02 November 2010

Krakow for Tourists

Krakow sees its fair share of tourists and is well equipped for them. I have to say, though, I'm surprised there aren't more visitors. Even the biggest attractions are not even slightly congested. Granted, it's not exactly high season, but I saw more of these tourist golf carts sitting around empty than zipping around full. The carts tout their routes on the awnings, "Jewish Getto," "Old Town," etc. My favorite one said "Schindler's Factory." I loved it because - well - his factory wasn't in Krakow. It was a ways outside the city, definitely too far for a golf cart. The movie Schindler's List was filmed in Krakow, though, which means that the cart most likely picks up naive tourists and brings them to the movie location. Brilliant.
We saw a good number of locals buying some of these half pretzel/half bagel things, but the greatest concentration of carts were around the Main Square - the biggest Medieval square in Europe and favorite tourist jumping-off point. Merlin and I tried one, excitedly, one morning and found it to be dry, stale and not worth finishing. Part of me thinks that it's because we visited a cart that's used to people like us pointing, smiling, signaling "one" with our finger and then forking over some zloty for three-day-old bread.
Wroclaw had a strange obsession with dwarfs, or should I say they had a particular cultural connection to them. In Krakow, it's all about dragons. This cart sold dragon stuffed animals, key chains, magnets, pillows and - of course - shot glasses. I didn't even notice the Hard Rock Cafe behind it until I was flipping through my pictures. Then again, I've seen a Hard Rock Cafe in every major European city so far, so it probably doesn't set off my "whoa look at it!" radar anymore.
Horse-drawn carriages are a major tourist draw in Krakow. Even the "cool" Lonely Planet authors said it was something we just had to do. I'm not sure why, really. If people took horse-drawn carriages to work or something I may jump on board for the experience, but they don't. The horses looked as beautiful, well groomed and absolutely depressed as the ones in Central Park. Intriguingly, though, I have yet to see or smell horse poop - very much unlike Central Park. The drivers here didn't look much happier than their creature companions.

Merlin and I have turned to each other more than once and said, "Wow, I never thought I'd be in Poland." It's true, really, which is part of the reason we started this trip in the first place. Europe isn't just France and Spain and Italy and all the places on your "I Want to Visit One Day" list. Visit Krakow. It's beautiful and there's an empty golf cart just waiting for you.

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