Krakow is the only Shengen airport I've been to with beautifully messy smallholdings complete with crowing fowl within 50m of the Arrivals lounge. You come out of the airport onto a farm dirt track and a 200m walk to a rail-halt, a bus shelter on a square of bitmac beside a single rail line, that glories in the name of 'Krakow - Bilice'. There are more chickens here, too, just over the track. These are no ordinary chickens, though - these are Polish chickens.
Poland is bang in the middle of a thousand-year war zone. It's pretty flat, which means armies roll across it with ease, from Mongols going West, the French going East, the Russians going West, the Germans going East and so on. Now, there is nothing that poses a greater danger to Gallus Gallus Domesticus than soldiers. It's an observable fact that as armies advance, the chicken population in the path of the advance shrinks to somewhere close to zero. But perhaps not quite zero; chickens who have learned to roost in minefields, to refrain from vocalising the fact that an egg has been laid, and who can remain hidden and still in very small hard-to-reach places will survive.
As I watched the flock at lunchtime as I waited for the little thump-thump two-coach Diesel Unit for Krakow, I realised that these birds were at the peak of evolutionary development. They could hear the squeal of tank-tracks at thirty km, smell cordite at twenty miles and recognise military dress instantly. They would have tunnels and escape routes ready, a secret hen network across Poland that would pass them from farm to farm out of the path of invading armies. They were good. They'd survived a thousand years of being chased and eaten by soldiers. I watched the brave little cock erect his blue-black fan of tail feathers at me and saluted in respect.
I've been in Krakow for four hours now and I can tell that it's small. It also seems to be utterly bereft of the small warm brown bars full of companionable topers that exist everywhere else in Northern Europe; I've just recce'd at speed the entire old city and couldn't find a single one. So I'm back in a Soviet steam heated hotel resting my feet before a further explore tonight. It's about freezing outside, but dry, and the pavements are unforgiving.