Winter has arrived in Krakow

It’s been extremely cold this past week, with temperatures reaching down to -20C and lower.  We also had quite a bit of snow in the week before, so that’s still around but is slowly starting to melt.

This has been the coldest winter since my first year here, and I’ve had to shovel a ton of snow off my paths and driveway.  Unfortunately, it has also led to over 50 people dying from the cold since November.

I’ve been at a work conference in Krakow this week at the Qubus Hotel, which is right next to the Wisla River, so I grabbed a couple of pictures on my phone as it was completely frozen.  It’s not a small river either!

There has also been a lot of talk recently about the levels of smog and air quality in Krakow, actually it affects the whole of Malopolska.  It’s pretty bad, and on Wednesday this week you could almost chew the air.  It is pretty nasty at the moment and is being compared to cities in China and India.

The city does try to combat the problem by offering free public transport to people who would normally drive, you just have to produce your driving licence and car registration document.  The public transport is pretty reliable and regular in the city, so it’s not too difficult to change your habits for a few days.

If you do take public transport, please ensure you get a ticket and if needed validate it when you get on.  You need to validate tickets on trams and buses by sticking them in the little machines.  You don’t need to validate on the trains but there are ticket inspectors on every train, and you will be checked.  I take the train to work every day, and my ticket is checked on every single journey.  If you need a ticket for the trains, I can recommend the iMKA app for IOS & Android.  It’s in English and allows you to buy a ticket on your mobile.  I’m afraid I don’t use buses or trams but I believe there is also going to be an app for those, although at this time they are still deciding which one.

They have also recently banned the use of e-cigarettes near to bus/tram stops and train stations (normal cigarettes were already banned) and banned all tobacco products in public parks.  I doubt this will affect the smog problem, but it’s something to be aware of to avoid fines if you happen to smoke or vape.

This is how it looks after several days at -15C to -20C.  Luckily the temperatures have increased now and it feels positively warm, although it’s still only around 0C.

If you look at the above picture very closely, you might spot something strange floating on the other side of the river.  Yes, it’s an upside down pig.  It’s not real and hasn’t passed away from the cold, it’s a sculpture by artist Mateusz Okoński called Purification.  I’m not an art critic, and have never really been interested in it, but I’m pretty sure this is just some random weirdness which has been created by someone who has too much time on their hands, not art.

I’m off to the mountains for the weekend as part of the conference as the company are paying for it all.  I’ll be learning to ski, or just falling down a lot on the mountain, and visiting the thermal springs at Bialka Tatranska.  I love the mountains, but have never been skiing or to a thermal spring, so it will certainly be an experience, and I’ll update on that next week sometime!

Edit: I forgot to mention, during the conference I’ve also been using taxis quite a bit and found a useful app on iOS and others – myTaxi.  Works kind of like Uber, but with a registered Taxi driver.  It’s cheap too, which is a bonus.  I have only had good experiences so far this week.

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