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Friday, 27 April 2018

Polish symbols: The White and Red Flag

Dearest sweethearts, 

I don't know if you are aware, but next week will be quite a busy one for Polish people everywhere. There are 2 great national holidays next week: on the 1st of May we celebrate May Day - Labour Day ("Swieto Pracy") and that is closely followed by the 3rd of May Constitution Day. The two dates combined usually form a long weekend - holiday called "Majowka". People often take the whole week off to travel and it is also the official start of the barbecuing season. Between these two there is also the 2nd of May - a working day - a patriotic holiday: the Day of the Polish Flag (Dzien Flagi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej). It was introduced by a Parliamentary Act in February 20th, 2004. 
Disclaimer: picture taken from the Internet
This is why today I would like to tell you a bit more about this Polish symbol: The Polish Flag. The White and Red have been national colors since 1831 but the flag's history goes back way back in time. In the past the national colors of Poland were primarily a symbol of the fight for freedom and independence. In truth, the colors have been used as Polish identifying features since ancient times. The first national ensign was introduced in Poland in the 13th century - following the coronation of King Przemysl II. At that time a white eagle on a crimson background was the banner of the state. 
Disclaimer: I did not take this picture. I found it on the Internet
During the November Uprising in 1831, the Sejm (The Polish Parliament) officially adopted the white and red colors, proclaiming: "the national cockade shall be the colors of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which is the color white with red". During the Second World War, the red & white flag played an important role in the opposition movement activity. Today, just like the other national symbols, the national flag is protected by law. The Flag of the Republic of Poland Day falls on the 2nd of May but it is not a free day - 1st and 3rd May are so... let the Majowka start! 

#DidYouKnow that there are 2 variants of the Polish national flag? Plain white and red, and white and red with the national coat of arms placed in the middle of the white band.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves History 
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Friday, 20 April 2018

Collegium Maius: Kawiarnia u Pecherza

Dearest sweethearts,

If ever you find yourself on the cobblestoned paths of Old Town Krakow it would be a pitty not to visit also Collegium Maius - one of the oldest buildings of the Jagiellonian University. Collegium Maius sits on the former Jewish District - that was moved to Kazimierz due to a huge fire. Now Collegium Maius is quite off the beaten track and many tourists don't know about it, even though it is in the Old Town and just a stone throw away from the Main Market Square. Drag yourself there and enjoy some quiet time at the Cafe shop that is in it's basement: Kawiarnia "U Pecherza". 
The coffee shop "U Pecherza" (btw #DidYouKnow that Pecherza in Polish language means bladder?) is located in the basement of the oldest part of the building Collegium Maius. There are 2 sets of stairs and no elevator - hence it is not quite children friendly nor for people with disabilities. But you can sit on one of the tables upstairs and ask the person whom joins you to go down and grab a drink - that's what we did ;) Please also bare in mind that the place is setup as self-service so you need to get to the counter and get your own food and drinks. The third minus I could spot was the fact that you can pay only cash, so make sure you have some before you order ;)
From the early morning to dusk, the coffee house offers 4 well appointed halls of almost 200 square meters. They seem lovely for big gatherings with friends, especially during summertime when the basement would keep things rather chill. The coffee shop also looks like an ideal place for group and individual classes. The athmosphere is cosy and you can't hear the hustle and bustle of the city, even though you are in the Old Town. There is good coffee and very good looking chocolate (hot!). They offer also sandwiches and fresh juices. And as an extra attraction, they do offer 30% off for students and researchers.
Checking more details (in Polish, of course), on the Collegium Maius site, they also state that they can organise receptions for work purposes, training conferences, integration parties and so on. They provide catering services, waiter service, room decoration and even music. "U Pecherza" team can offer each customer an individual offer tailored to your needs. 
If one would check the rating in TripAdvisor for Kawiarnia "U Pecherza" it would see it rating at 4.5 stars (out of 5) and designated as #929 of 1373 restaurants in Krakow. I would definitely not name it Restaurant, it is most certainly a coffee shop - a pit stop place where you can grab a cold soft drink and relax, while admiring the inner quarters of the Collegium Maius. I did not stay down, in the basement, as I always prefer seeing a patch of sky (plus I have a thing for red brick buildings). 
Kawiarnia "U Pecherza" is a takeout kind of place, with outdoor seating (wooden tables and chairs on ground level), buffet, options of wine and beer but also soft drinks (lemonade and fresh juices). It is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm & Saturday from 9 am - Sunday from 10 am till 5 pm. The name of the coffee shop actually comes from the original title of the building: Dom Szczepana Pecherza. It was changed after the decree on 26th July 1400, when Wladyslaw Jagiello transferred the building to the property of the university.
Nowdays you can enjoy at the coffee shop homemade desserts, nutritious sandwiches and fine teas. It's popular amongst students who spend time between classes there or tourists that just want to have a break. The Kawiarnia is an integral part of the Museum - there are also temporary exhibitions (for example pictures hanging on the walls, as you can see in the photos above).

Location: ul. Jagiellonska 15, Krakow 31-010
The prices:
- Natural juices, bottled (glass bottle), locally produced, diverse sortiments - 5 zloty per bottle 
- Coca Cola, bottled (glass bottle) - 8 zloty per bottle
- Home-made cakes - 8-10 zloty per piece
Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow 
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Friday, 13 April 2018

FAQ about Krakow

Dearest sweethearts,

First of all I hope that you had a lovely Easter break next to the ones you love. Secondly, you have to excuse my long absence on posting here as I had to celebrate Easter twice: first the Catholic and then the Orthodox one. There is always a good time to celebrate and when you have your family, the loved ones, around you it's more worthwhile! For today's post I have prepared for you a couple of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Krakow, so let's get started:
Public transport ticket validator in a tram on line 50, Krakow, Poland - 22.09.2017 free transport day
1. How can one get from the Krakow Airport to the City Center?
Krakow has only one airport: John Paul the 2nd Airport or also known as Balice Airport. The city centre is located a mere 11 km away and there are multiple ways to get there. The fastest and cheapest option is the direct train that connects the 2 locations - a one way ticket costs 8 zloty (less than 2 euros!). The longest but the most cheap option would be taking the public transport - bus lines 208, 292 and the night bus 902 - it costs 4 zloty per ticket (it allows one to circulate in strefa I and II). Of course you can also choose having a cab - I personally recommend the Airport Taxi was it is the cheapest taxi around, very comfortable and drivers speak English.
A Tram in front of the Dominican Church, Old Town Krakow, Poland
2. Are the taxis expensive in Krakow? Should I use public transport?
Usually there are different prices for the fare, according to the hour when you take the cab - from 6 am to 10 pm and from 10 pm to 6 am. There is always an initial cost of having ordered the taxi, adding to that the tariff for the Strefa you are in. The interesting thing for the Airport Taxi is the fact that it has setup a certain price for the area in Krakow where you wish to get. The tariff is the same no matter day and night and they do not count the km. I usually prefer the public transport and I have a monthly card that allowes me to use any bus or tram from strefa I and II for around 140 zloty (around 35 euros). I love trams as they are very frequent, fast, new and comfortable. They reach every corner of the city and don't get big delays (unlike the buses).
3. When do shops close in Krakow?
Well it really depends on the shops and their location. Of course the Old Town and Kazimierz (Jewish District) close their doors at 11 pm or at their last customer. Usually the shops are open until 6-8 pm. Shorter schedule in the weekend, of course. The shopping malls open up around 8 am and close their doors at 10 pm - they do want to make "an honest buck" ;) Since this year, 2018, there are almost no more working days on Sundays. You will find everything (except gas stations and probably some small local shops) closed on Sundays, so make sure you stick up on goodies while you are here. But don't worry! You will surely not starve! Just get to the main square and get something traditionally polish from one of the local (open) restaurants.
A miniature of the Wawel Castle and Cathedral, inside the inner walls of the Castle, Krakow, Poland 
4. Where can I find more tourist information? Are there any such spots throughout the city? 
I highly recommend the InfoKrakow Points - they were of great help when I first settled down here 7 years ago and I still use them from time to time to get flyers with news about events and projects in Krakow. InfoKrakow Points let you find information about tourist attractions in the city and its vicinity, cultural events, accommdation, but tickets, hire guides and obtain free info (tourist leaflets and other material). The ones I go to are: Cloth Hall - Rynek Glowny 1/3 (Main Market Square) and Szpitalna Street - ul. Szpitalna 25. Of course you can find an info point as soon as you touchdown at the Krakow Airport - ground floor - and there are a couple in the Galeria Krakowska - where the train from the Airport stops (station: Krakow Dworzec Glowny).
Wintertime in Krakow, Poland
5. What's the weather in Krakow? 
Krakow is very beautiful and very crowded during summertime and wintertime. Summertime in Krakow is hot but we have lovely wind that comes and goes and makes things more bearable. The temperature ranges from 20 to 30+ degrees Celsius. During winter the temperature can balance between -10 and +5 degrees Celsius... but it does feel worse due to the hard winds. Spring is not that warm at the beginning. For example this year we still had about 10 degrees until a week or two ago. Now we have constant 20+ degrees. Autumn is rainy and cloudy but don't be discouraged! Autumn in Poland is my favourite season - it's not hot or cold but it's nice that you don't have to layer up! I believe Autumn is the most beautiful period in Poland - everything changes it's colour and you have shades of red and yellow and brown and green at once. There is a smell in the air of cider and pumpkin pie and szarlotka (apple pie). But to be fair, every season has its pluses and minuses - my #tipsandtricks for Poland: always have an umbrella with you!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow 
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