After everything that had happened in the weeks before I left Poland I was in no hurry to return. I had said farewell to all my friends, packed up as many of my possessions as I could into four large suitcases and one very large bike bag. Back in England I changed the little bit of Polish currency into good old British pounds on the assumption that I wouldn't be returning "any time soon".
Three solid months of working later I was beginning to miss a few things (and more importantly people) back in Kraków. I'd even renewed my Polish domain name, thinking that I may well return one day. One of my friends was moving away and it would be the last chance to visit her and at the same time celebrate her last day at work. I also wanted to stock up on my favourite Polish products (specifically breakfast cereals). I was in desperate need of a holiday to and decided that Kraków would be the ideal destination as I already know people there and there were some meetings and activities for me to take part in. It would also serve as a "trial run" to help me decide if and when I would return to Poland.
I arrived in Poland to the chaos which is Balice Pope John Paul Airport's Terminal 2. Fortunately I managed to find a taxi very quickly, completely not caring if I'd jumped any queues. The traffic in Kraków was alarming taking twice as long as it normally would to get to what my home for the next four days. The four star Hotel Qubus proved to be an ideal base. Reasonably priced and a short walk away from Kazimierz and a not-quite-so-short walk to the market square. I had toyed with the idea of staying at The Sheraton, but that would have probably brought back memories of a certain blonde girl. And I'd probably be crying even more when I got my credit card statement. No, Hotel Qubus was adequate for little old me. I decided not to have breakfast at the hotel as this would get me out of the hotel.
Friday evening gave me the chance to revisit some old favourites. First TAO by Zen Japanese restaurant, sitting in their peaceful garden. Next stop was Kładka Cafe for the regular Friday language exchange meeting. After briefly leaving the meeting to deliver some British bacon to a friend I returned to do some more alcohol-fuelled socialising. It was like I had never been away.
I arrived back at the hotel just after midnight, merry but not drunk. Facebook messenger had brought me good news. The next day I would be travelling to Tarnów to rendezvous with a particular young lady. This was despite plans to go to a Yelp picnic and meet various friends in the evening. The weather forecast didn't particularly favour a picnic and anyway, for some people it's just necessary to drop everything.
The train ride to Tarnów took just under two hours. Even by Polish train standards this was a little on the slow side. Shortly after I arrived my contact there phoned me saying she had just finished her exam and advised me to head out of the station, turn right and head up Krakówska following the pink pavements. There were no pink pavements. Well, maybe they were pink twenty years ago. Anyway, another phone call ensured that we were both walking on the same side of the road. Visual contact was established soon after.
We walked up towards the old town. The town is quaint enough and the market seemed to be a miniature version of Kraków's square. A sound check for a concert was in progress. We went to her flat, located in an enviable position just yards from the market square. There I was greeted by a gorgeous white cat. Hospitality was good it must be said. I declined the offer of chicken soup, but was unable to resist the strawberries and chocolate.
Next stop was the nearest thing Tarnów has to a student bar. The music was good (playing hits by such English greats as The Cure). The cider and the conversation was soon flowing. Diverse topics including American literature (something I know nothing about) and hotel towels (some I now know all about and will want to avoid in future). I even tried doing a quick sketch (in pen) of my host. A big mistake, I need more practice especially at drawing in pen. As the afternoon progressed it soon became apparent that I wouldn't be getting back to Kraków in time to meet any of my friends. Luckily one of them messaged me to say that they had been out all night and could we arrange a meetup for some other time. Two hours and four ciders later it was time to go find something to eat while we could still both walk.
Traditional Polish food was the order of the day. Yes, pizza. Surprisingly "sauce" was not deployed, making it slightly less traditionally Polish. I decided that it probably wasn't wise to have alcohol with our dinner. The pizza went down well and we were slightly more sober when we went to the next bar. A quick check of the bus timetables established that we had time for one more drink. Back to the market square again. After exploring and an empty and rather chilly cellar we decided to venture outside to an outside table, with the noisy concert not too distant. It was time to get the camera out too. Lots of photos (very few of which were in focus), but all taken at very interesting angle.
Our drinks were soon finished and we heading off back towards the station (via the park) to find me a bus. More photos. Some of them were in focus too. I was last to board the bus. The bus had a quite a few nuns on board and with very few other spaces I sat next to her. She crossed herself before the bus set off, I felt a little safer sitting next to one of God's representatives. Apart from lots of out of focus photos my trip to Tarnów left me with a few things to ponder. "Isolation leads to madness" (from our conversation about Emily Dickinson). Also I was reminded that I really should practice my drawing, my Polish and I really, really need to buy another guitar (to replace the ones that had mysteriously vanished). I got off the bus at the same time as the nuns and walked along the river to the hotel.
Sunday morning I had what was to be my only proper breakfast of the holiday. A buffet breakfast at Kolanko No 6 in Kazimierz. A typical Polish buffet. Lunch was at Spanish restaurant with another one of my favourite Kraków girls. She was appropriately dressed wearing an London-themed top. And a very pleasant lunch it was too. She asked me if I would write about our lunch. This time, no...
After lunch I got a taxi (as it was raining) to Klub Nie Lubię Poniedziałków (I don't like Mondays) for what used to be one of the highlights of my week when I lived in Kraków. Rysowana Niedziela (Drawn Sunday). They were pleasantly surprised to see me there as they had thought I was only joking when I said I would be there.
In the evening it was another weekly event which I had been missing out on. Scrabble! Sounds boring but is actually quite fun. Especially with me making up words and trying to justify them.
Monday had a slightly depressing start to it. I walked along the river towards Galeria Plaza (shopping mall). Passing my old flat brought back some very sad memories. By the evening I perked up a little with a nice dinner at a French restaurant and another boozy language meeting (again at Kładka cafe).
Tuesday was my last day in Kraków. I did some last minute shopping and finished packing. Then a taxi to the airport. Goodbye Kraków my fine friend...