We arrived in Krakow sore and sleep-deprived after a 14-hour overnight bus ride from Vilnius, Lithuania on Ecolines. Why so tired? Imagine being confined to one seat on a Greyhound bus for 14 hours, during which the man behind you sounds like his phlegmy lungs are trying to eject themselves from his body, directly onto the back of your head. When the bus stops every once in a while, he and his son run off of the bus to chain-smoke furiously until the bus leaves again. During the night, you are abruptly disrupted from your sleep to find the man’s face inches from yours, wedged between the seats of your row, a la Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”.
Thankfully, he wasn’t being creepy (or homicidal) and was just getting something from the bag resting on the floor between his legs. But still. We sleepwalked to our hostel, showered and wasted the rest of our precious day in Krakow by passing out for the rest of the afternoon in our private room. So much for getting some rest on a night bus.
Krakow, a city of cheap booze, severe hipster haircuts and most of all, a terrible wartime history. We spent the first half of our day getting N’s haircut at a hipster place right in the Old Town. Everyone was being given asymmetrical haircuts which looked as if the stylist forgot to cut the other half of their clients’ hair and left it at that. We convinced N’s stylist to NOT cut two upside down triangles into the back of her hair, and we were off to explore Krakow.
We walked through the Old Town and snuck into St. Mary’s Cathedral through the “prayer only” section because we didn’t want to pay to get in. We snuck a few photos of this colorful, marvelous cathedral as we sat in the pews. After walking all over town in the heat, we took a breather (and lunch) at a restaurant in the Jewish district of Kazimierz. As much as I like meat and potatoes, it was nice to have something a little more vegetable-based and refreshing for once.
We explored Kazimierz only briefly because a woman at the first synagogue we tried to go into asked N to wear a kippah and she refused and left. If I were her, I would’ve totally worn one, but then she made a good point that the kippahs they handed out to the male visitors have been worn by every greasy head. Groce.
We crossed the bridge to the area of the former Jewish ghetto (more on that in the next post) before slowly making our way back to the Old Town for dinner of traditional Polish fare at Kuchnia Staropolska, a restaurant recommended to us by a Polish friend in NYC. The restaurant itself is a bit strange. A cozy, dimly-lit cottage-like interior with wooden paneling on the walls, mixed with tons of photos of the owner posing with professional boxers. TVs hung in the middle of the restaurant showed videos of interviews with boxers.
Our eyes being bigger than our stomachs, we ordered a ton of food. Kielbasa, pierogis, pea soup, cabbage roll… Bring it!!! It was such a good recommendation that we went twice; once by ourselves and the second time with a Singaporean kid we met at the hostel.
Besides all of the eating, we also did some souvenir perusing in the Old Town area. It seems like besides the Polish ceramics with cool patterns, popular souvenirs are wooden carvings of Jews, chess sets and amber.
We also found a very historic open-air market called Stary Kleparz where we did the majority of our food shopping for meals we cooked at the hostel. It’s berry season, people! The market also sells a ton of other things. Batteries, dog treats, fans, kitchen tools, socks… You name it, it’s there.
Krakow was fun. I wish we had a little bit more time here but we must move on. It’s a place I’d like to visit again, maybe once it gets a little more gay-friendly.
Check out our Flickr album here for more photos of Krakow.