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Krakow

After leaving the small dwarfs behind in Wroclaw, Tatiana and I took the Polski Bus to Krakow. Our new friend, Izabel, a lovely Polish lady living in Wroclaw, who we met on the bus, organised the tickets for us as we had no internet access. Tatiana’s phone has screen reading activation software, but her free internet connection no longer seems to work outside of Greece! Krakow is a fantastic city for both blind and sighted tourists alike. The city is reasonably easy to walk once someone has explained the directions of the main streets with one of my fingers over a map. The most important landmarks being the Royal Castle and Cathedral on Wawel (pronounced Vavel) Hill and Florianska Gate at opposite ends of the “Royal Way” The main square, once its layout is described, is also reasonably easy to navigate sighted or blind.

For blind travels like Tatiana and I there are twelve important attractions that have tactile models near the actual buildings. Once we found the models with help, we had much fun exploring and getting to understand the historical churches and other buildings I was attempting to photograph. Tatiana met a lovely Polish couple, Helena and Andrew online. They are blind and have lived in Krakow for several years. Andrew knows the layout of the city and where most of the models are located. Along with one of his friends, we spent a delightful afternoon exploring models and buildings in and around the Rynek, (Old Square or market place). Another day was spent attempting to use the hop on, hop off bus! Many locals don’t know where this bus goes from and it took several people before the particular bus stop in question was found. There seems to be two rival tour bus companies operating in Krakow. A big double decker bus and a small single one. They are both red. The single decker bus seems better for tourists: the commentary about each of the 13 locations is announced and described over speakers for all to hear. The double decker provides headphones but the commentary is often hard if not impossible to hear and the headphones are often of poor quality. Several buildings have audio guides, the one in the Krakow historical cathedral next to the castle is particularly informative. This is also where the Royal crypt is found. The castle has a good audio guide but there is not much information and you can’t stop the audio easily if you’re blind.

The food in Krakow is delicious both main courses and deserts. It’s not too expensive as long as you avoid the main square. I nearly killed Tatiana’s legs after dragging her up the former Town Hall Tower one hot afternoon. After descending to annoying patronising applause by several ignorant tourists/locals we met a lovely, kind Australian named Murray. He spent the afternoon exploring with us. We investigated the former Cloth Hall and wandered around the Underground Museum. An interesting place showcasing how early buildings were made and the town/city came into existence. Unfortunately, the audio guide worked to automatic signals and we were unable to use it!

We eventually said goodbye to our wonderful Polish friends and headed to the capital, Warsaw. An interesting city that needed more time to explore, the heat didn’t help. The old town with its castle square is at first confusing. The Royal and Vilanov castles are definitely worth exploring. And one of the best museums I’ve visited, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, is a must. The audio guide is fantastic and 47 rooms full of information gives full and graphic descriptions of the events of the uprising: why it occurred and the consequences and failed and disastrous results for the Poles. The Uprising occurred in 1944 and this year is the 70th anniversary of the event.

Tatiana finally and sadly flew back to Greece and I eventually took a night bus to Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. I arrived on the morning of 24th July and took a three hour interesting walking tour around some of the lesser known parts. It was free and interesting. Now chilling.

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