Lost my Head in Krakow
Nazy was in a reflective mood. Her birthday was on the horizon and..
“We used to take a nice trip on your birthday and my birthday, Dan. Remember? We went to South Africa on your birthday and Morocco on mine. A few years ago, we went to Korea for my birthday. We had a great time. Right?”
“We went to Sicily for our anniversary and your purse was stolen. Remember?” I replied.
“That wasn’t a birthday. Do you think we could take a mini-vacation this year? How about Rome?”
Rome sounded very interesting to me. We had only been there once and that was 20 years ago. It was (almost) drivable.
However, Nazy’s birthday coincided with Easter and:
“The shops will be closed,” I explained.
“What!?” Nazy replied. “What is the point?”
“And it will be crowded. We need an alternative.”
I opened the Europe Atlas looking for interesting cities that: (i) We hadn’t visited and (ii) Were in driving distance. We decided on Krakow (in Poland) because it met criterion (i) and, according to mapblast.com, almost met (ii) as well.
“We can stop in Prague on the way,” I said, rationalizing the ‘almost’. Astute readers may note that I did not suggest stopping anywhere on the way back.
We departed on April 1st Nazy’s birthday. It was snowing in Zürich and, as we discovered, it was also snowing in Austria and Germany.
“The last time we took a long road trip,” I said, ”was our drive to the Christmas market in Heidelberg in early December. It was snowing when we left. Now it’s Easter and it’s still snowing.”
“Snowing again.” Nazy corrected.
Mapblast said it would take 5 hours. Claudia was less optimistic – she predicted 7 hours. It actually took around 8 hours including the 90 minutes required to traverse the last 4 kilometers. Luckily (and unbelievably) we had departed early.
Our hotel, The Grand Palace, was undeniably grand and centrally located. We took a walk through the city before dinner. Nazy was enticed by the Bohemian Crystal. (I reminded her that we had listened to the Bohemian Rhapsody during our drive; I bought a “Queen” CD in Singapore for $2.)
We enjoyed Nazy’s birthday dinner at the hotel – entertained by Miroslav, our eccentric waiter. Miroslav, a tall, elderly gentleman, didn’t walk, he simply floated and babbled irrelevant non-sequiturs in about 22 different languages. He never turned and walked from our table, he backed away, contorting his body and smiling. Miroslav was one of a kind.
While Miroslav recited Czech and French poetry to Nazy, I consulted the wine list. The house wine was inadequate for a birthday celebration, but an entire bottle would be too much. Nazy had a solution.
“We get a bottle, drink half of it and then take the rest with us,” she explained.
“Are you sure?”
“Mark DeWolff told me that is what he does. Mark is a wine expert, Dan. There’s nothing wrong with that approach. It’s expected. We will just take the remainder of the bottle back to the room.
“And what will we do with it then?” I thought as I ordered a bottle from Tuscany.
Miroslav uncorked the wine with a flourish. Then he poured the wine into a..
“17th century crystal and pewter decanter,” he explained. “The Grand Palace acquired this decanter, and several others, at an auction in Zürich 75 years ago,” he explained. “This is only one left.”
“What happened to the others?” I asked.
“We will be careful,” I replied.
“Don’t worry,” Miroslav thought. “I will not let you touch the decanter.”
Needless to say we finished the wine; equally needless to say we ended the evening rather sleepily.
The next morning we walked through the city in search of a pewter and crystal wine decanter.
“Miroslav said that it only cost 500 Francs,” Nazy explained.
“That was in 1935, Nazy.”
Although we didn’t find (an affordable) decanter, we did find some interesting shops and buildings.
Prague, however, was not our destination; it was only a trading post on the route. We czeched out and collected the car. But:
“Claudia doesn’t know that Poland exists!” I exclaimed. “We will have to use a ‘map’.”
“How come yHowHou didn’t know?” Nazy replied. “How can Claudia not know about Poland? It’s bigger than the Czech Republic.”
Fortunately we still had our driving Atlas. Unfortunately, it was 10 years old. Even more unfortunately, there were no motorways, freeways, turnpikes or autobahns between Prague and Krakow. Nazy returned to the hotel to get instructions while I examined the map. Eventually we departed – slowly. The hotel’s recommended route suggested that the trip would take 7 hours.
A seasoned traveler, I was naturally calm and composed.
“This country,” I claimed, “has a language that is unreadable.”
“Look around. All the letters have sombreros.”
“Hats, Nazy like ńĕňčĉôăřŝŷ. Hoŵ caň ŷou řěâd tĥăt ŝtŭff?”
“And here we are in Bŭmpkĭňvĭłłe, Ĉzechă, on a road the size of our driveway, stuck in a traffic jam because the local citizens don’t understand how to use a roundabout.”
“And we’re going to a country that isn’t even on the map…”
“Yes it is.”
“… and a country that has a language without vowels.”
“Yes. Just long words with lots of “W’s” and “K’s”.
“Isn’t ‘i’ a vowel? All Polish names end in ‘i’, Dan.”
“Do not confuse me with facts.”
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