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Poland North to South

I will be in Poland for 4 weeks and realized what I like best when I travel are people and the random short conversations/interactions along the way. Skip to Summary if this is boring. Ha! I will just add more city by city in the Replies.

Gdansk: 5 nights in an apartment right in the old city.

Beginnings
Upon arrival I called Uber from the Gdansk airport. In 4 minutes, Andrei, in his blue Skoda, was there. He hopped out, popped my small bag in the car, a touch sternly said “ Sit down” ( meaning “get in”), and we were on our way to the old town. We sat in silence for about 10 minutes, Andrei with his earbuds in, till I couldn’t stand it any longer and said “This is my first time to Poland.” Andrei pulled his earbuds out and had me repeat.

Then he said he had small English, to which I replied I had no Polish - which made him ask where I was from. I replied “The U.S.” and his face lit up. He said “I love USA!” And while we didn’t win awards for language skills, Andrei talked (and I listened lol) the rest of the way. He is from Belarus, made sure I knew the geography (Poland, Belarus, Russia), pronounced Lukashenko crazy, then pronounced Putin crazy, and told me a couple of things about Gdansk I didn’t quite understand. 🤣 (about Danzig, I think)

At this point, we arrived at my apartment and he made me wait till he opened the door for me, offered his hand to help me out, and then carefully handed my bag to me. We both smiled and went our ways: an ending not at all the same as the beginning.

** I like having my rideshare payment system already in place (unlike a taxi). It makes tipping easy, too.

I Don’t Speak Polish.

Day 2 and I am already starting to count the number of times people speak to me in Polish. I realize that sounds a little odd, but when I travel I am usually in the tourist zone (as I am here) and people just know by looking I am not local (ha!). So I am used to their assumptions and the fact they begin with English because of that: in restaurants, in shops, on the street, etc. So far only once has someone addressed me first in English. So maybe that is what I should be counting.

** Also, Milk bar meals are cheap. And I am memorizing “I don’t speak Polish”….

Sign Language.

The best sign language is a smile. Day 3 I had to find a post office and mail a box. Only I had no box. Or tape. I found the Poczta Polska and a lovely lady. She spoke only a few words of English and I could recognize a few words of her Polish. She pointed me to the box and then asked me if I also needed tape (I assume). I also had no scissors (or keys) - but I had an ink pen, so I jabbed my tape with the pen to cut it. After I took her the filled box, she reinforced it with more tape - grabbing her ink pen and jabbing the tape to cut it. I laughed and showed her my ink pen still in my hand and she laughed, too. And everything became easier. After I had paid for my box, tape, and mailing, I gave her a present of the leftover tape and that also made her laugh.

The post office inside was beautiful. I would never have known……

** Also, for the lost German tourists who wanted to ask me for directions, I don’t speak German, either. They weren’t any better off since they apparently didn’t speak either Polish or English.

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Delayed Trains and Apparently Out of the Ordinary Solutions.

Day 4: Coming back from Malbork, I walked into the station to find my IC train was delayed by an hour. I saw there was a regional train 4 minutes after my scheduled IC, so I went to the window and showed her my ticket on my phone. She pointed to the regional train, I said yes, and she promptly filled out a piece of paper, stamped it, and off I went (again, very little actual language involved but it was efficient and pleasant and easy). I boarded the train and very soon the conductor came through to scan tickets. I showed her the piece of paper, watched her face register incomprehension, showed her my original ticket on my phone, she looked at the paper again, then dropped it on the seat beside me and moved on - in utter disgust. 🤣 I did not have the sense it was really disgust with me - more likely at the system or whatever had been done to put me on the train. Who knows. :) But I had a seat in an unoccupied train and got back to Gdansk about the time my delayed train would have left Malbork. :)

** I thought the audio guide for Malbork Castle was very well done and informative.

Summary: I was completely charmed by this city. It feels like a place to move slowly and enjoy.

Stayed: Apartament Stare Miasto, found on booking.com. Great location and it all worked like a charm.

Food: There are many cafes and restaurants with both indoor and outdoor seating. I ate at a milk bar, a pierogie restaurant, a wine bar with an amazing menu, a restaurant on the river front, and at Malbork Castle. And I kept seeing places I want to try and it makes me sad I am leaving.

What I Did:

  • St Mary’s Cathedral for the noon astronomical clock;
  • Wandered many of the gates to the old city;
  • Took a galar boat ride (the old traditional flat-bottom wooden style boat);
  • Visited the WWII Museum, which I highly recommend;
  • Wandered the Amber Museum (accidentally on free day);
  • Took a day trip to Malbork Castle (extremely impressive);
  • Visited the post office (ha!); and sat on many of the delightful benches near parks, fountains, statues, playgrounds, on the many pedestrian streets, and just randomly in front of regular buildings that I came across.

Many of the museums have a free day each week, so check their websites. There were other places I thought I would get to but I just didn’t want to move fast. Although there were people, it was far from crowded - time of year, perhaps. Maybe it was the weather, but Gdansk seems made for relaxing and enjoying. Chani said this after her visit and I have to second it.

Posted by
2747 posts

Oh she is traveling again! Lol. I just got done reading your last trip report! But, excited to follow along. Wait, did you even go home?

Posted by
3628 posts

The best sign language is a smile.
Love this!

I'm looking forward to riding along with you on my 2020 Poland trip that hasn't happened yet! Mine would have been in reverse, so maybe I'll have to read from the bottom up :-)

Posted by
3158 posts

Do you think they stop you because you are alone? We loved Gdańsk and Poland, have fun.

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3374 posts

Looking forward to your report as it comes it! Make sure to dip your toes in the Baltic, plenty of white sandy beaches around (if it's not too cold lol)

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59 posts

TexasTravelmom,

I am so glad you are doing this live Poland trip report! You don’t see many for Poland. I will definitely be following along each day to read all about your experiences, interactions, and summaries of your favorite sites. Are you able to share your ultimate 4 week plan (order of cities you are visiting and # of nights each), unless you are winging it as you go? I would also love to hear about your main motivator for choosing a 4-week trip to Poland. You’re gonna have the best time I’m sure.

I think I might be following shortly behind you. I will be leaving this Saturday to fly to Gdansk to stay for a couple nights before starting our RS Poland tour on 9/13. After the tour ends in krakow on 9/22 we are staying 2 additional nights there and then will finish our trip with 3 nights in Wroclaw before flying home on 9/27. I starting mapping out a DIY Poland itinerary in late 2019, then ended up joining the original inaugural RS Poland tour planned for September 2020 which of course got cancelled, so I’m greatly looking forward to finally being able to experience this Poland trip after several years of planning.

As you write your report are you able to share the names of the restaurants you visited, especially the ones that you really enjoyed 😉.

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134 posts

AMann, if I ever make it back to the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene travel group meeting and you are there, I will teach you how to say, "I don't speak Polish" in Polish...just in case you need it;)

TexasTravelmom, what an easy reading, entertaining travel report! Love your style! Last time, we went to Poland, we did not go to Gdansk (although I went there as as teenager many moons ago), so I am avidly reading your trip report as I plan to add that city to our Poland itinerary during our next planned trip.

Looking forward to reading upcoming installments of your trip report!

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2827 posts

Tammy, I hate to confess that April through the rest of this year, I am gone more than at home. Oops…. But my kids are grown and I have someone to take care of my house. :) And yes, I DID go home! Ha! Packed a different kind of clothes for this one!

CW, maybe I should just write my report upside-down for you! Lol!

Barbara, it was only one German couple (I wasn’t clear) and I think I just happened through a residential area where there were few people at that moment in time. :) It was just a funny moment.

Carlos, it actually was a bit chilly. Not cold - just jacket weather. :) The beach is one of those places I intended to get to……had it all mapped out and everything. 😊 Weather is why I decided to start in the north. I thought I might barely make beach weather.

And thanks to AMann, galliegirlie, and Terri! AMann, you will have an affinity for Polish, with that early exposure! You will undoubtedly sound good, even if you have no vocabulary. 🤣

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2827 posts

galliegirlie, my overall plan, which Carlos greatly helped with and I only modified slightly is: Gdansk 5 nights, train to Torun 3 nights, train to Warsaw 4 nights, train to Wroclaw 3 nights, car to Swidnica 5 nights, TBD 1 night, return car to Krakow 7 nights, fly to Budapest. I was trying to recall my motivator for choosing Poland…… Part was having all the time I wanted. Part was wanting to go somewhere in Europe I had no real previous knowledge about or exposure to, while continuing to develop my solo travel skills. I bought my tickets with miles right after spending last September in Croatia, another place I hadn’t known much about. And probably part was reading Carlos’s trip reports during Covid. I think this is developing to be my travel plan: at least once a year head to somewhere kind of less traveled by people I know. I will be back in better known parts of Europe later this year.

I ate at (but note that I am not particular about food):
Wine Bar Literacka (found on In Your Pocket and it ended up being a block from my apartment): Nice food, good wine (I just had the waiter choose one for my meal and one for “dessert”). The most expensive place I ate but also probably the best.

Gdański Bowke on the river: It was definitely for tourists but my food was fine - and I specifically wanted to eat once facing the river and was too tired to walk more. So it served my purpose.

Pierogarnia Stary Mlyn: a pierogie restaurant. I think it is a chain, but it was nice, the food was good - and it was close after a long day of walking. 🤣 I had intended to go to Pierogarnia Mandu Gdańsk Śródmieście near the train station after Malbork but I ate a nice mid-afternoon meal at the castle restaurant and simply wasn’t hungry.

Bar Turystycsny: authentic Polish milk bar. Good, easy food, and inexpensive. Looks small but additional seating upstairs, cafeteria line, a constant line of 10-15 people out the front door, and appeared to be only Polish (and me).

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3628 posts

My mouth is watering for an authentic Polish milk bar. I didn't really understand the concept until I stumbled on one in the corner of the market hall in Wrocław. As you said, just me and a line of locals!

The meal with the river view: I totally get that too!

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134 posts

a constant line of 10-15 people out the front door, and appeared to be only Polish (and me)

Made me chuckle, as the translation for Bar Turystyczny is Tourist Bar.

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3374 posts

Could be Polish tourists? I know Poland has a very robust domestic tourism industry. 90% of the time I'm traveling through the country, I'm only surrounded with local Poles.

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134 posts

Carlos, you could be right....because I know us Polish people love a bargain! 😂

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2827 posts

Yes! Carlos, this is how it feels almost everywhere! Tourists - but Polish tourists! Terri, not what you meant, but things sure DO feel like a bargain. :)

Torun - 3 nights in a hotel, 2 1/2 hr IC train ride (in 1st because there was only a few dollars price difference)

Who are the tourists around here?

Day 1: I arrived mid afternoon in Torun and was immediately charmed. After wandering the town for a bit, I ended up on the main square and couldn’t resist eating there. Don’t regret it either. After dinner, I asked my waitress what countries most of the tourists come from (we both assumed non-Polish). She said she thought primarily Germany and England, but that recently there were NBA players (“lots of tall people”). I have since googled but can’t find anything about that; however Torun IS home to a professional basketball team. Then she asked where I was from. She was guessing England. In high school, she was an exchange student in Washington.

** Also upon arrival, I took the only taxi waiting at the train station (a 25 min walk from my old town hotel). Hopefully no one after me needed one.

Who knew there are 2 gingerbread museums in Torun?
Answer: Clearly not me.

Day 2: I bought a ticket online the night before and showed up, only to find I bought a ticket to the one on the other end of town. I can’t even figure out how I managed that…… Anyway, the sweet girl at the wrong one gave me directions (in perfect English) to the other one (where the ticket staff spoke very little English). I was obviously too late for my timed entrance, but they kindly put me in an all-Polish tour a couple of hours later. And I got to make my own gingerbread cookie and see all the exhibits! Oh goodness…..🤦🏻‍♀️

** Also the Copernicus Museum was very interesting. There may even have been more about the history of the building and how it was used than on his science, which would suit me.

I like your purse.

Day 3: As I was headed into the cathedral, a tour group was exiting. I stepped aside at the gate to let them all out and a lady stopped and began to talk to me with a shy sweet smile, indicating my little crossbody purse. I replied in English and her friend immediately stopped and began to talk to me. She now lives BACK in Poland, but lived in New Jersey for 27 years and her children still live there. However, she did not offer to translate for her friend who did NOT speak English. Ha! First Lady and I smiled at each other as they left to catch up with their tour group. I am pretty sure she was saying she liked my purse, not telling me to watch for pickpockets. LOL!

** Also after numerous trips to Europe, I somehow suddenly developed a liking for sparkling water.

Summary: I was sad about leaving Gdansk until I got to Torun. Two full days feels like plenty if you want to go at a relaxed pace like I do. But if you have less time, you could see a lot and get a good feel for it in 2 nights and one full day. I enjoyed all the museums, but it’s really about the history and the architecture. The train station is across the river and a 25 min walk from my hotel. There’s another station on the old town side of the river but it was even a little further for me - depends on where you are staying. Also when I arrived back at the station to leave, I entered a different way than I exited upon arrival (with lots of taxis).

Stayed: Gotyk Hotel, via booking.com. I had a single ensuite on the 3rd floor (4th floor in U.S. counting), with an elevator, created from four 14th century tenement houses joined together. Good breakfast buffet.

Ate: Chleb i Wino (Italian) - last night in re-reading forum reports I saw jules ended up here also!;
Luizjana Dwór Artusa (jambalaya, yes, I did);
and the best - Restauracja Mistrz i Małgorzata (3 deer pierogies on a bed of lentils - it just worked! This entree, a salad, a glass of wine and a charming interior - $14).

Cont.

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2827 posts

What I Did:

  • Walked the streets in the city center three or four or five times;
  • Copernicus Museum;
  • Gingerbread Museum (at Strumykowa 4);
  • St. John’s Cathedral (but not the dome);
  • Teutonic Castle ruins;
  • Museum of Torun (doesn’t necessarily get great reviews but I enjoyed it);
  • Walked along the riverfront - boat ride not running or I would have;
  • Stopped for coffee or ice cream or gingerbread whenever I felt like it. :)
Posted by
194 posts

What a delightful trip report! It’s bringing back so many wonderful memories of Poland. I first visited last October and was so enamored I went back at the end of April. Hopefully I get these recommendations to you in time for Wroclaw. If not, perhaps Galliegirlie can benefit when she visits. Wroclaw knocked my socks off.

Do NOT miss eating at Konspira. Not only is the food fantastic but the restaurant is a museum in itself steeped in history. If your lucky, they may seat you in the secret room behind the bookcase as I was one night. Google maps struggles to get you there. Just go to the far SW corner of Plac Solny (side square off the main Rynek) and there is an alleyway to it.
A great place to slip into for a snack or beverage is Przedwojenna or Prewar just off Rynek. It’s been preserved in a Prewar state and the prices just about match. Food is 12 zloty and drinks 8 zloty (3 and 2 dollars). Ask to try the vodka that they put milk in. It’s a hazelnut flavored vodka and not bad at all with milk.

The best donut I’ve ever eaten was from Nasza Paczkarnia by Hotel Monopol in Wroclaw.
For breakfast, go to Jolie Brasserie Cafe. Locals and tourists alike fill this place up.
CWsocial- I too ate at the tiny corner restaurant in the Hala Targowa market hall and loved it! More than I could eat for less than 5 dollars surrounded by locals.

Things in Wroclaw I’d recommend that weren’t on the regular lists of must sees are-
Ruska 46 (that’s the address) a few blocks west of Rynek is a must see at night. It’s a beautiful alley filled with old neon signs that are lit up magnificently.

I also enjoy seeing the Train to Heaven a bit further west.
I’d also recommend seeing the Panorama Radowice if not for this monumental painting but also for the history behind it. Lviv, Ukraine was part of Poland until after WWII when the people were re-located to Wroclaw (which was German) became Polish and the Germans were sent to Germany. There are deep Ukrainian roots here.

The free walking tour by Walkative was excellent in Wroclaw. I’m not always a fan of the freebies but this was an exception.

Hey, galliegirlie, in Gdańsk I would highly, highly recommend Mandu for pierogies. Best I’ve had in Poland. If you venture out to Sopot try to eat at Sliwka w Kompot. It’s delicious!
That’s it from me. Enjoy Poland!

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2827 posts

Oh, my goodness, thenosbigs. The only good thing about all this is that, since I can already tell my days are not going to be sufficient for Wroclaw (heading there Wednesday), I already know I will be back next summer…..Some things I already had on my list and I have added the rest! And I will be staying across the street from the donut place. 🤦🏻‍♀️ This could be bad news…. LOL!

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3374 posts

Excellent trip report! Your descriptions really make your travels come alive. Hoping this post gets as much traction as CW's excellent Turkish trip report.

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3628 posts

Aww, thank you, Carlos (where's the "blushing emoji"?)

Two full days feels like plenty if you want to go at a relaxed pace like I do.

Yes, I do want to go at a relaxed pace, so I pulled up my 2020 trip plan and it says "arrive Monday, leave Wednesday, maybe leave in afternoon to give me time to see one more museum in morning."

I've added a note to my plan: make sure I catch an afternoon train to enjoy a "relaxed pace" in Torun.

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2827 posts

Ah, thanks, Carlos! Not much could reach the heights of CW’s fun post about Turkey…… And I love people adding their tips, as well!

CW, what feels like it has worked well for me this trip is coordinating my train departure time with my check out time. (Since I have the luxury of not having to race to the next place - and early mornings are not my favorite part of the day.) I have decided travel day is just that - travel. This is especially true if I am staying in an apartment and not a hotel - it takes a bit more mental effort to get set there, even when everything works perfectly. (Trade off is usually worth it for me.)

Georgia on my mind.
Last night’s compliment to my waitress on the delicious fried pierogies (3 kinds) at a very busy restaurant, and my comment that they are very similar to Japanese gyoza (and Chinese and Korean varieties, she mentioned) brought forth her immediate recommendation for Georgia. I asked if she was from there and she said no, she just loves to go - food and wine are wonderful. I guess I will have to put Georgia on my list, also - and not just the Atlanta variety. 🤣

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3628 posts

coordinating my train departure time with my check out time

Yes! And bonus points if my train spans the gap to checkin at the next stop.

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194 posts

I almost forgot my most prized take away from Wroclaw. Something I broke my cardinal rule over at the very beginning of a three week trip that I’ve never been so happy I did. I bought not just a small article of clothing to pack in my backpack but a pair of shoes! Egad, was I crazy adding a third pair of shoes to my pack so early in the game? Absolutely not! I bought Beautiful, leather handmade in Poland comfortable walking sandals for around 40 bucks!
It started innocent enough. The shop was just around corner from the Radisdon where I stayed. I couldn’t help be enchanted by all the lovely styles and fun colors in the shop window. I paused at their window many times to admire. Somewhere around day three I gave in. I found myself shopping in earnest in this small shop. My only regret in hindsight is that I didn’t buy more than one pair. The comfort and quality is exceptional. I would highly recommend this shoe shop - Salon Uliczny Kacper. It’s just one block west of the Rynek by the Radisson. The brand name is Kacper with a website of KacperGlobal.pl with shops in Krakow, Katowice, Wroclaw and Zakopane. It makes me want to go back just to buy shoes! Best souvenir ever!

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3628 posts

Oh, thenosbigs, a pair of leather shoes made in Poland sounds like a fabulous souvenir! I'm going to see if they have a store in Warsaw! And make sure I pack my collapsible backpack.

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2827 posts

Saved the shoe store in Wroclaw on my maps, as well as the convenient (for me) location in Krakow. The pictures are very tempting! I don’t see one in Warsaw, though….. And I do have suitcase room. Ha!

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3628 posts

No, they don't mention Warsaw. I guess I'll "have" to go back to Krakow or Wroclaw, or better yet try one of the other new-to-me locations!

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2827 posts

Thank you, Barbara!

Warsaw - 4 nights in a hotel, 3 hr IC train ride (again in 1st because there was very little price difference)

Where on earth is my ticket?

Day 1: This morning on the train, I am watching the extremely polite, patient, and professional conductor waiting for the lady across from me to find her e-ticket. He has been back 4 times and the last time he rolled his eyes at me with a smile when I looked up. (I am trying to not look up - ha!) I think she saw and was not impressed. She has tried every email on her phone and now has her laptop pulled out looking. I, of course, am paranoid and have all mine saved on both my phone and my iPad in My Files. Fifth time - she found it.

** I wonder if this is the trip I accidentally clicked “no preference” on my seat. I am sitting facing backwards, at a table, with the lady across from me. I definitely prefer NOT at a table. Answer: I don’t know - but an hour in and now I am riding facing forward and I have not moved….. I wonder if they sell that seat reservation as a front-facing or a rear-facing. Ha!

Bits and Pieces

Day 2: It’s Sunday and supposedly Chopin in the Park free concert in Lazienki Park. I stood in front of my apartment and hollered for Uber and Lasha showed up in 2 minutes. I am always game to try a conversation, so at a stop light I asked if he was from Warsaw. Nope. He didn’t understand me. But he then asked where I was from. United States. Nope. Texas. Nope…. Next move he said “Georgia”. Aha! He is from Georgia! So I pulled out the good old Google translate with Georgian and read with horrible pronunciation “United States”. Oh! America! ~~ Yes, America (I should have thought of that). Then he started to talk to Google and what Google said to me was “I dream of America - take me with you!” 🤣 He laughed and I laughed. But it reminded me to be grateful for my life - and decide to tip more….. Coincidentally, my Uber driver back from the park was also from Georgia but his English was better and he didn’t mention dreaming about America. Lol.

Georgia seems to be a theme. :)

Not all Tourists are Polish

Still Day 2: After a nice walk through Lazienki Park, I made my way to the Chopin Monument about 10 min early for the 4:00 concert. Plenty of people waiting but I found a good place to sit. By 4:15, I had decided there would be no concert (plenty of people still waiting) but that I would give it till 4:30 just to be sure.

Lost in thought, I looked up to a nice lady about my age asking me about the concert. I didn’t understand her words but I knew what she was asking. As we struggled a bit, her son and his family walked up. Her son repeated the question in native sounding English. As it turned out, they are all from Belarus; he, his wife, and young son live in Warsaw but are moving to Chicago next week; and mom will go home to Belarus. Mom recently decided to learn English and was so happy to have someone to speak with, even if it was just a few minutes on a park bench.

**And I am always happy to have someone to talk to. 🤣

Anyone heard of Tajikistan?

I am going to admit I had no idea where that is. One of my last Uber drivers was from Tajikistan. I suspect he (and some others) may not speak Polish either - but they are good with voice Google Translate. After I figured out he was NOT saying Kazakhstan…. he told me he has been in Warsaw a year “for work” and his wife and children are still in Tajikistan (where they speak Tajik according to Google). I am seeing Warsaw (and maybe much of Poland?) with new eyes as a land of opportunity. I expected Ukrainians, but not all the rest.

** Uber thoughts: I have taken Uber a lot in Warsaw (as a deliberate decision) and will probably continue to do so. Sometimes someone is a taxi, as well as Uber, and sometimes not. Sometimes you have to walk a minute to a meeting place; sometimes not.

Cont.

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2827 posts

Summary:. Warsaw was not what I expected. I know I only saw a small portion of it, but I expected dismal, which it was not at all. It felt very livable. It was easy to get around, with plenty to see - but I didn’t feel like I had to cram it in. I think if anything, I leave with hope, knowing so much of it was bombed to the ground and it has been built back so beautifully. I just didn’t expect that.

Stayed: StyleEclectic Old Town Romantic House apartment through booking.com. This was a one bedroom apartment on the third floor, so up 2 flights of stairs with no elevator. I have to admit I am always a little nervous with apartments till I get inside - but this was such a nicely done apartment in an old building. Each piece of the instructions worked just as it should and I had everything I could need. Just downhill from the Castle Square - 5 min. walk.

Ate:

Zapiecek:. Polish. I had fried dumplings (combo of 3 kinds) and they were delicious (and very reasonable), but there were other traditional dishes available.

La Dolce Vita:. Italian. Not awful but overpriced and merely adequate, on the square by Warsaw Castle. I was just starved and expected overpriced but better food.

Momu: thanks to a recommendation by JC, I think. I had the barbecue ribs with vegetables and it was all very good!

Zapiecek: Yes, again, but a different location. Had the goulash with potato pancake and my new love - sour rye soup.

What I Did:

  • Attended the online SF East Bay travel meeting - ha!
  • Warsaw Castle;
  • Chopin in the park was cancelled (unannounced) due to a large event next door at the Pałac Belwederski (large police presence) but my wander through Lazienki Park was beautiful;
  • Polin Museum
  • Mila 18 Monument;
  • Evening Chopin piano concert at Sala Koncertowa Fryderyk;
  • Warsaw Cathedral Noon organ concert (recommend) - price included a visit to the crypt;
  • Maria Skłodowska-Curie Museum;
  • Walked through the Barbican and part of New Town (after I walked through the Barbican, it FELT like I was in a new town - few people!);
  • Sat and watched the fountains at the Multi-Media Fountain Park.
  • And breakfast/lunch meet up with fellow forum members Carol and Tony!
Posted by
3374 posts

I am seeing Warsaw (and maybe much of Poland?) with new eyes as a land of opportunity. I expected Ukrainians, but not all the rest.

Yes I have to agree! If only more Americans would come to this conclusion, sometimes I feel their image of Poland is somewhere between a WWII battlefield and a Communist industrial park.

While Poland is figuring out some societal issues at the moment, I've seen with my own eyes it has come a long way in the last 10-15 years in terms of infrastructure, quality of life, economic opportunity not just for local Poles but for many immigrants from the former "Second World" countries.

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3628 posts

meet up with fellow forum members Carol and Tony!

Yay, glad you all were able to connect!

Bummer about the concert. Your apartment sounds very well located.

And sour soup.... oh yes, love it!!

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2827 posts

Carlos, I have to admit that was kind of my perception of Warsaw pre-trip. And now I wonder why…. An out of date perception, for sure.

Posted by
1401 posts

Yes, it was a great to meet TexasTravelMom in person! A fun way to start our Poland visit. And thanks, TexasTravelMom for your trip report. I've been enjoying it!

Posted by
2827 posts

Shoes I am sad to report that the shoe store thenosbigs recommended really did have nice shoes. And they did not have my size in the pair I wanted to buy. Or online. Maybe in Krakow…..

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2827 posts

Wroclaw:
3 nights in a hotel, 5 hr IC train ride in 2nd. There was a bit of a price difference between 1st & 2nd on this trip. 5 hrs is kind of long but the 1 hr faster train would have gotten me there 2 hours later and, with a choice, I dislike arriving in a new city at night.

History lessons

My Walkative tour group had only 12 people: me, 2 Swedish couples, 5 Germans, and 2 I missed. Much of the history our guide talked about had to do with all the different rulers, occupiers, and countries claiming the city through the centuries, of course. As part of the information, she talked about the division following WWII, with Wroclaw being taken from Germany and given to Poland - and that the Germans were made to leave forcibly and quickly. Their homes were then taken by Ukrainian Poles who were made to leave Lviv just as quickly.

Most of my conversations were with a woman about my age from near Heidelberg and a young girl from northern Germany: both with roots in that forced move. The older woman’s mother was 6 at the time and remembers the happenings and asked her daughter to visit and take and compare photos then and now. The younger girl’s grandmother also moved but it was more being economically-forced than politically, she thought. I just thought it was interesting to meet two people on the same tour directly illustrating that part of the history.

In addition, they separately asked me, “Why Poland?” Which is a question I have heard a number of times. Even my youngest daughter, who travels a lot, asked me that a week or so ago. So I have some practice in answering. 🤣 Part of the answer is that I only know one person in real life (my second daughter) who has been here. So it was unknown and felt like a bit of a challenge, as well as a good place to travel slowly.

None of my story is interesting - but the part that WAS interesting was they agreed between themselves that Poland isn’t exactly a top destination for Germans (although the tour guide said Germany, Netherlands, and the UK were her top 3 tourist countries). They said people asked them “Why Poland?” also.

Common Heritage

Another observation from the tour: the guide mentioned that Wroclaw itself had welcomed in 300,000 Ukrainians since Feb. 24. It reminded me of one of the signs in the History of the Second World War Museum in Gdansk: “In the first year of the war, the Soviet Union attacked Poland and Finland. In 1940, it annexed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as two regions of Romania. The Soviet Union seized a total of six sovereign countries. Its goal was to Sovietize the lands, i.e., to merge them with the Soviet Union socially, politically, and economically. This policy was put into effect with terror aimed at leadership elites and ‘class enemies’, mass deportations and omnipresent Communist propaganda.” Small wonder Poland has stepped up.

English

If I have given anyone the impression English is not widely-spoken, I am taking it back. I am hearing some very good English. However, it it still true that everyone begins a conversation or a welcome in Polish and then will move to English. I do think I have heard more and better English in Warsaw and Wroclaw than Gdansk and Torun, though. That’s kind of what I thought might happen, though.

Continued…..

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Stayed: Hotel Traffic Wroclaw Stare Miasto, single room, elevator, very functional and comfortable but not much charm.

Ate:
Brusco for pizza, by the hotel after a late arrival. It was good, but I chose it for convenience.

Wroclawska (light lunch of sour rye soup) recommended by CWSocial;
Ukraińska Knajpa later for a Ukrainian dinner of borscht and potato cakes.

Konspira - pork cutlet, beets, fancy shredded cooked cabbage (this description does not do it justice) and for the atmosphere (recommended by the walking tour guide and I think on TA).

Nasza Pączkarnia for donuts; Bohema Caffe Wrocław for cake and coffee; and Cocofli outside the smaller old town for an interesting wine bar setting.

What I Did:

  • Walked much of the old town my first day, getting oriented, plus had a bit of work to do;
  • An Old Town Walkative tour 2 1/2 hrs - yes, I join others in recommending and will probably take one in Krakow;
  • Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the elevator (plus 55 steps) up the tower for the views;
  • Panorama of the Battle of Racławice Muzeum: whatever I expected, this wasn’t it. I thought it was really cool. Timed entrance (but I didn’t reserve) and 30 minutes inside. English audio guide was good.
  • St Elizabeth of Hungary church - but I did not climb the tower; slightly unusual stained glass and a beautiful organ loft;
  • Took the tram once to figure out the process - easy with tapping.

Summary: Lots of water. :) Once again, I find myself impressed with spaces to sit and relax and enjoy a view. And there are plenty of views. The gnomes were fun to watch for and their history was interesting. It was sad that Wroclaw escaped bombing during the active part of WWII, only to be badly damaged in a 90 day period as the war was ending. There were several things I would like to have done or seen, so I am glad I know I will be back for a couple of days next summer.

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3628 posts

Small wonder Poland has stepped up.

Love your observations on the Common Heritage and the sign in Gdansk. I find Poland fascinating for these cultural perspectives.

And it really is very easy, and inexpensive, to travel there, including solo. Thanks for taking me back for a little memory tour of Wroclaw!

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13820 posts

On "why Poland ?" That question was asked to me by Polish-Americans manning the booths at the Polish Festivals in SF. I went to several of them over the years here in SF, always were held in Golden Gate Park.

Why go to visit Poland? Lots of historical and geographical reasons aside from the obvious WW2 reasons. Never came away from any of my visits there, even in border towns just across the Oder, let alone Warsaw, Gdansk, Torun, Krakow, etc feeling that my time there had been wasted. Quite the contrary...happy memories.

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@Fred & CW, I agree. I will come away with happy memories. :)

Conversations with myself?

I picked up a car at the airport leaving Wroclaw (I learned to say Vrashlav…) for the next week. Yesterday I drove to Klodzko (about an hour and a half) and toured the fortress. The weather has turned pretty chilly and you can see the leaves just beginning to change colors. I may have to buy a coat.

I have been watching my Uber drivers in anticipation and have found driving simple (so far). Leaving Wroclaw, I drove a 4 lane highway for a while before turning off onto a 2 lane road through the country. Although there was quite a bit of traffic, I stuck to the signed speed limit (probably to the aggravation of those behind me) and pulled over often to let cars, or lines of cars, pass me. No toll roads till the end of the week. Google Maps has done well for me so far. I have it plugged into the car from my phone, so my map is large on my car video screen and the verbal directions are on the car audio.

I had marked a parking lot below the fortress and it really was easy - and parking was even free! Someone left an open spot just for me. :) Then it was a 5-7 min walk uphill to the fortress, which was very interesting. I spent a little over an hour (could maybe have spent 2) and then went back down the hill for a nice lunch on the main square of Klodzko.

Then it was an easy drive on to my hotel. Which I will cover at the end of this week. :)

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3374 posts

Glad you enjoyed Kłodzko and its stunning Prussian fortress. When I was there in September a few years ago it was basically deserted and totally open to explore, fascinating but quite eerie considering it was used by the Gestapo in WWII.

On a lighter note, the best pierogi I've ever had in Poland was at the restaurant of Villa Polanica (https://villapolanica.pl/menu), in the old spa town of Polanica-Zdrój where I stayed during my time in the area

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13820 posts

If one wants to visit a historical fortress complex in Poland, I would suggest going to Modlin not far from Warsaw,

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@ Fred, oh sad! I am past the Warsaw area so have missed Modlin. I am hopeful comments here, though, will help future travelers.

@Carlos, Klodzko Fortress had a few sightseers - maybe since I was there on a Saturday (and I think they had a special day of some additional tunnels opened for tours in Polish). But it was far from crowded!

I had saved the link to your photo album from your 2017 trip and looked at it again last night and was so happy to recognize some of the places (not just the fortress). 😊 And I have marked the restaurant - a recommendation for the best pierogies is something to make a detour for. Ha! It has been a little rainy and cold, which has made me lazier about getting out and around in the mornings but I am loving every minute.

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Swidnica Peace Church and Jawor Peace Church

I am staying in Swidnica and was here on Sunday so I took advantage of the opportunity to attend services at the Peace Church of Swidnica at 10am. I had not yet been inside and was at once in love with the interior. I won’t really try to describe the interior except to say that the alter area was all white and gold and there are four rows of galleries on either side (think an opera house) with a large organ at the back and seating on the ground level, of course. There was a congregation of about 60 in attendance and it was a delight to experience what it was truly built for. On the website, it says it has had continual services since 1657. It is stunning. As the service began, I thought that a smaller organ near the alter would be used - but no, it was the large one. :) The services are Lutheran, of course, and in Polish (but when has that stopped me -ha!) but I could pick up enough references to know exactly what the sermon was about - the same as one I attended in England for evensong in July. Lol! This was a really lovely experience.

As an unfortunate contrast, Monday I drove to Jawor (about 40-45 minutes through peaceful countryside and towns) to visit the other Peace Church there. From the outside, it looks much the same with the same beautiful park-like area around it. Once inside, you could see that it had been built in the same style and if I had visited it first, most likely my impressions would have been different. However, it did not seem to have had the same care (maybe not the income for restoration or maintenance) - a neglected feel to it. It had the feeling of a building that has almost been left alone too long…... There was restoration work going on in one area, though, so hopefully gradually it will be brought back to life. Coffee and ice cream afterwards thanks to a little sign language and some smiles.

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Interesting comparison. Since I only visited one, I'm glad it was Świdnica. Carlos and other forum members steered me well!

Very cool that you attended a service and got to hear the organ!!

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Ksiaz Castle: This was a fascinating day - and I could have spent more time than I did (because of weather). I bought the all day ticket and the first part of it was a guided tour (the only way) in a portion of underground tunnels Hitler ordered built - and they still aren’t sure what the purpose would have been had they been completed and had the war not ended. The tour had only Polish speakers and me (this is a common theme) and I had an excellent audioguide that even timed out almost exactly with the explanations given in Polish by the in-person guide. (He asked about German, Ukrainian, and Czech speakers before getting to English….so they would have gotten audioguides as well, I assume.)

Then I toured the castle - a large amount was tourable and it had an excellent audioguide as well. I had lunch on the grounds. When I finished the castle, it had begun to rain quite a bit so as much as I wanted to tour the adjacent Stud Farm (and the nearby Palm House), I reluctantly called it a day since I still had a 25 minute drive.

From reviews, it sounds like this gets crowded and underground tours hard to come by - but I walked right in with no wait at all. There were people there, but it was far from crowded and I didn’t see any tour groups.

Stayed: 5 nights in Swidnica at Barokowy Zakatek. This small hotel is actually on the grounds of the Peace Church in Swidnica and I absolutely loved it. I had a room on the ground floor with lots of space, arches throughout, and a large bathroom. Breakfast was included, although I think you can reserve without breakfast. However it was served at your table, on a white cloth tablecloth, more food than I could possibly eat on my table alone, plus daily fresh squeezed orange juice. All by 2 lovely ladies who seemed to do everything. One spoke no English and one spoke a little - she said she spoke German. We did well, though. She gave me free run of a washing machine, showing me how to use it. You cannot imagine a more peaceful setting.

Ate: 3 times at 7niebo - a very small restaurant right at the entrance to the grounds. While the food was good, what I loved was the atmosphere and decor.

2 times at Brûlée Bistro. A small relatively new place close to the city square. It was both good and cute!

Summary: I really like Swidnica as a small comfortable town with plenty of places to eat (even though I just went to the same ones, there were lots of others) and easy driving to other places in the area. I actually liked it so much that I explored other areas less than I had intended to.

That said, there really just felt like there were few people visiting this area. Theme of my September so far.

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Your little hotel in Świdnica sounds delightful! Did they have parking? I haven't driven in Poland but it sounds like an easy base for doing so.

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CW, they DID have free parking. I drove right in on the cobblestones right beside the centuries-old cemetery. And except for worrying about the toll roads as I headed toward Krakow, driving was easy.

Jasna Gora

It was a 3 1/2 hour drive (4 for me because I frequently pull over and let faster drivers past, plus a bathroom stop) from Swidnica. I love driving through countryside, so this might sound like torment for some people but for me it is heavenly and better than a lot of museums. I tend to choose smaller (and slightly slower) roads so I see more along the way.

I had read that the Black Madonna “was unveiled at 6am and at 1:30pm”. No idea what that meant but I thought I should try for 1:30. Now I think maybe it means there is a special mass in the small chapel (it began at 1:30) and people can file past before and after to see better, as I went back around 3:00 and it was still unveiled. I should say again, I am not Catholic but this was so fascinating. It was a somewhat small chapel filled with, in the end, about 150 people (I have seen photos of many more) there to worship and pay their respects to the painting and its meaning. I then wandered through the Treasury, the large and extremely ornate sanctuary, and one of the museums (where I was actually offered a tour with a group of English tourists there somewhere - the nun said they were waiting on a guide to come).

Two hours, though, and I was on overload - so much to process visually. All free, easy parking with a small donation of whatever as you leave. There were about 15 busses in the parking lot and there were a nice amount of people, but it was NOT full or crowded.

1 night in Częstochowa: Hotel Scout. OK, leaving Swidnica I had one night left and 3 directions I wanted to go….. and therefore no reservation because I kept waffling. Wednesday I finally made the above decision and then made a reservation at the Grand Częstochowa for after the monastery. Which when I got there, wasn’t so grand…. Apparently I forgot to look at the date for the photos on both booking.com and Google maps, because I couldn’t even see the hotel the first time I drove past (I was about to blame Google Maps) and the second time I drove past, it looked closed and long-since abandoned. After finding it, I then thought I had been scammed but decided probably not - “but this is just not going to work” - something I have never done before.

So I stopped in a next door parking lot, popped open my handy booking.com app, and somehow noticed I was sitting in the parking lot of a new and perfectly good hotel attached to a large exercise center. Which I promptly booked. Walked into the lobby 10 min later and was ready to go. Plus I was still within the extremely lenient cancellation window, so the help desk via message at booking.com cancelled the other room for me (when it would not cancel on the app). Whew!

Next Krakow!

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3374 posts

Shame about the weather... quite unseasonable for September, especially around lower Silesia which has statistically the best weather in Poland. My friends in Krakow joked father Christmas must have come early, snow fall was reported in the high Tatras close to Zakopane in the last week.

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2827 posts

@Carlos, weather is weather. :) It HAS been rainy and a bit cold. But the last 2 days have been wonderful. :)

Would you like to rethink that?

I arrived at the Krakow airport to turn in my car (I only had to buy one extra parking ticket to get myself out of parking prison caused by taking a wrong turn - or actually, NOT taking a turn). By the time I got to the top level of the parking garage, I admit to a little driving overload and mentally decided I didn’t care about cost - I would just take a taxi to my hotel…..instead of the airport train and then the tram.

After doing all the necessary checking and chatting with the really nice young guy at Enterprise, I asked for the way down from the top floor corner where I was - and then asked if I could get a taxi into town from there. He looked at me. And I could feel it. Lol!

It was only a second of pause and he replied, “Yes, but you can also take the train.” And I knew exactly what he was thinking. So I inwardly caved and asked about the location. And he was right - it actually could not have been easier. Signs, ticket machine in English, tap and pay, train sitting there waiting, and I was early, so there was plenty of seating. And I did not explore Krakow Glowny but followed a sign for trams and Old City - and came up right at my tram stop with a 3 minute wait till the next tram. (I don’t care how much I research, I do not take NOT getting lost in a station for granted.)

I thought about buying my tram ticket at the machine right there on the street but decided to use my tap and pay card after I boarded. On board, you can either validate your paper ticket or pay for a ticket - 2 different machines, so it took a minute to see it. Third stop and I was across the street!

He was absolutely right.

Tourism looking better?

I checked in to my hotel here in Krakow, and as the young man working carried my suitcase up 2 flights of stairs for me, I asked if they were busy. He said, yes - that things were picking up again. He said “When the war started, everything stopped. But now is ok.” I am staying on the third floor (U.S. counting) of a 14th century building in the heart of Kazimierz and I am finally seeing people at breakfast again. There are 5 rooms on my floor and I met a young couple (and their escaped kitty) on my second morning - otherwise I might feel I have the whole floor to myself! Getting to pet the kitty was a bonus. :)

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2747 posts

Sounds like you are having a great time, Poland is down the list for us, but the uncrowded part sounds divine.

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3494 posts

Thanks for your report. I'm really enjoying reading about your experiences across Poland. I had a 2-week trip to Poland planned for fall 2020 -- just Gdansk and Warsaw. We all know what happened to that. Previously, I have been to Krakow and Zakopane. I hope to get back to Poland in the next few years. Your trip report heightens my desire to get back!

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2827 posts

Thanks, Tammy and Dave!

Tammy, I don’t know if it is always like this, but this month surely is. I like uncrowded but I have to admit I am happy to see Krakow just feeling alive - not crowded at all, but more like what I think of as off-season travel. I suspect that the war in Ukraine really has done a number on potential traveler perceptions.

Dave, with your interest in WWII sites, I bet Gdansk and Warsaw would definitely be of interest. And both places surprised me with how much I liked them, just as cities. I won’t make it to Zakopane this trip. Maybe that future trip when I visit Slovakia and maybe eastern Hungary….. seems like it could make a nice big loop.

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TexasTravelmom--

You are exactly correct that the WWII interest draws me to Gdansk and to Warsaw. I like WWI history and Cold War history, too. So... there is much to draw me to Poland.

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Finding the music:
I am staying at the Klezmer Hois in the center of Kazimierz. It would not be an overstatement to say I love it and that a week here is not going to be too long.

One of their popular tourist draws is a nightly klezmer concert along with dinner. Yesterday morning I made a reservation with my precious breakfast server but when I showed a bit early last night, I was seated in their normal dining room. Apparently a group of 20 had cancelled and then called to come anyway, with 5 minutes notice. The waitresses were a little frantic as they were short-staffed and we enjoyed some funny conversation about the difficulties, as they did their best. (I did witness a little “American privilege” as service was slower than what someone wanted). I chose an easy dinner and told her I could come a different night since I am here all week - but was assured “tonight was good”. I put it all down to perhaps communication issues and didn’t worry. I could hear the music begin in the big room as I ate. Then shortly, here come the musicians into my small room - performing the same music right in front of my table! It was like my own private concert! (Ok, there were 4 others there also.)

Back and forth the musicians went (no intermission for them), but it was absolutely the most fun! With only 5 people in the room, it was even ok to have a bit of conversation, as well as music. What would have been good unexpectedly turned into something even better!

Breakfast Feast:
My first morning here, I walked into what looked almost like it it could have been a breakfast buffet for a crowd, instead of an array for only me set at a table for only me. I am on a mission to persuade my breakfast server to stop putting so much food on my table - I can’t eat it all! She is on a mission to persuade me I need it all. LOL! Today I only ate part of the cake - which I can already tell means she is going to give me something different to try tomorrow.

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3628 posts

Nightly music with dinner and a Polish breakfast buffet for one ... yes please!!

A week in Krakow sounds dreamy!!

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327 posts

Loving this trip report!! I just decided to spend 2 1/2 weeks in Czech Republic and Poland next May-June, so taking lots of notes. I worked/lived in Prague 1994-95 but haven’t been back since. While there I visited Krakow twice and Zakopane. Want to revisit some loved places but also some new.

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2827 posts

Till Next Time
I left Krakow Friday after a week there. I did some of the typical tourist things and a lot not. It’s ok. I am beginning to define exactly what I enjoy in new places.

Stayed

Klezmer Hois: a 14th century tenement house in Kazimierz facing the small Remuh Synagogue and just down the cobblestone street from the Old Synagogue - now a museum.

I had a small living room, with separate bedroom, and private bathroom directly across the hall. I was up 2 flights of stairs, in the former attic, heating but maybe no air con (I used neither), full of antique furniture, with a massive breakfast. In addition to the restaurant with a nightly often sold out Klezmer concert, it apparently also serves as a local publishing house (think books stacked in every place on the bottom floor you see). I saw groups of people who had to be local gather for coffee and some who seemed to be there in small groups for some kind of work. The owner had his office across the hall from the small dining room and would run in and out talking to people he knew - or taking care of questions.

This place is not for everyone, but I can’t imagine a better place for me. I love quirk, charm, unique, friendly, and homey. It will go down in my travel history as one of my best finds.

Ate: (all but the pizza I found on TA)
Kazimierz
Marchewka z Groszkiem: A small traditional Polish restaurant for cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat in a mushroom sauce
Starka | Restaurant & Vodkas: for a massive hamburger and a small taste of one of their many homemade vodkas. I had raspberry, but the manager told me her favorite when she comes with friends is the coconut and the horseradish (separate flavors but she likes them in conjunction).
Fabryka Pizzy: ok, one night I just REALLY wanted pizza in a pizza place. It was just what I needed.

Old Town:
Old Town Restaurant and Wine Bar: a pricier place for traditional Polish and delicious, for zarak (sour soup) and pork loin.
Szał Cafe: for something to drink and views from atop the Cloth Hall over the main square looking at St Mary’s.

Saw/Did:

  • Walkative’s Old Jewish Area Walking Tour;
  • Wawel Cathedral;
  • Wawel Castle (even though in the same area, they are separate tickets);
  • Kościół św. Bernardyna ze Sieny w Krakowie;
  • St Mary's Basilica (I didn’t climb the tower);
  • St Peter & Paul - on a separate day, I attended an evening concert here and loved it. There is one every evening.
  • Small churches and chapels as I walked;
  • The old Remuh Synagogue and cemetery;
  • An amazing spa day - oh, and bought a pair of Polish shoes that I have already comfortably walked many miles in.

Summary
You could definitely see the main sites and get a feel for Krakow in less time than I spent, but I had a really great week just being there. Right now they are mainly getting European tourists, so there is plenty of room for Americans!

Now off for 2 weeks in Budapest!

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3374 posts

Excellent way to cap off your trip to Poland, you've definitely seen a lot, I'm hoping Poland has lived up to the hype lol! Thank you so much for sharing it's been very interesting following along :)

And now that you have seen the "essentials" of Poland next time you are in the area you can dive deeper into some of the lesser know spots... the Tatra Mountains, the Royal Renaissance towns of Eastern Poland, the vast Masurian Lakes District to name a few.

As you continue your journey you can be proud that all the time and capital you spent in Poland is assisting her efforts to help the Ukrainian people.

PS: enjoy Budapest, a city I have yet to visit!

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2827 posts

Shelly, lucky you to have lived in Prague! Yes, a mix of old and new is fun, isn’t it?

Carlos, I really enjoyed my trip - I do realize how much I haven’t seen. Lol! The Tatras and in fact, the whole east side of the country in particular for me. I wanted to figure out how to made a circuit of the wooden churches and see Sandomierz and Zalipie….. but wasn’t ready to cut anywhere else. But I am also glad I didn’t race through, either. Choices….. ha!

Yes, Ukraine was an interesting topic a few times. The common history and the way Poland is housing and feeding, etc. - and there was one of my Uber drivers in Krakow, in his upper 60’s, I would guess. From his name, I suspected he was Ukrainian, but I asked if he spoke English. I could tell that was a no. But then he said “Ukraini”. We struggled for a few minutes with communicating, but then he said “Home.” And made a sign with his hands to indicate it was all gone.

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100 posts

TexasTravelmom, I have so enjoyed reading your travel journal from your trip to Poland. I absolutely LOVE Poland. I have been there twice, the last time this past May on Rick Steves inaugural Best of Poland tour. It was amazing. Some of your report brought back memories of places visited on the tour and some of your report made me want to go back and visit sites I haven't seen yet. I am fascinated with your itinerary and will bookmark this thread. I have one question and one suggestion for you should you ever go back to Gdansk. A wonderful museum to visit is the Solidarity museum. If you are old enough to remember Lech Walesa and the dock workers strike in 1980, you will appreciate this museum. The strike is considered the first truely massive social uprising in the Communist satellite countries and was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. It is located at the dockyards and is very well organised.
My questions is this; it's seems that you used the trains in the beginning of your trip and then switched to renting a car. Is there a reason you did this? Just wondering if for some reason the car was a better option as you headed South.

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15159 posts

I read it and I have a lot of comments, but the quick summary is: I AM JEALOUS. Lets just leave it at that.

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2827 posts

Thank you, Mister E. :) You should definitely at least make a jump to Krakow some time while you are in the area. There’s a direct inexpensive flight from Budapest, I think. :)

lisa, thank you. I switched to a car when I was heading out to my stay in Swidnica. There were a lot of small towns I looked at for a base, many of which would have been hard to do without one. (I just stopped looking when I found out I could stay next door to the Peace Church.) With another week, I would definitely have kept it and followed some of the wooden churches and stopped at those towns east of Krakow I wanted to see. I can’t say how hard it would have been to get to Klodzko or to Ksaiz or to Jawor without one, but I suspect much more difficult. And Ksaiz was top of that list worth the trouble. Can you go everywhere? No. So would someone have a great trip without a car and those stops? Absolutely. Driving was not hard, but I drive rural Texas and it was much the same. More traffic but lower speeds. The only thing at all that stressed me was figuring out toll roads and toll booth procedures - and that was just a knowledge/research thing.

I did have the Solidarity Museum on my list and somewhat regret I didn’t get there. I definitely remember Lech Walesa! So were I to go back, it would be next. For me, this turned into a slower “be there” trip, so I ended up with a number of things and places from my list that I didn’t make it to. :)

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3374 posts

@lisa - Once you get outside of the main cities in Poland renting a car is invaluable, to explore the towns/villages, national parks, castles of Poland, public transportation is not so reliable in the countryside.

I believe I had recommended this to TexasTravelmom as she was specifically planning on visiting the Kłodzko Valley, a rural area in southern Poland that juts into Czechia.

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100 posts

TexasTravelMom and Carlos, thank you both for your answers regarding train vs car. I had a feeling it was to facilitate getting to the smaller towns and villages. I have no qualms driving in Poland. I figure if I can get the hang of driving in rural England (which I have) and up in the mountains of Austria (which I have) I would hope I could handle Poland!

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15159 posts

lisa, I admire you.
I know I am a coward, but i did try once in South Africa...... not a pleasant experience for me or those I "came into contact" with.
I will just hire a driver, taxi or take uber for now on.
Actually in SA the driver with the Audi was less expensive per day than the rental car I destroyed.

But I do admire and am jealous of folks like you.

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3374 posts

Hi Lisa, I think you'll be fine driving in Poland. I've almost always picked up a rental car on my way out of Krakow or Katowice airport to explore the countryside. In the many years I've visited Poland I've had no negative incidents in terms of driving.

A rental car gives you the flexibility to do more off the beaten path daytrips, for example here's my trip report from a lesser-known daytrip I did with a rental car from Krakow visiting the trail of the Eagles' Nest Castles: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/new-daytrip-from-krakow-eagle-s-nest-castle-trail

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3328 posts

TexasTravelmom, great report! I've just added Poland to my list! And I love how you focus on the people.

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2827 posts

Yes, lisa, driving was on the right side, with lower speeds, and yes - I had read about Polish drivers and passing on the smaller roads - but really, I guess that warning is for more inexperienced drivers. I should have researched what the toll booth symbols looked like to save a little anxiety. However, I guessed correctly so I didn’t have to find out what happens if you don’t! Lol. But like so many other things - tap and pay wins the day! Follow the sign that looks like it has a person and a WiFi symbol! I will say, I found I definitely needed to add more time than what Google Maps told me - more so than other countries where I have driven. But I rarely had a deadline.

Mardee, I don’t know exactly what I expected but I did enjoy it. However, lots of people don’t have as much time as I do - and you can have a great visit in a shorter length of time, too. And it WAS inexpensive, I thought. Lots of German tourists.

I don’t know if I will actually have a “next time” but if I do, I have a “next time” list ready.

Posted by
13820 posts

Hi,

Thanks very much indeed for an enlightening , interesting and organised report detailing your trip to Torun and Gdansk, they bring back lovely memories. You stayed in the same hotel in Torun as did we in 2005. I found out about that hotel in Rough Guide Poland which was one of the two books we used to put together our trips to Poland, the book was Lonely Planet.

In 2003 was our second trip to Poland, this time only to Gdansk and Malbork, the Mrs and I also stayed in the Old Town , 5 nights in a Pension, took about 20 minutes or so to walk there from the Gdansk central station. We were helped in this by a Polish boy of 12, outside the station who spotted us as obvious visitors and asked if we needed help. Very kind and mature of him. He didn't address us in English or German, obviously fine too, but in French.

We lucked out since the Mrs. speaks fluent French, he was learning French in school. Thanks to the boy's directions, we found out how to get to the Pension on foot with luggage in tow. When we got there, the two old women running the Pension did not speak English at all, only Polish, German, and Russian. (They weren't really friendly either). So, we did all the check in business in German. Next morning the breakfast room staff were more pleasant and nice.

Posted by
2827 posts

Oh, thank you, Fred! I can’t remember if I found the hotel in Torun through booking.com or Google Maps (because I basically use both to start with), but I thought it was pretty delightful (and old).

It sounds like you have had two good trips! And good memories.

Posted by
2093 posts

Thanks for the great trip report. It made me reflect on my grandpa who got out of Poland during WWI hiding in a cartload of hay. He was trying to avoid the war! He was actually German not Polish, however.

Posted by
13820 posts

Hi,

When we were in Gdansk and Torun on these two separate trips in July 2003 and July 2005, we did a day trip from each by train or bus, ie, from Gdansk to Malbork by train and from Torun to Chelmno by bus. There are two places by that name, the infamous one which was one of the six death camps and the other located in the lower Vistula area, northwest of Torun. We went this one in the lower Vistula, walked ca. 40 mins from Hotel Gotyk to the bus depot. A lot buses there serving numerous towns. The crowd of passengers waiting there were all locals.

I would suggest (next time !) that you see one of these small towns in the lower Vistula, culturally and sociologically revealing and interesting. The visitors you do see were Polish, and some Germans, which stands to reason. The restaurant menu in Chelmno was in Polish, German and English. Our waitress spoke all three languages.

Some towns like Gniew escaped the war in 1944 unscathed and intact. The Soviets bypassed these towns.

Posted by
2827 posts

Thanks, all! I love hearing the stories from everyone else - the different family history, personal connections, and experiences. This combined knowledge makes this forum great!

Posted by
3628 posts

AMann, I love the story of your grandfather! I can so relate as I have a "grandfather departs under sketchy circumstances" story of my own. If they only knew how well things turned out for us in the "new country"!

Posted by
13820 posts

Hi,

On seeing foreign tourists: In Gdansk we only saw German tourists , which stands to reason, likewise in Chelmno on that bus day trip from Torun. Only in Krakow did I see American tourists in the large Rynek.

The locals know exactly that you are visiting whether or not you are in the so-called tourist areas or not, which we also walked into in Torun and Chelmno. These examples admittedly are a bit dated, ie., 2001, 2003, and 2005.