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In the Cracovia
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A pair of elderly buskers on the Rynek in Karkow
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Virtuoso performance of Bach's Tocata and Fugue on ... the accordion?!
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Sure this isn't Milan?

Started with an excellent buffet breakfast, including “groats pudding” was was basically the same thing as haggis. There were crowds of tourists and tour groups, mostly Italians and Spanish I think, but all languages and nationalities were represented. We bought tram tickets from a little kiosk on the street and caught the tram towards the city centre, to the famous Rynek of Krakow. The crowds of tourists were out in numbers, strolling around, and there were many street entertainers already at work, from exotically dressed “standers” to a very traditionally dressed elderly couple playing double bass and accordion, or was it the fiddle?

We entered the massive Rynek at one corner. The Rynek is a huge square, two hundred metres on each side, though that figure hardly tells you anything. It’s a massive open space despite being divided in half by the large market hall in the centre. We walked around one side, into and through the market hall which now houses a long series of craft stalls in the booths and shops along the sides, from which all kinds of tourist tat and crafts were on offer. We wanted to take a look at the Kosciol Mariacki (St. Mary’s Church) in the south-eastern corner of the square. We noticed groups of people stood around outside, looking up at the bell tower. They were waiting for the trumpeter to play the hourly bugle cal, hejnat, a tradition dating back to the early days of the Tatar raids (fifteenth century?) The story goes that during on of the early Tatar raids the watchman positioned at the top of the tower saw the invaders approach and took up his trumpet to blow the alarm. His warning was cut short by a Tatar arrow through his throat. The call is now played every hour, halting abruptly at the precise point the watchman was supposed to have been hit. After watching and listening to the trumpeter we continued to tour the streets around the Rynek, a little aimlessly perhaps.

We split up for the rest of the day. While Ness went off back to the area round the Rynek, I caught a tram towards the Jewish Kazimierz district, a bit to the south of the Old Town. I got off by the Ethnographic Museum at pl. Wolnica. There was a very different atmosphere here. No tourists, only locals, and it was clear that this was a less affluent inner city area. There was an exhibition of photographs around the square. With nothing better to do I decided to go into the museum, paying an extra zl.22 for the photo permit. On the three floors there was an excellent collection of recreated rooms, costumes, folk art, photographs and more. A worthwhile little detour. Next I walked around the small streets of Kazimierz and found a folksy courtyard/square off the main streets, an RG recommendation and a location used by Spielberg in filming Schindler’s List. It was a perfect spot for people-watching. Taking up position against a wall of the central market building I was able to just point the big lens at unsuspecting shoppers, browsers, passers-by. A great way to observe people, and here they were definitely mostly locals, queuing up for the zapiekanki, a slide of baguette with cheese, like cheese on toast. Stalls were selling a variety of wares and trinkets, from books, fruit and veggies to general tat, tourist kitsch, etc. I found a pleasant somewhat Bohemian café and sat there with a beer, watching the life on the street outside as people passed in front of the café door, my “window”, and felt rather melancholy.

After sitting at the café for a while, I continued to stroll around Kazimierz. The Jewish history became more apparent, with several former synagogues scattered around the quarter. In front of one, there was a large group of Jewish schoolchildren or students, listening to an older man, their teacher or maybe a rabbi? He was telling them about the Holocaust no doubt. For them this must be a very different place, with different emotional content, not just a collection of streets and buildings with some patches that still had Hebrew writing, but otherwise it just served as an empty reminder, along with some old photographs. I ended up at the elongated broad open ulica Szeroka, with the grandest of the Kazimierz synagogues, the Stara Synagoga, at one end. I was too late to visit it unfortunately. Along the square there were a number of restaurants and cafés, mostly with a strong Jewish theme and names like Ariel, Alef and, at the top, Klezmer Hois, by a small garden-thingy (in Dutch I would call it a “plantsoen”) with a fence full of stars of David. I plonked outside at the Arka Noego restaurant, another atmospheric Olde Jewish place at the top of the square which looked ready to welcome the tour groups. I sat writing my diary for a long time, nursing a dark beer. The waiters were popping in and out, checking I wasn’t going to do a runner. I hardly touched my beer but did have a very tasty bow of some kind of Jewish soup. Ness called me on my mobile. The number showed up as an outer London (0208) number and I answered rather stiffly, expecting it was a call from an agency. That reminds me – last time we spent the part of the day apart, at Nida, I got a call and answered cheerfully with a “hi gorgeous” only to get a bemused “it’s been a long time since anyone’s called me that” from the agency representative at the other end of the phone! Ness came over and joined me at the café, while I carried on writing in the meantime. We had a drink and walked back to the hotel, and had dinner in the hotel “canteen”.