I finally went to the country I have based a lot of my life around. In my mom’s family, we pride ourselves on being Polish – we grew up eating Polish foods and taking on Polish traditions. My grandma an Urbanczyk and my grandpa a Pulinski, fifty percent of my blood is Polish. I’m not sure why I put off going to Poland for so long, because it honestly changed my life.
It is the weirdest thing to explain, but upon my arrival to this country, I felt a sense of calmness and weirdly felt at home when all the signs leading to our arrival should’ve made me feel otherwise. We had the most treacherous travel day to Kraków. Our first flight out of our home base in Bremen was delayed due to plane issues. That made us late getting to Munich where we missed our connecting flight to Kraków. Next flight out to Kraków? Not for another seven hours. So, we waited around in the Munich airport until finally, 10:00 pm rolled around and off we were. Except…the fog. Nobody warned us about how foggy the city of Kraków is! Mid-air, our pilot told us it was too foggy to land at the Kraków airport so we would be landing in Katowice. Where is Katowice? Well, the Polish man sitting next to us on the plane said it was about an hour and a half drive away from our destination. Lovely.
Panic set into everyone as we un-boarded the plane. Lufthansa was providing a bus to get us to Kraków except it wouldn’t have been ready for another thirty mins. Me and Chris ended up saying screw it, and hopped in a sketchy van with a driver who didn’t speak a lick of English except for when we asked him “Kraków?” and he just nodded his head. For a solid twenty minutes Chris thought we for sure were going the wrong way. But, after the long day I weirdly just sat there, relaxed, knowing that we’d be fine – usually my anxiety would’ve kicked in by then but I guess I just had trust in the Polish people. The roads also reminded me of home because instead of pure highway driving like it is in Germany, we actually took real roads with stores and homes to look at.
After getting to our airbnb TEN HOURS later than planned, we had a mere four hour sleep because we had planned our tour of Auschwitz the next day. Bad idea on our part to plan something the day after travel! Lesson learned.
Wednesday we went to Zakopane so it wasn’t really until Thursday that we spent our full day in Kraków. We had a nice little CHEAP breakfast in the Jewish Quarter. That reminds me – Poland was soooooo cheap! 4 zlody just about equals to almost one euro or one USD. We were able to have amazing full course, bottles of wine meals for such a little amount of zlody that we couldn’t believe our eyes. Did we really just eat twenty pierogis, plus a huge entree, several glasses of wine and dessert for that little?! Easy to say, we actually saved a lot of money on this trip and had some of the best meals in Europe. We fell in love with the donuts here, had one every night and the Kraków street food of zapiekankas. They were pizza baguettes with your choice of toppings and they were to die for and cost so little.
We spent the day wandering through Wawel Castle – where all the kings of Poland had resided, built in the 13th and 14th centuries! There was lots of art, tapestry and just the most amazing interior design. We laughed at the irony of how we have so much technology in todays world, yet could never recreate what people hundreds upon hundreds of years ago created. The most intricate dinner chairs, carpets, tables, tapestries, floors and ceilings.
On Friday we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine that was founded in the 13th century. Up until 1996 when mining here was discontinued, this was the worlds commercialized site of table salt! Everything down below, including the flooring, was made of salt. Miners had carved out their own chapels and it was insane to think about how long it took for them to even carve their ways into there. It was super cool to see. The best part about it all, that I think is funny, is that my 84 year old grandpa puts salt on just about everything he eats. Well, I bought him an entire salt shaker filled with salt from Wieliczka that I know he will appreciate, coming from Poland. It should last him a while.
Kraków was an amazing city. So many people reached out to me, responding to photos I had shared on Instagram, being in shock that Poland looked as cool as it did. I too, will say I was surprised myself. I wasn’t sure of the state it was in after WWII and didn’t think anything of it really. Well, this trip to Kraków changed everything for me. It made me miss grandma
more and made me think about her a lot. I was so happy when I took my first bite into a potato pierogi and it tasted just like hers. It reminded me of all the Sunday dinners she would have for our family, with the sauerkraut that I never used to like until now, and Golumpki that I made Chris try and now he is in love with. I wore the part of her wedding ring that my mom split with me here, to honor her legacy she has given to me and my family. I lit 3 candles for her so she could be a part of this amazing trip and see the wonderful things with me – One in the Wawel Cathedral, one in Saints Peter and Paul Church and one in Saint Mary’s Basillica, how fitting.
I also laughed because now that I was in Poland, I found so many people that looked like my family members! Polish people were little small folks and thats what my family is like – lots of the men here looked like my uncles and grandpa!
Finally traveling to a place I had recognized all my life, and created traditions around, truly changed my life. I left part of my heart in Poland and I am glad to keep it there. It made me miss my family lots and made me more than ever, want to keep passing down my heritage and traditions to my children one day too. I know Chris won’t mind eating more pierogis on Christmas or making more meals with sauerkraut! So, friends and family who have not yet been to Poland, please enjoy some of my pictures to see what an amazing European city Kraków is and I hope one day you can feel the calmness and love that I felt when traveling here.
I split up my picture galleries for easier viewing [Kraków, Wawel Castle &Wieliczka Salt Mine], so keep scrolling!
Wieliczka Salt Mine