A Travellerspoint blog

August 3rd

Wieliczka Salt Mine

all seasons in one day 13 °C

We headed out, and as I hadn't had anything to eat since 4:30am, I was ravenous. We headed down the street looking for something to eat. I found a local kebab place for a fair dinkum Polish kebab!? Before I knew it I had the most odd looking kebab I had ever seen sitting in my hand.
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As I slowly devoured this new concept we attempted to find a local bus that would take us directly to Wieliczka Salt Mine. After a few enquiries we found out that we should take bus 304 which stopped just around the corner. We hopped onto the 304 and as it lurched forward, started and stopped etc. we attempted to purchase tickets from the polish ticket machine which was on the bus. In the end we chose randomly based on price as all of the choices were written in Polish. Once the tickets had printed out we inserted them into the validation machine. We took our seats and rode along for about half an hour. As we pulled up to a bus stop I read the word Wieliczka and jumped off figuring that this was our stop. As the bus disappeared into the distance I realised that this stop was just a suburb of Wieliczka. Thankfully we were only a 15 minute of walk from the salt mines, We purchased our tickets and waited about 3 minutes for the English tour to begin. We were led through a door and down 374 steps. When we eventually got to the bottom of the stair case we were approximately 64 metres down. The total tour would take between 2 and 3 hours. We walked through passageway after passage way slowly going further down. The floors were generally just grey salt as were most of the walls and some of the ceilings. There were carved knomes, full size human sculptures, cathedrals, lakes etc. all carved out of salt. The most impressive site was the chapel of St. Kinga. You arrive at the top of it and look down 20 to 30 metres. The floor looks like it is tiled and the walls nearer the front look like block work but it is all grey salt. There are several chandeliers made from wood but with clear salt decorating them. Carved into the wall were art works like the last supper. Their was a life size sculpture of pope john Paul the 2nd. A most impressive sight.
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We also got to see how they used to drain water from the rest of the mine to a chamber which was more like a lake then anything else. All the drainage was made from hollow tree trunks as they will not corrode. We finalised our tour and found the way out which was via a pre-historic lift. It was perfectly safe but old fashioned. All four walls had holes in them specially for air flow. Their was no lights and we were herded in about 8 at a time. There wasn`t much room to move. We arrived at the top in good time and exited our coffin.., I mean lift, and headed for the road. We found what looked to be a bus stop chatted while we waited. After about 20 minutes the 304 bus came into view heading for us and then continued right past us. After realizing that this probably was no longer used as a bus stop, we then walked to the next bus stop which was about a kilometre further down the road. It began to rain and after about another 10 minutes another 304 bus came into view and actually stopped this time. We headed back into Krakow and decided to grab dinner as it was already 6pm. We found a local Bar mleczny which translates in Milk Bar in English but actually has nothing to do with milk. They are a Polish form of cafeteria. They were invented by the communist authorities of Poland in the mid-1960s as a means of offering cheap meals to working people who didn`t have a canteen at their work. The food is authentic polish. After spending sometime trying to decipher the polish menu board I took the chefs special, a bowl of tomato soup and a drink.
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The tomato soup was very salty, the potatoes, snitzel, salad were good and the fruit drink had fruit in the bottom of the glass. The total bill came to 20PLN which roughly equates to $8 Canadian dollars. We headed back to the hostel for awhile. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about others snoring tonight and slept all the way through.

Posted by classique 14:43 Archived in Poland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

August 3rd

Krakow - Poland - Arrival

sunny 30 °C

Last night I took the train into London and took a cheap connecting bus to Stansted airport which is just over an hour out of London. We had a polish bus driver who when someone suddenly decided to turn off right in front of us screamed out the window an obsenity telling the driver where to go. It made me laugh as it wasn't what I was expecting from someone who was the face of the company. Afetr I arrived at Stansted I familiarized myself as to where the Ryan Air desks would be for check in in the morning and headed out to catch a coach to the Holiday Inn which was my accomdation for the night thanks to Hugh. I checked in and dropped my bags in the room. I headed downstairs and checked out the menu. Once I saw the exorbitant prices I decided to walk the short distance to Mc Donalds for dinner. Once I had gotten back to my room and was ready to retire I realised that I still hadn't printed out my boarding passes. I headed down stairs and the reception staff kindly printed them off for me. Before going to bed I set the alarms on the phone, Mobile phone and tv to wake me at 3:30am.
Thankfully two of the three alarms roused me at 3:30am. I had a shower, repacked my bags and headed down stairs for a quick breakfast. I was out the front door at just before 5am waiting for the coach. I arrived at the airport at about 5:15am and went straight for the Ryan Air check in desk which was of course backed up with a hugh queue. One of the Ryan Air guys came forward and asked individually what every person was waiting for. Once I had advised him I just needed to get my documents checked he quickly checked over my passport and signed my boarding pass. I went through customs and checked the main screen to find that my flight had the status "Final Boarding". I ran all the way to the boarding gate to find an enormous line. Thats when I really started to sweat. As Ryan Air has such strict rules about the size and weight of the bags I was wearing a singlet, T-shirt, shirt, Sweater and jacket. And the jacket was loaded up with all the heaviest stuff I could fit in it. Thankfully my bag fit inside the size check cage and I was allowed to board. We walked out to the aircraft on the runway and climbed the steps to board. I asked what seat I was in and was advised that they didi not have seats allocated. It was first in best dressed. I gave up looking for a seat and started looking for a place where my carry on bag could go. Eventually I found a spot and a seat right accross from it. After take off the flight hostesses came by every 10 minutes or so to try selling different things. Aftere watching one and a half eppisodes of Top Gear on my MP3 player, kindly gifted to me by Pastor Lewis, we landed at the Krakow airport.
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I tried to take a picture of the customs signs and was instantly given a bollocking by one of the army personel. Needless to say it was deleted from my camera. After changing $200 Canadian dollars I headed to the bus stop. I got onto the transfer bus and waited for about another 15 minutes or so. Finally the bus started up and we arrived at the trainstation which only had one terminal and one tain. After boarding I purchased a ticket with the help of another person whic I was glad that i did as another couple seemed to get majorly over charged by the ticket lady when she came around. After being told in Polish that I had purchased the wrong ticket, the one from Krakow to the airport, my ticket was signed and we headed on our way. It was a hot moring and there was no air conditioning on the train. We arrived into Krakow about 15-20 minutes later. I headed to the Flamingo hostel which I had a booking at. I arrived, checked in and lay down on my bed for a bit. Then at about 12:30 Sabina, a german girl, and I headed off to the Wielicza Salt Mines

Posted by classique 07:20 Archived in Poland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

July 31st & August 1st

Dinner with the Munns & Lunch with the VK`s

overcast

This afternoon I headed off to town via the tube and met up with Hugh. Hugh and I caught the train out to the Munns place... well it didn't exactly drop us at their door but it was pretty close. After a wee chat and a bite to eat, George Munn, most of his kids, Hugh and I headed out to a river which was about half an hour away. We also brought along a couple of Kayaks and a canoe.
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We went for a spin up the river taking turns as can be seen in the pictures. After watching a few boats go through the wear or whatever its called and then headed back to the Munns place. We settled down for a very enjoyable dinner although I think I ate enough to cover me for Sunday as well. Hugh & I headed back to Finalys place which took about an hour or so and that was about it for Saturday.
ON sunday after the first service i headed back to Roland and Jane VK's place with hugh for dinner. We had and extremely enjoyable dinner which once again filled the spot and then some. Then for dessert... Wow! Amy had made this incredibly good chocolatety cheesecake that was sensational! :-)

Posted by classique 14:25 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

26th - 28th July

Planning

semi-overcast 16 °C

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Well over these days I have been organizing hostel accommodation in Poland and Ireland. I have also had to reschedule two of the two and a half weeks that I had organised in Ireland due to the customs debacle that I had. That done and a new flight purchased I think that every thing is pretty much organised! I have researched what sights I would like to see in the next country that I go to and the best places to eat. I went out shopping once and watched a couple of movies. I'm absolutely loving skype as not all of my family has got it so i have been making phone calls from my PC to phone numbers and one that lasted over an hour to NZ cost only about $3. I went to church on Wednesday night and well, with all the delays in rail transport I ended up arriving about 15 minutes from the end of the service. After one of the shortest services of my life I headed into town and sat by the Thames to devour a nice meal from Maccas. London by night is quite a pretty sight!
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Posted by classique 15:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

July 24th

Farnborough International Airshow

overcast 21 °C

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Today I got up at 6:50am or there abouts, showered, shaved and headed out the door to meet Alastair. Finlay dropped me off at the train station and i ran to the ticket office. I purchased the ticket and ran up to the platform to just in time to see the train I was meant to catch leave the station. Well, that made me really late! I jumped onto the next train and got talking to another guy who was also heading to the airshow. we hopped off the train (not literally) and found that out connection was running 10 minutes late which would mean that we would miss our next connection. He checked his paperwork and found that there was another train leaving in about 12 minutes which was direct to the station we wanted t go to so we took that one. I arrived and Alastair picked me up and took me back to his place. He had a spare ticket to the Farnborough International Airshow which is absolutely huge. It is a week long show with only the last 2 days of it opened to the public. Last time at he 2008 show I think they sold 88 billion in aircraft at this show. Well there was a long list of aircraft on show including the Euro fighter, FA-18, F16C, F15E, Airbus A380 and Vulcan Bomber. We headed in through what looked like a big queue but when we were in and looked back the queue seemed to have become 3 or 4 times longer! We checked out some of the army choppers and headed straight on to the A380. After a few shot we continued on and learned that it would be opened up to the public later in the day. We continued on as we only had a couple of hours before all the aerial stunts started. We took a few picture of the FA-18, F16C & F15E checked out some of the Pakistani air force.
We found the Vulcan which was the 1950's nuclear bomber. It is one huge aircraft! We headed over to the Spitfires, Lancaster bomber etc. We walked over to the rides and the kids went for a ride in a mini ferris wheel. We all went for a ride down an old 1800's style ride called "helter skelter". We sat down for a bite of lunch old chap and then met up with the Munn family and tried to find a spot to watch the airshow. The only problem was that it was over crowded and there was nowhere to sit. So while George Munn and Alastair were watching the airshow, two of the munn boys, James and I waited in line for a tour around the FA-18, F16 & F15 display.
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The pilots gave us a run down on the aircrafts capabilities, missile capabilities and answered any questions we had. After the tour I walked around and finally found a stand selling cold drinks and bought a couple. We watched the A380 take off and go directly upwards, then turn hard right and bank in a circle all the way around. I cant type here all the spectacular stuff i saw as you would probably be asleep before I have finished! We finished up the afternoon by watching an acrobatic show put on by the red arrows who were flying jets as well. We also watched the humongous Vulcun bomber. We headed back to Alistair and Ruths house for a very enjoyable dinner. I headed home on the train and after switching lines once arrived into Raynes Park at about 10:40pm.

Posted by classique 14:18 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (0)

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