Gardening Magazine

From Krakow To Prague

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

Every couple of years, my brother resolutely shakes his head, and says things like “don’t be absurd” and “no, never again” and “not after last time.”  But eventually, after I’ve wheedled and whined and nipped, he groans, throws up his arms and finally agrees to come traveling with me.



On our last trip we visited Poland (see ‘A Postcard From Poland‘) and liked it so much, we decided to return.  Two weeks ago we flew to Kraków, picked up a hire car and drove to this:

Noma Residence

the Noma Residence  – a charming, if ridiculously Hansel und Gretel, hotel.  This region was German before the Second World War and the Noma is obviously, blatantly Deutsch.

Noma Residence (2)

Were there any doubt, displayed inside are photos of Kaiser Wilhelm II posing on those steps.  In one he hefts a shotgun and looks like he has spent a satisfactory day blasting anything and everything – including some of the staff.


Built in the 1860’s, this hunting lodge is beautiful: totally fairy-tale, festooned with crazy detail and quite mad.  Why have plain functional dormers when you might have Christmas tree ones?


And it hadn’t occurred to me to stick a huge wooden stag’s head on my roof.


Inside, the hotel walls are decorated with hundreds of antlers and the heads of trophy animals.  I tried to be impressed but I’ve always found taxidermy a bit creepy.  (The large bear lurking under the staircase gave me a particular turn).

Noma Residence (3)

We stayed here for two very comfortable nights indeed; efficiently, silently working our way through the tremendous, varied breakfasts before waddling out to the terrace to sip our coffee and listen to the cuckoos – regretting, a little, that we had packed no lederhosen.

Krakow Castle

Krakow Castle

We returned to Kraków but sadly only had one day to explore.  Did you know how impressive Kraków is?  I didn’t and with little time available, I’m afraid I took hardly any photos.  I have no shots of the massive, jaw-dropping town square for example which, to my mind, blows raspberries at those of Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam (insert city of your choice).

Krakow Castle (2)

I did manage a couple of snaps of Kraków Castle

Krakow Castle (3)

where we batted away crowds to see da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine‘.  It was worth the effort (if rather marred by a guide and her entourage standing immediately in front of the painting for an epoch.  Eventually I grabbed a sharp stick and jabbed them out-of-the-way).

Our time in Poland was far too short and after three nights, we leapt on the sleeper train for Prague.  Rattling through central Europe in a single berth cabin is the way to travel, I’ve decided.  Our carriage steward kept the Pilsner flowing as we sat chatting in my compartment till the early hours.  Later, as I nodded off in my comfortable bed, rocked to sleep by the motion of the train, I half feared to find Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave and the rest leaning over me with a determined glint in their eye and a sharp knife poised above my chest.  Didn’t happen.


I’ve visited the Czech Republic’s capital before and liked it.  But after Kraków, it seemed a lesser destination.  But then most cities would struggle in comparison with Kraków (yep, it really did impress me that much) and Prague is still a beautiful city and I had time, at least, to wander about with my Nikon.


For your benefit and that of science only, we tried a miniature bottle of absinthe.  DON’T try this at home.  At 70º degrees proof this is a tipple for the committed, grown-up drinker.  Having sated our curiosity – overcome a coughing fit, dabbed our eyes and regained the power of speech – Peter and I agreed, slurringly, that we need never repeat the experience.  Ever again.  One for the bucket list only.

I’ve wanted to start pointing my camera at people rather than just plants, wildlife and landscapes.  A bustling city seemed the place to start.


A pair of tree surgeons drew a small crowd on the Charles Bridge.  Not that interesting, I agree


until you see just how flipping high they are.  No way would you get me in that thing.  No way and this shot still makes me giddy.  (As does the thought of absinthe).


A Czech folk festival provided plenty of subjects, if not always smiles.


Funny how a single snapshot might be misinterpreted.  The girl on the left seems to dislike the two smirking ones


but perhaps not, after all – unless she’s faking.


I’ve made some of these black and white simply …. because.







But we need some color to show off these fantastic costumes.  I love the woman’s sleeves and rather fancy the same.  I could keep my secateurs in them … and my sandwiches, for that matter.


The girl sitting down seems intrigued by a woman leaning over next to her


but not for long.  What had the bending over woman done?  Perhaps inadvertently.  It’s probably best we’ll never know.


A chap pacing around outside our apartment has a crafty fag.


In Prague’s main square, I watched a Balkan style band called Circus Problem.


They were so accomplished and jolly, I bought their CD.  If you’d like to hear a sample of their music, click here.


The crowd loved them and so did I.  Why, I even tapped my foot.  But only in an embarrassed ‘we-don’t-do-this-sort-of-thing-normally-do-we-and-it’s-all-a-bit-awkward-isn’t-it?’ English kind of way.


I’m reflected in the tuba – just below the drummer’s head, wearing blue

I never could resist a bit of oompah.


Prague?  Pretty, very lively but maybe too crowded for a Sussex gardener.


Kraków café.  Here’s a use for all those sewing machine tables in your garage

Kraków?  Cracking city.  Just go!  Book your ticket and go.  I intend to.

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