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20060808_P_0352 lo-res
Interesting contraption, but it works!

Today was a big “bus day”, a long drive from Zamość, which has been a great place to stop and very worthwhile, to get to Krakow, one of, if not the, main touristic sites in Poland. We drove in one hour sessions, swapping over to avoid either of us getting too tired. The landscape was nothing unusual, just pleasant rural parts though hardly especially scenic. We stopped at a McDonalds, I couldn’t resist a “royale with cheese”, and drove on again. Then we hit a long stretch of road works, a succession of works and the main road had in each case been diverted for the short section or there temporary lights, and our progress slowed considerably.

It took ages to reach Krakow, and once in the city it was still very slow going. We knew roughly where the Orbis hotel was but not exactly – booked ahead this morning, 360zl/night, ouch – the receptionist in the Orbis in Zamość said “that’s Krakow”. Asking at the Novotel, also part of the Accor chain that seems to have the monopoly here, including the Mercure, Orbis, Novotel and Ibis brands in their chain, we got directions to the Orbis Cracovia, a few streets further on, through some rather dull streets with the grey apartment blocks. The Cracovia was a bit of a surprise though. We had just expected another formulaic hotel, but this was a huge lump of a Grand Hotel in high Soviet 1960’s style, and very popular now with large tour groups we noticed by the buses outside. Never mind, this was something very different, a little (big!) time capsule. The interior was smart but still in that 60’s Soviet manner. The service, appropriately, was a little gruff. I had expected nothing less! We ended up going for a superior room as the standard ones would have been on the noisy side on the second floor, but instead we got a two room mini-apartment on the fifth floor. This too was decked out in 1960’s style.

After the long drive we didn’t feel like going out into town and were happy to just have a drink in the aperitif bar on the ground floor of the hotel, a tiny bar with lots of red and gold, and then had dinner in the large canteen-like dining room at the rear. Waiters, older men, provided efficient but graceless service. A large group came in after us and had their dinner served rather like a school dinner. I thought it was all super and was grinning internally. Ok, it might not be the “real thing” but it came close enough to be able to imagine these surroundings in the Soviet days, with a large conference or some gathering going on.