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Five days in Poland

Five days in Poland
via Lufthansa First Class
July 2013

My former personal trainer and friend from San Francisco retired a few years and he and his wife moved back to their native Poland for part of the year. Mrs. SFO and I have never been to Poland and decided to spend a few days with them and escape the Denver summer heat.

-Lufthansa 447 DEN-FRA NEW First Class
-The LH First Class Terminal at FRA
-Lufthansa CityLine1372 FRA-WRO Business Class
-Art Hotel Wroclaw
-Wroclaw
-Auschwitz
-Sheraton Krakow
-Krakow
-Lufthansa 1365 KRA-FRA Business Class
-Lufthansa First Class Terminal at FRA
-Lufthansa 446 FRA-DEN First Class

DEN-FRA is still a pretty easy award route but no longer at T-14. At T-10 I booked two seats into an F7 cabin, fully expecting old First, as DEN, ORD and BOM seem to routinely get the short end of the 744 fleet and old First. But miracles do sometimes happen and an equipment swap yesterday gave us refurbished D-ABVZ. I OLCI'd at home but we stopped at the counter for a doc check and just to make sure that we were good to go.

Pleasant agent didn't mention lounge access although asked "do you know where to go?" and I guess figured that my "yes, thank you" meant I knew.

Even though the United Club in the B concourse has recently been renovated, a marginal domestic lounge in a different concourse and a train ride away from our A-41/43 is not very convenient. So we headed for the A concourse Admirals Club where I have a membership. Mrs. SFO's misguided and spoiled opinion notwithstanding, it is a nice lounge and only a three minute walk from the gate. Some recycled pics from a previous trip...

And a major upgrade in calories as the AC is now featuring yogurt covered pretzels, something the UC recently dropped. We get excited about any new additions to the relatively pathetic domestic lounge food scene.

At T-45, we headed out to nearby Gate A41 and our beautiful 747-400.

Boarding started at T-35, with First and Business pax boarding at Gate A41, Y pax from Gate A43. The Princess knows the route and heads up the stairs to our favorite F cabin leaving her carry-on at the bottom of the stairs for me to schlep up. Yeah, I know my place.

Up next: Another reminder why I continue to rank Lufthansa as the best airline in the world.

DEN-FRA
Lufthansa 447
747-400
D-ABVZ (New First)
5:40P-11:15A (sked)
5:40P-10:55A (actual)
July 11, 2013
Seats 83C and 83H

Upstairs and two carry-ons stowed at the top of the stairs, time to enjoy an amazing premium class oasis... seat and a bed.

Happy wife. Happy life.

The first of three pre-departure glasses of an excellent Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis Brut Rosé.

Hot and I mean hot scented towel.

The weak LH amenity kit. Why bother?

Boarding completed, an on time push and only 8:50 to FRA tonight means we've got plenty of time for the FCT.

With a UA A319 pulling into A45. Couldn't understand that one since UA is in the B concourse. But from the UA forum, apparently it is a non pre-clearance international flight that has to arrive at A for customs, then gets towed to B.

RJ central for the world's largest airline. The poster child for proof that big doesn't always mean best.

A beautiful take-off and we are on are way to Frankfurt.

With Wifi.

Time for a drink.

And today's amuse bouche, a lovely fruit salad.

Let's look at today's menu.

And wine list.

Showtime.

First up, our FA Daniella and the always impressive starter cart.

And finally, we've added Goose to the chilled vodka lineup.

While Mrs. SFO sensibly goes just for the salad.

I am not so sensible and go for the works, naturally.

Starting with caviar and vodka.

The excellent Tuna Carpaccio

Tian of Tomato with Mozzarella, Arugula and Pine Nuts

And the outstanding Teriyaki glazed Beef Brochette with Sesame Seeds

And then the Seasonal salad with Shaved Parmesan and Vinaigrette.

With copious amounts of champagne and wine.

We were both torn between the beef and the duck, with in the end opted for the Tenderloin of Beef with Sweet Potato Hash and Ginger Rum Chutney. It was wonderful and perfectly medium rare.

The 2006 Chateau Olivier Cru Classé de Graves was forgettable but the 2008 Heartland Limestone Creek Director's Cut Shiraz was very good.

Equally impressive dessert and cheese cart.

I opted for the Banana Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream, and Port.

Perhaps a little after dinner cognac and bon-bons?

After a wonderful 3 and 1/2 hour sleep in my amazingly comfortable bed, I woke cursing myself for not taking 2 Tylenol before hopping into bed. Popped two and moved over to my seat and to start downloading and editing pics. Our FA brought some fresh squeezed OJ.

Time to change out of my PJs.

At about T-90, breakfast was served.

But all I had room for was some fruit and yogurt.

Missed this close up earlier.

and this one...

And our gradual descent to FRA

Nice plane watching on our taxi in to Z62.

My hopes of a tarmac position and limo pickup were dashed as we pulled into proper gate (Z62) seemingly in another time zone. After a 15 minute walk, we reached passport control and baggage claim. After head outside and turning left, we were at the First Class Terminal in less than 5 minutes.

No it was not snowing in July, just recycled pics from December.

We were welcomed in by our own personal assistant for our stay, who escorted us through friendly FCT security and into the terminal lounge itself, where we settled in for a 45 minute visit.

After a little while, I decided to head for a shower...

Wandering around the FCT...

We passed on lunch, but here are some dining photos for a previous trip.

At about T-30, our PA came over and announced that we were ready board. We took the elevator downstairs to the limo dispatch area where she handed us over to our driver and our S-Class for the 10 minute drive around the tarmac to a remote RJ boarding area.

The RJ boarding area is at the far end of the airport and is a fabulous drive in an S-Class.

To our CRJ-700.

How the other half (or 99%) arrives. We are all waiting for the OK to board. Everyone else also waits for us to board.

Lufthansa CityLine 1372
FRA-WRO
CRJ-700
12:55P-2:15P (sked)
12:55P-2:00P (actaul)
July 12, 2013
Seat 2AD

Talk about service. We were the only two J pax in the three (1A, 2A and 2D) seat Business Class cabin today, and were treated like royalty. Our FA made sure we were comfortable, had coats hanged and PDBs before she gave the OK for other to leave the bus and board.

Once in the air, our FA continued to dote on us, offering drinks and meal. Not really hungry, but took one for the team for the photo op. The meal was actually pretty tasty.

Our approach and landing at Wroclaw.

On landing, we parked at a remote "bus gate" location. Just as the skies opened and torrential rains started. The captain advised that they were just passing the area and he was going to wait 5 minutes before opening the door.

Sure enough, after 3 minutes, the rain stopped.

After collecting our "gate checked" carry-ons, we made our way onto the shuttle bus with the Y pax.

And were at the terminal a few minutes later.

Wroclaw
Lower Silesia Province
Poland

After a pit stop at the Toalety and an admonishment from a Polish rent-a-cop to stop taking pictures in baggage claim, we exited the terminal, walked across the arrivals lane and hailed a taxi from the taxi queue. "Do you speak English?" No? No problemo. I've written down the name and address of the hotel. "Yes. Yes. Gooood."

A good 20 miles and half hour later we pulled up to the Art Hotel. The meter was hidden so I didn't know what to expect but was shocked when the driver showed it to me. 60 Zt or all of $18 or so. I'd heard that Poland was inexpensive but with $7 a gallon gas, how do these guys make a living? He seemed ecstatic when I gave him 80 Zt and told him to keep the change.

Art Hotel
Old Town
Wroclaw

I didn't tell Mrs. SFO but I used Tripadvisor to pick the small (50-ish room) boutique Art Hotel, rated #2 of 61 by TA. I booked a suite (Apartment) based on hotel website pics and TA comments for 760 Zt or about $237 a night. Beautiful one bedroom suite with two baths and balcony, lovely hotel, great location. Mrs. SFO was very happy. Happy wife. Happy husband.

The lobby...

Yes, indeed.

Suite 324...

The Bedroom

And bath 1

The hallway on the 3rd floor

Time to check out the very nice looking hotel restaurant/bar

And the first G&T of the day. OK, I guess they don't make too many of these.

Our friends met us in the lobby around 6PM and we walked up to the nearby Town Square.

And had dinner at an old traditional Polish restaurant, Dwor Polski

Some traditional Polish food including Pierogi, Kielbasa and borsch.  And a Zywiec or two. :)

After dinner, we explored old town Wroclaw

One of Wrocław’s new tourist attractions is an army of little gnomes that first appeared in the streets in 2001.
Dwarf-trackers are offered special brochures and guided tours. Seriously? Tough to resist but we passed.

And explored more of "Vrahts-wahf" for the next hour. OMG, this is one tough language to pronounce.

Hard to imagine but we passed on this place as well.

At 10AM, we left our hotel walking thru more of old town towards the Oder River.

And a 45 minute cruise down the Oder River. It looked to be a peaceful cruise until a tour group of 80 descended on the boat at the last minute. 

And the tour leader who apparently was paid by the word, yapping nonstop the entire trip.

Gypies, apparently.

After the cruise we crossed the Tumski Bridge featuring 'lovers padlocks".
Mrs. SFO declined an opportunity to place a lock with me. Hmmm. 

To really old town Wroclaw

and John the Baptist Cathedral...

Heavily damaged in WW2.

With wonderful views of the city from the top the visitors tower.

Classic drain spout.

On our way back, a great farmer's market.

We had purchased tickets for 1:30P entrance to the Raclowice Panorama, a 140m-long canvas which depicts General Tadeusz Kościuszko's victory over Russians at Racławice in 1794. The rotunda was completed in 1967, but the Panorama itself was not installed for display until after Poland gained its most recent independence.

Amazing 3-D like combination of art in the background and real live props in the foreground.

After the tour, a quick lunch at one of the major shopping malls.

A stop at Coffee Heaven for coffee and people watching before our next stop.

And the University of Wroclaw.

After a late afternoon power nap and refresher back at the hotel, we had a wonderful dinner at nearby Mosaiq, one of the best restaurants in the city. No pics tonight as I gave Mrs. SFO and my camera a break. Outstanding meal from a Paris-trained Polish chef who recently returned to open this restaurant.

From there, we went to The Wroclaw Fountain, part of the Wroclaw Convention Center.

Equipped with 800 lights, the Wrocław Fountain even has pyrotechnic capabilities with fireworks and lasers shooting out of the large semicircle basin. The result is a dazzling displays of light, sound and water that is right up there with the Bellagio.

We left Wroclaw this morning and headed out for a two hour drive to Oświęcim/Auschwitz and a sobering tour of one of history's low lights.

After a late lunch in Oświęcim, we drove the back roads into Krakow.
The Sheraton Krakow features a great location across from the river and within walking distance of most of the attractions of old town Krakow.

Nice modern hotel, excellent staff. Our Junior Club Suite on the 2nd floor with a great view of the river.

And the view...

The interior atrium area including restaurant, bar and business centre with free computers, internet service and printers. Worked great for OLCI and printing our boarding passes for our return.

The Club Lounge is actually located on the 1st floor. Pleasant facility, with a nice selection of snacks (changed for time of day) and drinks. It was almost always empty when I stopped in.

After we settled in, we headed out to explore Krakow and have dinner.

Dinner tonight was at Pod Aniolami, featuring traditional Polish food and great atmosphere in the cellar of a 13th century building on the Royal Route.

And a pleasant walk back to the Sheraton.

Even though we had just finished dinner, we were lured in by the wonderful smell of barbequed kielbasa and chicken.

Oh yeah.

How can I resist?

I guess this calls for another Zywiec.

You win some, you lose some. Today was a miserable, windy and rainy +14 day, even colder with the wind chill. Nevertheless, we had great local guide Eva, who showed us many of the highlights of old Krakow. Starting with the nearby Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral, which sits on a hill overlooking the river and Krakow.

Krakow's favorite son.

Still raining, pretty hard at times, we headed back to the Market Square

And what is billed as the largest underground museum in the world. Uncovered by in archaeological dig in the mid-2000s, the museum presents sights and sounds of the city’s rich medieval heritage with the help of three-dimensional recreations and holographic displays.

Cool pics of the excavation of medieval Krakow.

It was still raining when we surfaced from the museum.

And headed for St. Mary's Basilica.

Sausage shopping at Kredens

And lunch (and a Tyskie) next door at Marmolada.

And back across the square for dessert at one of the oldest chocolatiers in the city.

Still raining as we headed back to the hotel for a nap.

On Tuesday morning, we headed out for the 30 minute drive to Wieliczka and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Built in the 13th century, it produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world's oldest salt mines still in operation. The mine's attractions include dozens of statues, three chapels and an entire cathedral that has been carved out of the rock salt by the miners.

The 3.5 km touring route (less than 2% of the length of the mine's passages) includes historic statues and mythical figures carved out of rock salt in distant past. The crystals of the chandeliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance.

After a never ending walk from the visitors reception area, we finally arrived at our elevator to take us to the top.

From -138 meters (452 feet) below the surface.

Across the street from the visitor entrance is a country style restaurant where we stopped for a delicious lunch and some more Polish beer. This time it was Okocim which immediately jumped up to my favorite of the trip.

The country soup was very tasty

The cabbage roll was out of this world.

The sweet pierogi looked better than it tasted.

But the poppy seed cake that our friends had purchased while we were touring was wonderful and reminded me of grandma's recipe.

Then back to the Sheraton for a rest and then a drink at the lovely rooftop lounge/bar.

With beautiful views of the river.

It was a glorious late afternoon and we decided to head for Kazimierz, Krakow’s Jewish district since the late 1300s. Nearly wiped out in WW2, it has been rediscovered, and Jewish culture gradually reintroduced. It was the backdrop for Steve Speilberg's Schindler's List. Today, there are lots of cafes and shops but the area has a feeling that you have turned back the clock..

Before leaving Kazamierz, I decided I had to try some zapiekanki. But deciding which one was difficult.

Mrs. SFO trying out my zapiekanki. No need to blur that pic as it pretty much blocks her face.

It was pretty good but didn't look as good as some of the others we saw people eating. We headed back to the hotel but had our tour cart driver drop us off near the Sheraton, for a final Kielbasa and Zywiec.

Since it was our last night in Krakow and such a beautiful night at that, we decided to head back to Market Square.

This mime was following many people including me until Mrs. SFO told him to "get the hell out of here." Ouch.

Time to head back to the hotel in style fit for a princess.

Right to front door of the hotel.


 

With prices like these, what's not to love about Poland? The Sheraton Mercedes to the airport for $24. Wow.  Not much traffic today on our 20 minutes drive to KRK. Hey, just like visiting San Francisco. LOL.

Other than that, nice scenery on the way.

Apparently Wroclaw got all the funds for a new airport, while KRK is stuck in the 70's.

Forgot to take a photo at the beginning of the maze but there were at least 15 zigzags despite no one in line.

The Business Lounge serves a slew of airlines, and looks like it hasn't seen an update for a long time.

Basic and uninspiring selection of snacks.

At around T-35, we left the calm Lounge and enter the crowded and chaotic departure area.

Got to watch Ryanair arrival and departure. That must be fun on rainy days.