Overall cost of trip: $210 CAD
Easter was ALMOST over, so we made last minute plans to spend the weekend in Poland! After getting a multiple recommendations from family and friends, we were set out for another great trip! Taylor and I met 3 other exchange students, Luke, Robert, and Joonas in Krakow Friday night.
We spent 3 nights in Krakow, which is the 3rd largest city in Poland, just behind the capital city, Warsaw and Lodz. It is 6 hours and 45 minutes from Vienna, so it took us 8 hours to get there from Krems.
We took the Polski Bus, which cost $10.50 each way. One of the best things about Poland was how cheap it was. Especially after our last trip being Switzerland, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have dinner for $5.
Our hostel, the Hostel Yellow was in the most perfect location, but probably one of the worst hostels I’ve stayed in so far! It was by far the cheapest, at 11 euros per night, but it was really dirty, no hot water, no towels, and found someone sleeping in my bed the first night…It was definitely memorable.
Our first full day we spent in the main city centre in Krakow. It was absolutely crowded with people- especially because it was Easter weekend and Poland is a very Catholic country. We walked through the markets and all you could smell was Kielbasa (Polish sausage.) Even on the bus ride there and bus ride back, this is all I could smell. Even though I don’t particularly celebrate Easter this weekend, as I celebrate Orthodox Easter, it was so nice to see so many people in front of the Church, or knowing people came to Poland this weekend especially for Easter Mass.
As being in Poland and doing as the Polish do, we had to have pierogi on our first day. This place we went to was a 24 hour Pierogi place and it was as authentic as you can get! We had to wait a while to get a table, but it was so worth it. The most popular dishes to eat in Poland are pierogi (dumplings,) bigos (hunter’s stew,) golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls,) and kotlet z kurczaka (chicken cutlet.) Everywhere we went, the food was very well priced and there were huge portions. And of course, paired with good beer. Poland did not disappoint the tastebuds!
The weather unfortunately wasn’t that great on Saturday and was on and off raining and hailing, but we managed to sneak in part of a free walking tour. There were so many people waiting for the tour, and we were split into smaller groups and taken around the city. Having a tour I think is essential in a city where there aren’t well known land marks. Krakow is very historic, so it was really interesting to learn about how the city came to be and be told some of the legends. The city was relatively small as well, so it was easy to find our way around.
On both nights we were in Krakow, we found ourselves in a Vodka bar. And let me tell you, Polish people take their vodka drinking very seriously. This bar only served shots of vodka (but a huge variety,) and then one type of beer. Pretty uncommon from what I’ve seen thus far in Europe, and obviously in Toronto, but it was one of the best bars. It was a really small bar, and it was SO loud. As everyone was in big groups of people and basically just doing shots, all you could hear was shot glasses clinking and people yelling NA ZDROWIE! It was such a fun atmosphere to be a part of!
Sunday morning we headed to Zakopane. Again, everyone I spoke to told me it was somewhere I had to see, especially since it is a short bus ride from Krakow. Zakopane is 1.5 hours south of Krakow and on the border with Slovakia. It is a ski village, made up of old fashioned wooded chalets. It is at the base of the Tatras Mountains and one of Poland’s most popular towns for winter sports. It is referred to as the winter capital of Poland. Also, in exciting Polish news, the World Cup of Ski Jumping is held in Zakopane this year! You can read more about it here: http://www.worldcup-zakopane.pl/en/
Our plan for the afternoon was to take a cable car ride up to the top of the mountain, and then hike up one of the trains. Unfortunately, we were a little too late for the cable car, but we still had the opportunity to hike! Not going to lie, I was definitely not in the proper attire to hike…Even though I planned this and was one of the parts of the trip I was looking forward to the most, I was dressed more for a casual stroll. Especially with a brand new white Adidas 🙂 Shoes got a little wet and a little muddy, but it was SO worth it! It took us a couple hours (and a couple falls) to climb to the top, but the view was incredible. Getting my shoes a little muddy was okay by me at this point. The view of the alps were breathtaking. It was especially cool to be able to see how small the town was from the top.
I love trips like this that you can go off route and do something that you wouldn’t be able to do at home. You get a different perspective of the town, and are more appreciative of your surroundings. It’s incredible to see what is around you, and how far a little research and asking a few people will get you! When I’m planning to go on a trip like this where we only have a couple days, I love getting personal recommendations from people so you can get a better feel for the place you’re going and aren’t just falling into expensive tourist traps.
We had booked the latest bus back to Krakow so we wouldn’t be rushed at all. After our climb, we were needing a much deserved dinner (and beer.) We saw a small looking traditional restaurant and decided to go in. Definitely false advertising because this place was MASSIVE. It was basically a banquet hall, with a small cafe at the front! This was probably one of my favourite dinners because of how fun and exciting the atmosphere was. They had a live Polish band playing and a huge dance floor, with tables surrounding. It was so loud and there were so many families there, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our trip in Poland! Remember how I was saying before that Polish people take vodka seriously? They had the option to order your beer by the litre… People behind us were drinking it with straws!
On our last day in Poland, we took a bus from the Krakow bus station to Auschwitz to visit the concentration camp. I think this is something that you must see when travelling to Poland. It is so important to understand world history, even if it is as tragic and horrific as these camps. Auschwitz is something we have all read in textbooks and seen in movies, but it is difficult to put into words the feeling of walking into this concentration camp. My first reaction was to how small it was. Knowing that over a million people lived, worked, and died there, and then seeing how small it actually was, was truly shocking and even more scary. It is a morbid and scary reality, but important part of our history to learn about.
We did a self guided tour with a pamphlet in which they described each block. In some of the buildings they had museums outlining other countries involvement in the war, and gave people a better understanding of what was happening outside of the camp. In the rest of them, it displayed through pictures and texts of the typical day of a prisoner, their living conditions, and some of the belongings that were taken away from them in the beginning. Lining the walls of almost all of these buildings were a picture of them, with their date of birth, occupation, when they entered the camp, and when they died in the camp. We then took a shuttle bus to the next camp which was 3 kilometres away,Birkenau, which was a combination of a concentration camp and extermination camp. This camp was massive. It took us over an hour to walk from the entrance to the back.
What I was most disappointed about was the lack of respect some people had for the camps. There were countless groups of teenagers climbing onto buildings or objects while laughing and taking selfies with their. It was truly shocking to see. Many of the places you entered would have a sign asking for you to enter in silence, as they explained the significance of what happened in that exact location.
After the day, we took the bus back to Krakow, and then got on a connecting bus back to Vienna. We took an overnight bus, which is a lot cheaper, and saves you on money for an extra night in a hostel. We arrived back in Vienna at 4:30 am and got the first train back to Krems.
I can say that Poland was by far one of my favourite trips! I was in great company, the food was delicious, and it was a fun adventure. I definitely recommend going!
And YES, I know you are obviously wondering…I do go to school!!!! I am here on exchange, but the word school is not too foreign too me! My location is just too perfect not to take advantage of travelling and seeing what this beaaaaaaaautiful world has to offer! 🙂
Until my next adventure,