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Bad Memories of Krakow for Olympic Champs

OLYMPIC champions they may be, but Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie insist that counts for nothing as they return to international action this weekend for the first time since London 2012.

Stott & Bailie

The canoe slalom C2 stars have competed in a series of races at Nottingham’s National Water Sports Centre and at the Olympic course in Lee Valley in the past few months.

But the European Championships in Poland mark the first time they will have squared off against many of the same canoe double pairings they saw off to win Olympic gold last August.

“Some people think that because we have won the Olympics anything other than a podium finish would be a huge disappointment for us, but the reality is quite different,” Baillie said.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to medal (at the Europeans) and we will be doing our best to get up there, but there are a whole lot of fast crews with the potential to podium and it’s a very difficult sport to be consistent.

“Our greatest achievement at the Olympics was that we managed to break free from any perceived pressure or expectation and focused instead entirely on our performance and just trying to get our best effort down regardless of what anyone else did.

“For the race this weekend our approach will be identical; we’ll be preparing meticulously to try to execute our best performance and if we manage to do that in an uninhibited way we’ll be satisfied, It’d be great if that meant we had a good result as well.”

Stott echoed the thoughts of his whitewater rapids partner, adding: “Anyone who knows the sport of canoe slalom realises that it is unpredictable and therefore if it didn’t go well, it wouldn’t mean our reputation was ruined.

“The focus and process that we go through will be the same as for the Olympics; it’s just that the situation is a bit different, that’s just part of the challenge of sports and what I enjoy.”

Pending the event going ahead in Krakow as planned – with flooding problems at the course shifting the start of the Europeans back a day to tomorrow – the duo will also be looking to avenge a bad memory from five years ago.

They may have a European bronze medal to their name from the C2 discipline from when it was staged in Nottingham in 2009, but it was a very different situation for Stott and Baillie the year before.

At the 2008 European Championships, which was staged at the Krakow course they will compete on tomorrow, the pair managed only 16th and this meant they missed out on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics that year.

“This will only be the second race we have done there,” said Stott.

“In 2008, our performance was poor and led to us missing out on qualifying a place to the Beijing Games.

“So it doesn’t have loads of happy memories. But we are much improved as athletes now, and to me it seems like a totally different situation, a blank slate.

“The river is very tough, challenging and unforgiving, which suits our style to some degree, so I am excited to race and see how fast we can go.”

That bad memory was compounded for Baillie, who added: “Krakow hasn’t been especially kind to us. In 2008, the race was actually on my birthday.

“It’s a particularly painful memory because we completely failed to paddle up to our potential because we were too nervous and didn’t have the mental strategies to deal with it.

“Missing the Olympics was devastating for us at that point but looking back now it’s a bitter-sweet memory.

“In many ways that experience proved to be an important catalyst for our eventual success in London.

“It highlighted what we needed to improve and we spent the intervening four years working on our race-day composure and mental toughness.”

Training ahead of the event has not gone according to plan for the Nottingham-based pair, with the course in Krakow closed due to flooding much of this week due to heavy rain that has swelled the river levels.

But Stott says they feel in good shape, and said: “We have worked as hard as we can on the important parts of our training.

“Being the first race of the new Olympic cycle means everyone will be feeling out their form and that of the opposition, so we’ll just have to wait and see. But the way we are paddling and the way we feel physically is pretty good.

“It will come down to how we handle the race course on the race day.”

June 8, 2013 Posted by | Events, Sport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu to Inaugurate New Auschwitz Exhibition

KRAKOW TOURS: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit Poland on June 13 for the opening of a new exhibition at the museum of the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, organizers said Monday.

In the works for four years, the exhibition will present “the murder at Auschwitz in the larger context of the Nazis systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people,” said curators at Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.

The “Shoah” display will be located in Block 27, the oldest part of the camp set up by Nazi Germany in the southern town of Oswiecim in occupied Poland.

The unveiling was originally due on May 9 but had to be pushed back because of Netanyahus schedule.

Around 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed between 1940 and 1945 at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the death camps run by Nazi Germany.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, Events, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Margaret Thatcher roundabout’ in Warsaw?

Local councillors in Warsaw are pushing for a roundabout near the central railway station to be named after the late Lady Margaret Thatcher.

Wojciech Bartelski, mayor of the central Warsaw borough of Śródmieście and member of the centre-right Civic Platform, told Polish Radio that the best way for the capital to honour the late British prime minister who died on 8 April would be to name the roundabout at the junction of Chałubiński and John Paul II streets after her.

Local councillors from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), however, want the roundabout to be named after Edward Gierek, who replaced Władysław Gomułka as communist party first secretary in Poland in 1970.

2013 marks 100 years since the birth of Gierek.

Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who is deputy leader of the ruling Civic Platform, has said he would like to see a statue of Lady Thatcher – whose funeral he attended on Wednesday – placed outside the Hala Mirowska market place, not far from the roundabout, which the British prime minister visited while in the Polish capital in 1988.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Irish Mbassy – St Patrick’s Weekend

Bringing Ireland to Krakow.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Events, News, Sport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Ghetto opened 72 years ago this week

IN SCHINDLERS STEPS – This day in history – 1941 – The beginning of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow

One of the five main ghettos created by Nazi Germany during their occupation of Poland in WWII. Before the war, the city was an influential cultural centre for the 60,000 – 80,000 Jews that resided there.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | This Day In History, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Valentine’s Day in Poland

Valentine’s Day is being celebrated in Poland, with pastry chefs across the country rustling up suitably romantic confections.

Valentines Day PolandAs with Halloween,Valentine’s Day passed virtually unnoticed in Poland until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

However, in the last ten years in particular, the celebrations have become increasingly popular, especially with young Poles.

The picturesque medieval town of Chelmno, northern Poland, has thrown itself into the Valentine’s Day spirit with particular gusto.

A relic of St Valentine that was donated to the Church of St. Mary in 1630 – but largely forgotten until 2002 – has inspired an annual extravaganza on 14 February.

The municipal authorities have even gone so far as to re-brand Chelmno as “the town of the enamoured” in its official slogan.

Elsewhere in the country, flower-sellers, chocolatiers, restaurateurs and hoteliers are all doing a roaring trade.

February 14, 2013 Posted by | Events, This Day In History | , , | Leave a comment

Wieliczka Salt Mine – Poland

wieliczka salt mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine is probably the most amazing mine in the world.

A very popular destination, the mine is located just east of Krakow and has been the driving force behind the city’s former wealth and influence. The mine has been producing salt for 700 years and now stretches to over 200km of tunnels over 9 levels.

Guided tours are compulsory – these are run regularly in English as well as less often for other languages. The tours last at least two hours – up to three in the busiest times of year – and involves a 2km walk through the mine, beginning with a dizzying 378 step descent down one of the shafts to the third level.

The mine was carved out by hand and is a maze of tunnels and chambers. Some of the wooden pit props are so old that with the weight of the ground above have compressed to the hardness of stone. The whole area is eerily lit, with the salt crystal walls surprisingly dark. Narrow tunnels lead to huge chambers, some with other entrances way above accessed by catwalk. The pit props are at times like a work of art, holding up the ceiling like a vaulted cathedral. Statues line the route, all carved from salt in intricate detail as the tour take you deeper in to the mine.

The highlight of the tour is the Chapel of the Blessed Kinga, patron saint of Poland. One of several chapels set in the mine complex, the entire chamber was hewn by hand from solid rock salt. This underground temple took over 30 years to complete and involved the removal of of 20,000 tonnes of rock salt. Everything in the room is made of salt, including the chandeliers and altarpieces. The pulpit is carved as a mountain with a castle wall, while carved panels depict Christian scenes in great detail.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is truly a unique place to visit – from the slow descent and maze of passageways to the huge vaulted chambers and speedy ascent in the lift. The Chapel of Blessed Kinga is truly stunning, a massive cathedral set a hundred metres underground.

via Wieliczka Salt Mine – Poland – Country Guide.

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Recommendations | , | Leave a comment

Krakow In Your Pocket

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Krakow In Your Pocket

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February 8, 2013 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BBC Travel – Kazimierz: New life in Krakow’s Jewish quarter

Wander through Kazimierz, better known as the Jewish quarter of Krakow, Poland’s second largest city, and signs of the area’s cultural heritage are everywhere.

Szeroka - Kazimierz   www.krakowtours.co.uk

The Old Synagogue dominates Ulica Szeroka (Wide Street), where wooden tables from traditional Jewish restaurants spill out onto the pavement In the evenings while the sound of traditional Jewish klezmer music emanates from the bars and cafes of the surrounding alleys.

via BBC – Travel – New life in Krakow’s Jewish quarter : Cultural Activities, Poland.

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , | Leave a comment

Spielberg the Clear Favorite to Win best Director.

American filmmaker Steven Spielberg is clear favorite among the public to win the best director award for his film about President Abraham Lincoln at the Academy Awards this year, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

While the race to win best film at the February 24 ceremony was shaken up by “Argo” stealing the thunder of “Lincoln” at two award ceremonies last weekend, the best director statuette was deemed destined for one man.

Scene from Schindlers List, filmed on Szeroka in Kazimierz, Krakow.

Scene from Schindler’s List.
Filmed on Szeroka in Kazimierz, Krakow.

Spielberg, 66, who has been nominated seven times for best director at the Oscars and won twice – for the World War Two dramas “Schindler’s List” in 1993 and “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998 – was seen as far ahead in the all-male field of five.

A Reuters Ipsos poll of 1,641 Americans found 41 percent thought Spielberg should win and 38 percent said he was most likely to win for his U.S. Civil War-era drama in which British actor Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln.

Almost half of the respondents to the survey conducted Friday through Tuesday were unsure who should or was most likely to be voted best director. The accuracy of the poll uses a statistical measure called a “credibility interval” and is precise to within 2.8 percentage points.

The online poll comes before the Directors Guild of America awards on Saturday in Los Angeles. Since 1948, there have been only six occasions where the winner of the DGA Award for Feature Film has not gone on to win the Oscar for best director.

But this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose members choose Oscar winners, overlooked the directors of four of the year’s biggest movies – Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”) and Tom Hopper (“Les Miserables”) – opening the possibility of a rare split in February in the best film and best director categories.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unesco video for Krakow

 

Planning on visiting Krakow, contact KRAKOW TOURS for all the help you need.

January 17, 2013 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schindler’s List – 20th Anniversary Edition

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2013 marks the 20th Anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning film Schindler’s List, and Universal is acknowledging the milestone by giving the film a Blu-ray release with a 20th Anniversary Limited Edition. Set to arrive in March, the Blu-ray Combo Pack will include the film on Blu-ray and DVD as well a digital copy and UltraViolet.

Directed by Spielberg, the 1993 black-and-white drama is based on Thomas Keneally’s novel Schindler’s Ark and stars Liam Neeson as the title character Oskar Schindler, a Catholic man and member of the Nazi party who puts his life and career on the line by employing 1,100 Jews in his factory during the Holocaust. Also among the cast are Ben Kingsley, playing Schindler’s accountant, and Ralph Fiennes, who played a cruel Nazi commander.

Here’s the trailer for the Blu-ray…

For its Blu-ray release, the film has been “meticulously restored from the original film negative in pristine high definition, supervised by Steven Spielberg.” Bonus features include “Voices from the List,” a documentary that includes testimonies from Holocaust survivors. And also “USC ShoahFoundation Story with Steven Spielberg,” which focuses on how Spielberg was inspired by the film to start the USC Shoah Foundation, an institute for visual history and education. 

It’s hard to believe the film is turning twenty this year. Given the anniversary, the timing seems right for the movie to make its Blu-ray debut, and for the film to get touched up for high def. It’s certainly one of the more moving historical pictures in movie history and well worth owning. 

Universal has the release date for Schindler’s List 20th Anniversary Limited Edition set for March 5, 2013. Below is a look at the box art for the set.

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LINKED POST

A Girl from Schindler’s List

January 16, 2013 Posted by | News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Youngest Oskar Schindler’s List Survivor Dies Aged 83

Krakow Tours

Leon Leyson, the youngest among the 1,100 Jews saved by German industrialist Oskar Schindler during World War II, died over the weekend at his southern California home. He was 83 years old. His daughter told the Los Angeles Times that her father passed away after a four-year battle with lymphoma.

Schindler saved Jews by telling SS officers that they were his employees and necessary for his factories. He called Leyson “the Little Leyson” because the boy, who went to work in Schindler’s factory at age 13, needed to stand on boxes to work the machinery.

Leyson’s mother and brothers were also saved by Schindler, who died in 1974 and was buried in Jerusalem. He was named as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1993.

LINKED POSTS

Remembering Oskar Schindler

Schindlers List Review

Schindlers List For Sale

The Krakow Ghetto

A Girl From Schindlers List

January 15, 2013 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

President Komorowski backs Poland’s Olympic 2022 bid.

President Komorowski backs Polish Olympic bid

“If we want to co-host such an event in 2022 we have to start working on it today,” President Komorowski said in the mountain resort of Bialka Tatrzanska, Małopolska.

The head of state mentioned the state of the road that links the tourist centres of Krakow and mountain resort of Zakopane as among the priorities for preparations for hosting the games.

“The funds should be spent on the ‘famous’ motorway leading to Zakopane which as of now does not meet the standards for such a big international event,” he said of the 1970s-built road.

Komorowski also said that as this was a joint bid to host the Winter Olympics with Slovakia, coordinating the project must begin right away.

“We need to build cooperation with our Slovak neighbours. We could not prepare this bid without them because our Tatra mountains are not as big as those in Slovakia,” Komorowski said.

According to the plan, Krakow, in southern Poland, would host the opening and closing ceremonies and the city would host the majority of the events played on ice, while Zakopane, Poland’s winter tourist capital, would handle snowboarding, cross country skiing and the biathlon.

Slovakia would organise a number of skiing events and some of the ice hockey fixtures.

A letter of intent has already been signed by the heads of the Olympic committees of Poland and Slovakia while the official candidacy declaration is to be made in 2013.

The host city will be elected on July 31, 2015 at the 127th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur.

Several European cities have put in bids to host the event, including Munich, Nice, Oslo and Lviv.

Asian bids have come from Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan.

LINKED POSTS

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Events, Sport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Advice – Money

KRAKOW TOURS – Here is  a blog aimed at answering many of the questions that travelers have prior to arriving at a holiday destination for the first time. If you have a holiday already booked, or still in the planning stage, this information should prove very useful for you.

Currency Exchange.

Currency can be exchanged at both your departure and arrival airports, but expect to pay hefty commissions and/or obtain a low exchange rate. If you feel you must get your Zloty whilst in the UK then by far the best option is to pre-order from TRAVELEX online and collect it from your departure airport.

In Krakow, currency can be exchanged at hotels, banks and anywhere that you see a sign proclaiming ‘KANTOR’, Kantors will usually provide the best exchange rates and zero commission, but shop around as there can often be as much as 10% difference in the exchange rates offered.

Consistently the best rate available in Krakow is from a Kantor called ‘Grosz’ on Slawkowska, it is only 2om from the north west corner of the main square.

TIP: Try to avoid changing money at a Kantor on sundays, only the smaller independent ones are open, and they seem to all agree to an exchange rate for the day, that is much lower than you should be able to achieve. 

AVOID: Please avoid the Kantors signed CHANGE – KANTOR these are very prominent and look very smart and official, they are usually liveried in Orange or Blue. The rate they display would be the best available if it were real, they display the SELL rate, and if you realise your mistake after handing over your money they will not refund you. Travellers arriving by train will reach 2 of these Kantors before reaching the honest ones.

8th February 2013

Best Krakow Kantor Rates

4.90zł to £1 

4.15zł to €1

Prices

Since EU ascension and becoming a favoured tourist destination, prices in Poland have been on the rise, making the country less of a bargain than it was 5 years ago. Having said that, however, prices for food, drink, cultural venues and transport still remain comparably cheap in contrast to Western Europe, and especially when compared to the Eurozone for travelers from the UK.

In Krakow, expect to pay the highest prices in, and around, the main square. Venture to some of the many side streets and you’ll often find much better value for food, drink and indeed for shopping.

Tipping.

Things have changed a lot since the bad old days when everything had to be tipped. Today it is understood that you tip because the service was good. So if you were satisfied, leave a tip. However you have to bear in mind that catering staff, restaurants, clubs, etc are paid a very minimum wage so if you think it was worth it, add 10% to the bill as a tip, and try to pay it cash to your waiter/waitress.

When paying for a taxi, round up the bill. Generally taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, so if you do the driver will be surprised and happy, again if it was worth it tip. NO EFFORT NO TIP.

TIP: Be careful in a bar or restaurant when you hand over your cash to pay the bill. In Poland, if you say ‘thank you’ (dziękuje – ‘jen-koo-yeh’)  it can often be taken as a sign that you won’t be wanting any change back. This can prove expensive, say ‘proszę’ (prosheh) and leave the thank you until they return with your change.

Bartering.

If you intend to shop bazaars, open air markets or farms try bargaining. Accepting the first price is not a good idea there, but remember that price negotiations in Poland are far different from the bartering done in Arabic countries. With a little common sense and good humour you can still have a lot of fun and get a little knocked off the price.

Small Change.

Thinking of paying for your tram ticket with one of the 100zł notes in your pocket? Think again. Small shops, newsagents, public toilets and even the occasional fast food franchise or bar will often refuse to break a large note for you. as annoying as it is to carry coins, do carry small change for such moments.


January 5, 2013 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations | , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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