July 2006

Such were the rapturous tales of Mr Sarga's ice-cream parlour that the little place began to develop an almost Willy Wonka like mystique. We made a mental note to drop in, but somehow the time never came round. Once or twice we spotted the shop as we sped past on a tram - it was a fair walk from the Old Town, and it couldn't have looked more humble in appearance, but the queues were so big that you knew that there had to be something worth waiting for. The thing was, Poles had gotten truly fed up with queuing during Communist times - when it might be an eight hour stint for a single tube of tooth-paste - but if there was one place where they were still happy to queue, then it was at Mr. Sarga's ice cream den.

In Stalinist times you could be arrested for having too successful an ice-cream parlour. And that's exactly what happened to one particular confectioner, who was imprisoned for a hefty three year term after selling too many cream cones. Not put off by this, his son finished an apprenticeship in Warsaw and went on to become the biggest ice-cream mogul in today's Poland (pick up a tub of Zielona Budka or Grycan to taste the tremendous results....).

If you're touching down in Cracow this Summer, it's quite possible that you'll need to know more about the city than just ice-cream anecdotes, even though we could happily go on all day (Poland is a sweet-toothed land if ever there was one). But we're going to pull ourselves together and explore some other spheres.

So.... What's new and noteworthy in the city of Prince Krak? Well, hostels are popping up all over the place - it seems like there were only a handful two years ago, but now they're everywhere. Deco and Seventh Heaven are two of the newest, and that means they shouldn't be too disgusting yet. At the other end of the scale, the much talked about Hotel Stary is now open for travellers.

Meanwhile, for a budget lunch, Kiki Mimi has just opened, whilst Dynia next door has equally reasonable prices and a fantastic garden. Two doors down you'll find the magical Mehoffer museum.

Staying in the cultural sphere, the National Museum has three attractions to lure you in this July. Besides the newly renovated Gallery of Polish art, there are two one-off exhibitions, one about Fin-de-siecle Krakow, the other a retrospective of Jozef Pankiewicz. Finally, if you like the idea of buying some art - and for fantastically reasonable prices - drop in to the Available Art show at Camelot.

Ahhh! And how could we forget, Mr. Sarga's ice cream den can be found at Starowislna 83.....


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