Sunday, December 25, 2011

790. Travel Stories - Day 6 Kracow, Poland

Dec 26, 2011 Kracow Poland 1.56 am Singapore time 8.58 am

Spent whole day in Kracow, Poland.
Gregory, a M.A degree tour guide provided a morning city tour with lots of history about Kracow and the Jews being sent away by during World War Two. Some old houses had been kept for the owners by the Polish Government are unrenovated as no owners had come to claim them. In Summer, over 20,000 tourists but now, not many. 8 Jewish synagogues, empty chairs as monuments of the War seen. In Budapest, along the Danube River bank, I saw the metallic shoes representing those Jews shot and pushed into the river during World War Two. Castles and churches again. Then to Christmas Market. Lots of history given by this guide. "Short but can really walk fast," one Singapore lady told me as this man in his 30s would walk so fast that none of us could be near him whenever he had to proceed to another spot to gather us to explain the history. I had not thought of why short people can't be fast pacers.

After lunch at the same restaurant, I asked the guide that I would prefer not to stay another 3 hours in the chilly air of zero degree C at the Christmas market. 14 Singaporeans elected to go back to the fair and then being picked up at 5 pm for dinner at China Palace. "The reason we can't have dinner at Hotel Sympozium is that the guide and driver will not be given free dinners unlike at China Palace," Marcos the tour manager told us."I hope you understand. The other group from 5-star you saw having dinner there yesterday paid themselves."

I had offered to stay in the hotel in the afternoon and pay for my dinner in this hotel. I was sick of walking around closed shops and watching another Christmas market stalls again. It is like walking around Orchard Road with shops closed for 3 hours in freezing cold. "Why not pack fried rice back for us, like you did for the driver?" the wife of the management consultant said. This middle-aged couple also did not want more wandering. For me, I had something to do - street photography. Otherwise I would be most bored to death listening to history of Poland for 4 hours.

Krakow's Market Square is the focal point for all tourists. Horse-drawn carriages, vendors of sausages, flowers etc on this Christmas Day. Mostly tourists were seen, as locals would stay at home on Christmas Day. A pigeon-feeder was seen, likely to be a local senior citizen.

I had gone to a McDonald for a warm cup of coffee at around 11.30 am with the guide and Marcos. This McDonald was the only one open (by law, only 3-employee shops and self-owned shops are allowed to open on Christmas Day. Even Tesco supermarket that opens 24 hours was closed on Christmas Eve and Day). It had a metallic gold "M" logo outside the entrance. A famous 136-year-old hotel cafe was open too. A few hundred tourists, mainly Caucasians at the Christmas Market seen. One man juggled balls with his body to get paid in coins. Another man dressed like a Ghenkis Khan statue moved when coins are dropped into his bowl in front of him. Horse and carriage for tourists seen. More famous old churches and different styles of architecture but it seemed that none of us were interested in the details.

So, my afternoon was spent in the hotel to catch up with jet lag. In this tour, the group stayed 2 nights in the same hotel. So, less rushing and packing. The group also had 18 tourists unlike last December's tour of Western Europe when there were 40 tourists crammed in tight seats of the coach. So, nowadays, many of us could sit by ourselves as there were more seats available. Four couples would sit together - a newly wed and two senior citizens.

iPhone does not seem to work in Kracow's Hotel Symposium. A free internet access is for laptops. Got a phone line from the hotel to connect. The young men Dan and Jason knew how to create a "hotspot" via Internet Explorer in the laptop and used the laptop as a router for their iPhones. Still, at certain times, they could not access the internet while the laptop was OK. "There should be no reason for this failure to access the internet," Dan told me when I said that the hotel could be using software to prevent signals going to the iPhone from the laptop so as to secure payment for wireless use by iphones. "After all, the hotspot is inside your laptop and it is accessing the internet."

I was thinking of the Allies jamming the direction of aircraft missles by releasing some bright metallic things when missles are fired at the aircraft. So, iphones could be jammed intermittently.

Now it is 2.29 am. I tapped my iphone 4 for access to which I could read about the Singaporean couple being mugged in JB and the Orchard Road flooding. The "Cannot Open Page. Data Roaming is turned off" appeared on the screen. Why can't the iphone access the hotspot which was created again by the young men? I would not know. Something to do with iphone 4's technical aspects I would think. At night, I don't want to go out to Tesco even if it is opened just in case 5 men appeared suddenly to mug me, as happened to the Singaporean couple in JB. The world has become much less safe nowadays with many people preferring to rob rather than to work and the police being under-staffed while the politicians of democratic countries try to govern the country by giving goodies to the citizens to win their votes.

Enough of kings and queens, churchs, shopping malls for branded goods and Christmas Markets in Vienna, Budapest and Kracow and the cold winter air. I did not have runny nose today unlike in Budapest's Christmas Market yesterday. Why no cold air rhinitis? I do not know.

I will be visiting the salt mines today. Got to get up at 6 am and have breakfast at 6.30 am.

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