18 May 2024

Poland Trip

  1. Lots of memories from that airport May 16, 2024


    Remember seeing somebody ordering beer at 5am in the morning! Also, the only airport where, after reaching the gate to leave for the US, I realized nobody had stamped my passport. Went back to the security folks and they had to call in the immigration guy to stamp my passport. This was around 4am in the morning. And I had an Indian passport then.

    One of my favorite cities in Europe!

  2. Airport #168 in country #61 May 16, 2024

  3. Vistula river! May 16, 2024

    My hotel in Krakow is right on the river. It is a nice warm and sunny day. Everybody of all ages seem to be outside. Many of them are just lying by the river soaking the sun in. I had just one question – It is Thursday and 2PM. What happened to classes and offices?

  4. Wawel Castle May 16, 2024

    This is right next to my hotel. Well, 10 minute walk and you have to go uphill. Wikipedia would have you believe that this is the most important building culturally and historically for Poland. This is where the king lived and where the seat of power was till the capital was moved north to Warsaw.

  5. Out on Vistula May 16, 2024

    Took a boat ride up and down River Vistula to check out the views of Krakow

  6. Checking out Jewish Square May 16, 2024

    While it is of a lot of historical value, it is today mostly filled with restaurants and coffee shops.

  7. Strolling around Jewish Square May 16, 2024

    Got some good coffee and nearly 20,000 steps!

  8. View of River Vistula from the rooftop bar of the hotel May 16, 2024

  9. Beautiful Krakow after sunset May 16, 2024

  10. Polish spellings – a spellcheck’s worst nightmare! May 17, 2024

    In Polish, I think, attending to details is referred to as “crossing your ‘l’s and hooking your ‘c’s”. Also if you are ever stuck trying to remember the spelling of a Polish word, you can put in a “w”. More likely than not you will be right. And if you ever get to a “c”, without fear or favor, put down a “z” immediately.

  11. Today’s adventure: Going down in a salt mine May 17, 2024

    This is in a town called Wieliczka outside Krakow. Just because I know how to spell it, does not mean I know how to pronounce it. After about a half an hour wait, we got to go into the mine.

    We will go down some 135 m (400 feet+ or about 40 floors) using 800 steps. And that is only one third of the mine depth. The other two thirds are not open to tourists. There is a walk for about 2.5 miles through intricate labyrinths in the mine. I am glad we have an English speaking guide to make sure we do not get lost.

    Fortunately, an elevator is there to take us up eventually.

  12. Inside the salt mine May 17, 2024

    Frankly, I was not sure what I was going to see once in the mine. I can visualize what the walls of a coal mine might look like but could not quite visualize a salt mine. In my mind, you get salt by evaporating ocean water.

    I understand this particular part of the world was under water some 14 million years back. When the ocean evaporated, it left all the salt in the ground.

    This is how it looks. You might mistake it to be granite or some kind of rock from inside. Till you try tasting a bit of it. (Yes, I did!!). It is much cooler to touch. Apparently, that is how miners would recognize salt deposits while digging. They would check how cool it was to touch. I guess going around licking after every swing of the pick axe would have been impractical and perhaps dangerous.

    We were informed that wood was always used inside the mine instead of metal since metal would corrode from the effect of salt. Plus, I suspect wood was cheaper in this part of the country.

    Everything around us was salt rock like this. Even the floor – which looked like marbled floors you see at home was salt.

  13. This is a sample of how the miners would excavate salt, carve them into rolls and then cart them away May 17, 2024

  14. Mushroom Salt May 17, 2024

    Now, this is what I was sort of expecting to see – white fluffy salt deposits (like you see on the banks of Dead Sea). These is actually water that has dripped and then evaporated in a cave. Somewhat like the stalactites and stalagmites that we learnt in our geography class in seventh or eighth grade.

  15. Sculpture made of salt rock inside the mine May 17, 2024

  16. The most well paid job in mining May 17, 2024

    Apparently, it was not the engineers or managers (I am sure there were managers even in those days). The sculpture in the rock salt shows the job that paid the most. These were folks who would try to detect the presence of flammable gas and burn them away. They would crawl on the floor with a fire held high. The leaking gas would be detected thus and they had no option but to wait and burn it off all. Once in a while, they would lose their lives to an explosion. Which is why the premium in their pay!

  17. A church way deep in the mine! May 17, 2024

    It appears that these mines were not just a work place. Some 400 feet below the surface, in one of the large chambers in the mine, a whole church has been built out. With some intricate carvings of Biblical scenes on the wall. I understand three artists completed this over 64 years or so.

    Every Sunday, there is a mass here! Weddings are regularly held here. And you thought mining is the pits!!

    I asked the guide – “So, you make the bride walk down all these steps in her high heels to get married?”

    All future brides would be relieved to hear that they have a special elevator for that purpose!!

  18. A lake! Inside the mine!! May 17, 2024

    This completely destroys my mental picture of a mine. First, a church and now a beautiful lake.

    We were not allowed to go in the water but I bet it would have been a floating in the Dead Sea kind of experience.

  19. Put in a run by River Vistula May 17, 2024

    This would be country number 31 that I have put in a 5K in.

  20. Krakow Old Town May 17, 2024

    As a last destination for this trip, I headed out to Old Town. It being a Friday evening, it was vibrant with al lot of people and activities. The cafes and restaurants were doing brisk business.

  21. Large gathering in the Old Town Center May 17, 2024

    There was something going on in the middle of the square with what looked like military folks, a flag at half mast and a lot of onlookers. All the proceedings were in Polish – so, I understood nothing of it!

  22. This reminded me of those two guys on the road in Guatemala city May 17, 2024

    Remember them?

    With full music blasting, these guys were taking turns to do some acrobatic dances on the floor.

  23. On another corner, we had a music band playing May 17, 2024

    The Old Town Center is really festive today. Lots and lots of people are all over the place.

  24. One of cool things you see in the square – lots of horse carriages May 17, 2024