This short journey to Krakow began and ended in the lap of luxury… the middle? it was OK.
While tired from an early Friday morning, it was hard not to appreciate the fact that the train I took and from Ostrava and Prague. It was clean, didn’t smell mildly of vomit in the least, had a combined cabin for children and their parents with toys and sound-proofing, and flowers in the bathroom. To top it all off there was an attendant who wandered around and offered free water and a coffee to travelers.
The bus between Ostrava and Krakow was almost better – each seat reclined and had a small screen that showed movies, TV shows, and music plus free wifi and coffee!
Seriously, compared to every other train, bus, or airplane I’ve been on this felt like I was riding first class but, in fact, it was one of the cheapest train tickets I’ve ever bought.
After arriving in the mid-afternoon on Friday the gang (Courteney, Conner, and me) headed off for a free walking tour of the Old Town guided by a Polish local! I’ve always been a huge fan of free walking tours and especially love being shown around by someone who understands the country and city more than a foreigner could.
Our 3 hour long tour ended at Wawel Castle which sits between the Old Town and Jewish District so we wandered the Jewish District (picture a hipster, Brooklyn-like series of buildings and cafes). We ended up eating some great street food and looking at odd street art.
We closed the night sampling something several Polish friends recommended – Polish vodka.
The next morning, though, I woke up late and slightly confused. The original plan included waking up a little early and going to Auschwitz… but we didn’t because my alarm didn’t go off.
Why didn’t my alarm go off? Because my phone was stolen in the night.
Yes, while I was sleeping, my phone was half hidden by my pillow between me and the wall and some stranger ended up taking it! When I realized this so many different feelings flew through me and I think the one that hurt the most was that someone invaded my space and took something that was literally next to my sleeping self.
I think of myself as a fairly practical individual so I went ahead, grabbed my computer, changed all my passwords, tried to track the phone (someone had already turned it off), and tried to suspend my service.
I doubt I will get it back anytime soon but I’m trying not to focus too much on it. I will have to find something in the meantime that has access to the internet, takes pictures, and can download Google Maps – if anyone has any suggestions PLEASE let me know! Also, the pictures from this post are Courteney’s and used with her permission, I use my phone to take pictures and since that’s gone I don’t have a way to document things.
Moving on, the crew decided to not to go to Auschwitz this time – it was a little late in the day and we were frazzled after waking up late and my phone being MIA.
Instead, we went to a walking food tour of Krakow! It was a lot of fun, our guide showed us around the city in the light of the food that shaped culture and was shaped by it. I really enjoyed learning how each dish was made, the context it was consumed, and a bit of the history behind things.
I tried herring, pierogi (I’m a big fan), several types of sausages, sauerkraut, homemade pickles, several types of soup, and much more! All the savory and warm dishes were so good. It was cold as we wandered around going to various stores and open-markets and I felt like a lot of the dishes were warm and hearty to prevent the cold from festering too much in my bones.
After our several hour tour we ended with apple dumplings deep fried in the Jewish District. We chose to cross the bridge and walk through the Jewish Ghetto and visit the Schindler’s Factory Museum.
The Museum contextualized what was happening in Krakow from 1939-1945. From the invasion, to the harshening of laws against Jews and Poles, to extreme rationing, the ghetto, and the ending of the war.
For me, I appreciated the chronological approach to the events that happened. I did feel like the information on Schindler and the factory was just a little piece of the whole museum but, in a way, I preferred learning more about Krakow during this period as opposed to just exploring the factory.
With heavy hearts and heads trying to process everything we left and slowly began wandering back across the river, through the Jewish District and back into the Old Town.
We found a nice farmer’s market and I ended up buying some beautiful Polish ceramics. Since we were at the end of our visit we decided to skimp on dinner instead of taking out more money.
Calzones it was! Cheap, good, warm – need I say anymore?
We still had some money left so we went to a little café for dessert before heading back to our hostel and packing.
Sunday morning we were out the door and headed to the train station. We arrived but weren’t able to find our bus from Krakow to Ostrava. It was supposed to leave at 8 and by 8:05 we were still wandering the station looking for our gate… no luck.
Fortunately, our bus driver ended up calling us and giving us directions… but we received poor directions and were told to turn right instead of left. Eventually, somehow, we managed to find the bus and head off to meet our train.
I really like Krakow – it’s a great city with a lot of history – but my experience felt like a comedy of errors and the shear fact that I’m on a train heading to Prague feels like a miracle. But I’m alive and safely back in Prague!