After posting Kindle surprise on Wednesday, it had to happen!

Trust me to make a comment about how often I was reading or watching DVDs instead of tuning into television…

And then remembering almost at the last minute about a programme I wanted to see – Great Continental Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo.

Yes, he’s a former Conservative minister, but I don’t hold that against him as he played an important part in saving The Settle-Carlise Railway Line. He’s also carved out a good name for himself as the presenter of several series of programmes dedicated to travelling by train.

The reason I didn’t want to miss Wednesday’s programme is because journey’s end was in a city I want to go back to – Krakow.

My last visit was in June 2000 as a guest of Helly Hansen to do some exploring of Krakow, head down a river in punts and then do some walking in the Zakopane area before returning to Krakow for a memorable night out. The hospitality, food and drink was excellent, the company convivial (a good mix of journalists, Helly Hansen management and staff plus Jane & Fiona, Helly‘s PR crew. Oh, and the kit worked well – the Helly clothing and the Scarpa boots that everyone had been kitted out with for the trip…

Our return to Krakow though came with a surprising last night. After checking into the hotel, I went on a mission to get some cigarettes and a bottle of Zubrovka bison grass vodka for one of my friends from Uni. Then it was off to a restaurant in the Jewish quarter for a good meal, good craic and some fine music too.

Next up though was an after dark guided walk around the Jewish quarter. Words flowed from our guide as to past events and the reasons why buildings hadn’t been kept in order, restored or modernised. As such matters weren’t on the history syllabus when I was at school, most of what I was hearing was new to me, and I suspect to a few others in our party too.

When we got back to the main square and found a bar that we could sit outside whilst having a beer or two, the party was unusually quiet. There were a few party animals among our number, but even they were relatively quiet on this particular night.

Now that may have been down to the previous night on the town in Zakopane (beer the equivalent of around 60p a glass if memory serves me right, the discovery of a jazz club and the return of some wayward souls at 6am…), but no, it was down to history lesson on the walk we’d just been on.

And yet I still want to go back to Krakow to spend some more time there and explore a bit more of the city itself. I can’t see me hiring a guide with a Trabant as Michael Portillo did, but I would like to get the walking shoes on again to explore the city on foot in the same manner that Caroline and I explored Prague a few years ago.

Or even the final destination of Michael Portillo’s next Great Continental Railway JourneyLisbon. Caroline and I really enjoyed our visit there in 2013, so the plan is to pay a return visit and spend a little bit longer there. One of Portillo’s other stops on his programme is coincidentally one of our other planned destinations on our next trip – Porto.

And guess how we’re planning on travelling around Portugal on our next visit – by train of course!

About Keith Rickaby

I’m a writer and photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now based in Yorkshire & back out there working for a travel and outdoor activity based retailer.
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