Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy
Day Ten – Park Place, Goodbye Kim, Give Me Your Dirty Laundry, The Feet Get a Work Out, Jewish Quarter, “Can’t Go Up There” And The Girl From Ipanema
I awoke with a start remembering that the free parking on the street ended on Monday, and even with a mini-espresso martini hangover, I remembered that today was Monday. The apartment manager had told me that I should ask a man in a yellow vest about getting the necessary parking passes for the street. Instead, I ran into someone who looked more interesting than a guy in a vest.
I asked a local (well, she was tall, young and really good looking, so I figured she was a local), where to buy the street parking ticket to put in my car. She was quite nice, spoke perfect English and, after coming to the sudden realization that I was still married, I quickly hurried to a little kiosk across the street where she said I could purchase the parking pass. I proceeded to buy nine, one-hour slips that I had to fill out and put on the dash of the car. Speaking of dash, I had to dash back to the rental car and got there only minutes before I would have received a ticket. By the time I had put all the tickets out, my dashboard looked like a bookie joint.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kim headed for the curb to catch a taxi. He was about to set off on his own version of The Amazing Race. Kim would fly to Chicago, change planes, fly to Los Angeles, sleep, then drive to Orange County, get his laundry done, work during the day, make an important speech that night, sleep, drive back to L.A., fly to New York, and change planes in order to get to Vienna by Thursday morning, where he would meet us in the nick of time to catch a flight to Dubrovnik. It made me hungry just to think about it, so I said goodbye and grabbed a chocolate croissant and espresso . Kim had made us think about our own laundry. It had been pretty hot during the first part of our journey, and we were going though clothes faster than Obama and McCain go through potential vice presidential nominees.
Since we pack light, we were down to our last shirts. We could have done our own washing, but we gave ourselves a treat and took them nearby to the Betty Clean (the name of a place, not a person). It wasn’t cheap, but the clothes would be ready in 24 hours, and this way we had more time to explore Kraków.
Obviously, it was just a trick to have us walk up that hill again, because nothing was free, and we were in a frugal mood, so we strolled around on the courtyard, enjoyed the sunshine and headed toward our next destination.
Tracy, Mary and I walked to Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter), about 20-30 minutes from Rynek Gløwny. Kraków’s Jewish quarter is not as well marked as the one in Prague, so we kept walking around the street a few times looking for the Old Synagogue and the Old Cemetery. We ran into a few others who were as lost as were. When we saw a sign for “Yiddishland,” we knew we were close.
It was getting really hot, and we stopped at the High Synagogue and the Old Synagogue. We finally did find the Old Cemetery and walked around there for a little while.
Then Old Tom said, “I think it’s time to eat.” I could see the gang was a little “churched and synagogued” out. We ate outside in the courtyard of Magma Restaurant. The food was nothing to write home about, but it is where I met the first of a few new “Mrs. MaitaiToms.” It is kind of a running joke that when Tracy sees me be a little more flirtatious than usual (hey, I’m not dead, yet!), she refers to that unfortunate woman as the “New Mrs. Maitai (not our real last name).” She is then quick to add, “And if she wants you, I am sure the two of you will be happy living in the back of your Honda.” Tracy has a way of spoiling the moment sometimes. As you can see below, I surreptitiously got the new Mrs. Maitai in the picture, in between Mary and Tracy.
I had wanted to climb the Town Hall Tower in Rynek Glówny, so we walked back after lunchtime. Along the way, we passed a hostel that seemed to be a little hostile toward Communism, but with a sense of humor about it.
The walk back to the Rynek Glówny seemed a lot longer as the heat index kept soaring. We thought about walking back over to the castle area where we had seen a restaurant on the river, but our feet were starting to rebel.
Aching feet or not, once back in the center of town it was time to climb the tower, but was informed that it would be closed this week (Damn!). After Tracy and Mary completed the “Oh Boy, We Don’t Have to Climb The Tower” dance, we wandered through the square, which was very crowded on a Monday afternoon.
We window-shopped for a short time, and Mary decided to head back to the apartment, while Tracy and I plopped down on the square at Da Pietro to have some late afternoon nourishment. We split a crostini misto and sipped some wine and Prosecco. We actually got in a nap for about an hour back at the apartment, but since I was still shrinking, we headed out for dinner around 7:30. We found a Brazilian place called Ipanema on Tomasza that had been recommended, and suddenly the song started going around in my head for the next hour.
Our waitress, dubbed the “Girl From Ipanema,” was a little off on this night, bringing a wrong dish to our table and forgetting my drink. As she kept going by the table without my drink, I kept obsessing on those song lyrics (although with a variation the theme), “Each time she passes, each one (especially me) she passes goes Aaagh!” The food was not horrible, but we had been pretty spoiled by the food throughout the Czech Republic and Poland, so it was a bit disappointing. However, the Blue Rio, a concoction of rum, blue Curacao, coconut milk and pineapple juice was pretty darned tasty.
We checked our watches, and by now we surmised Kim was running to catch his flight in Chicago, which turned out to be the truth. He made it with only seconds to spare. Meanwhile, back in the Land of Travel, we meandered back to the apartment, via the Metropolitan, our new nightly hangout. The three of us had a decision to make for the next day; either travel to the Wieliczka Salt Mine or visit Auschwitz. The vote would be unanimous.
Next: Days Eleven and Twelve – Breakfast In America, Salt Of The Earth, Shocking Development, The Kids Are Alright, Très Magnificent Dinner, The Drive To Vienna, Something About Mary, It Takes A Vienna Village To Help A Tourist, Church Or Sailboat And Dinner At The Grocery Store