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Poland – Warsaw & Zakopane

Before leaving Kraków and that awful hostel behind, we made a day trip down to the town of Zakopane. Zakopane is a resort town near the border of Poland and Slovakia at the base of the Tatras mountains. It actually had a pretty similar feel to Whistler, B.C. as it was clean, full of tourists, and it had some beautiful mountains.

One of the key recommendations we had for Zakopane was to try the sheep’s cheese (oscypek) with cranberries. Surprisingly we had a little bit of trouble finding it, but eventually found a nice restaurant to try before beginning our hike.

Much like the Wieliczka Salt Mine, we were already appreciating Zakopane for how cool it was compared to Kraków. We were tired of the heat, so some misty mountains were our current priority.

When looking at maps of Zakopane we saw that there was a waterfall a short hike away from the city, so we decided to find it.

It was so nice being back in nature again. We really do enjoy exploring cities, but after a while it’s necessary to go for a long walk and breathe some clean air.

I loved the houses in Zakopane though, and thought that these ones on our walk looked very cool.

We made it to the end and spent some time sitting there happily by a waterfall in the mountains.

We had some time to kill before our bus back to Kraków, so we visited the church and played cards on a park bench.

Checking out of that Kraków hostel felt incredible. I’m sure that even now, months later, the wifi probably doesn’t work and those ladies are still screaming at each other.

I was excited for Warsaw.

On the bus to Warsaw we saw this church, all dressed up for a fancy dinner or something. And then there’s Madeleine, demonstrating why she doesn’t get invited out to dinner.

I think the best part about taking the bus to Warsaw is that the first impression you get when you arrive is of the Palace of Culture and Science, which looks to me like the book 1984 was turned into a building. I really like it, but it also looks like it could step on me if it wanted to.

We checked in to our new hostel and it was so much better, though still interesting. One of our roommates was an old guy who had nailed a clothesline into the wall above his bunkbed, which apparently the cleaning lady was not impressed by. Another was a TV character come to life. When we walked in the room we were greeted by this guy with a New York accent sitting in a bean bag chair playing games on his phone. He was very friendly, very misogynistic, and both very knowledgeable about Warsaw and very unhelpful with his recommendations. He was friendly, unnerving, and definitely cheating on his girlfriend. He was the type of guy I was happy to meet, and I’m glad I don’t know.

Still a better hostel than Kraków. They also had laundry.

We then received a sign that this hostel was a good decision, and like most divine signals it came in the form of coffee. Not only was the nearby coffee shop “STOR” excellent, but we were able to bear witness there to the unparalleled charm that is possessed by all Corgis.

That’s all the confirmation I needed to know we were in the right place, and we happily made our way into the heart of the city after our coffee.

We started by going up into a tower that looked over Castle Square into the Warsaw Old Town. Castle Square was a great place to start since it felt like we were moving from wide open space into the narrower streets of the old town. The big column in the centre is of King Sigismund, who moved the Polish capital to Warsaw from Kraków. We didn’t have a strict plan for the day, so it was nice to get an aerial view and make a plan from there. We also began our day’s activity, which was to keep a running count of the nuns we saw. I think this game explains how my sister and I can travel well together. It just adds a little something to your day when you’re walking through a beautiful city yelling “nun” at each other.

The more famous square in Warsaw would be the Old Town Market Square. It was destroyed in WW2 in retribution for the Warsaw Uprising, and was rebuilt after the war. The reconstruction was actually recognized by UNESCO for how accurately it was done.

I think my favourite place in Warsaw was the barbican. I really liked how it seemed to be just a functional part of the city, and I also liked how orange it is.

We continued on through the city simply enjoying the sights, and came upon a statue of Marie Curie, who was a pretty incredible scientist. Among her achievements was the discovery of the element Polonium, which she named for her country.

I wanted to check out that monster of a building again, and Madeleine wanted to try some pierogies, so we found a restaurant on the way that turned out to be surprising. We were not expecting mango pierogies, but they were pretty good!

Since Madeleine and I have the same affliction where we don’t feel like we’ve gotten enough out of the day if our feet aren’t in a significant amount of pain, we added another 2 hours to our walking tour and headed for the enormous Łazienki Park.

It’s a really nice park, and we always appreciate getting away from the city in some way. It has a monument to the Polish composer Chopin, and an island palace just for fun.

SQUIRREL

On our last day we ventured across the Vistula River to see St. Florian’s Cathedral, mainly because we saw it from the other side and thought, “huh, that’s big.” Apparently the giant towers on it were built as a protest to the number of Russian Orthodox churches being built when Warsaw was under the control of the Russian Empire.

Later, as we sat in that same cafe, I was once again looking for some canine omen (preferably of  the corgi variety). Instead I got this, and we were out of Poland the next day.

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