After our night on the train, I woke up still not feeling rested.
In the airport, we had to figure out how to get to our hostel. We found an ATM to withdraw some cash in their currency, the Zloty, and also wifi to look up transportation. We ended up figuring out the bus system, and it only cost about 30 cents to get to the stop we needed. Right off the bus, Ali bought us peaches from a roadside stand. We asked them and a few other people for instructions and quickly found our way to 4 Friends Hostel.
Upon arrival, they told us they didn’t have room for us. Since we had booked online already and didn’t get an email telling us that there was no room, they helped find us other accommodations. They also paid for a taxi for us. We hung out at their hostel all morning and ate their breakfast. They had coffee as well, which I desperately needed. I am pretty sure we all fell asleep in their little common area at some point. There is picture proof of me sleeping…
Our new hostel, called Hotele Sudenckie,was actually really nice and was cheaper! It ended up being a portion of their college dormitory that they had sectioned off for tourists.
I passed out most of the day. We ate at around 2 or 3 in their college mess hall. I just had Ali’s leftovers once I woke up. I wanted more of their breaded tenderloin but no one spoke English, so I couldn’t get it ordered. The food they eat is pretty heavy: bread, potatoes, meat, etc. They also eat a lot of sauerkraut. We continued to bum around that evening, but did go out later for dinner. We found a Mexican restaurant that was well priced and had terrifically seasoned meat and authentic corn tortillas. With flan to-go, we headed back to the hostel, still completely exhausted.
The next day we got started a little later because we were still moving pretty slowly. After booking our Saturday tour to Auschwitz, we got walking around noon. It was rainy and chilly. We walked around and saw their main square. Many streets are cobbled and the buildings have slightly skewed shapes. My favourite part of the day was the indoor market with Polish goods. There was pottery and a ton of amber.
I bought myself a teapot and a little amber craft. I also bought my Pappy a wooden finch that can sit next to him, because he loves watching finches outside his window. I had my mom bring it back to him, and I guess he is enjoying it.
After the market, we went into another elaborate church. I embarrassed myself by going to kneel and falling forward with the bench. Kelly’s phone clicked as she took a picture in the church that we weren’t even supposed to be taking pictures in. Next, we stopped in a diner-like cafe for warmth and planned out what we were going to next.
After eating, we visited the underground museum Rynku, where we saw the archaeological discoveries of the ancient Krakow streets and buildings. As we were leaving, we bumped (literally) into a lady from Tennessee. It was so nice to hear an accent from home. She was extremely friendly and told us about the trip she was on as a chaperone for the Christian high school she counsels.
When we left the museum, it was around 5 o’clock and was already dark. We went ahead to try and see the castle, but it was closed. So, then we walked on to the Jewish quarter to see the former Krakow ghetto. It was really dark, but you could still see a difference in these buildings compared to the ones in the city centre. They were kind of old and dingy looking.
We decided to grab food and take it back home since it was still cold and rainy. My shoes and socks were completely soaked through. Water was squishing out of them as I walked. After eating, I headed back to shower and then passed out shortly afterwards.
The next morning, we had to be up and ready by about 9:30 to be picked up for the tour. The way we booked the tour worked out really nicely because it included transfers to and from, which would have been pretty difficult to figure out alone. It also included a guided tour of Auschwitz I and Birkneau.
Visiting Auschwitz was depressing, but it was neat to actually be able to see the place you hear about in Holocaust accounts. It was cold and rainy again; however, we really couldn’t complain because it wasn’t near what all those innocent people endured.
There were sections of Auschwitz II-Birkneau that were complete mud. My boots were soaked and covered in mud. It was a good day for Mama Stuck as my beloved grey boots she has been trying to make me get rid of were finally thrown away.
By the time we drove back into town, my feet were actually in pain from the cold. We went back to the market in search of teacups and then tried to find a place to eat. When we sat down, I took my socks off and my right pinky toe was completely white. Thankfully, Kelly had told me to bring along dry socks, so I was able to wear those at dinner and then on the way home so I could regain sensation in my toe.
We spent the next day before our evening flight, walking around Krakow and getting to things we had missed. We didn’t get up until about 9:30 and left shortly after 10, which is great timing for us.
First we tried to find a donut shop our tour guide pointed out to us the day before, but we couldn’t remember which street it was on. So, we settled for a cafe with free wifi; that way we could look up pottery places. It was really adorable inside. Their menus were hand crafted with leaves and we sat in a little nook area. I had “white coffee,” which is just coffee with milk. I also had green cake to eat with it. I needed some food on my stomach since I was drinking coffee, and I wasn’t really sure what the green cake was when I ordered it. It was green, and it was one of the greatest cakes I have ever had. I still don’t know exactly what it was (maybe pistachio with hazelnut?).
When we finished eating, we headed out to find teacups. The first place we went into was super expensive. So, we ended up back in the market. I still didn’t find the teacups I wanted, but I did get a little pottery woman to hold cookies for tea time. Well, right now it is being used to hold Turkish Delight for our Chronicles of Narnia night…
It was a beautiful day out so there were a ton of people and performers on the streets. We went into Saint Mary’s Basilica, which was having a service, so we just stood in the back for a little bit. Afterwards, we ate gelato, took pictures, visited Wawel’s castle, and went into a bunch of cute little shops.
For lunch/dinner we went into a Polish Cuisine restaurant in search of pierogis. When we walked in, everything got dead silent and everyone stared at us. Once, we sat down, everything was fine, but it was definitely eerie coming in. We ended up ordering a 30 piece mixed bowl of pierogis to share. There was mushroom and cabbage, potato and cheese, and a type of meat. They were all good, but the potato was probably my favourite. In the words of Polish Forrest Gump, “Life is like a bowl of pierogis, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
On the way back towards the square, we found a great pottery shop. I was able to get teacups that I liked that weren’t too expensive. There were a ton of pieces I would have liked to have gotten, including a coffee grinder, but I didn’t have room to transport it… or money to buy it.
After grabbing our last bread rings for the trip, we went back to the hotel and figured out how to get to the airport by bus before heading out. Ali fell on an old lady in the bus because she lost her balance. After that small incident, we didn’t have too much trouble getting home. The people at the passport check booth in Poland did act a little suspicious since we flew in through Budapest and were flying out through Poland. Luckily, Ali went first and remained calm and casual so then they let Kelly and I go through more quickly with less questioning.
Random Notes from Krakow:
- E. Wedel chocolate is fantastic– particularly the Creme Brûlée. It has crunchy caramel in it as if you are eating actual Creme Brûlée.
- There were Scottish people in our tour group to Auschwitz, we got so excited to hear accents from close to our Ireland home.
- Poppyseed is apparently popular. There were street vendors all over the place selling the bread rings coated in poppyseed.
- At Auschwitz, they were particular about the size of bag you could have. Ali and Kelly were both stopped because their purses, which were pretty small, were still considered too big.
- I learned to interpret Polish coffee vending machines
Overall, spring break was a blast. Though by the end of it, we were excited to be back with the Irish. We didn’t get much rest in the next weeks following, because Saint Patricks day and family/friend visits found us…