The First Bike Rides in Kraków – Part II – Lunch Time Mission

The adventure of Tuesday contiues…

Lunch Time Mission

As lunch time drew near I decided I wanted to have some Vietnamese Food, which I thought might be a small challenge in Kraków. I was correct in my assumption with only about 4-5 places I could find via Google. I also looked up based on what the words for vietnamese would be or vietnam would be in Polish. I got the same results. The one location that stood out, and was south of the city where I wanted to explore, was called Mekong. The Google bike directions looked something like this.

The various options for biking out to Mekong.

The various options for biking out to Mekong.

I started out, on my way, and it was interesting riding. South of the downtown region the cycle-tracks and bike lanes quickly dissappear. I could tell that I was no longer in the affluent part of the city. I ended up on alleys and in various unpaved backways. None that I would say are scary, by American standards. In America you get lost down an alleyway in a city like New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis, or New York and you may ever come out the other end. But here, even amid what looked like sketchy areas there is nothing to fear.

Some Criminal and Polluted Observations & Research

Speaking of crime and related things. Krakow has a murder rate lower than any US City. It is almost a third of Portland’s, which is a city that has an extremely low murder rate by many US city standards. But on the issue of crime you might experience, you can dramatically decrease chances of being victimized by not being stupid.

Here’s a few thoughts. When you’re in any crowded area, keep your valuables somewhere on your person that cannot be easily removed. A wallet chain becomes very useful, but even better have something you can attach to something not easily ripped off, like your belt or a front strap or something. For those using a purse use one that actually has a strong strap (none of those feeble skinny straps, a theif can yank that right off of you). However, in most places you won’t be in significantly crowded spaces and you won’t really have to worry about these things, however remember you’re in a foreign country (unless of course you’re Polish) and if you lose your passport or other informatoin you’re in deep shit. It could delay crossing borders or returning home. Simply, be smart, keep your things on your person and connected in a way you won’t easily lose them. If you’re an easy target then theives will be eyeing you, albeit there are very few in Kraków.

More on theives in a later entry also, because overall, there are far fewer theives and petty criminals in Kraków than in most cities. It’s kind of pleasant to realize this and not be worried about most things, but like I wrote, more on that later.

The one thing that Kraków does have that is risky is that it has horrible air quality and is regularly polluted by various other elements. It is, by measure the most polluted city in Poland. However, that doesn’t mean it will kill you, just that if you lived here you dramatically increase the possibility of other issues or even birth defects. Even in English it is easy to find information about Krakow’s horrible air quality. One article I dug up has this blurb in the center of the article,

“Two things work against Krakow’s air quality: pollution and geographical factors that prevent the dispersal of pollution. The two major sources of the most harmful pollutants are domestic solid fuel furnaces and motor vehicles, but local industry and air-borne pollutants from other parts of Poland and neighbouring countries also contribute.

Geographically, Krakow sits in a valley, which tends to concentrate pollutants, and experiences a low number of windy days, which means pollutants are not readily dispersed.

Clean air activists are focusing on the problem of domestic solid fuel furnaces as a major source of pollution, and one that could be eliminated relatively easily. Only about 10 percent of Krakow’s households use solid fuel furnaces for heating. Unfortunately, these furnaces are also frequently used to incinerate domestic waste, which is probably the leading cause of the most harmful pollutants. The problem becomes particularly visible during the winter heating season – always the period that sees the most extreme particulate and benzo[a]pyrene levels.”

Ugh, so by the end of reading that one realizes that the number one creator of pollutants is the dumb shit the Krakovians do with their own trash! Fortunately I do know, that this is being tackled quickly and a lot of this along with recycling has been put into place. As most of the city is quickly modernizing, and by proxy, cleaning itself up in this regard. Many of the other issues are going to be much more difficult to tackle, such as pollutants from other countries seeping into the air.

But just after that, because of the valley location of Kraków the second pollution source that causes this horrible air pollution is the automobile! Like most places, the Krakóvians have latched onto the automobile even though here, it is clearly NOT the most efficient way to get around! Even with the city maintaining and extensive and very effective transit system, an excellet bicycle system, still a full 50-60% of idiots decide to travel by single occupant vehicle and increase the pollution level. Albeit that shows greater intellgience among Krakóvians than say the average Portlander or American by a large degree, it still points the the idiotic behavior of people without a direct order or economic incentive to stop using such a detrimental tool (the automobile) so frequently that it actually injures, sickens, and kills so many hundreds and thousands of people. In Kraków alone the rates people get sick from these pollutants is high, and the amount of birth defects I’m finding is also very high – so every jack ass driving around alone in their car or burning solid fuels and waste in their furnace could be blamed for these problems.

One more note. Even with these higher rates of pollution and higher rates of hospitalization and medical needs of people in Kraków the cost per citizen in Kraków for medical needs is dramatically lower, by a LARGE degree than in the United States. So even though I’m pointing out these horrible pollutants that bring horror to this city and its people, the city by all means is being intelligent, yet acting slowly to remedy the problems and has few problems overall.

Anyway, back to the adventure of finding lunch!

Left, Right, But Wait, Where am I?

If you check out my route I took to Mekong, you can see that I didn’t get all of the turns correct.

My Twisted Route to Mekong (Click to see the full Strava report)

My Twisted Route to Mekong (Click to see the full Strava report)

I set out to right on the southern part of the river, but there was no clear way down to the path I knew existed there. In addition, I didn’t even see the path at that point, so I rode up and across the river to the northern shoreline and rode along that trail. It was very easy to do, as with most of my other cycling there was a marked cycle-track to ride on completely seperate from traffic and easy to navigate with cycling lights and other infrastructure.

I rode along and further toward a bridge (read more about the bridge) that would take me across at a location that would allow me to traverse and travel further south toward this Mekong location. However, as I came up from the river along the river wall (kind of like Portland’s river wall to protect from flooding) I came upon a bridge to cross. At first I didn’t realize what kind of bridge I was approaching, however I realized quickly that I was entering a pedestrian and cycling only bridge! Here are a few pictures.

The Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge to Kazimierz Neighborhood (Click for full size image)

The Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge to Kazimierz Neighborhood (Click for full size image)

Same Bridge, Slightly different angle (Click for full size image)

Same Bridge, Slightly different angle (Click for full size image)

Looking north. (click for full size image)

Looking north. (click for full size image)

The southern entrance of the bridge, from the Kazimierz neighborhood (Click for full size image)

The southern entrance of the bridge, from the Kazimierz neighborhood (Click for full size image)

The Bell Bullhorn (Click for full size image)

The Bell Bullhorn (Click for full size image)

The robot advertisement of sorts (Click for full size image)

The robot advertisement of sorts (Click for full size image)

After that I rode into the Kazimierz Neighborhood. I found a few pictures of murals on the wall, one being a kind of advertisement of sorts and one being simply a piece of art. It took me a moment to realize that the big bell, was also a bullhorn speaker with a hand holding it. Kind of the semblence of alarm and activism. Something that has been prevelent in these parts of the world more than one might realize at the modern peaceful nature of Kraków.

I then left from there, after winding down into the streets and returning, find that I needed to travel long the southern shore of the river a little further. I then navigated up onto a small and winding street, ended up having to traverse some city streets. These streets had moderate traffic but with the added tram tracks and the little bit of auto traffic it did seem a little awkward.

However at no point did I feel the drivers were anywhere near as incompetent or dangerous as drivers in America. As with almost every area of Europe I’ve been to the drivers are what I would call “aggressively competent” and “aggressively safe” compared to drivers in America. Even though, first impressions for Americans might be that European drivers are dangerous, this is however an incorrect perception. European drivers are routinely faced with dramatically more movement and objects within their driving realm. They are taught from the first days of driving how to deal with these things. This makes them more aware in almost every way than American drivers. By this training they also drive much closer and into confines that seem to close to Americans. We complain about cars passing us to quickly or to closely where in Europe this is a normal thing, and in many parts of the infrastructure a cyclist is expected to travel directly into traffic that will be traveling directly toward them. As a matter of this, I’ll have video and more of this coming to you, dear readers of Transit Sleuth, in the near future.

The Overpass. (Click for full size image)

The Overpass. (Click for full size image)

Overpass (Click for full size)

Overpass (Click for full size)

From these streets I rode, ironically, up through and around a Ford car dealership. Then down and over a highway on a rather pleasant pedestrian and cycling overpass bridge.

As I crossed I got a good view down onto the rail lines leading into the city from this direction. While crossing one of the local commuter trains passed by. Basically these are like diesal motorized units (DMUs) from what I can tell, except that they’re all electric.

Looking south, away from downtown. (Click for full size image)

Looking south, away from downtown. (Click for full size image)

I continued onward down a small road that climbed uphill about a kilometer. At the top I saw this sign that gave me serious chills. The horror of what the sign stated, and where I was standing at that very moment left me pausing for a long few minutes. I looked around with some shock as I realized how peaceful and pleasant the ride up to this point was.

Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp. (Click for full size image)

Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp. (Click for full size image)

For more on the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp read the horrors on the Wikipedia page. Here’s a small excerpt from this insanity.

Goeth's Balcony. (Click for Wikipedia page)

Goeth’s Balcony. (Click for Wikipedia page)

The balcony of Amon Goeth’s house in Płaszów. Although Goeth was ruthless and would shoot at prisoners, he could not do so from this balcony: the geographical terrain as well as the layout of the camp infrastructure preclude this. He used to step outside to hunt humans, with his Tyrolean hat marking his intentions. It was the signal for seasoned prisoners to attempt to hide.

Needless to say, seriously disturbing. After taking a moment to pause and reflect on this. Also to just have silence in respect to the dead, I then carried onward down a steep decline. There I crossed a major highway again and then into the road complex around this large mall. This mall was where my destination is located, so I was relieved to finally be here. Albeit this was not the end of my jouney to lunch!

The final steps before food that I took were a complete 2 laps around the mall, trying to find the Mekong Restaraunt before I realized that it was just upstairs of where I’d parked my bike! Finally having arrived, and after 17 minutes of 2 laps being confused, I arrived and had a delicious lunch.

Enjoy!

Advertisements

The First Bike Rides in Kraków – Part I – Good Morning!

The first weeks that I have been in Kraków I solely took transit and walked everywhere. Here that is a relatively simple and quick way to get around the city. There are many bus and tram lines everywhere that someone would need to go, connecting both sides of the river and out into the surrounding neighborhoods.

However this week I’ve attained a dutch style cruiser and have been out and about all over the place so far. Checking out the amazing bicycle infrastructure that Kraków has. More about the bicycle infrastructure in subsequent blog entries. For now, here’s a short story of my adventures, this Tuesday in Kraków.

Good Morning!

Morning rolled around and I got out of bed at about 8:45am. I fiddled around for a little while, got a shower to wake up a bit, and then went down to retrieve the bicycle. I pulled it from the storage area and off I went. Here’s a quick draw of my route in the morning.

Cargo Coffee Route (Click for Strava Site Map & Stats)

Cargo Coffee Route (Click for Strava Site Map & Stats)

I traveled primarily on Mogilska over the Białucha and into the Rondo Mogilskie. The Rondo Mogilskie is a major transit and biking hub. The center is lowered where the cycle-tracks cross and around 20 tram lines intersect going north, south, east, and west. It’s an impressive little hub. This massive throughput of people is traveling through the center, while the outer ring which is about 2-4 meters above the center, is a round about design of several intersecting major roadways. On this outer ring there are several major bus lines that converge and stop on outer pullouts to provide transfers to and from the tram lines. The northern tram lines also leave Rondo Mogilskie and travel into one of the tram tunnels that lead to the primary train station downtown.

Rondo Mogilskie (This image I found on the internet and don't know who took it, if you want credit or for me to take it down, just let me know - click for wikipedia page on Rondo Mogilskie)

Rondo Mogilskie (This image I found on the internet and don’t know who took it, if you want credit or for me to take it down, just let me know – click for wikipedia page on Rondo Mogilskie)

To get a good blueprint of Rondo Mogilskie there is this image on the .

Rondo Mogilskie top down view (Click to check out the Encyklopedia Komunikacja site)

Rondo Mogilskie top down view (Click to check out the Encyklopedia Komunikacja site)

Once I traveled through Rondo Mogilskie I then continued south down Kotlarska. I made one incorrect u-turn to the other side of the street (from one cycle track to the other cycle-track) at Aleja Pokoju but then corrected and headed south along Kotlarska again. After a few moments I reached and crossed the Vistula River and followed the cycle-track down onto Zabłocie. There I looped around and onto Przemysłowa and found my destination of Cargo Coffee.

At Cargo Coffee I found what has got to be the most awesome, hipster, tasty, excellent select of brew options for coffee in the city. If not outright all of Poland. This place was superb. But that wasn’t all, this place had the most wicked cool atmosphere I’ve ever seen for a coffee shop and roastery.

Let’s take a look at some of the design of this place. The first thing worth describing is the outside door leading into the inside of Cargo Coffee is very nondescript. On the door hangs a simple piece of paper with the times on it, in a plastic sleeve kind of like what students put notes in that they want to protect. There is no clue outside what epicness lies in wait once inside.

The first thing you see when walking in is this overwhelming feeling, like maybe something is out of sorts. As things started to get ordered in my mind and I realized what I was seeing, I realized the counter to order coffee was to the left inside of a shipping container. Of course this would be the first thing I noticed since I had not had my coffee today.

The first view coming inside. (Click for full size image)

The first view coming inside. (Click for full size image)

Immediately before me were cable spools that are setup as tables with wooden chairs around them. To the immediately left in the corner was a table. Currently there were about 5 people sitting at that table doing some business and enjoying themselves.

I walked forward upon entering, somewhat slowly, as I took everything in. I realized there were other spaces in the area that were all made of cargo containers. Here’s a wide angle panoramic of the space from the ground floor upon entering.

Wide angle shot. (Click for full size image)

Wide angle shot. (Click for full size image)

In this shot you can see steps that go upstairs. At this point I also realized there were numerous areas to sit up stairs too. This included a spot just above the cargo container that housed the brewing and coffee ordering area.

One of the conference rooms in a cargo container! (Click for full size image)

One of the conference rooms in a cargo container! (Click for full size image)

Upstairs also offered a great panoramic view. I also took a few other pictures while I was up there with a birds eye view.

Bird's Eye view from upstairs! (Click for full size image)

Bird’s Eye view from upstairs! (Click for full size image)

I walked up and stumbled into a slightly awkward ordering process. It wasn’t because I didn’t speak Polish, but because I was still taking in all of the awesomeness of this place. I ordered slugishly, as if I couldn’t understand what they were saying to me as I ordered, even though both of the people working immediately just switched to English from Polish once I said “hello”. I finally managed to order a cappacinno and a filtered coffee, which was really a very large chemex brew. This of course was perfect, it was exactly what I needed.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia – Galana Abaya

I had ordered the blend of coffee based purely off of the staff’s flavor descriptions. As one would have it, they gave me my favorite, Ethiopian! That would figure. Again, I was happy with the way this adventure was going. The roast was exceptional by the way, if you’d like to look into the roaster, check out Coffee Proficiency.

Angle 2 (Click for full size image)

Angle 2 (Click for full size image)

Angle 1 (Click for full size image)

Angle 1 (Click for full size image)

I received the coffee in the following awesome format. A large glass container that maintains the temperature of the coffee pretty well, with a glass in the top with a small pour already in it. A second glass came with it, as if someone was going to drink this with me. But nope, this was all for me, the Transit Sleuth needs his coffee in the morning!

Before Coffee, in the aluminum elevator cage. Before Coffee, in the aluminum elevator cage.I sat there at the coffee shop, enjoyed my cappacinno and chemex brew, hacked away and worked on this very blog entry. In the next entry, I’ll provide you the deets on my adventure – indirect as it was – to go get vietnamese food in Krakow!

So meanwhile, from Czyżyńska 21 So keep reading, subscribe, and enjoy the ride!

Observations of Krakow

Today I’ve gone out and ridden several of the Krakow tram lines. The map shown below gives you a good idea of a well built transit system with appropriate redundancies, requency, and overlapping lines to actually connect inner core city areas with outerlying areas, all crisscrossed with appropriate cocnnecting bus service for lower ridership local style service and a lot of 60 foot bus service.

The trams operate almost entirely in dedicated right of way, except in the old city inner core. Everywhere else they operate in medians, dedicated routes, tunnels, and other pathways that allow them unencumbered travel. This makes for easy frequency and timely travel that rivals that of auto-travel along similar routes. In rush hour it is easily the fastest, except for bicycling, way to travel throughout the inner core and immediate outter regions of the city.

A thought for comparing Portland to Krakow is, don’t. The comparisons really aren’t even close to apples to apples, however there are many things each city could learn from each other. Let’s take a look at a few of those learned lessons, by looking at each city. Not to compare competitively but to see from a learning perspective. (If we can do that) 😉

The trams and Portland’s streetcar and light rail operate in similar ways, at certain times. Both have some tunnel, but not much. Krakow has a tunnel that has two stops near Krakow Glowny, the main train station. In Portland we of course have the tunnel with the elevator to the Zoo and a minor cut and cover style tunnel at Gateway.

Both tram/light rail systems have street running, that is theoretically dedicated, but often mixes with traffic. Both also mix heavily with pedestrians, which honestly in both cities is much safer than the actual automobiles mixing with pedestrians. One major difference I noticed however was the delivery vehicles that come into the city core aren’t the type that would dismember or kill people the way they do in American cities. Anything coming into or out of the pedestrian heavy city core is generally traveling slow speeds and operated in an extremely safe manner. This is something Portland could very well learn and adapt a few rules on.

{Operational Observation}

The 3rd day I was in town some jack ass driver ran into the tram. I noticed an immediate difference in how things get resolved here versus in the United States. In the US, the police would likely need to come, some supervisor would need to show up, and in the meantime that entire tram/light rail vehicle would have to just sit there causing congestion among the entire transit system. In Krakow however the tram driver cursed at the driver to get out of the way, and then the driver took their dented and damaged Mini Cooper and got out of the way. The tram then continued on it’s way since both vehicle were still operative. As should be the case, the Mini Cooper driver would just have to deal with all of their stupidity and cover the costs of damage themselves without interupting the entire transit line! I was impressed!  (I also know, from hitting a pole with a Mini Cooper once, that the damage would be about $3000 dollars!)

Population and Geography

Both cities have unique landscapes to build around, as do all cities. Portland has many hills, two rivers, ancient volcanoes, and other geographic terrain to build around. Krakow is relatively flat, with thick forrests and greenery with a twisting river running through the city.

One city is hundreds and hundreds of years old, the other is barely over a century old. Portland has about 600k people living in the inner core and about 700k living outside of the inner core in town centers and sprawling suburbs of single family homes. Krakow has about 430k living in the core, with barely a measurable amount of people living in the surrounding area. Most in Krakow live in flats, or what Americans would call apartments.

{short rant start}
…and dont even look down at that notion, they’re doing just as good as single family home owners in life with those flats. If you scoff at that notion as Americans do sometimes, you’re showing your damnable ignorance. If anything it shows how deeply suckered you are by the marketing for “space space space!” Space doesn’t get you a loving family, a vibrant life, or otherwise.
{short rant over}

In the inner core of Portland, as in the inner core of Krakow everything is very walkable. There is zero need for a car in this city, albeit about 50-60% of the population uses a car on a regular basis to do something. Around 40-60% use a car to commute. In Portland of course, about 40-60% also use a car to commute into and out of the city inside Portland city itself, however outside the core about 95% commute into the city by car.

Portland and Krakow both have job centers distributed throughout the urban core of the city. In Portland the metropolitan area includes other town centers and job center areas such as the west side like Beaverton, Hillsboro, Intel, Nike, Vancouver also has several sprawled out job centers. This is something that does set Portland apart, in the number of jobs that are located well outside of the actual city itself.

Another key thing I’ve notied is the city of Krakow is an atomic city. There’s a huge Soviet Atomic energy plant just to the south eastern section of the city. It’s barely 1-2 kilometers away from where I’m actually staying. I have to admit it is somewhat forboding, however I know it’s doing volumes to keep the air clean compared to the horrid coal plants that would prospectively be here otherwise.

Even with the clean energy of the atom being provided, the city manages to get some strange toxic smells and is even smoggy on some days. When I say smoggy, I’m talking about Los Angeles level smoggy. I’m not sure what plants or other pollutants are cast into the air, but they are definitely there.

People

Polish people have a diet similar to that of Americans, albeit they eat dramatically less food. By proxy, I’ve seen two people that could be termed obese by American standards. Only two. Honestly, this is kind of a surreal experience because everyone simply looks very different because of this. Albeit we’re an extremely similar people, there are after all there have been many Polish immigrants come to the United States. Everyone else looks extremely healthy and fit in comparing to the average American, which makes me wonder what differences in lifestyle allow this. Again, this is just merely an observation of all the people I’ve seen so far here in Krakow. So just like Portland isn’t like the rest of the US so may Krakow be and outlier in Poland.

People in Poland also dress conservatively. Portland people dress however they want with all sorts of absurdities thrown in for good measure. In America in general people dress frumpy like they’re a walking catastrophe that don’t know how to purchase cloths that actually fit on their respective bodies. The difference at first glance might seem small, but the differences become very noticable after a couple of hours.

But Polish men generally dress in fitting jeans or slacks (for business), with tshirts or other comfortable and casual button
ups. Often wearing nice shoes of fair quality that look good.

Women dress very attractively in Poland. Pencil skirts, leather skirts, conservative leather jackets, blouses, jeans, shorts, tshirts, and the like. There is a distinctive cut off however right around 45-50 where women seem to shift entirely to long soft colored pencil skirts that run to the ankles and blouses that easily classify these happy ladies (that to Americans might seem grumpy, but they’re not, Communism fell after all and they’re real aware of this fact) remind me of merry grandmothers going about their business without a care in the world about the modern rat race.

Languages

Another thing I’ve noticed, that obviously differs from Portland and also other trips to western Europe.

In Portland, people speak English almost entirely. If you don’t speak english in Portland you basically are going to have an extremely hard time doing anything on a regular basis.

In Krakow you can speak english or polish and get by very very well. You could also speak russian and probably do very well too, just from the similarities in many words and such. Also, if you know Italian words for food, you’re also not going to go hungry if you eat out. There are Italian Coffee shops and places to eat everywhere. Italian food is easily more popular in these parts that Polish food actually is!

The difference in languages that I’ve seen between Poland and western european (north western I should add: Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, etc) countries is that most conversations start in Polish here, and almost the entirety of conversations in northern western european countries start in english. Often even conversations among locals in those countries start in english but in Poland you know when locals are speaking to each other beccause it is very clearly Polish.

I assume, again I have to research this theory, that Poland having english as a signficant language goes back to the formation and inclusion of Poland in the European Union. Where as the north western european countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and other countries had started speaking english far before (likely in a significant way after WWII, but really even before that) Poland did. Also, Poland had to deal with decades of russian influence where english was absolutely not a preferrred language to know. With that in mind, the youth in Poland today (< 30) are the first generation(s) that actually had the opportunity to learn english as a core language.

Other Notes

A few other things that I have noticed that I find fascinating. Some of these are just interesting to me and others I’ve noted as they would drive me crazy since some things in America have me spoiled.

Note: Grocery Stores

{partial rant start}
Oh my god I want my natural, organic, non-mutated farm produce and meat! I want it now! Krakow, from what I’ve been able to determine, has no actual fresh food and produce. I realize America generally doesn’t either, but living in Portland has me ridiculously spoiled and dammit I want some fresh fish, some vegetables that were picked a few hours ago. I want something I know hasn’t been flash frozen!

The grocery stores here are the equivalent of Wal-mart style … how should I put it? Shit? The food just isn’t good in the grocery stores. The restaraunts are pretty good, I wonder where they get their food? Maybe they just inject tasty into it somehow? I don’t know.

But the last thing, which is such a small thing, but it makes me nuts. I don’t care about needing to buy a bag, or expectation that I should have my own bag for groceries (because in portland that’s how I roll anyway because I’m not a wasteful asshole). But what does bug me, is I have to hurriedly bag my own stuff (in my bag or the one I just bought) and quickly get out of the way myself at the grocery store.

That by itself might not be so bad, but combine that with the lack of a smile and a hello (even a Polish one that I only recently understood) would be an improvement, but instead the cashier just sits there like a machine, poking the buttons quickly and shoving you along to bag your groceries. This makes me miss New Seasons or even *gasp*
{partial rant complete}

Summary

So far I’m thoroughly impressed by Krakow. In the coming days I’ll be trying out many of their cycle tracks and river runs. So I’ll have a lot more to add to all of this, as biking is a legitimate and regular thing that people make use of here in Krakow. So stay tuned… more to come!

Krakow – The First Week

I discussed the trip from Portland to Krakow in the previous blog entry, but here’s a few pictures of the trip itself. The trip started out with some familiar sights.

Yello Line Arriving

Yellow Line Arriving

Riding the Yellow Line to transfer to the Red Line Airport MAX

Riding the Yellow Line to transfer to the Red Line Airport MAX

Red Line MAX to the Airport

Red Line MAX to the Airport

That First Flight

That First Flight

Waiting in Chicago (This is the point where my luggage got lost)

Waiting in Chicago (This is the point where my luggage got lost)

The 747-8 that I flew on out of Chicago. Except this picture is in Frankfurt.

The 747-8 that I flew on out of Chicago. Except this picture is in Frankfurt.

CREWBUS in action!

CREWBUS in action!

Krakow from the air

Krakow from the air

Karkow Airport... well, ok, not much of the airport, but I was at the airport at this point.

Karkow Airport… well, ok, not much of the airport, but I was at the airport at this point.

The View Out of the window of My Flat

The View Out of the window of My Flat

The Flat Itself

The Flat Itself

The Old Local Street that leads from the flat to the primary arterial nearby.

The Old Local Street that leads from the flat to the primary arterial nearby.

Here’s the location on Google Maps.

Here’s the bike route into the city core of Krakow.

miejskie przedsiębiorstwo komunikacyjne s.a. w krakowie

miejskie przedsiębiorstwo komunikacyjne s.a. w krakowie

I’ve primarily used transit because it is extremely efficient here. Frequencies of trams into the city core come about every 1-4 minutes. The transit authority in Krakow is called the Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne s.a. w Krakowie (abbreviated as MPK) which basically stands for public transport in Krakow.

Here are a few more pictures from directly near my flat.

Bike Lanes, nope, full on Cycle Tracks EVERYWHERE

Bike Lanes, nope, full on Cycle Tracks EVERYWHERE

Normal at a crossing, tons of cyclists, pedestrians... autos here and there and nearby trams and buses passing by.

Normal at a crossing, tons of cyclists, pedestrians… autos here and there and nearby trams and buses passing by.

One of the fine buses plying the streets

One of the fine buses plying the streets

Some of the new trams in service

Some of the new trams in service

Cyclists at a tram crossing in one of the dozens of transit centers

Cyclists at a tram crossing in one of the dozens of transit centers

I’ll have a full review of many of my observations now that I’m actually on the 3rd week of being in the city. So keep reading, I’ll likely publish that tomorrow.

Getting to Krakow from Portland, Oregon

I arrived in Poland yesterday via Lufthansa (per United by Expedia purchase). The flights were good, the experience however has been a little lacking from the coordination perspective. Expedia has again sold me tickets where it is obvious they bulk purchase these and I’m on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to seat priority. Beyond that United has been pretty decent, albeit they have done the following for better or worse over the last 36 hours of traveling.

  • First report via Expdia via United was that the first plane was 2 hours late that would take me to Chicago.
  • Being proactive I was at the airport 5+ hours early (also eating breakfast because Portland’s airport actually kicks ass and has decent food, prices, and service) and I decided to go see if there was any other way to Chicago.
  • United was kind enough to get me a seat on an American Airlines flight to Chicago, which left and arrived at almost the same time as the original United/Lufthansa flight.
  • Once rescheduled I received a 3 hour and 40 minutes late notice from Expedia/United.
  • Then I received a flight cancelled notification.
  • Then while in Chicago waiting to board the lufthansa flight to Frankfurt I got a 2 hours + late notification.
  • During this time the United staff also mentioned that my luggage would follow me on the American Airlines flight.

So by the end of that mess I was thoroughly confused about whether the flight had gone anywhere. But none the less I didn’t really care since I’d been able to mitigate the problem.

In Chicago I also went to board and had a minor heart attack. When I swiped my ticket I got a “Deny Boarding” message. I then went and checked with the counter staff and they scanned my passport again and I was able to board. I guess they just needed re-confirmation even though they also had staff on hand to verify that people had their passports on them.

That flight was on a 747-8 via Lufthansa. Excellent flight overall, with a good hot dinner and a simple breakfast served. The staff were great and were on the spot. I really enjoyed this flight, in spite of all the other mess that was happening.

When I arrived in Frankfurt I then went through passport control and got my Frankfurt stamp. It took about 2 seconds as there were no lines to even mention. Once I found the gate I had about an hour and half wait.

The crew then had us board the plane, which was an interesting logistical situation. We all exited the gate onto two 60 foot buses. The buses then drove all of us out to the plane that was about 400 meters from the actual gate. It was just sitting parked out on the tarmac. We all exited the buses and went up the steps to the plane.

Once onboard the flight was only about an hour. Nothing of any significance occurred during the flight. We came in over Krakow and got a perfect view of the downtown center, then landed at the airport. Upon landing we were all bused again, via two 60 foot buses, from the airplane to the airport inbound terminal. Which appears to be an under construction building seperate from the main airport. It also seemed odd they bused us barely 100 meters.

Once off the plane all the passengers waited for our luggage to leave through the customs control. After about 30 minutes they finally offloaded the luggage and behold, my luggage didn’t arrive. All I could think was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I had multiple hour transfers, the flight legs were basically the same as originally planned, and somehow they’ve completely screwed up and misplaced my luggage. On top of all this I’ve no idea if it was United, American Airlines, or Lufthansa. I’ve got a tracking slip now and can only hope that they’ll manage to find it.

I’m also pondering how I should have bought insurance, because I just did the math and realized I had about $4k worth of things packed in there. A laptop, a stand alone bluetooth speaker, Missions Workshop bike cloths which are NOT cheap, and a host of other moderately expensive plugs, adapters, and other things for the computers.

Fortunately I’m generally prepared for entities to royally screw up like this, so I’ve at least got one change of cloths and my main laptops with me. So here I sit, thoroughly enjoying Krakow at this point, and just waiting for my luggage.