As seen on Facebook, I’ve been spending my Toussaint vacation with friends in Valenciennes and Poland. Yes, we did only work for 2 weeks before getting a 2 week vacation. There is some evidence that suggests French workers are more productive when they do work because they get a lot more vacation time than American culture permits; we’ll see if that applies to me ;).
Last week, I arrived home after an outing with friends to find that the water in my building had flooded the halls, and in the process had leaked into the electrical box for the common areas. So I was without electricity and water, all at once. A kind friend offered to host me while it was repaired, so I bounced around houses until it was time to leave for week 2 in Poland. When I left, there was still no electricity, but thankfully the water got fixed super fast — it just wasn’t hot!
This situation could have been a million times worse…as it was, it was much fun spending time with friends in their houses AND it made me appreciate our hostel showers so much more.
Speaking of which, I’m in Krakow! one of my lovely new friends Dana planned herself a trip to Krakow, Poland, and invited anyone who wanted to to join her. Four of us hopped on board, and have been kickin’ it together like the best of friends for DAYS. Not even tired of them yet ;). In other exciting news, my travel buddy/best friend/twin Caro showed up to join us on our Polish adventure.
Here’s some stuff we did:
1) Lots of walking.
We began our trip with a walking tour of Old Town, in the middle of Krakow.
We hit up the Main Square, the city walls, the moat-turned-park with walking paths, and the Wawel Castle. We also saw the oldest building in Krakow, a church built in the 1200s. We did another walking tour later in the week with a “macabre” theme, and heard some cool Polish ghost stories. Krakow is one of the cleanest cities I’ve been in. It’s also COLD! We walked many more places too — around the lake, through the Jewish Quarter, to and from the hostel, from bar to bar on the hostel pub crawls — good thing we also…
2) …ate lots of Polish food.
Look, here’s my new favorite food. It’s called a pierogi, and it’s a meat and potato and many other thing – filled dumpling. We found many pierogi shops, including a 24-hour one by our hostel and a 50-flavor one across the street from that. I ate a lot of them, especially considering that you eat 10-12 at a time.
We also stopped at a Polish restaurant and ordered a bunch of food to split — Kebab, schnitzel, pickles and sauerkraut, blood sausage, etc. I still can’t stomach blood sausage but the rest of it was delicious! And they gave us free shots of cherry liqueur at the end.
Our hostel offered free breakfast every morning, and a free home-cooked meal every night. Here’s where you should stay in Krakow:
We made friends and had fun going on the hostel-organized pub crawls and outings. It’s also really clean and homey, and we were in agreement that we had an all-around lovely experience!
3) We took some day trips.
On a more sobering note, part of the reason we came to Poland was to see Auschwitz, one of the most famous death camps of the Holocaust. This was a hugely important experience. I came away feeling absolutely gutted. I’m not going to talk about it at length here, because this is a too lighthearted platform for an incredibly heavy subject. I just wanted to say that I went, and will never forget how it felt.
We also went to see the salt mines near Krakow. The salt mines used to produce a hefty percentage of Poland’s salt, but they used up all the pure salt a while ago. They still make salt, but using a filtration system and in much smaller quantities than before. We spent two hours in the mine, and saw a chapel made of salt, salt lakes that you literally cannot submerge yourself in (the salt makes you too buoyant), and I licked a wall. It was pretty salty.
4) We heard some legends.
Here’s my favorite legend:
Once upon a time, there was a dragon that guarded the castle gates to Wawel. Nobody wanted the dragon around, but nobody could kill it…until the town shoemaker had a brilliant idea. He decided to make a fake sheep stuffed with the spiciest spice of the village. He put this spicy sheep outside the dragon’s lair, and the dragon was fooled, so he ate the spicy sheep. He was already fire-breathing, so you can imagine how fire-y his stomach was after eating this spicy sheep. He decided to drink from the nearby river, but the sheep was so spicy that he drank and drank. His stomach capacity gave out before the river did, and he drank so much water that he EXPLODED!! That was the end of him.
We had an enjoyable hour in the ex-dragon’s cave. The dragon’s statue still guards the entrance (and breathes real fire).
RIP, Cracovian Dragon.
I’ll leave you with one more tidbit about Poland (Polish, really) —
Kebab = kebaby
Chips = chipsy
Burger = burgery
Toilet = toalety
Saying these out loud made us giggle much of the time. It did also remind me of my love for languages, and maybe someday I’ll learn Polish…
Dziekuje (pronounced jin-koo-ya) means thank you. That was the word I retained from the trip.
A great big dziekuje for the adventures, Krakow and friends!