36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 333: Krakow adventures


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 333 — Krakow adventures
30-Jun-1972 (Fri.)




Left early for Krakow.
Drive through nice country, farmland but flatter.

Arrived Krakow at 1 P.M.

Said goodbye to uncle John. He was really a big help, even though I objected at first. Made the trip a lot easier and more enjoyable, except when he was driving—he wasn’t the best driver. I also might not have met Maria.

After not finding rooms in a hotel, I ran into some real capitalists. For a single, private room they changed 120 zlotys. More greedy than in America. Friendly—because of the money. I acted like a tourist.


A bustling town. Still drab, but the medieval part is nice. Quite a lot of people walking around.

Inner City

Main square contains most of the sights. Church is very beautiful.
Main building of square contains a lot of little souvenir-type stalls. Nice gifts. Black-market value $1. Fantastic deals. 100 zlotys = $1. For something that costs 300zl is quite a costly purchase, but for us $3. Great.

Good pastry. Meals at train station are cheap but fairly good.

Castle. Near the river. Not extremely impressive, but still interesting. Inside, a couple of museums—very good and interesting. Art work, nothing fantastic, but the artifacts of the Polish medieval kingdom were fascinating. Style seemed to me to be just like in medieval England.

Train station

Too many drunks. Must be the great society.

Met a young Polish kid here. He was trying to learn English. So, over a few vodkas, we had an interesting conversation. Works in Poland. Relatives in America. He also does not like communism.

Most people I have met seem somewhat dissatisfied. I can’t blame them because they work but get nothing in return. He says communism is such a low level that he could work in Poland and never (at least at this point) make enough to buy a car. But capitalism and communism may, at least economically, head towards a center point, both with good and services for the people.

After about four vodkas, I was out of it. We were comrades.

On the way home, a weird thing happened. Two young Hollanders wanted to go to this nightclub. While trying to get in, the door was closed and there was a struggle to open it, and then it broke. The police came and I got out of there. I hope they’re all right. I personally didn’t see why they wanted to get in so bad.

Said goodbye to Heinrich. Hope he makes it. He wants to leave. Might drop me a line.

Got back really late and woke everyone up. But I was really glad. I can’t stand capitalists.


Uncle John. Aunt Mary’s husband, John, was a great help. His driving me to my mother’s birthplace saved me untold trouble. I hope that I compensated him a little for his time and gas. I usually do that. I say goodbye.

Finding rooms. If you haven’t guessed it by now, when I traveled, I simply went to a town and then tried to find a room on the spot. This was my mode of travel this year, except for my two ski vacations. Imagine, me arriving at the train station with one or two suitcases in hand, and my cameras hanging around my neck. Then, going to a phone booth and looking up numbers of places to stay. Not very efficient, but I was a kid. What did I know? Today, I wouldn’t do that. Today, after no hotels were available, I find a private room that I consider too expensive (100 zlotys). Even though this price is fine for the U.S. dollar on the black market, it was probably more than the hotels charged. I called them capitalists. Didn’t like it.

Krakow. Krakow is a well known tourist destination. The “old section” of Krakow is what people go to see, for it’s medieval castle, museums, relics, and shopping in the bazaar. I was a tourist for the day and I enjoyed it. See pics below.

Krakow Main Square
Krakow Main Square

Train stations. I want to talk about train stations today for a couple of reasons. First, you may not know it, but I didn’t often eat at real restaurants when traveling. I often ate in the train station that I arrived in—much cheaper. No atmosphere and sometimes dingy, but cheaper. I remember today’s venture well. I was eating at a standing table. The place was packed and noisy. Many people seemed to be drinking. Police or military. Then a military-type man in uniform (like in the movies) came in and slowly walked around. SUDDENLY, the whole place became quiet. He kept on walking around looking at people. No one said much. It was like a scene out of the movies and I was a little nervous. I remember becoming aware that, in real life, this man could probably arrest someone on the spot and then just take them away. Another reason to be thankful for living in a society with great freedoms. Didn’t write about this. Next story, below.

A Krakow friend. A little later, some drunk starts harassing me a bit—he’s drunk. A young, good-looking student comes to my aid and gets rid of the drunk. Well, we have a few drinks as well. We did talk and it showed the same hopelessness and lack of opportunity that the communist system provided its people during this time. After four vodkas, I remember doing the “wrap your arms around the drink” thing to drink (you have to see it), and the “kiss three times on the cheek” goodbye European thing as well. I think we attempt to go to a nightclub but after an incident, I just go home and wake up the “capitalists.”

Street in old town Krakow
Street in old town Krakow


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