Any change even slightly for the better after my misfortunes in Berlin were much needed and I secretly felt like the next and final stop of this first leg of my #GirltakesMundo trip could provide this. Not only did Krakow in Poland provide but it exceeded my expectations.
Poland was probably a long over due visit for me as I have been exposed to the Polish culture since grade school. I went to a Polish private elementary school, my high school had many students from Polish descent and even now I live in a predominantly Polish neighborhood in Chicago. Little known fact, the largest Polish population outside of Poland is in Chicago so it’s really no surprise that I grew up knowing all about pirogies, Polish phrases, dances, music and that holy water they call spirytus. Now finally I would see it first hand from the “Motherland” herself.
My first Krakow encounter after arriving in the bus station was being welcomed to Greg and Tom’s Hostel by Natalia’s addictive smile. (If you’ve read my post about smiles you would know that I believe in the power of a smile. Read Traveling With A Smile – Latina Travel Stories. ) You can’t help but to smile back and I definitely couldn’t. As she suggested places to eat, drink and visit I could tell her picks excited her which is always a plus when it’s coming from a local. Krakow was already off to a good start.
Before I could explore the city and Natalia’s must visit spots I was in desperate need of clean clothes so my first task when arriving to Krakow was to do laundry. I know what you’re thinking, why mention this? While it’s not the super exciting and glamorous side of traveling and I’m just as excited about writing about this as I was about being there 😏 but even when traveling you can’t get away from tasks like this. Procrastination is much harder when all you have is your #lifeinabag. While finding a place became a mission of its own, learning how to use the coin operated machines and then actually doing said laundry made me feel so accomplished. Mind you it’s been at least 3 years since I’ve been to an actual laundromat and this particular one had no assistant to help.
So ultimately my first day was quite laid back which was actually an indication of how my days in Krakow would be. Walking the city, doing long lunches while people watching, eating endless perogies which only until coming to Poland discovered that my favorite cheese and potato perogies from home are called Russian perogies (what gives 🤦🏽♀️). I couldn’t miss the obligatory free walking tours which helped me learn about the legends of Krakow, their old town and their Jewish quarters. I did some shopping here as well as some of my clothes needed to be replaced at this point of the trip and even hit the gym after a night of drinking.
Speaking of my nights in Krakow the best way to describe them is “lively”. Their pub crawls hit up some great spots and while the one I did swayed more toward a sausage fest as a result of who joined that night I still had a good time. Krakow was also the spot where one of my Aussie hostel roommate and I stumbled upon a Latin music bar/club when we were looking for our pub crawl on the second night out. It was even more serendipitous for me that my Aussie roommate actually had taken salsa lessons back in Australia. This was already starting to have the elements for a great night. While he did counts in his head I managed to follow his lead. Those who dance know that their is a difference with dancers who learn to dance naturally and those who take lessons. While both good, if you put them together these dancers tend to clash on the dance floor as one partner dances with counts/an already set routine and the other partner just free styles. Regardless we made it work so a night we thought would be a bust turned out to feel like a night back home.
Of Natalia’s picks, my hands downs favorite pick became Karmello for their hot chocolate. Sitting outside of the shop people watching or catching up with my writing as I sipped this chocolate goodness became a daily routine and at night I was raving about it as I went to the bars or came back from the bars and passed it. I’m sure my hostel mates thought I sounded like a broken record but it was that good.
Additionally, it was here that I decided to visit my first concentration camp. I’ve been to many Holocaust museums, read various books, saw a number of films on the history and even met 2 survivors when I was in school but it always makes me sad and I’m not sure about you but I try to avoid being sad if I have the power of controlling this. It’s the reason why I’ve avoided concentration camps and Holocaust museums while traveling. I went back in forth about visiting Auschwitz but after accepting the fact that I would be sad on this tour I opted to go as it’s better to learn from the past than to avoid it. It was worth it and I’m glad I went because while yes I was sad and yes I teared up, I would still recommend the visit.
Poland, what a great way to end this leg of my #Girltakesmundo trip. Krakow was amazing, it’s food was amazing, it’s people were amazing but most importantly it reminded me of home and that’s a feeling that a wandering traveler doesn’t come across too often.