Polish Adventure

Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Poland  , Lesser Poland Voivodeship,
Sunday, November 3, 2013

To start off our Polish adventure we flew into Warsaw. We were both excited about returning to Eastern Europe, having really enjoyed our travels there last holidays. We were a bit worried reading the front page of the paper in London on the morning of our flight as more than 60 flights had been cancelled due to the storm. Luckily, this didn't apply to us!! We arrived at 4pm and were both shocked as it was dark time by the time we got to our hostel. The city was really beautiful at night as we were coming into town, with the stadiums, bridges and buildings all lit up. We dropped off our bags at our accommodation and our room was beautiful and very cheap! The perks of traveling out of peak times!!
We went for a stroll around the area where we were staying. There was plenty happening as we were staying on a Main Street and we were recommended a place to go to for dinner that was just up the road. The girls working there were all dressed in their traditional dresses and our waitress was so helpful telling us what were the best dishes were to try. We had a variety of different flavoured dumplings to start with and then Hungarian pancakes. On the menu it said that the pancakes were xx large and that the meal couldn't be any bigger so we decided to share. The pancakes were made out of potato- like a potato cake and it had a a traditional pork and vegetables stew on it. Just like our meals in czech republic, it didn't win points for presentation but it was very delicious. We decided to get some desert to finish it off. Apple cake, that was one of the must try foods in Poland! A delicious traditional meal was a great way to start the trip. We then wandered down the street to look at a few places to go and get a drink. There were some pretty cool bars with cheap beer, flavored vodka shots and wine all for 1 euro (4 zloty- Polish currency).

We explored Warsaw by day and strolled around the Old Town. The Old Market Square and Old Town Square were really beautiful. The buildings had all been destroyed hundreds of years ago and they rebuilt the old town as a replica of the original. The square was very much like Prague's and Cesky Krumlov's. It had colourful buildings all the way around the square and were filled with tourists shops, cafes, antique stores etc. The Warsaw Castle was pink and bright and didn't look much like a castle. The cobbled streets that lead through the old town, with not many cars trying to squeeze through. Horses and carts waited outside the old castle to do trips around giving tourists some information about the old town and polish way if life. We tried some polish doughnuts and enjoyed finding little alleys that had random artwork, graffiti, hidden bars and food away from the main streets. In the new part of town they had sky scrapers in all shapes and styles, lots of shopping centers scattered around and it just felt like a typical city.

We made a little mistake with the train to krakow, not booking the express train adding another hour or so to our journey. Although we got a booth to ourselves. We arrived at half past four and the sun was almost gone. By the time we checked in it was pitch black so we went to explore krakow old town at night. We set off to the main square. It was very impressive and was huge. It was very similar to prague in a larger scale. It is one of the largest main squares in the world being 200 by 200. It was difficult to see the buildings and their details but there were certainly lots of people flocking to the square, looking at the market stalls, eating out at fancy restaurants and people admiring the lit of square. The city was nice by night but we are looking forward to explore it more when we get back from the tatra mountains. Our one night in krakow before we return in a few days for a few more nights consisted of a free dinner at the hostel, beers at the connecting hostel and a free breakfast. Breakfast dinner and a double room set us back 24 pounds, an absolute bargain!!

The next day we went to aushwitz. Having not known much about the Nazis , it was certainly an eye opener. I felt sick hearing stories of torture and murder by the thousands- from starvation, gassings, hangings, drug experimentation- you name it and im sure it happened here. To think that it wasn't even 100 years ago when all of this was taking place was unbelievable. We visited aushwitz 1 first where we had a tour that lasted almostb2 hours. There was so much to see from the prisoners bedrooms, torture chambers, gas chambers and wash areas. Although we didn't get to go into all the blocks, we got the general idea about the living conditions and from photographs of happenings it made the unbelievable stories seem so much more real.
There was a large glass display that was filled with the hair that got shaved off their heads when they were taken as prisoners, shoes and clothes that they had packed to take to what they thought was going to be their new homes and all sorts of accessories and appliances to start their new life. All of which were searched through by the nazis for any valuables and shipped off to Germany, It was disturbing in so many ways. The mothers and children and hospital experimentations were for be the most horrific.

It looked nothing like I imagined. I pictured wooden huts that would have no insulation. Those were more of the conditions of aushwitz 2 was more aushwitz 2 - birkin in, where instead of 1 gas chamber there were 3, with each one being able to kill thousands at once. It was here that living conditions were unimaginable. The bar wire fences surround both camps with several large watchtowers. They had little hope of getting out.

Although it was a horrible horrible place, it was a really interesting way to spend a few hours and learn about European history.

We then made our way back to krakov to retrieve our bags and make the journey to the mountains. We arrived in zakopane and found our accomodation. It was a pretty big town but the Main Street was very cute with most things not looking out of place. It could have done without a few shops such as h and m and McDonald's but anyway. There was horse and carts taking people on trips along the cobbled streets, little wooden carts selling cheese and home made breads, and in the background were the tatra mountains.

We went to a lovely restaurant for dinner and they had a four piece band playing. All the staff were again dressed up but they didn't speak English here. We both had some fish, more desert and some beers but the town was so quiet there wasn't much happening in Zakopane.

We woke up and went on our big adventure. There was definitely more of a chill in the air but the sun was really trying to break out. We got a shuttlebus to a place called .... Along the way we went through cute villages with incredible wooden houses which would have had some very nice views of the countryside. We were dropped off at the starting point and began our adventure. We started the 9km work to morskie oko, a lake the you must either walk to or get a ride in a horse and cart. It was mostly just on a road, but no cars were permitted. It was very cold especuly walking in the shade but there was a bit of sunshine to keep us going! There was a few short cuts through the bush that we took until we reached our destination. The sun was out and the mountains were reflecting onto the water giving it lots of strange illusions. The water looked so blue and clean with the morning sun beaming. We stopped by the old cafe and had some morning tea before strolling half way around the lake and continuing on to ...... It wasn't too far as it was only 1 hour to the second lake and 1 hour back. The way up was much harder on the legs but the way down was a breeze. We had lunch there overlooking the tatras and the. Continued back to the cafe , choosing to go the other way around the lake so we had seen it all. We then made the journey home by foot.

I was a bit unprepared without a beanie and an extra layer of clothing, so after having the largest hot chocolate imaginable when we returned to zakopane, I made a few woolen purchases for our next adventure into the tatras! We had a little relax back at our apartment before going for a polish feed. Our meal was delicious. I had Hungarian soup and home made bread and Rowan had 1kg pork knuckle. It was all delicious and the place we went had a band and we met some nice people from warsaw that were able to give us some advice about what to do the following day.

We got the Cable car to mount kasprowy wierch the following day. We had intended to walk up and down but we decided just to get the cable car after the previous day! Once we got to the top, it was a 15 minute walk to the peak. There were white and red posts that had a P for poland and an s for Slovakia on the other to show that we were in two places at once. It was a bit hazel up top but we got some nice views going up of Zakopane and surrounding villages. We came down and explored the town centre by day, strolling down Krupowki street, one of the most popular places in poland. It was a public holiday so a lot of the shops were closed. We got the bus back to Krakow in the afternoon after a bus ride. We had a free meal and some beers at hostel before
Heading out to a few pubs with some New Zealanders we met.
We went to a few underground clubs, bars with 1 euro beers and shots and finished up at Wodka bar- where they had every flavour of vodka imaginable. The polish love flavored vodka that is for sure!!

We explored Krakow and did the free walking tour around. Most of it was centered around the old town and we finished up at the old castle. We did some relaxing before heading off
to see the Jewish quarters, where we had dinner and went to a few bars in the area. It seemed to be where a lot of the locals hung out, away from the tourists down at the old town square. It was a funky street with busy bars, a relaxed scene, and live music.

All in all, Poland was a lot of fun. Even though pronouncing the language was almost impossible with the weird letter combinations they had, we got through spending 400 pound between us living it up in nice accommodation, transport, drinks, food and entertainment! The polish Zloty sure went a long way! We love Eastern Europe!
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