. I told her about Julie and my daughter Hannah and how immensely proud I am of being a Grandfather at my age.

I showed her a picture of my grandson Rory and was enthusing lyrically about the miracle of birth when she seemed to be overcome with emotion and began to cry. She explained she had recently miscarried. As she stared into her drink I wanted the earth to swallow me. I couldn't get out of there quick enough.

Before too long we all noticed that Nathan had been gone a while. The last we saw of him he was heading into the other room. We all looked for him on the dance floor but there was no sign of him. It was quite some concern because only Steve and I had a key to the apartment, and I would have been very surprised if Nathan actually knew his way back!

At the same time Garry was feeling the pace and he just wanted to sleep. The security guys however came down from their look-out point and told us that there was no sleeping allowed in their pub! Whilst the night was still young for some, we agreed that Steve should take Garry back, and hopefully find a dazed and confused Nathan hopelessly wandering around the square somewhere!

The remainder of my evening was spent loosing David, finding him, only to lose him again. I had sworn an oath to his mother that I would protect him from evil and keep the vampires from his door. At one stage I just couldn't find him anywhere in the bar nor the dance floor. I was really concerned that he had walked outside and that I had lost him! For Christ's sake, it was only the first night and I was already two men down! My mother-in-law was going to kill me!

I stepped outside to check if I could see a 'more befuddled than normal' David but I didn't. I did however receive a text from Julie asking if we were all OK? I messaged back saying " I've lost Nathan, I've lost David now and I've got the squits!" (I've neglected to mention before that I was popping to the toilet all night with a 20 minute recurring time bomb in my arse!) I almost instantly had a call back from Julie for an explanation. She was so concerned that her brother was lost in Poland she told me later that she was physically sick with worry. One last desperate search of the bar and I found him! Thank God! He must have heard my blaspheming prayers!

We called it a night and finally left Pub Goraczka.

Now whilst I didn't feel too drunk, when we got to ul. Pijlanska 21 we found that the shutters were down. I tried my key but I couldn't reach the lock properly. David and I tried all sorts to lift the shutters but they weren't budging. We gave up.

Thankfully we weren't successful because we were actually trying to break into the Alkohole (off-licence) a few doors down! Imagine if we had ripped the shutters off! I sheepishly noticed our proper door beneath the obvious number 21 and we made our way up the five flights of steps.

I was very glad to see Nathan back safely despite the fact that he was sprawled over the double bed that I was eyeing up, and I was even more glad when I noticed David collapsing onto the sofa!

I phoned Julie to let her know that we were all present and correct. It was now 4am. It had been a very long 24 hours!

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