The first leg of the long journey home started by leaving London for Poland. I decided to make good use of the 5 weeks of travel I had before heading back to Australia by heading to places I hadn’t been to yet and having experiences I hadn’t experienced yet. Fortunately for the first 3 weeks I was accompanied by a friend who was also making her way home to New Zealand.
I said good bye to my flat at 5am, the sun just coming up, and made my way to Stansted airport, one last early morning flight out of London. Landing in Warsaw the sky was blue and the sun was warm, just the beginning of my summer in Europe. I met with my friend and we found out hostel, right in the middle of Central Warsaw. A quick outfit change (I was dressed for an early morning in London, not a warm afternoon in Poland) and with the advice of our hostel receptionist, we wandered along the Main Street that leads to Warsaw Old Town. We stopped at a highly recommened Polish restaurant to try the traditional Polish dish, pierogies, with homemade ‘lemonade’, a refreshing local drink. Pierogies are polish dumplings, fried or steamed, filled with all sorts of deliciousness. I chose the meat and sauerkraut Pierogies with bacon gravy. 9 dumplings and I struggled to finish them all! thoroughly satisfied we continued our wandering, checking out the tourist filled streets of the Old Town.
Back to the main square out the front of the Old Town to start the day with a free walking tour, something I attempt to go on in majority of cities/towns I visit. We learnt alot about Warsaw’s history, specifically the Warsaw Uprising, on the 75th anniversary of the Uprising. A day to reflect back and remember Poland and Warsaw’s history,of the day that lead them to the city they are today! The Main Street through central Warsaw was closed off, the crowds gathered and a moments silent was had. This was added to by red flares going off, covering the crowds in smoke, no visibility for a minute, just a loud thrumming noise increasing nearby. This effect giving the senses a feel of what it would have been like on that day 75 years previous. To continue the anniversary there was live music after dark, not a word of it we understood.
Continuing with the Warsaw Uprising theme we lined up for the Uprising Museum in East Warsaw and it was worth it! So much information, history and stories of the people, the war the city and the times surrounding the Warsaw Uprising. Back to Old Town for more Pierogies, this time dessert dumplings with custard sauce. Like I mentioned earlier, Polish Dumplings can be filled with just about anything. The sweet ones were great but I think I’ll stick with the traditional savoury Pierogies.
We’d chosen to travel through Europe via bus and train as much as possible to save our money for other things (like food and drinks). This meant an early morning to get the bus to Krakow in the south of Poland. For anyone wanting to travel on the cheap through Europe and aren’t too concerned about long hours on a bus (don’t worry they have toilets on board), then I’d highly recommend FlixBus to you. From Warsaw to Krakow it cost us only 4 quid each and we slept through the majority of that early bus ride.
Krakow is known for its night life so we made sure to book a party hostel right in Old Town, though I may have regretted that choice later (the party hostel part not the location of the hostel). In between random summer showers we began wandering around Krakow’s beautiful Old Town, looking for somewhere to eat more traditional Polish food. Due to these random rain showers we spent a fair bit of time standing in covered doorways and laneways. I finally got to have my Polish potato pancakes with beef goulash. 10/10 would recommend. As I mentioned, Krakow is big on its night life. The Polish love to drink and go out. We signed up to the Hostels Pub Crawl, which began with drinking games at the hostel before we made our way out on the ‘Old’ town. From one bar to another and a stop at Burger King AND Maccas!
Eventually dragging ourselves out into the sunshine, we found a spot for a feed before an afternoon walking tour of Krakow’s Old Town. Krakow is known for its stories, some real some fantasy. With a quick peak inside St Mary’s Cathedral, one of 136 churches in Krawkow’s Old Town, and probably the most beautiful, the walking tour commenced. Led through the main square and along various side streets, through the park that loops its way around the Old Town and then up the hill to Wawel Castle (by the way-the Polish pronounce ‘W’ like ‘V’. I noticed the label on Vodka bottles where there was a W instead of a V. Keep that in mind when pronouncing the Castle’s name). Krakow has Dragon legends and there was even a dragon standing guard at the base of the hill the castle stands on, breathing fire every 10 minutes. Each ruler who had their time in the castle added their own extension to the building, leaving the exterior of the castle looking very eclectic.
A cafe terrace above the paper market in the main square offered free views whilst eating another polish delicacy-Cheesecake!
We tried for an early night in the hopes of catching up on sleep but it turns out when staying at a party hostel that isn’t easily done. Woken around 2am by drunk, rowdy, young German guys jumping around the bunks (resulting in one of them vomiting off the top bunk onto the floor) and me yelling at them all.
With a few hours to kill before catching our bus from Krakow to Budapest, Hungary we wandered in and out of shops in the old town, soaking up some fun, stocking up on snacks for the bus ride and trying one last polish treat, a rose jam filled polish donut for me. If I was planning this first leg of the trip again I’d switch it up so that I had the one extra day in Krakow rather then Warsaw as I felt Krakow had so much more to see and do. It’s definitely the hipster city of Poland. It was an amazing experience to be in Warsaw on the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. One leg of the long journey home complete.