2007-12-14 John Beauchamp
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Krakow's very own kind of tram service

If you want to be treated like royalty – you might consider a trip to Krakow. A new tram service has begun running there, but it’s not a line for regular commuters. The most important question on that route is – do you take sugar with yours? It’s a café tram – a new way to see Kraków from renovated comfort complete with all the mod-cons. Tea or coffee, the choice is yours and an espresso was the choice of John Beauchamp on a trip outside Polish Radio’s studios:

Poland's cultural capital is known as being a thriving centre of coffeehouse culture. Now there's a new way of seeing Krakow without getting up from your seat, and with coffee in hand, you can cruise the city's landmarks from the comfort of a renovated tram.

I took a ride with Agata Włodek, a manager from the "Cracow for you" foundation, which is the brains behind the operation.

"We hope the tram will be very popular among the tourists, of course both Polish and foreign, and it will encourage the men of Krakow to spend time with their families, and with friends in a very original café"

The tram is quite possibly one of the first of its kind in Europe, and the line goes past many different tourist spots, as I found out.

"From the tram windows you can see many tourist attractions, the tourists for example go to Salwator, which is placed near to the Kościuszko hill from which there is a wonderful view to Krakow, then for example, to Cichy Kącik, on the way seeing Kraków's largest meadow, the Błonia, and the great past-time place, the Jordan park."

The line starts in the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, and from there goes directly below the Wawel castle in the centre of town, as well as cruising around the city's central park, the Planty, which surround the Old Town. Being brought a cup of coffee when gliding past the magnificent Franciscan and Dominican churches on All Saints Square is also a thoroughly entertaining experience.

But is the tram just another novelty item on Kraków's tourism itenary? And is it worth it? Jerzy Postawka is an indepent tourist specialist from Krakow. He told me more:

"I have to say it could be a good idea, but what with the organisation in Krakow, I mean there are too many traffic jams and it cannot be punctual, and if I want to sightsee, I cannot wait for half an hour to get my trip. That's the first thing, the second thing is the price, which is nice for people from abroad, because it's not expensive for them, but for Polish people from other cities, I don't think that they would be willing to pay 15 PLN just to have a ride on the tram, because a tram ticket costs 2.50 PLN, so it doesn't really make sense. Of course, you can drink beer in this tram, but it's not the point."

15 PLN may be seen as a high price to pay for a tram ride, and no matter how good it looks on the outside, there is the danger of drinking coffee while a tram is going over antiquated rails and points. And of course Kraków's notorious traffic does not help either. But if you have time on your hands, then why not? The décor is fairly exclusive, giving the air of a tea salon of yesteryear, and even though some parts of track are a bit rickety, the ride is comfortable.

Agata Włodek is confident that the tram will be a hit with tourists in the future.

"Of course we expect the café tram to be full of tourists who will recommend it to friends and family. Actually, we can expect one to a few organised groups a day, as well as individual tourists who want to spend their time in a very pleasant way. At this moment we have more organised groups than individual tourists, what results from the fact that the tram café has run for a short period of time."

So it's all aboard and onto Kraków's new tram café. Anyone for more cake?

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