Krakow old town

Krakow old town

After a couple of months of travel we hit the need to deal with some practical shopping today and Krakow proved just the place to do it.

Krakow is a lovely town. It is filled with beautiful, authentic old buildings and has a huge pedestrianized old town ringed by a park. A castle sits atop a hill to one side, and walls and towers guard the other side of the town. The town square is lovely and centred on a covered market which bills itself as the oldest mall in the world.

Krakow is clearly a tourist destination to be reckoned with and even at this time of year is filled with people, a great many of whom appear to be tourists from other parts of Poland. The highly competitive accommodation market means we’re staying in a fantastic apartment, really fantastic, for less than $100 per night. There are small shops all around and more restaurants and coffee shops than you can count.

Our major destination today, though, was far more pedestrian than all that might suggest: we went to the mall and not the old one in the market either. Beside the train station, Krakow boasts a huge, modern and totally Western mall. That was exactly what we required to deal with some practicalities. The boys needed new exercise books and Jennifer needed a watch battery. Declan has either grown over the last two months or his clothes have shrunk more than anyone else’s. We ended up buying shirts and trousers made in China from an American chain in a Polish mall. There was something in there that seems fitting for a round-the-world trip.

Declan, Jennifer and I all need haircuts as well. That was the one element we failed at. Haircuts are not the sort of thing you want to take a wild stab at. We’d rejected the idea of getting them done in Jordan or Israel on the basis that the language was a real issue and the we didn’t see many people walking down the street with haircuts we could point at and mime “I want one like that.”

In Jordan women don’t seem to have short hair and so Jennifer would have walked into the hairdresser with half as much hair as any local would have walking out. Jerusalem was a hair mystery – in the part of Jerusalem in which we stayed most of the women wore wigs; anything could have been happening under there. And in Akko there were only barber shops manned by large sweaty types wielding straight razors.

Jennifer’s hair requires interaction, and is probably most vulnerable to a bad haircut, and so will take a careful choice of locations and some planning. This could be the litmus test for Google translate – can it provide an accurate English-to-Polish translation for hairdressing instructions.

Given Declan and I have haircuts on the cut-by-numbers-plan (4 on top, 2 on the sides) it’s not an insurmountable task for us and I’m sure we’ll crack it in the next few days. Worst case I’m thinking that holding four fingers up on top of my head and then two on the side will either make sense or I’ll be taken for some sort of lunatic indulging in a weird freemason ritual. I think the trick will be to not wiggle the fingers.