I needed some time away from the stress of work (following a very intense couple of months) and to get away from everything I took a long weekend away - in Krakow. I have no idea why I chose that destination, but I seriously needed some 'me' time.
Going to a completely foreign country where I didn't have a clue about the language is not everyone's idea of 'stress free', but I really enjoyed myself.
I arrived at Krakow airport and came out into the airport lounge to a dull grey day and not a clue about the language. I could say one thing 'thank you' (dziekuje - which would come in useful) and decided to get to my hotel by bus. I found a bus stop eventually and bought a ticket from the Bilety machine. I realised that I could read some Polish - though the sounds were unfamiliar to me.
By taking the bus into the city I saved money and I got to saw much more of the city - taking the bus route through the wealthy suburbs, and the less wealthy areas too. From huge houses behind iron gates to the massive newly built apartment blocks. Flying in over Krakow the apartment blocks looked like huge dominoes all stacked round the city.
I found my hotel and booked my trips (the salt mine and the Jewish Quarter), and with the whole day ahead of me still, thanks to an early flight, went exploring. I felt perfectly safe in the city. It was a typical European city, though more Eastern European than I had even visited. The weather was grey, the snow was piled in un-melted heaps by the side of the roads and my exploring took me all over the city - mostly in circles. I found the castle and cathedral and after an enlightening afternoon headed back to the hotel.
|The clapper is the 'heart'|
I was not with a group, and the only conversations I had the whole time were transactional - enough to get what I needed. I walked in circles quite frequently, I got lost in some strange parts of town, I went the wrong way on the tram and walked a five mile route to the Schindler Museum instead of a half mile.
There was no one to chide me for a wrong decision, no one to pressure me about time, or activity, or about what to do. I could climb high in the cathedral tower to visit the heart of the bell, descend into the depths of the salt mine, wander the streets aimlessly and was totally at liberty to please myself. I went back to the hotel when I wanted, I ate at small Polish cafes (where my lack of Polish was matched by the owners' lack of English) and I survived, eating wonderful traditional local cooking.
So the liberation was that I had nothing and no one else to worry about. No foibles or preferences of anyone but myself to consider. And yet I had no one to share the story with at the time. But you know - that's fine - because I have more tales to tell since my return.
I think my next trip may well be in a group, because I want to go whale watching in Iceland, but if it isn't, I really don't mind. I like pleasing myself. And I'm sure the whales won't mind at all.