Troy has lived in Vienna for 16 years and Tracy for 4 but without their own car experience to draw on, there was no definite plan as to how to easily get to Krakow. We all figured that heading to Brno in the Czech Republic was the best bet so off we went.
Things change pretty quickly when you cross from Austria to Czech Rep. Suddenly the roadside services include casinos and dancing girls (I assume they also dance?!) so we were a bit cautious as to where we would stop for the night. We clearly weren’t going to make Krakow so somewhere past Brno seemed like a good option.
Leaving the freeway we were soon driving through 1970’s Czechoslovakia. Small, drab towns with a sense of grim dread that made you lock the doors and hope you didn’t end up in a one way alley with less than 3 exits. No doubt by day these towns are great but without any obvious signs for hotels we tried to burn through one after the other as quickly as possible without injuring any local children – or worse still, prize livestock.
When we did encounter something that looked like accommodation we sent Julia and Troy in to request rooms for us. At the point they walked into a pub, got the same reaction as the American backpackers at the start of American Werewolf in London (for all we know the Czech pub may have been called the “Slaughtered Lamb”?) and then had to endure 10 minutes of Czech disco meets Achy Breaky Heart line dancing – and still came out empty handed, we did a teams change and sent in the pretty one, with Tracy as her Guardian!
First try and Molly and Tracy excelled themselves – a remote hotel approaching Castle status in both appearance and features, with an open restaurant happy to serve us at 10.00pm, a wine cellar well stocked and all sorts of other attractions – ping-pong, terrace, tennis. By next morning we were thinking that we weren’t that keen on Krakow after all. But we had a city to see so off we went.
After visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau on route to Krakow, we met some very bad weather by the time we started looking for a hotel. A little lost and unsure of how we would go looking in the city, we decided to try out a roadside hotel on the outskirts and thus sent in our “A-Team” room searchers.
Despite the gloom and rain, the team came back with very positive results. Rooms were fine, reasonably priced, and whilst there was a wedding in the adjoining function room, the restaurant near the foyer could still serve us some meals from the menu. And the menu looked good!
So we un-packed, freshened up and sat down for some (basically) home cooked Polish food. And then we tried to order…….
“Ah, no, there is no menu tonight, only wedding food.”
“Um, what?! You said you could feed us from the menu?”
“Yes, is possible, from the wedding menu……..there is salad, beef and chicken.”
“OK then, what does it come with?
“You can choose Beef or Chicken. The beef is actually quite large, the chicken tasty. All get salad and choose some sauce, potato and melon.”
Right, easy choice really. 3 of us went with chicken and then Julia and Troy didn’t – they went for the beef, complete with mushroom sauce.
The salad arrived, looking reasonably normal although I can still here the fizz from the grated carrot concoction that was obviously a little old for food and a little young to be a new type of Polish cider.
Then came the chicken meals, complete with a White Peach sauce, best described as a tub of peach yoghurt tipped onto what had been a warm ¼ of a chicken breast, sliced thin and dried out in an oven for several hours. The accompaniments were spot on for a wedding so we did feel privileged. Alongside the chicken was half a plate of frozen potato balls, perfectly re-heated in the oven, and finally a slice of water-melon – we had lucked upon a posh wedding party!
But at least we chicken eaters didn’t order the beef. Actually it may not have been beef. It could have been bread-crumbs mixed with egg and beef stock powder – but then that wouldn’t explain the gristle. Perhaps it was just poorly minced parts from a cheap cut of beef – but that wouldn’t explain the taste of 10 month old French sausage. Clearly it was a very Polish burger patty, fresh from the freezer, into a grill and served with the perfect accompaniment – a mushroom sauce dark enough to disguise what was underneath it.
After dinner we enjoyed a wine in the lounge, which would have actually been very nice had the fire been lit – and drunk wedding party people didn’t keep stumbling past. Whilst Molly, Troy and Tracy sat with us the highlight was the guy who looked like a groupie from a bad ‘70’s East German Satanic Rock band who each time he walked past the back of Troy did a little “get down!” dance, complete with a Michael Jacksonish shuffle.
After Molly, Troy and Tracy went to bed, the same guy lost his groove but not his eagerness to communicate – every passing was complete with a “hallooooo”, heelllllooooo” or a “halooouuww”. Come on, mate, we would do that to a Polish couple sat in the foyer of our local hotel! How long has this wedding been going on for?
The next guy to walk past, well into his 50’s and sporting a real Arfur Donga beer gut, gave us the answer to that question – we think he was indicating 4 days! That was how many times he walked past us in different directions, firstly toward reception, then towards the foyer toilets, then other guest rooms, then towards the restaurant, only to stumble back from where he came. Not quite a definitive answer until he came back armed with a friend – someone he could trust who actually knew where the front door was!! Apparently the exit signs, large double doors opposite reception and garish fluoro’ lighting didn’t give it away on his first recce!
His return to his room was followed by much laughter from that direction and then………..accordion playing! At least his room was in the same direction as ours!
Of course that is not to say that our room didn’t have a few surprises waiting for us. As we walked past our neighbour the noise of modern Polish pop music was quite literally deafening – and sure enough, the walls were paper thin. The fact that it was radio and thus music interspersed with a late Saturday night Polish DJ jibbering crap, didn’t make it better. But it could have been worse…….
The guy across the hall told our neighbour (or was it neighbours….?) to turn the music down – so off it went. It was heading on towards 1am after all. Too late for loud music………..not too late for any visitors to earn their money though.
It was truly like a (really) bad 1970’s Swedish blue movie, without the picture, complete with a (really) over the top actress! In fact for a while we wondered if they were making a really bad 2010’s Polish blue movie………
The next day things got better. The accordion player was almost sober so had brought his weapon of choice to the breakfast table – things were better because he had just finished by the time I sat down for a coffee.
And Krakow was a great city. Plus we were there for their world famous Dachshund Parade. That’s right, more sausage dogs than you could poke onto a stick in a week, all dressed up and looking very, very cute (or very ridiculous, depending on your opinion of animals dressed as Knights Templars, brides and oil paintings!).
Somehow, the drive home through Slovakia was uneventful, except to say that I did see the best looking castles of the trip so far, perched up on high rocky outcrops overlooking valleys and gorges. Ah, now that would be a weekend to remember, a wedding party in a castle in Slovakia, where the bride looked like a dachshund and the caterer was known locally as Mr McCain has done it again!