Our first night in Poland we were greeted by Krakow’s unofficial ambassador, Boxer McSpittle, but I’ll get to that in a minute. The rain showers let up just as we pulled into the bus station. I was supposed to message our Airbnb host earlier that afternoon, but with the internet not working on the bus that wasn’t possible. While Howard gathered our luggage, I found another FlixBus and connected to its’ internet. I was able to get a message off to our host and call an Uber.
The bus station in Krakow is in a large complex with the train station and a huge shopping mall, right near the historic part of the city. Our apartment was about 4 km (2.5 miles) towards the outskirts of town. While it’s fun and convenient to stay right in the city center, we have really enjoyed staying outside of town too. It feels more like we are living somewhere rather than just visiting that way. I’m really glad we did that here because Krakow is super busy with tourists, more so that any place in Europe we’ve been so far.
Our apartment here is a lot like the one we had in Belgrade, a studio loft on the top floor of an apartment building. There’s no sketchy elevator to worry about here though, because there is no elevator. Five flights with our heavy luggage was interesting. Luckily our host, who was out of town, sent her friend over to help us. We really appreciate that he carried the Tan Whale up the stairs for us.
Now that we had made it to our apartment, we needed food. It was already 20:30 (8:30 pm) and all we had eaten were a few chips on the bus. Although it had already been a long day, it didn’t feel like it was that late because the sun was still up. Krakow is a lot further north that we realized. It’s on the 50th parallel, farther north that anywhere in the contiguous United States. It’s quite a difference than our home base in New Hampshire. (From there we’re far enough north we can drive south to get to Canada, then north again when we hit Michigan. That’s the shortest route to visit Howard’s parents. Go ahead, look at a map.)
We found a little beer garden and pizza place right next to our apartment and chose a table. Then we realized we didn’t have any cash in the local currency. Howard had some Hungarian Forint, I had some Croatian Kuna and some Euros left over from Greece & Portugal. However, we needed Polish Zloty here. Maybe they take credit card? There were a couple guys at a small table right in the doorway of the building. I couldn’t tell if they were employees or not but I asked if they spoke any English. They said no.
We decided to look for an ATM and come back. We walked along a main road that circled around our neighborhood. There were a few businesses and offices along the way, but most were closed. Besides an ATM, we also needed to get SIM cards for our phones. Having the internet would make everything much easier. About halfway around the loop we saw a convenience store. Maybe they had what we were looking for? Upon entering, I was immediately greeted by an older man with a big smile on his face. I’m sure I automatically smiled back. He was talking in super fast Polish. He grabbed my hand and kissed the back of it. He may have been drunk or high or maybe just crazy. I couldn’t be sure. All he was wearing was a pair of boxer shorts. They were inside out.
I tried to tell him I didn’t speak Polish and get my hand back, but he had a firm grip on it. He was talking so fast spittle was coming out the corners of his mouth. Behind the counter was a young girl playing with her phone. She looked completely board. I asked if she spoke English. She said no. On hearing the word “English” my new friend got even more excited and applied several more spittle kisses to the back of my hand.
Howard had been watching this with a look of horror on his face from the back of the store. Finally he walked up front and said, “they don’t have what we’re looking for. Let’s go”. I yanked my hand back and ran out the door.
We were almost back at our apartment when we saw a big market. That must be the farmers market our apartment owner told us about. Saturday was the big day for the market so everything was closed, except a couple produce stands right in the front. After 21:00 (9 pm) too! We bought some blueberries and cherries. Next to the market was a two story building with a grocery store, pharmacy, clothing and housewares store. Everything we could possible need during our stay. If only we had walked in the other direction around our neighborhood…
We used an ATM, bought a few groceries, and headed back to the beer garden. There were more people there this time, a couple with their school age daughter sharing a pizza, an older man who probably owned the business, and two guys and a girl having some beers. We tried to keep things simple and ordered pizza and piwo (beer, pronounced pivo). Unfortunately there were a lot of options and questions about what kind of pizza and what kind of piwo we wanted. Luckily, the girl at the table with the two guys spoke some English and helped everyone out. She also showed me where the restroom was. I washed my hands twice.
It had started to lightly rain so we moved to a different table under a big umbrella. As soon as we got our pizza the sky turned dark, the wind picked up, there was a crash of thunder, and it started pouring. With lightning striking all around us we huddled under the umbrella and ate, trying to keep our pizza dry as the cloth umbrella sprung leaks. The other two tables were doing the same thing. We were all laughing and looking up at the sky too. It was quite a summer storm that passed over.
We’ve been pretty mellow here in Krakow. I came down with Howard’s cold the first week here but I managed to get out a couple times. All we’ve really done besides work and stay near home is wander around the old city and Jewish Quarter. Mondays several of the tours at Wawel Castle are free. That was our plan for today but unfortunately I had the bright idea of renting bikes yesterday and I crashed. I don’t think my swollen bruised ankle can handle the steps down to the Dragon’s Den, up the tower, or even walking around the armory. We’re only here for 12 more days too. We should have planned to stay in Krakow longer. We’re not done with Poland yet though, we’re planning to head to the Tricity area next. I’m hoping to float in the Baltic Sea!