Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Beth, Booster and I all hope that you have a great holiday season back home. We have a two-week Christmas break. And since we usually spend this with our families who we miss so much, we thought we would get out of Katowice and travel a little. So we are now in Sanok, Poland, a town of about 45,000 in SE Poland. It is a very charming town surrounded by hills and forests. We are waking early to take advantage of the 8 hours of daylight that this time of year allows for, and doing loads of walking. Today we went to a Skansen, a local outdoor museum featuring Polish dwellings from the past few centuries. It was very interesting. The best part was the two timber churches. They were ornately adorned inside and have beautiful wooden shingle exteriors. We will post photos when we get back.

Beth and I did have our own small Christmas Eve feast, featuring Smoked salmon and soft olive cheese on ciabata bread, served with sides of cashews, carrot, beet and cabbage salads. We started the feast with a shot of vodka and washed the meal down with hot chocolate and local beer with lemon. DELICIOUS! We are about to return to our room and finish it off with cake and more hot cocoa. We picked up a thermos before our adventures and it is saving our lives.

We will be in Sanok on Christmas day, but then plan to shoot off somewhere else. We were originally planning Slovakia, but now we are leaning towards staying in Poland. It is tricky this time of year. There are few tourists and everything shuts down on Christmas and the day after. And since today is Sunday, everything was shut down today as well. But we are having a wonderful time to say the least. Of course we wish we could be spending Christmas back in the states torn between Tulsa and Austin as usual with our families. But maybe next year. This year my Grandma Betty made it into Austin from California. I am sorry I missed you, Grandma. But I'm glad I got to see you a few months ago when I visited Cali.

Anyways, we love all of you guys. And we are thinking of you in between our long walks and vodka shots. By the way, if you're wondering what we got eachother for Christmas... we are planning on having lots of fun travel adventures together and exchanging bites of cake while we're at it. Love ya. We'll post soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Jewish Poland

Poland has, at the same time, a very rich and tragic Jewish history. The holocaust's Jewish victims total over 3 million in Poland; and although first the Nazis and then the Communists devastated Jewish communities across the country, a few remnants of this past-life remain. Only traces are left of Jewish culture here, but the traces compound into something larger and slightly tangible.

Matza (maca) is displayed in storefront windows, challah (chalka) sells on bread shop shelves, six-sided stars wrapped in garland and lights adorn the tops of lamp posts in a few streets in the city center, the elderly walk slowly on the sidewalks and I can't help but think of what they saw, what they know, and what they pretend to forget.

We've taken a few pictures, mostly in Krakow, of Judaica we've spotted. A stained glass window in Tempel Synogogue in Kazimierz, an old building with paint, stars, and Yiddish flaking off its walls, our friend Alan and Bhads at Alef (an amazingly tasty Jewish restaurant in hot chocolate of my life!), the musicians in a Jewish music concert we went to in Krakow, and a Star of David decoration on Wawelska street in the city center.

It's the holiday season, which means that the city is singing Christmas-Christmas-Christmas everywhere. But it's hard not to consider what life here in Katowice, and across Poland, was like 70 years ago...60 years ago...50 years ago this time of year. Families could have been celebrating Hanukkah in their homes, maybe even without their curtains drawn. Then, without reason, there was silence. The silence is still here, but it's a different kind. The culture here has not completely vanished...but then again, how could it?

1st Conversation Club at IH Katowice

Our school has lots of clubs: Kids Club, Help Club, Conversation Club. Although we're still learning what many of these clubs are all about, we feel like we've gained a decent understanding of Conversation Club.

About once a month, the adult students are invited to a local pub to hang out and speak English with their teachers in an informal setting. None of my students showed up, but I only had one class that applied...and I forgot to remind them to come! The large majority of my classes are "Younger Learner" classes, kids. It's challenging, but I really enjoy the little ones. Bhadri doesn't have any kids classes, but he does have quite a few late-teen classes and a couple adult classes, too. So we went to the Convo Club with our teacher friends and sat at a table with more teacher friends and a few of their students. Long story short: out came the vodka. At most events in Poland, people start ordering rounds of vodka for everyone at the table. Everyone wants a turn to be generous and return the favor, which means there is way too much vodka for any non-Poles' health. Na Strovie!

Here are some pictures of us with our buddies Grant, Bozena, Lewis, and Mirte.

Funny Things You Might Find in Poland

1. Tile mosaics of Pope John Paul II on the wall of the Polytechnic Institute.
2. "Ensalata Verde," or green salad, that consist entirely of several sheets of iceberg lettuce.
3. Political posters with glasses and mustaches drawn on them
4. Political posters advocating some guy pasted next to fraudulent political posters condemning the same guy. Kudos to PhotoShop.
5. Paintings of a puppy on a tile next to an electricity or water meter.
6. Musicians dressed up in traditional garb, playing outside of United Colors of Benetton and other modern European boutiques.
7. Big, inflated puppies next to big, inflated dog food ads that, unbeknownst to Pedigree, look like the dog food killed the poor, poofy puppy.
8. McDonalds McFlurries, Subway Cokes, and St. Edward's University shirts on display in the mall.
9. A United Colors of Benetton van advertising a new line of condoms. What's up with UCoB?
10. Shoe posters boasting "street style."
11. Menus that read: Potatoes dumping in mushroom sauce.

Home Sweet Home...again

We are settling in to life in Katowice. It's not Krakow, it's different. Although we do love Krakow, Katowice feels more liveable. People in stores here are friendlier, and will start up conversations with you if they recognize you from previous visits. Some of the local shops are cheesy and feel very Eastern, which is lovely b/c Krakow is so cosmopolitan. There is this one restaurant a few blocks from our school called City Rock; the decor is American diner style and they have cars and motorcycles and guitars bolted to the walls. Just think Hard Rock knock-off. It's really funny! There are a few malls and a new tram station that give it the air of a big Western city, but then there's the Spodek. The Spodek is a massive, flying saucer shaped concrete building (and the funny thing is that Spodek means saucer in Polish, so they totally know). It has a good pub in the bottom (maybe the alien entrance section if you were watching a sci-fi movie), and it makes us laugh when we see it. Unless you're willing to spend a pretty penny, most of the apt buildings are very Soviet. There are some that seem to never stop in any direction, they're just built for thousands of people. But the city is really endearing. There's a flower and fruit market that's open every day but Sunday down in the center, and delicious bakeries and chocolate shops that line the pedestrian area. Ooh, and another nice little shop sits right on one of the most beautiful pedestrian zones in the city: my favorite wedding dress shop. I went to try on dresses about a week ago and found the perfect dress. I went back two days later (after obsessing about it constantly for the two days previous) and bought the dress! So, we're officially getting married now. Unfortunately, I can't post pics of the dress on our blog b/c Bhadri will, naturally, see them and it would spoil the whole affair. We've agreed that he won't see the dress or know anything about the dress until our big day. It's kinda fun!

We feel like we really struck gold with our apt. Say goodbye to the days of the rickety twin bed we had to share, the sporadically working heaters, and the poop-covered pigeon perch of a porch (oooh, alliteration is fun!). We are living the high life: fully furnished and remodelled flat with almost everything you could ever want. We even have a tree in our living room! And Booster is starting to feel very at home (hence the pillow in the bookshelf), and we even rigged up a seat for him by the window so he can stare intensely at the passers-by. It's really great to come home to such a warm and comfy place, with our boy cozed up in his blankie on the window sill.

The pictures are a mix of photos inside our apt and the view from one of our windows. We're happy to get to share them with you!

A Very Krakow Christmas

Although we've deserted charismatic Krakow, we can't help blogging about it. The days before we left the city were filled with eating up all the food in our fridge and packing away our belongings, but they were also filled with as much Polish culture as we could squeeze into those hectic hours.

The Krakow Christmas market is a joy. We realized why Poles seem to love Christmas so much--it's b/c Santa and his real reindeer really do make the trip from up North, and the edible delicacies on display are out of this world. I know I go on and on about the oscipyk--the goat cheese from the mountains--but it really is worth going on about. First of all, there are 4 huts stationed around the rynek (square) that look like oversized barrels. Well, they are oversized barrels. But people sit inside these big barrels and serve you your choice of hot mead or mulled wine. I highly recommend the mulled wine. Why hasn't America caught on to the mulled wine yet?! Get with it America. So you grab a steaming cup of wino gzone (the Polish name for this delicious beverage), and move on to the cheese stand. Here, they will serve up a dripping, hot, roasted nougat of oscipyk from right off the grill and give you a dollup of raspberry jam on top. They're 2 zloty a piece, which is a bit expensive (relatively), but I kept going back...and back...and back. I think my lunch that day consisted of 4 or 5 nougats of cheese and, of course, my wino gzone. Could it get any better? Bhadri says yes. The big log of meat at the end of his fork is real-deal Polish sausage: kielbasa. He was just about as excited about the kielbasa as I was about my oscipyk--and that's saying something. Once you get your food (and you might want to grab a few warm, fresh, honey-roasted pumpkin seeds or almonds from the stand next door), you can make yourself at home on any of the wooden benches set up around the market exterior. It's freezing cold, and you're having a hot picnic lunch in Europe's biggest and grandest square. Seriously, folks, it's something special.

Oh, and how could I forget? The live reindeer. They are the cutest, albeit awkward, animals (Booster=exception) I think I've ever come face to face with. I stood there and stared at them for minutes upon minutes. Bhadri had to drag me away. They have the largest hooves, they just look too big for the rest of their bodies. You know, like big-dog puppies when they're all feet! And they really didn't seem to mind hanging out with Santa and getting their [illegal] photos taken all day. Hence the "no photos" sign. Ok, I know it's unethical or whatever, but they wanted to sell poster sized professional photos in lieu. Come on. Besides, I think one of the reindeer winked at my after I snapped the shot!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

First messages from Katowice

We are now living in Katowice. You probably already know that. The city is more Polish, if that makes sense, than Krakow. Krakow is a little tired of the tourists and is more of "global". You always hear English when you're walking down the streets and things. It's touristy because it's so beautiful, so that's the price you pay. Katowice = less beatiful, less touristy, less English. This makes it very interesting. I haven't talked to many people outside of International House (that's the school I teach at), but the people I have talked to are very friendly.

Last night I stopped by the local shop. It's like the size of a 7-11 without all of the outrageous prices and junkfood. Well, they do have their fair share of junk food, but also a lot of nice little things that you would only find at HEB in austin: all kinds of fruit, red wine vinegar, juices, 5 liter water jugs, really good French mustard. Not French's yellow mustard. That doesn't exist in this universe. :) I'm talking gourmet Le Francaise stuff. That should give you an idea.

So I stopped by on the way home from the mall. (I had to pick up a pair of "trousers" and some dog food for the boy. I mean the trousers were for me.) So I stopped by and bought some water. Then later I returned and told them that my girlfriend (except I said wife because I don't know girlfriend in Polish) sent me. To be fair I didn't say much. I just waved the list I had in the air and said "Moya Zona" which means my wife. Then I made the little face-down scissor sign for walking. And the shop keepers (a husband and wife I presume in their mid-40s) got the idea. They are so kind. I've been in there a few times and so by now they know my face and understand that I only know like a dozen Polish words. So we smile a lot and have fun with it. I learned how to say "the same" in Polish. The husband pointed at my garlic in the basket and pointed at some garlic powder and said "toe samo". So now I know one more phrase. And from there I asked for seven cookies from the bulk stack which they thought was so hillarious.She threw her head back with laughter, looked at her husband and said "seven" (in English). I guess they were laughing because I never order by the kilogram. I always ask for a specific number. That way I know exactly what I'm getting. I know how to convert the kilogram to pounds but it's just easier to ask for 10 slices of meat or whatever instead.

Then I managed to understand that he was telling me "you teach me English, I teach you Polish." So that's our lose agreement. When I stop in we will be sure to exchange a few words. Yesterday I taught them "very good," holding up my end of the agreement. Anyway, we had so much fun that he gave my a candy bar to give to Bethanie (moya zona) as a gift from the shop. "Gratis" he said and I smiled and took it home.

Those are the interactions that I really enjoy. So, other than that, works good. I taught three 90-minute lessons on Monday. That was interesting. Actually, they went very well. So I was pleased. I've got two more tomorrow. And once I get up to a full load I will have like three per day 4 days a week and a couple more on the fifth day. It's quite a lot when you consider planning time, but I'm enjoying it so far. And so is Bethanie.

The staff is cool. With us there are 24 teachers here. About half are native speakers and the other are Poles. So that keeps it interesting. We went out for a pint the other day with many of them. And that night we were invited over to another teaching couple's flat for dinner. They made us fajitas! And I can honestly say that the fajitas made by this Scottish couple, Lewis and Mirta, was the best Mexican food I've had so far in Europe. So that was fun.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Final Photos of Krakow

Know English -- will teach

Just to let you know, we both got the highest marks possible for the Celta course, PASS A. So we are stoked about that. But Beth and I didn't exactly pound the pavement looking for jobs after our Celta course ended. The director of Education stopped by from a near-by city recruiting to fill 3 vacant positions.

Long-story-short: we talked to her. She was cool. We went to Katowice, which we heard was a terribly boring and unattractive place that noone would ever want to visit. We had a look and we liked the city. Applied for 2 of the jobs and we were hired the next day!

So now they are working out an apartment for us. She said she found a good place, but isn't sure if Booster is cool, so we are still waiting. Odds are we will move there on Wednesday or Thurs. The train ride is about 1.5 hrs. So that's not too bad. We are still close enough to this amazing city of Krakow.

During the visit to Katowice, we visited the school and it's really great. It's got all the support services you'd want and the staff are really cool. There are like 24 teachers there and one is from the US so that's cool. Atlanta to be specific. It should be fun getting to know the crew.

So by next week at this time we should be official TEACHERS like our moms! Yay! It runs in the family! We will be teaching classes of up to 12 students of varying ablilities. We could teach anyone from 7 year olds to upper interemediate or better. The variety supposedly keeps it interesting. We will let you know!

Ah, the Mon-tines...

Last week, Bhadri and I discovered the joys of the mon-tines. (Mon-tines = mountains. Polish people pronounce mountains as mon-tines, and to be honest, it's just so much more fun to say mon-tines!) We travelled down to Zakopane, a beautiful resort village in the Tatra Mtns, last Monday by bus. It was only an hour and a half trip from the bustle of the city to the sleepy mountain town. We hit Zakopane in peak non-tourist season! It's packed during the summer months and is always busy during the holidays, so we managed to find the perfect time to visit.

We got a great B&B a few minutes walk from the forest; and although they told us it was a double, the beds were 2 twins/singles pushed together. And they wouldn't've been complete without a wooden bar running between them! But it was warm, we had the patio out back all to ourselves, and we were equipt with a table and chairs for our morning breakfast.

The first day we were there, we just strolled around town, grabbed some Oscypik--the most tasty smoked, mountain cheese ever!, and had a lunch of cheese, bagel-bread, and Zywiec beer. It was glorious! Then we met up with our friends Alex and Kristin (from the course), who had invited us up, and hung out with them for the rest of the night. I say "night" because it starts getting dark here by 3:15 and is completely dark by 4:00--it really messes with your mind!

The next day we woke up early and caught the funicular with Alex and Kristin. We rode it to the top of the mountain and hiked lazily for a while around the top. Eventually, when our plan to ride the ski lift down was foiled (it wasn't running this time of year), we decided to hike down. We found a good trail and took it all the base. We were so lucky--the day was gorgeous and we had such good friends to accompany us, too! We even learned a few new special effects on our camera (ref: the leaning TEFL teachers photo)...

That night we went out to eat Polish food and I tried Gzone Piwo (hot, spiced beer). I do have to say, I adore the gzone! We've been nursing a bottle of Grzaniec Galicjski, a bottled mulled wine that is fantastically delicious, for the past few weeks...and now I know about the joys of mulled beer, too. Ah, Poland!

The next day, Alex and Kristin decided to head back to Krakow. We opted to stay and go for a hike in the opposite direction, towards the Tatras (you can see them in the background of a few of the pics here). There was a national park back in the forest where we were hiking, but they didn't allow dogs. Yes, you know what that means: we brought Booster to the mon-tines! Although it was his first trip, Booster took to the mountains like a beetroot takes to barszcz soup. Adorned with his new, blue jacket (with hood for style), he trotted the trails and touched each hiker heart with a spark of jolliness. He really was the king of the woods.

We roamed through the forest for a while before we decided to turn around and head home. Booster was completely zonked, and Bhads and I were sore until yesterday. We thought we had gotten more in shape since we'd been walking so much here in Krakow, but ooohhh were we wrong!

On the way to the bus stop, we loaded up on some more cheese (photo provided) and I just finished the last of it today for didn't last long! I am officially addicted to it. I think we spent about 20 zloties on just oscypik alone!

It was a fabulous trip, and there's no doubt in my mind that we'll be back to the mon-tines sometime soon!

Still Gotek

I think Bhads or I mentioned this outing a few blogs ago. But my friends Kristin and Alex uploaded a few choice photos to our computer the other day, and we want to share them!

A couple of weeks ago, we went to this great, cellar pub called Stil Gotek (pron: Steel Go-teck). Our students entertained us, and laughed at our awful Polish pronunciation. They tried to drill us using CELTA techniques they'd picked up on--they were good teachers, too! Our friend Melinda stood on a chair and sang a couple of blew us away! There's a pic of her singing in this lot. And the rest are just a whole bunch of expats and Polish friends hangin' out.

Q: What Does Polish Karaoke Look Like?

A: this!

This is a very untimely post, but we thought it might still be relevant. But then again, when is karaoke not relevant? A couple of weeks ago, our students took us out karaoke-ing. The place was hidden back in a building off the main square, and we felt like we were in a elongated closet with padded walls! Smoking in pubs/restaurants hasn't been outlawed in Poland yet, so we probably inhaled about a pack of cigarettes each. The walls were great--white cloth sewed together to make walls. At one point in the "wall" it was ripped, and I daringly stuck my hand through to suss out what might be on the other side. I reached my hand in to my elbow and then felt a cold, damp wall. It was better that the cloth was there! But really the atmosphere was a-rockin' and the company wasn't so bad either.

Here are some pics of that fabulous night. You'll see: our student-friends Aga and Patrycja, with Melinda our teaching bud, jammin' out on the mic; Bhads and I trying to figure out what the screen read so we could try to sing along; a sample of what real-deal Polish karaoke looks like with a popular Polish song on the screen; me with 3 of our student-friends--Lucasz, Greg, and Mariusz; and Bhads, his thumb, and our teaching bud Bob taking it all in.

It doesn't get much better than that!

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign!

It's a good thing we're not driving here in PL, b/c we really wouldn't know what's what. All the signs are cryptic illustrations. They seem basic, but only if you know what they mean!

One thing that has blown our minds: the "stop" sign is universal. Whaaa?! Half-way across the world, the "stop" sign is identical to the ones in Texas. We feel connected!

Here's a sampling of some of the road signs...see if you can guess which is which!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The dishes are done, man!

So Beth and I have completed the month-long intensive training course that is CELTA. The course was a challenge, most days running very long, but we have both done very well. Not quite sure of the final marks yet -- we should have word of that on Tuesday. We have a pretty good idea of what we'll get, but you never know until you know.

The possible scores are Pass, Pass B and Pass A (Pass A being the best). It's an accumulative score based on the progress made during the course and how competent your teaching ability is upon completion of the course.

So now we need to look for jobs. We are visiting a school next week in Katowice. It's about 60km from Krakow. There are two positions open, so we'll see what happens. The school is very good and we would learn a lot and get some great experience. The downside: it's not Krakow. From what I've heard, it's not really beautiful or anything special. But we'll see how the visit goes. I don't want to get ahead of myself.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cold? What Cold?

Here are some pictures of us surviving the cold these past few weeks. Actually, it's been beautiful! Booster is well-equipt, and we are snuggling up w/ him and lots of hot tea. Have a toasty day!

Teachers & Teachees

Ahoy! So we've come up for air. This past week has been absolutely crazy. It was week three of the CELTA course and we were losing our minds planning lessons, analysing grammmar and vocab, getting 4 hrs of sleep per night, and battling minor but annoying illnesses. But alas, it's week 4! The final week. Actually, despite the intensity of the course, we've had a brilliant time. We've learned more than we thought possible in 4 weeks, and have made some really good friends.

A week ago, our friends Alex and Bob invited us over for a pasta dinner (seen in one of the pics). We had little picked veggies on tiny skewers, yummy cheeses, and pretzels for appetizers (ahh, Polish delites!), good red wine (almost all the wine we've tried here has been super sweet), and a cross-cultural pasta dish. I'll explain that in a moment, but first a preface: Bhadri has noticed that almost all the pasta sauce in jars here tastes like ketchup. Alex and Bob found one that looked different (and looked tasty by the design of the label, but of course it was all in Polish so the truth only lay beneath), so they bought it and tossed it in. As it turns out, it was sweet and sour sauce--so we had an Asian/Italian pasta dinner! It was pretty funny. After dinner we tried Krupnik, honey-flavored Polish vodka. I could only sip it a little and Bhad thought it was disgusting, but we're not much for the vodka. But it was so nice to have a warm dinner with new and fun friends.

Then Friday night, our students took us out on the town. We went to Still Gotek (pron: steel goe-teck), this great little underground pub that was lit mostly w/ candle light. We crammed about 15 of us into the cellar and drank Zywiec (some people had it warm w/ juice in it...I'll def have to try that soon!) and spoke English (and some really bad Polish on our behalves). It was a magical night. Our friend Melinda, who is a prof opera singer, got up on her chair and sang two AMAZING songs (one in Eng, one in Italian)...the whole place went silent, they turned off the music, the cooks came out of the kitchen, and when she was finished the whole place errupted in applause. She pointed to her drink and said if you bring me another one, I'll sing again--and they did! By the end of the night, people were dancing all around the tables to old Phil Collins hits and we got into some great convos w/ our students about major differences b/t American and Polish societies today. And of course, we had to share some traditional American culture like "hang loose"--which Bhadri kept encouraging Patricja to bite her lip or it wouldn't look authentic (she did well!). On the way home, we walked briskly (Bhad held his "unbelievably good" kebab in hand) in the cold under the Polish flags hanging from the windows and over the doors. The next day was a Polish independence day (one of several), and after that night we just felt so a part of it all!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Around Cracowia

Here's yet another glimpse into our new city. The pics always post in random order, but I'd like to comment on them. It's a matching activity! (This teaching business has really gotten to me. Side note: Bhadri and I both dream in CELTA. It's infiltrated our subconsciouses. Bad news bears. We live teaching all day long 8 to 8 at the school, then lesson planning and assignments at night until 11-ish, then when we finally have a chance to escape to follows us! Everytime I turn over at night I think: make a smooth transition between tasks and be sure to make your instructions clear...)

In no particular order-

Picture 1: Booster found a twin-dog named Sara in the Planty (pron: Plahn-tih), the garden that encircles the old town. They played for about 5 minutes in the grass: Booster leashed, Sara unleashed. Booster was like those chair-swings at the fair, swinging around and around Bhadri at the center, chasing Sara or being chased by Sara nobody knew. I swear he caught some air at one point!

Picture 2: Some cool grafiti found around our neighborhood. I don't know what it says, but the Smurfs were a childhood favorite so it gets my stamp of approval. Clever tagging.

Pictures 3 & 4: Some great buildings in our neighborhood. Some of the most elegant buildings are just left to self-destruct here. Inside these buidlings, they are usually renovated and kept up nicely, but the fascade is left to the elements. I think they're beautiful.

We miss and love all our friends and family. Have a warm and cozy weekend!

A Park in Krakow in Autumn

So, let me first make a note about this blog title. Yes, I am aware that I just wrote "Autumn," implying that it is now Autumn. However, the Autumn season seemed to come and go within a week, and I just didn't have the time during the season to blog about it. We were wearing jeans and light sweaters about a week ago, the weather was sunny and in the mid 70's, and summer was just waning. One morning last weekend I looked out of our kitchen window and noticed that a tree in the courtyard out back had turned brilliantly yellow! The leaves were solid, sparklingly mustard (Heines, not German). As we left for teaching that day, we noticed that the whole city had been transformed into all shades of Autumn. Beautiful! Two days later, leaves started to fall. Yesterday we had our first snow, and it's been snowing ever since. It's a nice, constant flurry; big, fat flakes for a while, then tiny ones for a while, then back to the big ones. This is definitely Winter, so Autumn was here for a week.
Because of the chilly temps, we might not make it to this park for some time. But at least we know about it now. We found a park. And a beautiful park at that. Some special features: a paddle boat pond (complete with ducks!) that we're guessing could double as an ice rink in Winter, winding lanes, old statues of poets and saints, an open air photo installation on Pope John Paul II (who was from Krakow and is uber-famous here), fountains, a cafe at the entrance serving coffee and beer, a pretzel/bagel cart just outside the entrance selling the tasties for 1 zloty ($0.30!), a bike/skate ramp (totally x-game style) that all the 8 year old boys had gravitated to, and hippies! Right outside of this park is another park. This might sound odd, but it works. The park outside the beautiful park is more like Zilker in Austin (see pic of Bhads and Boos)--a big expanse of grass for the doggies to stretch their paws...and do their business. A side note: people in Poland tend to not put too much emphasis on cleaning up after their pets in public. It's not unusual to find doggie presents in the middle of the sidewalk in the city center, and no one frowns on dog walkers without pooper scoopers. Like many things, at first we were shocked and now it's just normal.

We're slowly, but surely, starting to discover more local Krakowian nuances. It was a grand day out, and we'll make our way over there again.