Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Discourse and Dragons Krakow, Poland, Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:12pm

My sleep schedule is kind of broken. After napping on the train, I didn't get to sleep until about 4am. So I slept in until almost noon.

My first stop today was the mall, conveniently located about a block from the hotel, right above the main train station. I picked up a local SIM card there for about $6. My international SIM card works, but it's costing an arm and a leg for data coverage because I'm being billed multiple times a day. When my phone checks for new email, it uses a tiny amount of data, but that transaction has a minimum charge of $0.50. The local card has charged me only $0.20 over the whole day.

Tinny's parents and I went into the old town and had lunch at a Georgian restaurant, where I had something reminiscent of a very flaky pizza. Quite tasty!

We had to hustle to make it to the Collegium Maius before their last tour (why does everything close early on Saturday? It'll be light out for another six hours!). It's part of the Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in Poland, and it's the place where Copernicus first studied Astronomy. This building is now mostly a museum, though conferences and meetings are still held there. There's a room devoted to Copernicus that includes some astrolabes that were in use when he was there. One is from Cordoba, Spain, and inscribed in Arabic. It's believed to date from 1054 AD. It's refreshing to visit a place where the venerable busts and magnificent portraits are of scholars, rather than politicians or religious figures.

Next we looked for the museum that houses one of Leonardo Da Vinci's few oil paintings, but it's currently closed for renovations. The painting is on display elsewhere, but I think scheduling will get in the way of seeing it this trip.

I peeked in to the Basilica of St Mary on the main square, which has a very impressive altarpiece, and a starry blue vaulted ceiling. Also in the main square was a drill team playing a marching band rendition of "Dragostea din Tei" (aka the Numa Numa song), which I've heard while traveling in Tierra del Fuego, the islands of Vietnam, and Casablanca.

Our last sightseeing stop for the day was Wawel Castle, where we discovered that they were sold out of tickets for the day and that most of the areas will be closed on Monday. Ah, well. I'll have to come back if I want to see the tapestries. We did get to roam the grounds and courtyards, and visited the public parts of Wawel Cathedral, which contains the tombs of most of Poland's important rulers. We exited by a set of stairs that led to a cave, at the mouth of which was a fire-breathing dragon. I was amused.