Sunday, June 10, 2012


Once upon a time (back in late October... yes I realize this is a rather belated post), my friends and I spent a lovely autumnal weekend in Krakow, Poland.

Wawel Castle
Krakow is tiny. It's also one of the coolest European cities I've been to. Maybe it's because it's so quick and easy and unpretentious. Having lived in the Czech Republic for so long, I've developed a liking for the matter-of-fact, no-bullshit attitude most Central and Eastern Europeans tend to have.

The journey started on the night train on a Thursday night. It was a long weekend for us as well as my friend's birthday so we took advantage. Since it was me and five other friends, we managed to get a couchette cabin all to ourselves. Three fold-out beds on either side. Of course given that we are a bunch of 20-somethings on the way to a vodka-themed weekend in Poland, there wasn't much sleeping done.

Party in our cabin!
-from Olga
What there was, was a lot of champagne, vodka, beer, sandwiches, chips and mingling with the 10 to 12 random Erasmus students who were on the same train.

It was good fun and we ended up seeing the same people around town throughout the weekend since it is such a small town and all.

Eventually we did sleep for a bit. I think we went to bed around 4 a.m. Me being super light-sensitive as I am though, I was the first one up, awoken by one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen. Not that I see many sunrises,  I imagine they're all quite beautiful but we all know I'm really less bleary-eyed and rather more able to appreciate said beauty at sunset.

I've seen sunrises from planes and coming up over rivers and mountains, but seeing the sunrise from a moving train over chilly fields in southern Poland, well, it was a great way to start the day.

Seriously, who wouldn't be happy to wake up and find this?
The general idea behind night trains is that you'll arrive at your destination bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for the destination awaiting at the other end. Well, a case of beer, two bottles of champagne, and two bottles of vodka later (Did I mention there were six of us?), we were extremely happy to find that our room at the hostel was already available upon our very early morning arrival. We took a much-needed nap.

Impressively, we were up and about and ready to eat before noon, so really I think we did a pretty good job. We wandered into the center for food and somehow ended up at a Georgian restaurant. (Because that's what people go to Poland to eat?) Whatever, it was clearly time to wash down last night's booze mixture with some grade-A vodka. (Because that's what people go to Poland for.)

Beer, because we're becoming Czech. Vodka, because we're in Poland.
-from Olga

I think the thing I loved the most about Krakow was that we went in Autumn. I'm sure I'd love it just as much any other time of year (I am going back this summer so I sure as hell hope so.). but there is this lovely park that encircles the entire center area of the city. So you just walk through all of these trees whose leaves are orange and yellow and red and all the amazing colors you find at that time of year and the leaves are falling down all over the place.

It's magical. Or something like that. Maybe it's just that being from Texas I've never had a real Autumn experience. It's officially my new favorite season and probably one of the things I'll miss most about Europe.

We look fabulous strolling around in our Autumn wear.
-from Olga
Honestly, we were perfectly content just walking around this park. And the best part is, you can walk around this park and stumble upon most of the major sights around the city. Win! (Also a big plus, it's impossible to get lost in a city where all you do is walk in a circle to get every where)

Rynek Glowny aka the main square
So naturally our entire weekend consisted of eating, walking, taking pictures, drinking, eating some more, and so on.

Not sure what else I would've expected. I do tend to travel through my stomach and my camera.

Ollie taking tons of awesome pictures.

Krakow is amazingly cheap. We went to this cafeteria-style place (called a 'milky bar') that was probably the best food we had there the whole time. I think I spent $2 there and I had a huge meal complete with meat, gravy and potato pancakes. Mmmm, potato pancakes.

Also, pierogi. If you haven't eaten pierogi yet, don't. Wait until you can get to Poland where they crack them out as if they'd been making them since childhood (oh wait...) and you will never want to eat anything else again.

Pierogi covered in pig fat!
-from Olga

However, it is a bit of a jaunt to make it to the Jewish ghetto and the Schindler Factory which were incredible (in both and informative and depressing way) and totally worth it.

The Schindler Factory is one of the best Holocaust museums I've ever been to. I learned a ton.

Memorial in the Jewish Ghetto

The memorial in the Jewish ghetto is also really great. The square it occupies is where they used to round up the Jews before forcing them into the crowded housing areas in the ghetto area. They were to bring all of their belongings and leave them in the square. Later, everything would be burned.

Wonderful picture from Olga.

The only regret I have is that we didn't make it to Auschwitz, but that is something I plan to correct this summer in August. Looking forward to another wonderful weekend in Krakow. Hopefully I love the city in the summer as much as I did in fall.

All-in-all, Krakow was a lovely (and cheap!) weekend away from Prague.

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