Why doesn’t translating ‘tomorrow week’ as ‘holnap hét’ work? Tomorrow = holnap. Week = hét. Admittedly, tomorrow week might be an Irish expression to begin with but hey, my brand of logic wonders why direct translations don’t make sense. I know they presuppose knowledge of English so that the hearer can translate the Hungarian directly back into English to see what I intended to say in the first place. It’s no wonder I’m linguistically challenged.
I was highly amused at the liquor stores, offlicences, bottle shops – call them what you will – in Kraków. Multicoloured shop fronts emblazoned with the word Alkohole. What a great word. Apparently it translates into alcohols but all I saw was an alko hole. A little English is a dangerous thing.
The streets of Kraków have yet to be taken over by the chain stores so prominent in other cities in Europe. The slow creep is underway but so far, much of the area surrounding the main square is populated with cafés, bars, restaurants, and boutique shops that give the city its charm. Elsewhere, unique fronts speak to the quirkiness that lies just beneath the surface and to the art scene that sets it apart. It’s a walkable city, with good shoes and decent weather. And once you have your bearings, it’s probably best done without a map. That way you get lost and happen across some of the more unusual streets and restaurants, the local elements that are still going strong in the face of relentless tourism.
The city is full of remnants of times past. Places of interest are well signposted and signposted in English, too. Someone was thinking of the tourist dollar. It’s steeped in history. The cobblestone streets add to the sense of being in another age and the horse-drawn carriages ambling along are not quite as twee as they could be. They sort of fit. I remembered very little from my last trip so while there was a smattering of familiarity, it was like visiting for the first time.
I could have spent a whole day popping in and out of the various outlet boutiques selling off samples by famous labels. Or browsing through the bookshops. Or trying on hats in the milliners. As it was, I spent an hour in a bead/jewelry shop that had every possible sort of necklace and accessory you might want. And don’t get me started on the shoes and bags. I don’t remember Kraków as a shopping destination but it’s in my diary now as one to revisit when I have both time and money.
My guide recommended a restaurant in the Jewish Quarter – a local one that has been around for years. One her friends frequent. She much preferred a ribs joint near the main square that was popular with tourists – a qualification that was enough to send me in the opposite direction. She said it was ‘fatty’ which I took for having lots of meat on the menu. I ventured inside and was welcomed immediately by a complimentary bowl of sour barley soup with boiled eggs. It was an order-at-the-counter, pay, pickup and bring-your-dishes-back-when-you’re-done sort of place. And I was the only tourist. I can’t tell you how happy that made me feel. Odd, considering I was a tourist myself. I ordered a full serving of the sour barley soup to go with some breaded pork and buttered spinach. Excellent. Truly excellent. One of many reasons to go back to Kraków. And go back I will.