I spent this weekend in the incredible city of Krakow, Poland.
We left Prague Thursday morning (and by "we" I mean about 80 students), and arrived in Krakow a whopping eight hours later. Our bus driver was probably the most the energetic, charming, and talented driver I've ever seen. He dutifully waved at every bus that passed us, and wove in and out of traffic without a care in the world. Oh, and he managed to parallel park the beast of a bus as if it was a smart car or something. I have no idea. He was amazing.
Thursday night we were all pretty exhausted and hungry from the drive, so we meandered out of the hotel and stumbled upon a gem of an Indian restaurant just outside Krakow's main square. I'm not kidding when I say it was a gem. It was cozy, comfy, and exactly what we needed after the day's travels.
Friday morning I woke up bright and early, only inclined to get out of bed because I knew there was free breakfast waiting in the hotel lobby for me. Food has amazing powers. If you give me food, I will probably do anything for you. Yes, it's that big of a deal. After stuffing my belly with the infamous yogurt that is so common around Eastern Europe (as well as a few crepes, shh), the group set out on a tour to see the the oldest parts of Krakow. Our guide was a middle aged Polish woman that looked Venezuelan, but spoke perfect Czech and would repeat the phrase "so this is what I would like to tell you" before telling us anything. She also liked to call her tours of downtown Krakow "ABC" tours, or "Another Bloody Church" because there are so many churches there (140 Catholic churches to be exact). She was adorable.
We toured all around downtown Krakow, including the main square, the oldest street, and the Wawel Cathedral (pronounced Vavel). The main square has this huge building in it that was originally used to buy and sell textiles. It's now been renovated into a shopping area with boutiques and restaurants, but the middle is devoted to little Polish trinkets and souvenirs.
|Old Textile Trading House|
The Cathedral had so much history, and so many interesting aspects, there's no way I could describe them all here. It will have to suffice to say that it was outstandingly beautiful, both inside and out. I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside, but the couple I took of the outside don't begin to do it justice.
"Even alive prisoners looked like dead ones."
The rest of Saturday we roamed around downtown Krakow, and eventually went back to the Indian restaurant for dinner (apparently I was a creature of habit on this trip...not much variety food-wise. But it was just so good!). Sunday morning was a small tour of the Jewish Quarter and the area where the infamous movie Schindler's List was filmed. It was cold and rainy, so our tour guide let us do most of the tour from the bus. I told you she was amazing. She was choc-full of interesting facts about people that lived in the Jewish Quarter. Apparently Estée Lauder, the beauty and cosmetic icon, was Hungarian Jewish and spent some time in the Krakow ghetto. The most astonishing fact was that of the 70,000 Krakow Jewish people sent to camps in WWII, only 5,000 made it out alive. The magnitude of those numbers still shock me.
The drive back feels like a blur now, with the in and out of sleep and the endless green pastures that boarded the highway. This weekend was an incredible experience, and I feel beyond blessed that I had the opportunity to travel to a place so rich with history and culture. But as we pulled into the bus station in Prague early evening on Sunday, the beautiful feeling of familiarity came over me. This is my place now. This is my town.
I was home.
I was home.