Our travels took us into Poland from Hungary, Budapest to Krakow. Upon arrival, close family friends made their beautiful, centrally-located flat available to us. Accommodations taken care of, all we had to do was walk a block across the Old Town into the central square to enjoy all the city had to offer.
Eva’s favorite photographic subject, this Trabant never seems to leave it’s little lair. Check it out! Here he is two years ago
Krakow has become Poland’s primary city for tourism, both international and domestic. One of the most colorful changes is the briskly revived Kazimierz district. Come here at night for a smaller city square surrounded by funky candle-lit bars brimming with college students and stag parties.
Though we were making use of the apartment while the family was elsewhere, we were able to leave some of our luggage behind and travel south to Zakopane, Eva’s favorite pleasure spot in Poland.
Poland is a relatively flat country, it’s only significant mountain range being the Tatra Mountains along the southern border with Slovakia. This region is mostly unknown to international tourism though it is often called “The Winter Capitol of Poland.” Zakopane draws crowds in the summer as well, to hike it’s pristine peaks and enjoy the very unique highlander culture.
From Krakow, our route took us to Warsaw, Poland’s capitol city. Feeling so indebted after the comfortable digs in Krakow, we though we’d check out some hostels before barging in on another home. This proved to be a mistake. Warsaw’s hostels are a sad bunch: overpriced, poorly-maintained, and manned by some pretty unfriendly folks (no, Eva’s Polish nationality couldn’t even thaw the ice!). Defeated, we called Eva’s mother’s best friend. Within no time we were all set up in a room of our own and on a quick tour of the city.
Basia, Eva’s mom’s friend (Eva’s mom is also named Basia!), works as a journalist, in addition to teaching journalism. Her whole family speaks english quite well, as shy about it as they might pretend to be; Jeremy could feel at home as well, instead of relying on translations.
Basia’s daughter Marianna and her husband Mikolaj made sure we had some time with their young hipster selves, just in case we were getting cooped up.
Warsaw has changed significantly since our last visit two years ago. Then and before the city was grey and lackluster — youthful spunk was somehow lacking and there was little beyond the metropolitan parks to gather unique experiences. Today, the city has clearly shed some of it’s austere ice and welcomed the ideas younger residents have offered for rejuvenation. Great shops, cafes and hangouts keep popping up. The _____ series of maps is a must-have tool for locating all these new additions, and you’ll find it at most hostels.
After enjoying the changes and development in Warsaw, we got on another train — this time bound for Tczew, to see Eva’s grandfather and her childhood home.
The Malbork Castle, or Marienburg, was built in the 13th century by the Teutonic order, and is the world’s largest brick gothic castle. Less than 20 minutes from Eva’s family home, entry allows visitors to stroll the entire grounds at leisure, and most days you’ll be able to join both Polish and English speaking tour groups.
Now if we weren’t grateful to them enough, the Pielecki family who set us up in their flat in Krakow also loaned us a car during our stay in Tczew. We’re not sure if they realized how much we appreciated the mobility, as well as the opportunity to escape a do a little sightseeing on our own.
Eva grew up in Tczew, not far from the tri-city area compromising Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot. These cities, though always a hub of trade and activity have also seen a great deal of change in the last decade. The Polish coasts are beautiful in the summer and these waterfront cities offer excellent nightlife.
Tczew was a blur of family, new and familiar faces and many evenings filled with drink and merriment. Jeremy was always the most popular, even though all conversation with him had to go through the translator (Eva) first.
Over the next week or so we visited as many family members living locally as we could. With Polish family, it’s best not make your arrival known before hand, because a flurry of cooking will surely begin. Regardless of our lack of prior warning, a feast always appeared on the table as if they had guessed we were on our way.
We rarely got a moment to ourselves in Poland, but it was a pleasant break from touring into foreign lands. Despite staying for over a month, sadly we didn’t get a chance to spend time with everyone, nor have enough time in a single place. But the good news about being married to a Polish girl is that her family is always excited to see, and feed you!
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