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Princess Wanda of Polish legend threw herself to a watery death in the river Wisla. After living in Krakow for a couple of years I can well understand why. Apparently she had some problems with her boyfriend, but I suspect that her genuine reason may have been frustration caused by the traffic situation here. The roads of Krakow seem not to have been repaired since medieval times and it could be cheaper and safer to travel by donkey.
 
The unwary traveller should be prepared for pot holed minor roads and deeply rutted major roads. The damage is often caused by heavily overloaded lorries. The inside lanes of Polish motorways are particularly hazardous in the rain, when the ruts fill with pools of water. Major roads and motorways here are seldom lit at night, and ‘cats’ eyes’ to reflect the light from your headlights are unheard of. There is a toll to pay for the use of the A4 motorway between Wroclaw and Krakow. The official speed limit, (widely disregarded), on motorways is 110km/h (68mph). On major roads the limit is 90km/h (55mph) and on minor roads 60km/h (35mph).    
 
Parking on the street in Krakow may be difficult as the roads are generally overcrowded. Krakow streets are divided into three zones, A, B and C, with zone A being the most central. Parking in zone C is possible with hourly (3zl) or half-hourly (1zl) tickets. You can purchase the tickets from kiosks or from the parking attendants who work in the streets wearing luminous yellow vests over their normal clothes. Circumspection is to be advised with regard to the safety of your car. If your car has foreign number plates it may be a good idea to use the ‘Security Parking’ or ‘Parking Strzezony’ facilities widely available. The normal cost of this service is 3 to 4zl per hour.
 
The public transport system within Krakow is very efficient and there is no problem travelling from A to B by bus or tram. The tickets are identical for both forms of transport and can be bought at kiosks. One standard ticket is used for one journey and is called a ‘Bilet Normalny’ (2.5zl). There are often inspectors aboard trams and buses to check tickets and it is unwise to travel without one.
 
With the exception of the inter-city express trains, the Polish rail system is slow. Rail travel is, however, a good way to explore Poland and see the picturesque countryside. It may not be a great idea to travel with valuable items and you should keep a close eye on your luggage. Ticket inspectors on trains here generally don’t speak English. At the rail information service in Krakow you may find an English speaker, but in smaller local stations certainly not. There is a buffet carriage on faster inter-city trains, but never on the normal, slower trains and passengers should take their own food and drink.
 
Beware of travel by taxi as you may be taken by a rather scenic and indirect route to your destination at great expense. Obtaining the highest fee possible from bewildered tourists is a time honoured tradition amongst taxi drivers here and you should exercise great caution if placing yourself in their hands.
  
Unexpected hazards for pedestrians include deep snow and ice on the pavements during the winter. Outside the city there are usually no pavements and pedestrians walk in the road.
 
Runners in the city tend to congregate around the Blonia area near Jordan Park, close to the Orbis hotel. This area is the starting point for the Cracovia Marathon (6th May). The long flat path alongside the river Wisla is also a good location for running as well as roller skating. There are cycle paths on central pavements in Krakow and there are some good long distance cycle routes to locations close to Krakow such as Ojcow. The area around the zoo, a forest called Las Wolski, is also a great area for running or cycling. A high level footpath connects the viewpoint at Kopiec Kosciuszki with Las Wolski.  
 
Peter Fairless
 

Peter Fairless is a foreigner in proud Poland.
Peter can be reached at fairless_peter@yahoo.com

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