Poland isn’t usually on people’s minds when they think about a European vacation. I am here to tell you that we have been blinded by the popular Western European countries! My trip into Poland was short and sweet, but my time was unforgettable. I stayed in the beautiful city of Krakow, and I absolutely loved it. Compared to a lot of other cities I’ve seen so far, I found that Krakow is very colorful and clean and ultimately very friendly and welcoming.
There is also lots to see! Krakow offers the most free tours than any other city in Europe, and a lot of their other tours aren’t too expensive! Walking tours! History tours! Food tours! Photography tours! Whatever you’re into, they’ve probably got it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I only booked one day there! I wish I had at least one more so I could do both the Jewish Quarter and the Old Town free walking tours, but I didn’t so I ended up touring the Jewish Quarter with my backpacking buddy Tori guided only by our hostel map before it was time to meet for our Old Town tour at 3:30.
We saw some amazing churches in the Jewish Quarter- or Kazimierz in Polish. This one called Church of the Rock had both an extremely decorative interior as well as exterior, with a plethora of statues and sculptures. We could not go into many of the churches, however, being a Sunday.
Just around lunchtime, we happened to walk by an open lot with a number of food stalls and trucks selling all sorts of interesting delicacies. There was an old converted double-decker London bus selling English food, a crepe stand, a taco truck, a booth selling only fries and dip, and one selling super huge baked potatoes. This seemed so out of place for me, as I had never seen anything like it. And actually they sounded so good at the time, so both Tori and I bought one.
I cannot even explain how happy my taste buds and tummy were after this meal. I ordered the Greek-style with the creamy garlic sauce, and it came stacked with lettuce, tomato, onion, feta cheese, and olives all on top of the cheesy creamy potato underneath. It was the strangest, most peculiar, most delicious meal I think I’ve had in the past six weeks I’ve been travelling… Definitely a highlight of my day.
We also saw a few synagogues and the New Jewish Cemetery, but since we were in such a time crunch, we didn’t have time to fully take in its eerie beauty.
When we got up into Old Town (Stare Most) I was amazed. All of the buildings are pastel and perfectly Baroque. It was so charming! I could hardly wait for our walking tour to learn all of the history and secrets of this place. We met in the main square just outside of St. Mary’s Basilica, and our guide was very good. He split up Polish history into “4 soap opera episodes,” where he hit all of the important points. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I did learn a ton!
We talked about the basilica, the old Cloth Hall, the Pope’s house, the Wawel Castle and finally the Wawel Dragon! I loved the castle, with its odd church claiming 4 different styles of architecture. Also, the dragon was pretty cool, it breathes fire every 3 minutes, perfect for a fun picture!
After our tour, I went to buy some postcards (I have an addiction to postcards, I can’t help myself… good thing they are light wieght!). Then we went for some hot chocolate and cake for dinner because, why not?! But it was a baaaad idea. First of all, the cake was plenty, but then hot chocolate on top of it was too much! It’s not like what we have at home. It was thick, syrupy, basically-a-melted-candy-bar kind of drink, and I just couldn’t handle it. We walked back to our hostel afterwards just sick and groggy from too much sugar.
Overall it was an amazing day. I had a blast walking around learning everything about the city with our guide, and someday I would like to return. The people were so friendly and welcoming, and I now have some insider tips on other cities to visit. My guide suggested a town known as “the Venice of Poland,” I’ll have to check it out!