Some people come to Krakow for the history, others for the party scene. Me? I come for the dentistry. A nagging pain had started up in one of my teeth in the last 48 or so hours and, having alarmed myself with visions of dental abscesses and root canals in Mongolia, I resolved to deal with it first thing in the morning. Thus, after some much-needed sleep, I tootled off to the Tourist Info to ask them about dentists and vaccinations. Well, I do try to be original. The lady recommended a dentist just around the corner, while the chap did a quick Google and gave me the address of a clinic that supposedly did travel vaccinations. I decided to do the tooth thing first to get it out of the way.
The dentist turned out to be a tidy 24h effort that took a stray, slightly panicky Brit in its stride. Within about five minutes of walking through the door, I was seen by an efficient dentist who switched smoothly into excellent English when I indicated that my Polish was non-existent (though “Get on the couch and make yourself comfortable” was clear enough). He poked and scratched round my mouth with a probe, commented favourably on my general state of dental hygiene, and noted my wince when he reached the offending tooth. Apparently, I had some exposed dentine that he offered to patch up with a filling – I wouldn’t even need any drill-work done. Relieved, I asked cautiously how much it would cost, wondering if I’d need to hit the travel insurance already. 100 zlotys, he replied. £20 to avoid the possibility of enduring far worse for far more? Sold. The whole thing was done and dusted in about half an hour, and I am a much happier bunny as a result.
My next mission was to try and get the last parts of my travel vaccinations for rabies and Japanese encephalitis, and in this I was far less successful. I scooped up my vaccination card and headed off to the clinic indicated by the Tourist Info peeps, but found myself horribly lost in translation – they didn’t speak any English, I don’t speak any Polish. The so-called useful phrases on the back of the map from the hostel weren’t of any assistance either – I didn’t think “Do you play the trumpet?” or “Please may I fondle your buttocks?” really covered the situation. Eventually I handed my vaccination card to a receptionist and indicated the two vaccinations I was supposed to try and get, and she scooted off to ask someone else. It turned out that they didn’t do vaccinations for Japanese encephalitis, and the receptionist indicated that I should go to the hospital just down the road and try there. Unfortunately, I again got caught in a linguistic loop at the hospital with three people earnestly trying to help me despite our inability to understand each other (one chap had a few words of German, but it didn’t really help). They firmly indicated that I wasn’t in the right place and I should go to the “grosse Haus” and drew me a map – of where I’d just been. At that point, realising that it was 2.30pm and I wouldn’t get any further without much better language skills, I gave up and headed back into town to actually see something of the place. I’d already had success emailing a clinic in St. Petersburg regarding a rabies vaccination (no one seems to give a crap about Japanese encephalitis outside of the UK), so I figured I’d just go see them after all.
Back in central Krakow, I made my way to the market square and ambled round, keeping a look-out for somewhere to eat. The market square is crammed with restaurants of varying degrees of price, but that didn’t stop me managing to end up at possibly the most twee place there – the staff were in faux-Medieval costume and there was a large model bison by the front door, but they were friendly and the pierogi they served were delicious. Suitably fortified, I finished my circuit of the square and then had a peek round St. Mary’s Basilica, which has a famous altar by Veit Stoss. The Basilica’s interior was beautifully decorated and painted, which made me feel better about being pressured into paying extra to use my camera. Afterwards, I puttered through the old part of town admiring the buildings until I got to Wawel castle on the banks of the river Wisla. Unfortunately I was too late to see any of the exhibitions, but the grounds were still open and I had a good poke around while the place was semi-free of other tourists. Dinner was more pierogi followed by a bit of a lights-and-music show that I stumbled upon in the market square – much better for me than the ice cream I had been hunting for!