A snippet from Introducing Krakow reads: ‘accordion players ply trade next to old trouts selling bobble hats and bagels.’ That should whet your appetite.
Need I mention, too, that Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a very accessible “attraction” from here? Or the salt mines in the Tatras mountains?
So, while the idea of visiting percolates, let me take you to the Harris jazz club, situated off the main square. I daren’t try and name the square itself due to one of those odd foreign accents on the “o” and a squiggle on the “l”.
The Malpolski Big Band are firing on all cylinders tonight, striking up a swinging rendition of The Pink Panther theme. Leaning nonchalantly at the bar, talking above the din from eighteen musicians, are “Wrecker”, Paul and Alan – all double drivers, with no responsibilities this evening. We have a night off.
Yes, this is why we do this job. These nights away from chuntering along Europe’s motorways (loaded with rock and roll equipment) is what makes touring worth doing. Well, that and the money.
Alan is merely a nebulous shape tonight, engulfed in cigarette smoke, with just a glowing tip between his teeth. Ironically, smoking only seems to be allowed down here in the cellar – the most poorly-ventilated area. Train platforms open to the elements: no smoking; brick vaulted-arch cellars with no fresh air: yes, can’t see any harm.
Anyway, scanning the cocktail list, contemplating whether to play safe and have a Blowjob, or risk the Jazz Cream, a celebrity wanders in. Nigel Kennedy, the virtuoso violinist, lives here now and seems up for a chat.
After cordial greetings, and a meeting of knuckles instead of a handshake, I tentatively approach the subject of my Antarctica campaign (for which I need online votes) and hand him a flyer. ‘Come on Nige, you must have loads of friends,’ I add unnecessarily. As it turns out he hasn’t even got a computer any more. This is devastating, and leads to accusations that he is now former A-list and perhaps he now watches snooker in black and white?
We’re all becoming a bit raucous at this point, talking of going back to the Radisson Hotel for a pee in the trouser press. Paul ends up swapping numbers with Mr. Kennedy, while Alan is less fazed by status: ‘I don’t care a fuck who he is as long as he supports Villa.’ Oh, Heaven help us. Have I mentioned before that I’d ban football if I was in charge?
Wrecker adds: ‘Wahey, right up the Four Seasons, eh, Nige? Vivaldi who?’ On reflection, that might have been me saying that – I’m over my allotted limit of two pints.
Next to Wawel Castle and Planty Park is the Radisson SAS Hotel – home for the night. Well, the rest of them are in here, but I’ve drawn the short straw with the Park Inn round the corner. Still, scoring a free hotel room at all is pretty good going.
We pass reception ram-rod straight, as though nothing more than a small sherry has passed our lips, and head to one of those tiresome rooms that stocks an espresso machine, a daily newspaper, bathrobe and slippers. Paul opens another tin of beer and suggests texting Nigel Kennedy to see if he’s up for a kick-a-bout in the park tomorrow morning.
Espresso machines are all very well but tea, as you very well know – stop tutting, blast you – is the thing in the early hours. What time is it anyway? ‘Quarter to two,’ suggests Alan, slurring admirably. I wonder if he means quarter to three. He burps. ‘Yeah, three.’
Well, we don’t know what time it is, but it’s late. ‘Do you really want milk?’ Paul asks me. He dials concierge and, in a sober request, states: ‘My mate doesn’t take cream.’ I make throat-slitting gestures at him before collapsing.
The milk never arrived. We never saw Nigel the next day and, as far as I’m aware, none of us urinated in the trouser press…