I’m not much of a writer and so many of you are very good at telling your stories, but here are just some tips and suggestions for the planning overthinkers out there, which I tried not to be but definitely am. The original plan was to do a long weekend tour to Bialowieza Forest. That got cancelled a few months before I left and the timing didn’t work to reschedule another one, so I added a couple nights in Zakopane but filled in the other nights with the cities I was already going to. There is plenty in them to keep busy without having to move around as much. The forest will be on the list for next time.
CLOTHES: You can all stop worrying about clothes. Europeans, both the locals and the vacationers dress as terribly as we do when it’s lucifer-hot and they aren’t going to work. Go ahead and pack your printed t-shirts, your baseball caps, whatever tennis shoes don’t make you want to die at the end of a long day. Men, if you’ve ever wanted to try capris, now is your chance. Fanny packs are fine. (Just don’t wear them correctly. Apparently, no one has explained to the youths what a “fanny” is). Rejoice! And wear whatever you want.
ENGLISH: is wide-spread at hotels, restaurants, random people on the street. No everyone will be able to help, of course, but they are certainly better at English than I am at Polish. I tried to learn but failed. I think Poland designed their language to annoy all the neighbors that keep invading it.
BOOKS: are a terrible souvenir. They’re heavy and we can get them here. I buy them anyway. I may be the only one because most of the museums didn’t have much selection in foreign languages, i.e. English.
TRANSPORTATION: The high-speed trains have a/c. The less expensive TLK ones do not. This matters in the summer. I didn’t buy ahead since I wanted to be flexible, but for reference, the price was about 50pln to buy early and 150pln last minute from Gdansk-Warsaw and Warsaw-Krakow. Also, if you write down directions using the trains in Gdansk, don’t then buy tickets for the tram. These are different things with different stops and you’ll get lost. But then again, you may get to see something you hadn’t planned on! I used Google maps offline (no public transit) and Here Maps offline (public transit but not always accurate). Neither of these were great with transit but better than nothing. Use them to get started and then look at the signs at the stops when you get where you’re going to check return trips and take a picture. This is especially needed in Krakow where the maps, even when online, had no idea what was going on with transit. But there are trams going everywhere so it shouldn’t be a big problem once you get out of the train station. The Krakow train station sucks. Can I say that? It does. I had a heck of a time figuring this one out so allow a little extra time when using it or the bus station. Generally, the cities had great transit (unless foreign politicians are visiting and mess everything up). But what I really liked were the intersections with no signals! This is very exciting if you are into cities, trust me. As far as I can tell, the trams have the right-of-way, cars stop for pedestrians and bikes, and then the cars figure it out amongst themselves. The cars do almost always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, which takes getting used to. The fine for not stopping must be enormous or they are just much better drivers than we are.