Krakow

Hello, hello!  Here we are, sitting on the other side of yet another incredible trip.  I am totally a broken record, but I might be the luckiest person on this planet to have so many wonderful opportunities to travel.  I have been traveling to places that I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would visit, but like I said… here I am…editing photos from a 5 day trip to Poland.  

Spain has an abundance of “puentes” or days off, that are sprinkled throughout the school year.  Many of them are for religious regions, but I think a lot of them are because…why not?  So last week, we randomly had off Tuesday (for a…saint? virgin…?) and then also Thursday and Friday.  My school was kind enough to let me also have off on Wednesday, so it was the perfect opportunity to travel somewhere a little further and with more than one city.  Annie wanted Poland, I wanted Morocco.  Annie won.  But that’s ok, I’m glad we went.  It was a great five days, and like I said, I never in my life expected I would go to Poland.  Before last week, when people say “Poland”, I think:poland1

“how ignorant.”

I know.  But Poland is NOT like that.  It was like that, but today, in 2016, it’s vibrant, lively, beautiful, and has a long history.dsc_0044

We started our trip BRIGHT and early, at around 4:45 am when we were up and at ’em, heading to the airport for a 4 hour flight with RyanAir.  I snoozed the whole way, with my head on the tray table, like the lady that I am.  When we arrived, we took the train into the city center and then walked about 20 minutes to our hostel.  We stayed at Atlantis Hostel, which was nicely situated between the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter.  About a 10 minute walk from both.  It was relatively clean, quiet, and the staff was some-what knowledgeable.  And sort of friendly.  I think as a general rule, Polish people are not overly friendly….at least from what I gathered.  The first day, I had my heart set on doing the Free Walking Tour that began at 2. (Before I tell you the details, I’ll say I wouldn’t recommend the walking tour.  It was too long and boring and it was COLD.  For that kind of weather, keep it moving and keep it interesting)  The tour was set to head through the Old Town, from the Barbican (gateway to the once-royal city of Krakow), St. Mary’s Basilica (a brick Gothic church originally built in the 13th century),dsc_0030 

And the Main Square (located in the heart of the city).  dsc_0030

We started at the Barbican, where our guide told us about it’s history and I was mostly focused on my bagel-ish bread (obwarzanek krakowski in Polish) that I was munching away on, as seen in this artistic photo:dsc_0017

We saw a bit more along the way…dsc_0015

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And then, much to our tour guide’s disapproval, we called it quits.  My fingers and toes were so, so cold and I couldn’t fathom another hour, so we quit.  And went to eat at one of Krakow’s famous “milk bars”, which are essentially home kitchens in a restaurant that offer a menu that changes every day and for just a little bit of money, you get a huge meal.  Normally, you place your order and pay at the counter, and then go up and pick up your food and utensils and clear your own plates.  Unfortunately, our milk bar experiences went from amazing, to okay, to bad, to good, so there is definitely a range of deliciousness. dsc_0061

On that first night in Krakow, we went to ___, where we had this huge meal for just 5 Euros each.dsc_0065Chicken with mushrooms // soup // groats // pierogies // salads

We were so full, but it was still early (4:00 and dark!) so we walked around to try and move the food ๐Ÿ™‚

That was it for the first day!  We were completely wiped, so we headed to the hostel and settled in for the night.


The next morning, we were up and ready for another full day!  We planned to do a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, have a big lunch in a milk bar, and then head to the Oscar Schindler Museum.

We started with breakfast:dsc_0096

“I look like I’m in love with my coffee”

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I opted for the millet breakfast with roasted apples and toasted almonds, and a side of plain yogurt and coffee.  So good!

Then, we were off!  We started with a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz)dsc_0106 dsc_0108…and our luck would have it that we had the same guide who’s tour we had fled the night before.  Unfortunately, the tour was long and the guide was a little boring and I was so cold, but we hung in there.  I took a lot of pictures.

This imprint in the doorway is where a mezuzah once hung.  Our guide says it represents the Jewish life that once existed in that area.

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Continuing:

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We visited the Jewish cemetery, dating back to 1535.  It holds the grave sites of a number of notable Polish Jews.dsc_0117

And on to one of the famous sites from Schindler’s List, which was a house at one time.dsc_0125 dsc_0126

We crossed the Vistula river…dsc_0132 dsc_0136She was thrilled.

And saw this Holocaust memorial (called The Empty Chairs Memorial) which features 33 large cast iron and steel chairs and 37 smaller chairs, facing in various directions to represent the directions that Krakow’s Jews were taken during the Holocaust (each one represents 1,000 people).  dsc_0149

The tour ended shortly after that, so we went to find a nice milk bar for some traditional Polish food.  We were…close.  We ate some sub-par food from a fake milk bar.  I say fake, because it was definitely a tourist trap ๐Ÿ™‚  So then we went to a more authentic milk bar, which was more…grungy… than we expected.  And the food was blech…dsc_0165

With our stomachs half full and kind of going in circles, we re-crossed the bridge as the sun was setting.  We were headed for the Oscar Schindler Factory, to learn about the history of how Oscar Schindler saved the lives of over 1,200 Jewish people.dsc_0173 dsc_0177

Oscar Schindler’s Factory was well-done, informative, and easy to understand.  It had a TON of information and someone could easily spend hours in there, but we were done in about two hours.dsc_0191 

It’s not easy to take in and process so much information in such a short time, but I can say that Oscar Schindler was a hero and an extremely brave person.  He stood up for, protected, and defended over 1,200 people, and ultimately, he saved their lives.  We spent a good portion of this trip learning about the Holocaust and the atrocities that took place during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s and during our travels, we learned about a handful of people that risked their own lives to be the voice for people that could not have one, or to help people that could not help themselves.  It really makes you think:  what would you have done?  If you ever find yourself in Krakow, it’s definitely recommended.

Once we finished, we crossed the bridge again and headed to the Main Square for a typical tourist dinner.dsc_0203

 And that’s exactly what we had!  We started with oscypek, which are grilled, salted, smoky sheep’s milk cheese things served with a sweet cranberry jam.dsc_0211 dsc_0207

Annie didn’t like hers, so I ate mine and hers and that was plenty.  They’re good, but definitely extreeeeeeeeemely salty.  After that little appetizer, we continued with more traditional food.dsc_0216

This huge slice of grilled bread (zapiekanka in Polish) slathered with garlic butter (traditionally with lard, but no thanks), sauteed onions and tangy pickles for me and that huge weiner (haha) for Annie.  Both are very common foods in Poland!dsc_0076 dsc_0080  

Mine was delicious, but OH MY GOSH the smell of onions on my hands and clothing did not leave us for days to come.  Never eat onions while wearing gloves!  I had to wrap them in plastic and bury them in my suitcase.dsc_0218

Burping up onions and pickles, I was ready for some tea and bed.  We headed back to the hostel to get ready for an emotionally and physically long day the next day.  Coming soon.dsc_0410