I came back from a week in Kraków, Poland, last Sunday. It was my first real solo trip, and I am definitely be doing more of those in the future. I chose Poland because I only had a week so I couldn't really go anywhere outside of Europe, and Poland was one of the countries around here that I had never visited. Plus, the flights were not too expensive and I had heard the prices there are very affordable, so my wallet was happy about that. I didn't have too many expectations about Kraków, but it turned out to be a beautiful, mid-European small town with plenty to do and see for a week. Here's a few highlights from my trip!
1. Kazimierz or the Jewish quarter is an area a little outside the old town of Kraków that I visited on my first day there, and I fell in love with it immediately. It's a very hip area, with lots of art galleries, cute little shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as modern street art mixed with the old, historical buildings. There were plenty of nice places to eat, but one that I ried and could recommend to the veggies out there is Cafe Mlynek on Plac Wolnica, a restaurant with a completely vegetarian menu, with gluten-free and vegan options as well, serving mostly "vegetarianized" traditional Polish foods. From what I saw, being vegetarian was overall very easy, but at least there you don't even have to scroll around the menu to see what's veggie and what's not.
2. The bread stands and little coffee shops. Speaking of food, what caught my eye in Kraków was the abundance of little bread stands on wheels and tiny little coffee shops on the streets. The bread looked like a sort of thinner bagel, and there were people selling it all over the town. As for the coffee shops, they were often so tiny that they didn't even have any seats or just a few, so people are probably used to grab take away coffees on their way from those. Of course there were also normal coffee shops with more seats, but those looked really cute and I noticed quite a lot of them around town.
3. The people. I couldn't speak of my trip without menitioning the wonderful people I met, as well locals as fellow travelers. Everyone was so nice and helpful, I felt really at home at the hostel and the locals around town were all very friendly.Tatra
4. Pierogi are a type of local dumplings with different fillings, from meat to mushrooms or sauerkraut. Oh my, I got addicted to those funny-looking balls. My favourite filling was probably the "russian-style", with potato and onion, but mushroom and sauerkraut comes on a really close second position. Oh my, I miss those. If you are Polish, please teach my how to make them at home!
5. The walkability is always a plus in a smaller town. I didn't use any public transportation when visiting Kraków, only when going out of town. It's nice that everything is pretty close and probably reachable in a maximum on 20 minutes of walking.
6. Tatra National Park was a true wonder. With a friend from the hostel, we woke up at 4am to catch a bus that took a bit over 2 hours to get to the little town of Zakopane, from where we had another 30min bus ride to the entrance of the national park. After that, we walked around 2 and a half to 3 hours to reach the Morskie Oko lake, which was a magical place, and definitey worth the 5 hours that it took to get there. It was a rainy day, which we were bummed out by, but a little rain never killed anybody and in the end, the mist and clouds brought by the weather and the early morning gave the whole place a special, mystical vibe. The park was full of little streams, beautiful views of the mountains around and different landscapes. We walked almost all the way on a real, asphalted road, but there were also trails in the forests for those who want to go for a real hike. This is definitely a must-do when in Kraków if you have an extra day.
7. Auschwitz-Birkenau. It feels very wrong to put this in the list of things I "loved" about Kraków, because it definitely is not a place to love. But it is one that I strongly recommend everyone to visit if in the area, because it brings the history to such a concrete level. Once you have seen such a place, I believe you will less probably forget all the horrors that have happened. As it was written on one of the walls during the visit, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." So let's remember the holocaust of the second world war, as well as all the other holocausts that have happened in the past and, unfortunately, still happen in some places in the world. Let's be wiser and make the future better and brighter.
On these words, I will leave you with photos. Have a great weekend!