Take a swing at Krakow
A shot of Vodka was shoved into my face before I could put backpack down. That was my greeting from my Polish room-mate at GlobArt Hostel. It was the first hostel I stayed in where everyone in the room was in a good mood and ready to go out. After the vodka, everyone introduced themselves and offered me beer. So there was no choice but to join in.
As we got to know each other, the young Aussie (I’ll call him Jack) told us his unfortunate experience of Krakow. It was an early morning when he stubbled out of a club, trying to remember where his hostel was. By his own admittance he could not remember much, and what he could remember was a bit foggy. At some stage on his way back to the hostel he encountered some trouble with a few other drunks. The next morning Jack woke in a park with his pockets empty. And for some reason he had his passport with him the previous night which was also gone. Now he had to go through the trouble of getting an emergency passport and he faced the possibility of cutting his trip short and going back to Australia, because many countries will not let you through their borders on an emergency passport.
Not a pleasant story to hear on your first night in a new and strange city. But I eased myself in the knowledge that I don’t get that drunk anymore.
After a few beers in the hostel we all headed out to the closest cool bar for a few more beers. It was not long before we met a few local Polish which was really friendly and more than happy to join in our fun. As the night went on, the Polish guys told us that most Polish men carry knives or knuckle dusters and they do seem to loose their minds after too many drinks. Now that’s just great. I’ll have to be aware of myself and surrounding here, the same as I need to be in South Africa. The rest of the night went well and around 1pm, Jack, one of our female roommates and me headed back to the hostel. Before we get too drunk.
On our way back we stopped at a 24h shop (as you do after a few beers) for the local fast food. Dumplings. That became my staple diet in Krakow. Cheap, comes with many different fillings and it does hit the spot. We were about two blocks away from the hostel when we passed two guys sitting on the pavement having their “after beer meal”. One shouted at us in Polish. I turned around and said “sorry we don’t speak Polish”. Maybe that means something offensive in Poland, because the guy through his food away and started walking towards us with a very angry look on his face. This time I lifted my hands and said “we don’t want any trouble”. As if that was going to help. When the guy came close, still staring at me, he quickly changed direction towards Jack and took a massive swing at him. Luckily this time Jack was sober enough to duck. With that massive shadow swing I could not help but to start laughing. Off course, then the drunk came for me. Fortunately his more sober friend stopped him and they both turned and walked away.
With such an eventful night, I seriously started to doubt if I’ll enjoy Poland at all. The next morning I had to remind myself, when things like that happens, you just have to remember that any town or city around the world has it’s knuckle dragging idiots out to cause trouble.
The rest of my stay in Krakow was great. It’s a small city but there are loads to do and see, overflowing with Polish history thanks to the fact it was hardly bombed during WWII. The Main Market Square is the second largest in Europe (200m x 200m) after the Red Square in Moscow. I can highly recommend the free walking tour. Out guide was friendly and funny, and I think his name was Magic/Magik.
The Wieliczka Salt mine it about an hour bus ride and amazing to see. You can visit this place without a guide because all the info you need to know can be found in the little guide book available at the local shops. It’s just cool to see everything in the mine is made from salt.
Auschwitz & Birkenau on the other hand, I recommend you do with a guide. Sure you can get small guide books, but the guides, ours at least, was amazing at her job. During our entire tour, our whole group was completely silent with our guide describing what happened at this place. In more that a few occasions I had to work really hard to stop the tears from rolling down my face.
So despite the monkeys with shoes that dwell in our towns in cities, Krakow should be high on your list of places to see.
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