Today was quite a day -- we saw some breathtaking sites, navigated the bus system, learned some important bus riding lessons, tried new foods and drinks, and ended with a walk down memory lane.
Vera and I slept in (per our usual -- I could get used to this) and after getting ready ventured out to the bus station. Jarek and Gosia had to work today, so we planned to go to the Salt Mine and St. Mary's Basilica and the chocolate shop in Matket Square. We had detailed bus instructions and Jarek's wifi hotspot, so we were set. Or so we thought ...
We started out very confident: made it to the correct bus platform, bought our tickets, got on the right bus -- solid work. But then we made a slight mistake and got off at the wrong stop. We needed to get off at Weiliczka Cmentarz but we got off at Zawiła Cmentarz -- we were really focused on the cmentarz part. Oops. Realizing our mistake we waited the twenty minutes for the next bust to come and got on it, headed in the right direction. If that would have been the end of our bus adventure, all would be well. But alas ... there is more. The bus keeps going and we are watching our stops (there are quite a few before the one we actually need) when the ticket checker comes through to check our tickets. Not a problem (or so we think). We pull out our tickets and give them to the man who starts speaking to us forcefully in Polish. When we tell him we don't understand, he says "There is a problem with your ticket." It turns out our tickets were only good for one hour, and though we had only two stops to go, we were eight minutes over the allotted hour. Whoops. So did we have to buy another ticket? No. No, that would have been too simple. Instead, they confiscated our passports and declared that we were being ticketed and would need to pay a fine. Ugh. At first the situation was a little scary -- I like to keep my passport in my possession. But after we got our passports back and saw that even though the fine sounded scary (125 złoty) it really wasn't (exchanges to about $30), we were more irritated than anything. We are tourists making a conscious effort to follow the rules. It wasn't like we didn't buy tickets at all!! And thus we made a commotion at Jarek's work by sending the following message:
So .... this happened today:
He says he literally laughed out loud. haha We are laughing about it now, too. (The tickets are no big deal -- kind of like being fined on the metro link.) And now we have our Polish felon souvenirs ... and know a little more than we ever wanted to know about the Polish bus system. All over EIGHT MINUTES. Oh well.
After our little bus adventure, we arrived at the Weiliczka Dalt Mine. We walked over fifty flights of stairs down into the mine -- 135 meters at our deepest cavern. Not only are the mines the site of Poland's salt production, it is also the site of some amazing sculptures!! Here are a few:
The views down there were just breathtaking! We ate lunch in the underground cafe and then headed up and out into the sunshine.
Next we braved the bus again (careful to buy a one way ticket rather than a timed ticket) and went to the city center where we walked around the castle, checked out a fire breathing dragon, and then went to St. Mary's Basilica. I could spend all day exploring the beautiful isles of the church and still find new details when I looked again. The church was so peaceful and holy. I prayed for a while, lit some candles, and then left.
After the church Vera and I went to get chocolate. If I am a conaseur of croquetas, Vera is a conaseur of chocolate. haha We went to a shop Jarek recommended, and it didn't disappoint. We both had hot chocolate and truffles. Yum. Yum. Yum. Then we went to a long row of shops filled with souvenirs and trinkets. Lots to see! When we finished there Jarek found us. First, we went to Piljania for lemon vodka and malte (vodka with milk); chupitos for everyone! Both were very good. Next we went to get food -- sausage from a van. Two men make the sausage themselves and then set up their van every night, selling only the sausage; they used to be taxi drivers but saw a need for late night eating options: thus, their new business was born and has an excellent reputation in Kraków. Vera and I approve, too -- the sausage was delicious!!
Gosia met up with us as we were eating; then we all took the tram back to Jarek's apartment where we watched The Way (a movie about the Camino, if you've never seen it). Such a fitting end to an adventurous day: flooding our minds with memories from our pilgrim days. But we are still pilgrims, yes? Always on a Camino. I couldn't help but be a little teary eyed when the pilgrims in the movie reached Santiago. I remember the day we reached Santiago like it was yesterday <3. Here are some more pictures from today: