Pole to Pole
It was immediately obvious when we crossed into Poland that they have a lot less money to spend on their railways than the Czechs do. Signs of this were the run down graffiti covered stations - complete with piles of human excrement, and a complete lack of signs. That said, all of the trains turned up and ran on time, so I suppose it's better than England.
We had decided to use the city of Cesky Tesin/Cieszyn as our crossing point, partly because we both enjoy obscure border crossings but mostly because this was a rare opportunity to have a look at a properly divided city. Cieszyn had been divided at the end of the first world war when it was claimed by both Czechs and Poles. To be honest it wasn't as exciting as it might have been - both countries are now EU members and so citizens of either can come and go as they please.
Thanks to the joys of the internet we had been able to plot a very complex journey involving six different trains to get from Frenstat to Krakow - two in the Czech Republic and four in Poland. We gave ourselves 3 hours to cross the border - it actually took longer to find the bridge than to cross it! Once in Poland we had time for a meal and a quick 'get lost' before eventually tracking down the derelict shed which passed for the train station. The guard on the first train was highly amused when he found out where we were heading (China) - his train is now known as the China Express.
One of the changes was at Oswiecim (better know as Auschwitz) which made us a little nervous!! - and then one and a half hours on a hard seat (literally - not the Chinese type) to Krackow. We had booked ourselves into a sort of posh hostel (double room with toilet and kitchen) from Frenstat - and, as we know the city from a previous adventure, walked across the old town with no problems. I have to say that Krakow is showing worrying signs of going the same way as Prague - it was much busier than when we were there before - and prices seem to be catching up with Western Europe at a much faster rate than in the rest of the country.
Our main mission here was to buy Penny some earrings (they're in the post Pen) which we did with a small amount of 'discussion'. The weather had improved immensely over the last couple of days and Krakow was baking. We had something to eat, visited a few of our favourite spots, went to bed and then moved out the next day.
Because we had spent so much time in the Czech Republic our plan was to head swiftly through Poland and then spend a week or so in the Ukraine. I thought that it would be a good idea to spend a day in the border town of Przemysl as I thought we might get some exposure to the Cyrillic alphabet and Ukrainian language. As it happens the only sign we saw that we were near the border was some graffiti saying 'Ukrainians go home' or some such. I'm not sure what to make of Poland - on one hand it's a very modern western oriented country (particularly in the cities) and on the other it's very backward. As we travelled across the countryside it was a common sight to see farmers harvesting their crops with a scythe and loading the grain onto a horse and cart. Also watching people making haystacks with pitchforks is something that only occurs in museums in the west. Now that they are part of Europe I'm not sure how the CAP is going to work there - no wonder the French are nervous!!
Interestingly we have been told that the Poles consider themselves 100 years ahead of the Ukraine - not exactly the case as it turns out.