Tag Archives: Krakow

Pleasant(ly Plump) in Poland

Cinnamon oatmeal muffin. Not Polish cuisine. Just turning sleeping through hostel breakfast yesterday into a fantastic mistake.

I’m not even going to bother asking what the local cuisine is in Prague. I don’t want to know. If it’s anything like Poland, I won’t fit in my clothes five days from now. I took out money from the ATM today, not to eat but to eat more. It’s 8p.m. I just walked 3km to a street I’d only been once, during the daytime on a guided tour, to find zapiekanki. French bread pizza on steroids. I’d have taken a picture, but forgot to charge last night. Tonight’s zapiekanki: half a loaf of French bread, sliced lengthwise. Garlic basil sauce. Cheese. Ham. Mushrooms. Baked. Then tomatoes. Chopped lettuce. Green onion. Fried onion. And more garlic sauce.

So worth it.

Also great, this salad bar. There you see a stuffed pepper, spinach and cabbage crepe, broccoli tart, brussels sprouts with bacon, broccoli salad with egg and olives, and spinach with peanuts.

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I’m enjoying eating out once a day while I can still afford it. The zapiekanki cost less an $3. The salad bar $6.

I’ve been allowing myself such treats because I’ve been avoiding the massive amounts of drinking so many backpackers seem bent on doing each night. The other day, everyone woke up in a haze, one looking for his shirt, another her money, another wondering why he’d slept on the floor. People woke up for “breakfast” at dinner. One told me “ugh, yeah this one night I blew like 200 euro.”

I’ll let myself eat my $2 ice cream.

I’ve gotten into a routine. Make plans with friends at the hostel during the day if the opportunity presents itself. If not, walk and see and be just fine alone. Read during lunch. Write during the afternoon.

The last few nights though, I’d had a hard time being social. I’m tiring quickly of making new friends over beers as they are on their way to being hammered. Drinking games are fun, in moderation. I’m not the biggest club person. Call me lame, call me a loner, it’s alright.

I slipped out the door of the hostel last night while everyone was mingling pre-hostel organized pub crawl. I didn’t want to put money down for shots and beers before going out for shots and beers, I just wanted to see Krakow. I slipped out to avoid questions and why nots.

I questioned it. Am I missing out? Am I lame? Will I regret this? Will I be in bed in an hour?

A few nights ago, I’d been on the main square alone and heard a group clapping and singing American Pie. No more songs came after, so I hadn’t wandered closer.

Last night, gelato in hand, I heard familiar music and wandered over. A decent-sized crowd, a guy singing and playing guitar in the middle. Entertaining the crowd, taking requests, it was a good place to be – alone, but not alone. When no one reacted to two songs he offered as suggestions, I called out I knew them.

“Well that’s an American accent. Where are you from?”

He’s from Michigan.

And the music continues, Crazy Thing Called Love, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Wild World… A Polish girl with massive breasts danced up against him, stealing his hat, giving him a dance that would distract anyone from anything, let alone guitar playing and singing. The crowd goes wild. Two men are suddenly in the circle, one shirtless, vying for her attention. It’s almost chaotic. She’s taken Charles’ hat and is dancing provocatively in the crowd for change. She’s singing along as he breaks into Lady Gaga’s Alejandro per her request.

Insanity. Unforgettable.

And then it was over, it seemed. The crowd sang Stand By Me.

But the night wasn’t over. We all ended up at a local pub for a round of shots bought by Charles and Yvonne. And I’d made a whole crew of new friends, from Ireland, Germany, Egypt. I even had a drunk old man trying to teach me. His go-to line, always with a lot of spit: “You know the Navy Seals?”

It came to an epic peak when he heard I was from California, looked at Charles and said, “She’s had so many opportunities to learn, and she knows nothing!

Unforgettable. Way, way better than any pub crawl.

And today, a meeting for coffee led to the best crepe place in Krakow by Charles. I know how to say apples and cinnamon in Polish now. Up to Wawel Castle once more, and then across town to “the best ice cream” in Krakow. I believe it was.

What a way to end my too-short visit to Krakow, my favorite city yet.

Music plug time! Episode one of “Janae’s Musical Friends,” new friends, was Karma’s Army.

Check out my new friend Charles, here.

Auschwitz

I’ve seen the Parthenon. The Pantheon. The Pyramids. Up until now, most of what I’ve seen has impressed me, knowing what humans are capable of doing. Because usually, it’s good.

I doubt there are many experiences more sobering than visiting Auschwitz. The blog won’t be the place for my thoughts on a trip to the site of the concentration camps (Auschwitz I – where up to 15,000 people were at one time, and Auschwitz II- Birkenau, where up to 90,000 people would be at once). Today I was at the site of crematoriums where thousands of bodies burned per day. I stood at the point on the railroad tracks where selections were made – a finger pointed one way to survive, or the other way, to what were called showers.

Just one of the thoughts I came away with today, and the one I’ll share – I was struck with an appreciation for this trip and these travels today, for the better understanding I’m getting not only of present and future, but of the past. At the same time, the sense that I should be home hugging people, because I can, reached new levels today.

From Auschwitz, where it’s impossible to take a photo you can call beautiful.

Auschwitz I

Entrance and exterior photos

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Crematorium chimney, gas chamber, and interior

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Auschwitz I- Exhibits

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Auschwitz II- Birkenau

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Wordplay

I’m debating whether I should pick what I want to do before I start looking for a job. Maybe I should just apply to them all. Two years ago, a woman wearing a suit at the career fair smiled at me. Next thing I knew, I had a 2nd interview for an insurance-selling position. “But Dad, they give you a company car!”

In a dream world, I write 25 pages of something brilliant in the next two months, get offered a book advance, and ship myself back over to Eastern Europe periodically while I write the next bestseller. But if that doesn’t pan out…

I’ve gotten pretty used to this short-form blog writing. I’ve been doing it for three years now. What I’m trying to figure out is what comes next (or, simultaneously). What’s my goal? A novel? I’m not great at describing scenery. A screenplay? I love dialogue. A children’s book? Short and rhyme-filled.

And also, a job in public relations, because that’s what I went to school for and I quite enjoy that, too.

I have a list of ideas. If I could sell the rights of titles to books/screenplays I think people should write, I might have a decent little gig.

I’m really struggling with writing them myself. This is the current project. I need focus. I need to work at different hours. I need to drink more coffee.

Some silliness to be shared, because this is where my brain is at:

My friend wrote me a message the other night with regard to my broken sandals.

I wish I was the tape on your Greek sandal right now. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day in your shoes :)

I have a lot of free time to think. It’s made me a bit zany. These were my next ten minutes.

I’m glad to see you’ve hit Hallmark territory with expressing your sentiments. Is this where I tell you we make quite a pair?

I could knot imagine life without you.

‎(outside) With you as my laces, Ill win many races. (inside) Thank you for keeping me together.

I might outgrow these shoes, but I’ll never outgrow this love.

Unlike these sneakers, I promise to love you when you’re old and smelly.

(outside) Socks? Who needs them? (inside) With you, I’m always warm.

(outside) we can always walk a mile (flap) and we will always share a smile (inside) most importantly, we will always, always be in style.

I’M ON A ROLL! Thanks for being my sole.

Like a cheap pair of thongs, you can do no wrongs.

Like shoes on my feet, my heart you complete.

Like nails on my toes, my love for you grows.

Like a fresh pair of shoes, you’re the best kind of news.

Like shoes at half-price, I didn’t think twice.

Like a shoe that fits right, it was love at first sight.

You take me higher than the best pair of heels.

(outside) You take me higher than the sluttiest pair of heels

(inside)
-But you won’t give me blisters.

-But with you I never ache.

-Please don’t hurt my sole.

-But when I fall, I’ll fall in love.

(outside) Forget Velcro. (inside) We’ll only have to tie this knot once.

So, how does one put that, uh, we’re going to call it talent, on a résumé? Thoughts?

Until then, off to go giggle at Catch-22. It’s fantastic.

Walk and Talk (But Please Stop)

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Wawal Castle, Krakow, Poland

I’ve written here before about my love for walking tours.

Still true. So much so I spent 7 hours on them today. 11a.m. The Royal Krakow Old Town tour. 3p.m. The Jewish Quarter tour. All the same tour guide, all free (besides tips).

And I do love them, I really do. But the audience can really make them, and they can really try to break them sometimes. The crew is usually made up of twenty-somethings, travelers on a budget. A group with very little knowledge of the area, open to anything they’re told, eager to take photos, hear funny stories. 50% are usually hungover.

But every once in awhile, you hit a tour that’s very mixed youth-adult. And by adult, I mean serious, fanny-pack wearing, expectation-packing, bores.

I know. That probably sounds awful. But these four people in the group have probably been here before. And if they haven’t, they’ve read about it. And if they haven’t, they watched a special on The Travel Channel. Or, more likely, The History Channel.

And so they feel the need to set the agenda of the tour. They ask questions irrelevant to the topic being spoken about. “But what about…” becomes a drinking game. They “teach” the tour guide.

This morning, before the tour had even officially began, Paulo was explaining the election coming next week, and offered his personal thoughts on the political parties. An older woman, not the woman who had asked the election question, not even there at the beginning of the conversation:

“I don’t want to know about politics, I want to learn about history.”

My jaw, pretty sure each jaw of the four Australian girls next to me as well, drops.

Paulo though, what a guy: “Yes, well in ten years what we call politics today will be history.”

I think my frustration with this tour and its many off-topic detours (Paulo was fantastic – a few in the crowd were driving me up a wall) peaked when I realized I was on a tour with two Birthers.

I hear this couple, fifties, talking to Paulo up at the front. We’d been walking awhile and the group was pretty spread out. I hear “Obama,” I start eavesdropping.

Okay, I don’t care Republican, Democrat, I haven’t read a headline since August (and that’s insane, since I’ve read every headline daily on three online news sources for the past five years), and I don’t think any one party or politician is doing tremendously well. I’m simply out of the loop.

“Well for starters he’s not even American.”

Okay, I’m in the loop enough that’s still going to rile me up. People are still making that argument?

Paulo looks surprised, but remains serious and does not react too strongly. “But it is against U.S. Constitution, is it not? You must prove you are born in the United States?”

“No. He was born outside the country. He’s been lying from the start.

He’s from Kenya. Half of his family says he’s from Kenya.

He’s Muslim, and he was raised by communists, educated by them his entire life.

His wife hates the country.

He is single-handedly capable of bringing the country down.”

Paulo – “But that is conspiracy, isn’t it?”

“He had fraudulent papers made.”

I’m biting my tongue. I didn’t enter the political debate and simply asked where they were from. They snap at me. California.

Well la-di-freaking-dah. Me too.

I decided to not debate them. I waited to talk to Paulo until they were out of earshot.

Sigh.

I’m a really poor history writer, and my vocabulary really doesn’t do sightseeing/travel justice.

Tomorrow, I promise, maybe, a “what did you learn in Krakow” post. More on Pope John Paul II, Jewish quarter (68,000 Jews in Krakow pre-WWII, only 200 today)… Trips to Schindler’s Factory and Auschwitz tomorrow. The following photos come from the Square of the Ghetto Victims. The empty chairs reflect absence.
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But for now, I’m sure you want to see the part where I was volunteer #7 for the Jewish Folk Dance demonstration.

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And the rest.

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Ready, or Not

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No zoom. That’s me getting attacked by pigeons. Pelted by pigeons. Terrifying.

First day in Krakow. Beautiful, beautiful city. Sitting in a coffee shop where I could make small change to eat lunch at a smaller local place. Tour of the Jewish quarter at three (3:36p.m. edit – maybe 3p.m. tomorrow).

Big day, friends. Big day.

I know a few of you were worried I’d come back to the States unable to dress in matching outfits, look like a respectable woman. Be huggable.

Today, I’m indeed looking like a normal person. Jeans were acquired in a Hungary secondhand shop. I haven’t worn jeans since mid-August. They’re pretty flared. They’re pretty fantastic.

But bigger news, I blow-dried my hair today. First time since Spain. It’s gotten longer since then.

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So you all can sleep a little easier tonight.

But do know this: I believe the no-makeup route has done me wonders in making friends this trip. See, there are three distinct types of girls I’ve noticed.

1) The quiet, serious girls traveling alone. Usually in bed by nine, reading a book by the bedside lamp. Up early, silently leaving while the rest of the room is still asleep.

2) The nightlife girls. “Backpacking” (probably 2-3 weeks) with full makeup, wardrobe, hair supplies, and clothes bedazzled, multiple pairs of shoes. Always matching.

3) The pretty, hip (sometimes hippie) girls with long skirts and nose rings that look cool every day of their lives.

I’m social. I’m at happy hour. Not in bedazzled clothes or full makeup. Not out to hook-up with anyone. Side note, anyone wondering what that part of backpacking looks like.. the scene for that sort of thing? You’re probably not hooking up with the cute local waiter. But you can have your European adventure with any drunk American… Maybe Australian if you want something “different!”

Because I was so big on that before.

So, I’m on the couch, drinking a beer, and I make friends with the guys. I certainly don’t look intimidating. I might not make it into your bed at the end of the night, but hell, I’ll make you laugh for twenty minutes. And fifteen minutes in, as though I’m just one of the guys, you’ll be telling me about the girl you shagged last night.

I think we subconsciously bond over our fear of talking to the pretty girls drinking cocktails.

So, on this normal respectable human being Sunday, I’ve been out wandering. Walking tours to come, a visit to the salt mine, and a trip to Auschwitz.

In keeping with the theme of “funny photos taken by strangers…” This morning was pretty amusing. All I wanted was one decent photo to send home.

Wait, I’m still thinking I don’t know what to do with my hands…
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I mean, it was an awesome trunk.
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He actually zoomed out, backed ten feet away, and rotated his body to avoid taking a shot of the river beyond the wall I was on my way over to. My smile was masking thoughts of “Where are you going?”
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These guys told me not to be boring. I liked them.
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More photos, not of me, later.