Krakow in a Blog Post

Today I've reached the exact half-way point in my journey. And what may I be doing you ask? Laundry lol. I declared today a "vacation away from vacation" so I'm catching up on those pesky things like laundry. But hey, at least it gives me a chance to finally update y'all on Poland, since I'm heading out tomorrow. Fair warning, it's gonna be a long one since it covers about 3 days. Ready? Alright, you've been warned :-P

Sunday night I got off the train with Claire and ended up in a mall lol. We looked pretty funny walking around with our backpacks past all the fancy shops. We split up and I grabbed the tram to my hostel. Polish has been the hardest so far to translate in terms of maps and signs, even though I know a wee bit. Not to mention this is the first place where the exchange rate's in my favor (3 zł = $1), so I had to run back into the mall and buy a drink to break a 100 zł note lol.

I was a little nervous about finding my place, since it was now 21:00 and I wasn't sure quite where I was. Luckily, Krakow isn't that big and after looping around the right streets a few times I found it. I was greeted with open arms by Slawek, the hostel owner, and the night manager, as well as a free cherry vodka shot. He's the best guy ever, I love him! He's taken us all over the place: clubs, bars, good kielbasa, you name it, he's there. We talked and talked in the bar, which is under the hostel (and very small thankfully lol). Of course I got to proudly say my name is the Polish way, which he was very impressed by. "Ah yes, this is very popular surname, especially in the north of Poland." My name, common? Wow, never thought I'd hear that Staniszewski was a common name. 

The hostel itself is very nice, with about 20-40 beds and great decor and music. Oh, and following Polish tradition, it is spotlessly clean. Unfortunately, there haven't been a ton of people, which is okay, but I feel bad because Slawek keeps trying to plan events and has to cancel them. However, he's still taking us out at night to do things, which is awesome! 

That first night I was starved, especially after a 10 hour train ride. Slawek suggested I go to Kazimierz, the Jewish district just south, and grab a "zapiekanka". I had no idea what it was, but I guess it's a Polish fast food tradition. I easily walked down there (you can walk the whole town in 20 minutes), but not before running into Vinay. I saw him looking at a map and saying something in English, so I tried to help out. He's from India and currently lives in Australia. He had a major bandage on his eyebrow from falling during a pub crawl lol, which happens. It's just too bad he can't remember what happened :-) I grabbed his mobile number for Monday so we could go out to a club and then he went off to see someone and I found my food. Oh man, zapiekanka is awesome, although it's probably sooo bad for you lol. It's like a foot long piece of garlic bread with herbs and cheese and whatever else (mine had salami and garlic sauce). I didn't think I'd eat it all, but I'd be wrong now haha. After, I wandered the Jewish district for a bit, admiring the price of "pivo" (beer) for 6 zł, though I figured I'd stick with the more traditional vodka. That was it for the night, I went home and passed out from a long day of travel. 

Monday, I started out early after eating and chatting down in the bar. I walked around the whole town, although I'll admit, most stuff wasn't open until 11:00, so I came back. Slawek was in when I got back, and so I stayed to chat in the bar. He was just loving how I could throw down so many Polish words, especially since most were food (of course) lol. He was very impressed that I could say "pączki", "gołąbki", "kielbasa", "kapusta" and "pierogi" so well "with no accent". We also laughed at all the ways Americans say the words wrong. He told me all about modern Krakow and Poland, especially with younger people. I was amazed that Poland has such an issue with English stag parties now (guys dressed in matching cutoff shirts and stuff), to the point that clubs are barring English guys wearing matching clothes. Geeze, didn't know Poland was THAT big a hotspot. I told him about my plans to see my dad's village in the north, but he convinced me (along with the slow trains and million connections) that it was probably better to go the mountains, which he was planning for Tuesday (and which my dad recommended). I was thinking of even planning an extra day here just because there was so much to do. 

First up for Monday was Wawel Castle and the cathedral. Next up I went back to the main square, which was now bustling with people, man!  I perused the local shops just to see how cheap stuff was. Well, the main square is not the place to shop (as Slawek told me). I popped into a Billabong shop just for fun and the prices were still the same (like 200 zł for a t-shirt). The true bargains are down in the Jewish district, which is where I'm planning to head later today. I did go through all the gift stalls in the main square building. They had lots of jewelery, along with all the usual gift shop items. I even saw the chess set that we have back at home. I got a few treats for some people (I won't tell who :-) and then sat down at one of the cafés on the main square to eat a small lunch and people watch. It's amazing to me that no matter where I go, people my age look the same, especially in the way they dress. The Poles are quite trendy I must say, although you still see one now and then that's dressed pretty conservatively (Communism era). 

On Slawek's recommendation, and walked over the river to Schindler's factory and museum. I was happy to see it was free that day, but I JUST missed the last tour :-( Oh well, can't cover everything. I took my own walking tour through Kazimierz, following the historical markers through the sites. It's just then that I saw there was a free tour in Krakow. I had no idea!  In Prague I'm hitting the free tour for sure. 

Back at the hostel, I met Alexa and Kayla, the Aussie girls who just came in. I've met more Australians than anyone else on this trip, they're EVERYWHERE. It's mainly because of Oktoberfest from what people have told me. They were passed out from their long flight, so I called up Vinay and we met up in the main square by the Hard Rock (go figure there's one there lol). We walked around the square and town center, Vinay showing me some sites I missed and having a little guy chat. I was very impressed by his goal to kiss a girl in every country (he's up to 21 and counting!), I'll definitely root for him! I totally agreed with him also that Polish girls are very cute. They have my vote so far out of all the countries I've been, although I'm only halfway through my trip ;-) So for all you people who guessed maybe I'll meet a pretty German or English or French girl, you guys lose the bet :-P, if anyone it'd be a Polish girl so far for me. 

After our little chat, I grabbed a new SIM card for my phone. It's so cheap and easy to do, plus it's so much easier to meet with people in various countries, I'd highly recommend getting at least a pay-as-you-go when you're here. One SIM card's fine, but it's expensive outside in other countries you're traveling in, so the cheapest (if you're calling a lot) is to get a new one in every few countries. Hell, I've got like 10-15 zł on mine? $3? Yea, very cheap lol. Then there's always Facebook too, which has been such a help for talking to people. What can I say? I'm wired lol. 

I agreed to meet up with Vinay at around 22:00 to go to a club, since our hostel wasn't planning a crawl. I did, however, go back to get my free vodka tastings at the bar. Slawek had all sorts of flavors to try out, and the 4 English gents there made me make up for a few I missed, so it ended up being around 6 smallish shots. Very good stuff. We all decided to head up to Frantic, a club that slawek recommended. It was me, the "Americano" as the English guys put it, and the 4 of them. Man, that damn song is really popular in Europe! It never really took off back home, and least in the Bay Area. Anyways, they had a few more beers than me, so I had to kinda drag them to the main square, where they were talking to all the cute girls handing out club cards lol. At some point I grabbed one of their numbers and they wandered off to find a vodka bar. 

I met up with Vinay and we walked to Frantic, which was closed on Mondays. Oops. After walking around, Vinay called a girl he met in Krakow and she told us about Copericus II. It was pretty busy for Monday, which was nice. We grabbed some beers and had a good time dancing with all the girls on the dance floor. Man, modern Polish music is uh...very interesting to dance to. Of course when an American song comes on, I'm there. It's nice to try a different club for a change, although I still want to hit up a big house/techno club somewhere (Prague, I think that's you). I headed out around 02:00 and left Vinay, since I was supposed to hike the mountains the next day lol. On my way back, I met the 4 English guys heckling a food stand trying to speak bad Polish lol. I helped em find their way back and we all passed out around 03:00. 

Tuesday came and I awoke at 08:00 or so to my alarm, still a bit tipsy. The mountain thing was at 09:00, so I went down the bar to find out the news. Slawek decided to cancel, since we didn't have a lot of people, plus the weather was really bad there, so I went back upstairs to pass out for a bit. When I got up again, I decided to stick to my original plan and go to Auschwitz for the day. 

I walked up to the bus station and found the first small bus to Auschwitz for about 9 zł as Slawek suggested. All in all (bus + tickets) the trip cost me about 40 zł, whereas places in the main square were advertising for 100 zł. Crazy! The first bus out was an experience; you always gotta have one of those trips somewhere with a packed van winding up and down roads super fast. Of course I got super nauseous, plus I was still a little out of it, so I just closed my eyes and tried to ignore it for the hour and half ride. 

What can I say about Auschwitz other It was extremely moving, I was not expecting to see all the things our guide showed us. Such a terrible loss, 1.1 milliion Jewish people alone at the three camps in the area. And Birkenau my God, it's enormous. A very touching site indeed, I'd recommend it to anyone comes out this way. 

On the bus back I met the Aussie girls, who happened to finish up just as I did. We came back and went with Slawek out for a grilled kielbasa at this van on the road where they've been doing it for 25 years. They even still have the old Communist-era van! So good, reminded me of home in the summer time. This whole time I've been taking in my fill of Polish food, and all my great speaking skills (food words lol) have even earned me a free vodka here and there lol. Today I'm hoping for some good pierogi and I'm even going to an old Communist-era milk bar. I also hear there's a wonderful place for ice cream. 

After the kielbasa, we all headed to the first pub in Kazimierz when it was still run down, followed by a club in the district that was serving 2 for 1 mixed drinks. I mean, 2 good size drinks for around 8-12 zł, you can't go wrong! I was pretty beat still from the previous day, so when we got back at midnight (the club wasn't too packed), I passed out. 

Today so far has been fun, other than the laundry lol. This morning I went to a LEGO store I saw while walking to the bus station on Tuesday. I had no idea that this store was one of the largest collections of LEGOs in the world, with sets that dated back to when I was a kid. I was in heaven. I took all sorts of pictures, especially of all the sets that existed when I was a kid. You just don't find anything like this back in the states. They even have an architecture collection, which was VERY cool. Not to mention individual pieces for sale, so if you ever lose something, you can find it here. I spent an hour in there. Of course I had to buy something! A lot of the LEGOs were expensive, so I stuck to the basics; I bought a board and a bunch of loose pieces. I know mom, we have a million at home, but I figured it'd be a fun little souvenir, it's definitely more unique than just some cheap t-shirt. It made me feel like I little kid again. I also took a pamphlet with their website in case I ever needed to make a future purchase :-) 

What's up now? Well, laundry, but hopefully after that I'll head back, pack my clothes, go to the milk bar, then back to town for a few more souvenirs (stuff is just so cheap!) and hopefully I can make it back by 15:00 for the bike tour. Slawek's counting on me! 

I'm sad to leave Poland, just I've been sad to leave every other place I've been. There's just so much to do! Oh well, next time Europe. 

Later guys, tomorrow's another long train, I'm sure you'll hear from me at some point in Prague lol! 


  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment