|Flowers in Kazimierz Dolny|
We woke to the sounds of a procession passing along the far side of the large triangular space in front of our hotel. I got the camera and took some pictures and then got back into bed, but the procession carried on and I got up again. The procession must have consisted of several thousand people, walking in sections of a hundred or so, with young priests in black dress marshalling and a long rope being carried by the processors (processees?) to provide a guide. One troop consisted of soldiers marching orderly and in tight formation, but most were young school children and teenagers. What was it for? No idea.
After breakfast and uploading a few more pictures, we got ready and left Warsaw, heading to Lublin, the next stop on Poland Part Deux. I’ll dispense with the “drive” bits – nothing eventful happened. We made a stop at Kazimierz Dolny, a short detour from our route. Kazimierz Dolny was a little gem, a tiny town, a village really, with a fantastically picturesque centre, and of course totally overrun with tourists. It was set by a hilly outcrop along a wide river. Makeshift parking was advertised everywhere and we found a spot at one on a cobbled side street among the trees and then walked into the centre. The Rynek of Kazimierz Dolny “with its solid-looking wooden well at the centre, ringed by an engaging mixture of original buildings, opulent town houses of rich Kazimierz merchants rubbing shoulders with more folksy buildings” (RG). Anyway, it was teeming with tourists, mostly Polish I had the impression. Uphill on one side was a baroque church which we didn’t go into and carried on uphill on the cobbled streets and then on a steep path climbing a wooded hill that overlooked the town. The locals charge one złoty for access to the top, from where you got a nice view over the village/town. Back down and along the hill and across to another one with the ruins of the old castle (indecipherable squiggle in my diary at this point) built by King Kazimierz. Another złoty. I climbed to the top of the watchtower from where I had an even better view over the town and surrounding countryside, and then Ness and I went together to look at the ruins. Oh, I totally forgot: before all this walking we went for lunch at a Jewish restaurant on a street behind the main square. It took a bit of searching as our Rough Guide had it marked in the wrong place. Inside the cosy log cabin we sat on old hairdressers chairs. Appropriately, the place was called “U Fryzjer”. We had a tasty meal, well, mine was a hit, “sausages” made from duck skin and filled with a kind of black pudding and liver. And then we went climbing up hills, with full stomachs.
|One of the locals|
After spending a couple of pleasant hours in Kazimierz Dolny we went back to the car and carried on. We had only intended a brief pit stop but it just was such a nice and picturesque little town. On to Lublin then. The scenery had gradually changed to become more rural again, at least until we got close to Lublin. We made our way through the so-so suburbs. It’s all apartment blocks here, even if they’re not gloomy. There are no “leafy lanes”, at least none that we are seeing on our travels so far. But into the town centre for the Stare Miasto (Old Town). We navigated an arcane one-way system and a hard-to-get-into old town had us going round in circles. We had booked ahead for our hotel, which was in the Old Town but it took us several goes at ignoring traffic signs to get to it. The old town felt like a totally separate world, an enclosed medieval town within the town. Thankfully, the restorers had not yet done their job here and it looked atmospherically dilapidated. It also felt quite “Italian” with a higgledy-piggledy layout and lying on a raised area above the surrounding town. Our hotel was in fact one of the few buildings that had had the full “treatment”. On a side street, actually on Ulica Grodzka, a main thoroughfare to the castle but now pedestrianised or all but, we found our hotel, the Waksman, a lovely boutique job and, yippee, a bargain at 200 złoty. An excellent find. We got the blue room, looking out over the back towards the castle, tastefully decorated with wooden period (ish) furniture. Toes tingling with pleasure. What a find, the unreconstructed old town and a charming hotel, with friendly hotel reception staff and, to boot, it started to rain, adding yet more to the atmosphere.
After chilling out for a while we went out and ventured out of the old town and we walked the length of the pedestrianised and bar-lined Krakowski Przedmiescie. It was raining but large umbrellas sheltered the crowds of locals, mostly students, who were sat outside in small groups. We ended up back in the old town, unable to find a free dry table. Off the Rynek we had a drink, listening in to the conversation of a mixed group sat next to us – Brits & Poles, academics? We carried on and had another in a narrow basement bar with only locals, and a final coffee, vodka and beer at one of the terrace bars at Pl. Po Farze, an open space where the ruins of an old church, the Gothic St. Michael’s, are now just a collection of low walls to be clambered over. And then we toddled back to our cosy hotel room. At least we had comfy double bed (even if it was only with a single duvet).