Our first night in Krakow was a great one! Krakow is a beautiful city, with a rich Polish history. Formerly the capital of Poland this city has a spectacular ‘old town’ with an inexplicable beauty, the city comes to life even more at night when the buildings bathing in light.
We stayed at Greg and Tom’s Beer House – a party hostel that deserves a special shout out, firstly because this is a great hostel full of cool people, but also because they put on a spectacular dinner which is free and actually quite spectacular. A delicious selection of meats, vegetables, salad and pizza – I can not recommend this hostel highly enough because it is really great value and an all around fun place to be.
They also run a good pub crawl (surprising I know) – as one of my friends said, it was the moment that over 15 bottles were put on the table that the madness began. A big night of dancing, meeting new people and having some fun to make up for our failed expedition to the Ukraine.
The next day I enjoyed something of a sleep in before heading downstairs for breakfast and starting a bit of sightseeing around the city. We headed to Krakow Castle, as we walked through the city, I was impressed with the beauty of the city, the history, another opportunity to wear shorts and bask in the glorious Polish sunshine. Also an opportunity to enjoy some delicious ice cream, a refreshing throw back from my favourite cake shop back home.
Later in the afternoon we to took a walking tour around the old city of Krakow – it was amazing to see the city in its glory. Sometimes it is the little things that are among the most interesting, and the stories in the history while I travel. The most innocuous and things that we take for granted in the west, back home can often be very different with other cultures. One of the things that stuck with me from Krakow was a story about the first McDonalds that opened back in 1993. We take it for granted that McDonalds serves up poor quality food, albeit cheap and perfect after a hangover. When the first McDonalds restaurant opened people would dress up in their best clothes, spend 7 hours in line, and pay 10% of their monthly salary to eat there. This sounds ridiculous to us at home, but the reality for the people of Poland was that they were finally free – free of communism, and free to do what they wanted.
As we walked through the other market squares, we got an understanding of the history of Krakow, the trade significance for Europe, and more detail about the once great kingdom that was Poland, and how it was taken off the maps and divided by the empires of Russia, Prussia and the Hapsburgs.
In Krakow we also got a feel for the reverence with which Pope St John Paul II is held among the Polish people. The impact that he had being like a ‘father’ to the people here. I was particularly interested to learn that he started studying as actor and a performer. We saw the ‘pope’s window’ as well as several statues of the pope around the city.
After wandering back up to the castle we wrapped up the tour and roped a few new friends from the walking tour into joining us for a pub crawl. In particular, a big shout out to our buddy Andrew spending 6 months living in Europe and more likely than not someone I will see again while I am in France.
After exploring the city and enjoying another dinner at the hostel we turned the party on again, meeting a number of people including a few particularly rowdy older English lads who weren’t shy of asking blunt personal questions to anyone, it was particularly amusing when we went out. Lots of fun that’s for sure.
Poland was an unexpected pleasure – while the Ukraine would have been amazing it was great to see these cities, albeit briefly, and set the scene for a return visit. The next stop for us is Budapest for what should be a great weekend in town!